There’s a whiff of wisteria on the breeze as you stroll past the antebellum homes and gracious gardens of Monticello. Pausing under a centuries-old oak, you admire sunlight filtering through the Spanish moss covering its ancient limbs. In the town square, the 1909 courthouse clock tolls, waking you from reverie. Savoring the moment, you can’t recall the last time you felt this relaxed. It’s hard to believe you’re just five miles off I-10, near Tallahassee.
If you’re stressed by the speed of life, Monticello will reset your inner GPS. It’s located in Jefferson County, a land of rural, rolling hills, quiet, unspoiled rivers and not one stop light.
After checking into the elegantly-appointed Avera-Clarke House, stretch your road-weary legs on a self-guided walking tour of the surrounding 19th century neighborhood. Although this B&B is not haunted, the nearby John Denham House B&B claims that status. Prefer to hunt for bargains instead of ghosts? Browse the downtown antique shops, then linger over coffee and made-from-scratch pastries at Tupelo’s Bakery & Café.
Save room for dinner at Rev Café, a delicious blend of hip and homegrown. If Joanna Gaines opened a restaurant, it would resemble Rev, down to the burlap and corrugated tin décor to the farm fresh fare.
The next day, time travel along tree-canopied Heritage Roads past plantations, historic churches, lakes and recreation areas. These four scenic byways are popular with cyclists, many who return for the Monticello Bike Fest in April. Leave time to launch a canoe at Wacissa Headwaters Park. From here, it’s an easy one-hour paddle to Blue Springs. For a narrated exploration of the Wacissa River’s nooks, crannies and Native American history, take an airboat eco-tour with 5 Rivers Adventures. The craft is retrofitted for a quieter experience.
Craving culture? Visit Jefferson Arts Gallery, housed in a historic school just across tree-lined Washington Street from your B&B. In another “never underestimate a small town” moment, catch dinner and a concert or play at Monticello Opera House, one of Florida’s few 19th century opera venues still in use. “The acoustics are perfect – you can whisper from the stage and people in the balcony can hear you,” said Katrina Richardson, executive director of the Jefferson County Chamber.
Before leaving town, stock up on regionally-raised produce at Jefferson Farmers Market. When there are miles between you and Monticello, those local flavors will remind you to slow down and enjoy the journey.