Where Florida Begins
Northern Florida is home to some of the Sunshine States richest history. From the manmade to the natural wonders, this region appeals to a diverse array of visitors. Join as we explore this region which is home to many of North Florida’s Top Landmarks.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
4732 Millhopper Road
Just outside of Gainesville is the Devil’s Millhopper. This fascinating prehistoric spring is the result of a sinkhole. Such formations are common throughout central and north Florida when limestone underneath the surface collapses.
As for the Devil’s Millhopper, there are numerous urban legends as to how the sinkhole got its name. All show great imagination, if not facts!
The relaxing properties of this park are very real, as are the stunning views of this interesting geological area. The park is family-friendly, although very young visitors or those using mobility assistance may find it challenging.
Leashed pups are permitted within the park and along the boardwalk system.
Insider Tips: Bring cash – exact entrance of $4. per visitor. This landmark involves a lot of steep stairs. Wear good, comfortable shoes (this is not a flip flop friendly landmark!). Arrive at least 45 minutes prior to closing to allow time to explore.
Learn more about this fascinating landmark here.
San Felasco Hammock Preserve
11101 Millhopper Road
Towering hardwood trees greet visitors to this state park and preserve. Named for a 1606 Spanish mission that was in the area, history abounds at this north Florida top landmark.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love the chance to hike or even off-road cycle here. Don’t be surprised to see riders on horseback enjoying designated trails. Leashed dogs are welcome on the San Felasco hiking trail at Millhopper Road only.
Plan your visit to San Felasco here.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
North Florida is known for its springs. Constant 72 degree water bubbles-up from the aquifer water source far beneath the surface to offer crystal clear, if not chilly, adventures.
With eight different springs, Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a National Natural Landmark. The springs here join together to create a six-mile long river which makes it perfect of exploring by innertube.
Stop by the park’s general store and rental concession to arrange tube or paddling rentals. The restaurant here sells prepared foods and sandwiches that you can enjoy at one of the many shaded picnic tables.
Insider Tips: Make advance registration for paddling or tubing adventures and get your equipment at the park’s south entrance. Purchase a transportation wrist band for the tram to bring you back to your car after your adventures on the river. Learn everything you need for a great visit here.
University of Florida Bat Houses
Museum Road, opposite Lake Alice, University of Florida
The University of Florida is home to the well known Gators football team. However, it’s also home to a lesser known group. 450,000 bats call the UF campus home! The colony lives in a series of large bat houses and “barns” built just for them.
Visitors are welcome to watch as the bats fly out each night in search of dinner. Bats are gentle creatures that have zero interest in humans. They love mosquitoes, and other insects.
Catch the colony in action is spring through early summer, 15 to 20 minutes after sunset, but before darkness falls.
Insider Tips: Wear a hat and closed-toed shoes while you’re near this massive colony. Never touch a bat or pick one up off the ground.
Find everything you need to know to plan your evening adventure here.
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
The history of this national preserve goes back over 6,000 years. With over 46,000 acres there is something for every interest. Two of north Florida’s top landmarks are within this park:
11676 Palmetto Avenue, Fort George Island
Kingsley Plantation is the former site of a working plantation. Visitors can explore over 60 acres of the remaining complex and learn about life in early 1800s Florida. There is a lot to see here, including the main house, and 25 quarters that were home to enslaved people.
The story of the plantation’s owner, and his mistresses and children, is as interesting as anything on Netflix. Be sure to check-out the visitor’s center for information about their stories.
Insider Tips: There is no charge to visit this national park. Visit on a weekend to see costumed reenactors. Start planning your visit to Kingsley Plantation here.
12713 Fort Caroline Road
History buffs will be excited to visit Fort Caroline National Memorial. This site honors the French who attempted to settle this area. Even though they lost-out to the Spanish, this site honors their history and memory.
On weekendd you can catch a recreations of battles that took place at the Fort. If cannons and gunpowder aren’t your thing, head inside the museum to check-out artifacts of people who have called this area home for thousands of years.
Learn more about this fascinating landmark here.
As the oldest, continuously occupied city in the United States, St. Augustine is a landmark overall. Two parts of the old town, in particular, are among north Florida’s top landmarks.
Castillo San Marcos
Just outside the walls of Old Town St. Augustine sits one of only two forts in the world constructed of coquina stone. This porous stone absorbed cannonballs and other attacks, protecting the Spanish colonists who built it.
The fort, built in 1672, also served to protect the citizens of remote St. Augustine who would seek refuge there during invasions. Today, visitors of all ages flock to this historic site for its unique story and amazing views of the Old Town and the surrounding waterways.
Tour this national landmark with a guide, or on your own. Be sure to listen for the cannons which are fired by park staff throughout the day!
As the fort is over 300 years old, it is not ADA compliant, however, the park service had developed materials to enhance the visit of visitors with mobility devices. Visit here to download the free accessibility app.
The Colonial Quarter
St. Augustine’s Old Town is home to some of the oldest buildings in America. Explore this quaint district on foot (vehicles are only allowed on some streets) for a glimpse into America’s history. The narrow brick streets transport visitors back in time to the eras of Spanish and British colonial rule. Join a tour to learn the differences in architecture and the stories behind the many buildings that tell the story of this unique part of American history.
Expand your historic horizons and hop on, and off, one of the sightseeing trams (your choice of “trolley” or “train”) for a narrated tour of the larger community. Prices and travel options vary by company, so make sure to find out what will work best for you.
In the evenings, the Old Town comes to life with live music, and people ready to party like it’s 1565. With dozens of restaurants to choose from, there’s something for everyone to enjoy, at a variety of price points.
Named one of the best “Gay Places to Go” by ManAboutWorld, all visitors are welcome in St. Augustine.
Insider Tip: Parking in and around the Colonial Quarter can be a challenge. Stop by the Visitor Information Center (10 West Castillo Drive) to get ambassadors to help you make the most of your visit. The Center also features rotating museum exhibits and public restrooms. Next door is a large parking structure (there is a fee to park, attendants can make change).
Start planning your travel back to the 1500s here.
Continuing Your Florida Journey…
No matter where your North Florida travels take you, you’re bound to encounter some special places. Start planning your adventures with northeast Florida’s top landmarks now, to get in as many special memories as possible!