8 Unique Things to Do in Florida’s Big Bend

Fanning Springs State Park, Florida
Fanning Springs State Park, Florida | Photo Credit: Shutterstock - 3DNSEW
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Located on the coast of northern Florida lies the region most commonly referred to as “Big Bend”. This region is known for its miles of forest, coastal swamp and quaint small towns. Notable places of interest include the historical city of Cedar Key, refreshing springs and peaceful countryside. Check out these 8 unique things to do on your next adventure to the area!

Table of Contents

Things to Do

1. Visit Econfina River State Park

Econfina River State Park, Florida
Econfina River State Park, Florida | Photo Credit: Flickr – Ebyabe

Address: 4741 Econfina River Rd, Lamont, FL 32336

This over 4,500-acre state park offers plenty of outdoor exploration and adventures! Meander along nearly 15 miles of trails that are great for hiking, biking or even horseback riding. The Econfina River State Park first opened in 1989, and has sense greeted many visitors each year to see its beautiful natural landscape. Enjoy birding in the forest or bring a kayak to paddle down the Econfina River. There is also one primitive campsite for those seeking overnight accommodations.

2. Explore the Forest Capital Museum State Park

Cracker Homestead at the Forest Capital Museum State Park, Florida
Cracker Homestead at the Forest Capital Museum State Park, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Ebyabe

Address: 204 Forest Park Dr, Perry, FL 32348

Located in Perry, the Forest Capital Museum State Park has been dedicated to sharing the importance of the native longleaf pines. The museum onsite showcases the many uses for this tree that total up to over 5,000 purposes. In fact, Taylor County has often been regarded as the “Tree Capital of Florida” for its abundant forestland. Some of the pine trees within the state park are very large and can be over 50 years old. The state park features an 1863 cracker homestead that has been restored for preservation of early Florida history.

3. Check out Cedar Key

Brown Pelican in Cedar Key, Florida
Brown Pelican in Cedar Key, Florida | Photo Credit: Shutterstock – Thomas O’Neil

Location: About 21 Miles West from US-19 / Hwy 98 at Otter Creek

This funky coastal city is a railroad port turned tourist destination. The city offers vibrant art, tasty food and plenty of history. In fact, there is a ghost town situated out on Atsena Otie Key that has been lost in time since the 1896 hurricane that ravaged the area. Cedar Key is a cozy place to experience old Florida, plenty of sunshine and still be on the Gulf of Mexico.

Read more about the top things to do in Cedar Key here

4. Dive into Manatee Springs

Manatee Springs State Park, Florida
Manatee Springs State Park, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Ebyabe

Address: 11650 NW 115th St, Chiefland, FL 32626

One of Florida’s first magnitude springs welcomes you to swim (or scuba dive) and enjoy the beautiful blue-green waters of this natural pool. Manatee Springs State Park features an 800 foot boardwalk that winds between towering Cypress trees. During the winter months, manatees can be seen in the springs that release over 100 million gallons of freshwater each day! Hiking is offered on nearly 9 miles of trails that also connect to the 32 mile Nature Coast State Trail. Visitors can kayak the Suwannee River as well as camping or “glamp” at the campgrounds.

5. Uncover History at Andrew Jackson Waterhole Park

Address: 16421 SW 351 Hwy, Cross City, FL 32628

This rural park reveals an interesting piece of Florida history that dates back to before the Sunshine state even formally existed! In 1818, General Andrew Jackson, who would later go on to be a President, led over 3,000 men into Florida. These men were composed of both Georgia and Tennessee militiamen along with Native American Creek warriors. The mission of their endeavor was the protect settlers of future Florida from Native American attacks. In just a few days, Jackson’s men killed many Native Americans. His mission additionally killed two fur traders that were British subjects at this exact site that were supposed to be protected. Jackson’s order to kill these two men nearly started another war between America and Great Britain!

6. Trace Elvis’ Footsteps at the Follow That Dream Beach Film Site

Address: 34002 Follow That Dream Pkwy, Yankeetown, FL 34498

In 1961, the sleepy coast of western Florida turned into a buzzing teenage crazed destination when the “King of Rock ‘n Roll” Elvis Presley came to the area to film Follow that Dream. This movie was Elvis’ 9th film and was shot almost entirely on location. While there are 11 locations in the area that were used to complete the film, one of the most popular is the artificial beach on Pumpkin Island and nearby Bird Creek Bridge. Today, the bridge still stands and what is left of the beach below can still be seen.

7. Hike into the Goethe State Forest

Goethe State Forest, Florida
Goethe State Forest, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Ebyabe

Address: 9110 SE Co Rd 337, Dunnellon, FL 34431

With over 53,000 acres of Florida wilderness, the Goethe State Forest offers outdoor enthusiasts a chance to explore this natural wonderland. The state forest is named after the lumberman who donated the land to the state, James Goethe. There are plenty of species of wildlife and plants that make for wonderful birding, photography or nature seeking opportunities. Equestrian riders are welcome on many of the trails.

8. Check out Fanning Springs State Park

Fanning Springs State Park, Florida
Fanning Springs State Park, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Ebyabe

Address: 18020 Northwest, U.S. Hwy 19, Fanning Springs, FL 32693

With refreshing waters that stay 72° F year round, Fanning Springs State Park is the perfect escape on a hot Florida day. The springs are known to produce over 65 million gallons of fresh water daily! Manatees are sometimes seen in the springs in the wintertime. Visitors to the park can explore the boardwalk and even go swimming in the spring (an ADA chairlift allows for accessibility into the spring). Surrounded by old cypress and oak trees, kayaking and paddle boarding or other activities to enjoy along the nearby Suwannee River.

Plan Your Visit

Florida’s Big Bend region spans a large portion of north Florida’s Gulf Coast region. While the exact definition of “Big Bend” and its span varies, these locations lie within the heart of that region.

If you enjoyed reading this post or have visited the Florida Big Bend region before, leave a comment below or share this post on your favorite social media!

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Ashley Gary
Greetings, fellow adventurers! I'm Ashley, and I'm delighted to share my journeys and knowledge with you. As a passionate travel writer and devoted adventurer, I'm constantly fueled by the excitement of discovering new destinations and uncharted territories. With a heart full of curiosity and a suitcase packed with dreams, I've wandered through bustling marketplaces, hiked mist-covered mountains, and wandered down cobblestone streets in search of stories waiting to be told. Through my travel chronicles, I hope to not only transport you to the farthest corners of the globe but also inspire you to embrace the thrill of stepping into the unknown. Adventure awaits, and I can't wait to share it with you to help you find your adventure!

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