Welcome to this nature lover’s paradise, with its lush landscapes, crystal clear springs and abundant wildlife. Whether you’re looking to relax in the sun or explore the outdoors, this stunning region of Florida has something for everyone.
Are you ready to explore the stunning beauty of Florida’s Springlands? This ultimate guide will help you plan your trip to the Lake City area, giving you tips on where to visit in Lake City and what to do when you get there. From hiking and camping in the lush woods to floating in the crystal-clear springs, Lake City—Florida’s Springlands has a lot to offer.
The History of Florida’s Springlands
Known for its natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities, Lake City—Florida’s Springlands is located in Columbia County, home to some of the most beautiful and serene waterways in Florida. These crystal-clear springs and cypress trees attract visitors from all over the country. This area is a paradise for kayaking, paddleboarding, scuba diving, mountain biking, and hiking enthusiasts, and offers endless opportunities for fun outdoor activities.
Columbia County, Florida, has a rich history that dates to the early 1800s. The area was home to several Native American tribes before European explorers arrived. The Seminole Indians lived in the area and traded with Spanish and French explorers before the area became part of the United States.
One of the main attractions in the county is Ichetucknee Springs State Park, a popular spot for kayaking and tubing on the crystal-clear water. Visitors can also explore Big Shoals State Park, home to the largest whitewater rapids in Florida, or Lake City’s own waterfall at Falling Creek Falls.
Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is located close to Columbia County on the Santa Fe River. This is another natural gem that offers visitors the chance to see crystal-clear water and abundant wildlife. This area is a popular spot for snorkeling, swimming, and camping.
Overall, the history of Columbia County Florida is tightly intertwined with its natural beauty, and visitors can expect to learn a lot about the local history while exploring the region’s many attractions.
How to Plan for Your Trip
Plan for an unforgettable adventure and make sure you’re prepared with everything you need! From kayak rentals to float trips, there are plenty of ways to explore — and with the right preparation, you can make sure that your trip is full of fun and relaxation. Before embarking on your trip to Florida’s Springlands, it’s important to plan ahead to make the most of your experience. Here are some tips to ensure a successful and enjoyable visit:
1. Kayak, Float, or Paddleboard Rentals:
If you’re looking to get up close and personal with the springs, consider renting a kayak, tube, or paddleboard. Several rental companies in the area offer these options, either inside the park facilities or nearby, so do your research to find the best fit for you. These rentals typically come with a life jacket and all necessary equipment, so all you need to bring is your sense of adventure.
2. Pack a Day Bag:
To make the most of your day trip, pack a day bag with essentials like sunscreen, towels, hats, water bottles, and snacks. Consider bringing a picnic lunch to enjoy in one of the parks’ many scenic areas. It’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast beforehand to dress appropriately, and don’t forget to pick up after yourself. Florida’s Springlands love sustainable adventurers.
3. Plan for Hiking or Mountain Biking:
If you prefer to explore on foot or by bike, plan for a day of hiking or mountain biking. Columbia County, Florida has many trails to blaze. There are also several areas to camp throughout the county, perfect for those who want to make it an overnight trip.
No matter how you choose to explore, be sure to plan ahead for the best experience possible. By renting equipment, packing a day bag, and planning for hiking or camping, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and history of Columbia County Florida.
What to See
Florida’s Springlands are home to some of the most beautiful natural sights in the country. The Ichetucknee Springs, Gilchrist Springs, Big Shoals and Falling Creek Falls—among others—offer everything you need to get outside and start enjoying nature. Between hiking, biking and camping to scuba diving and paddleboard rentals, there are plenty of opportunities to explore nature, both by land and by water. Here are some must-see nature spots in the area:
Ichetucknee Springs: This six-mile-long river is famous for its crystal-clear water, lush greenery, and abundant wildlife. From the south entrance, visitors can take a leisurely tubing trip down the river. At the north entrance, visitors can go for a swim in the Head Spring or Blue Hole Spring or launch a canoe or kayak down the river. Ichetucknee Springs State Park is also home to numerous hiking trails and picnic areas. Outside of the park, you can extend your stay with campsites nearby.
Gilchrist Springs: If you’re looking for a secluded spot to enjoy nature, look no further than Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park near Columbia County. Located in the Suwannee River Valley, this spring is surrounded by a dense forest and offers breathtaking views of the blue-green water. Visitors can swim or snorkel in the refreshing spring water at the main spring head or rent a kayak or paddleboard from inside the park to explore the Santa Fe River and surrounding springs.
Big Shoals: If you’re an adventure seeker, you won’t want to miss Big Shoals. This is Florida’s only Class III whitewater rapids, and it offers an exhilarating experience for skilled kayakers. Visitors can also hike along the Big Shoals Trail, which offers scenic views of the river and its surroundings. You can also grab your gear and spend the day on a mountain biking adventure.
Where to Stay in Lake City
If you want to experience the rich history of Lake City during your stay, we highly recommend staying at The Blanche. Located in the heart of downtown Lake City, The Blanche is a luxurious boutique hotel that has been a prominent landmark since the early 20th century.
Originally built in 1902, The Blanche was one of the first buildings in Lake City, and over the years, it has undergone several renovations and updates, while keeping its vintage charm.
But what really sets The Blanche apart is its rich history. From housing soldiers during World War II to hosting famous guests like Al Capone and Johnny Cash, The Blanche has played a significant role in Lake City’s history. Today, the hotel has been fully restored to its former glory and offers guests, as well as couples looking to get married, an unforgettable experience that blends old-world charm with modern comfort.
However, if you’re a nature lover looking for a more rustic experience, you might want to consider camping or “glamping” near the springs. There are several campgrounds and RV parks in the area that offer campsites, cabins, and even luxury tents. These accommodations give you a chance to immerse yourself in nature and experience the springs up close and personal.
Some popular campgrounds and accommodations near the springs include Moonshine Acres RV Park, Ichetucknee Springs Campground, and O’Leno State Park. These campsites offer various amenities like showers, picnic areas, and even fishing opportunities.
Of course, Lake City is also home to several flagship hotels, including the Holiday Inn & Suites and Fairfield Inn & Suites. Most of these accommodations are conveniently located near the interstate, close to many dining options.
No matter where you decide to stay during your trip to Florida’s Springlands, one thing is for sure: you’re in for an unforgettable experience.
Dining in Lake City
When it comes to food in Lake City, there are plenty of options for all types of taste buds. Whether you’re in the mood for something sweet or savory, you’ll find a great spot to satisfy your cravings. Overall, Lake City offers a great dining scene with a variety of options to choose from. Here are some of the local favorites:
Xapa Coffee: If you’re in need of a caffeine boost or a quick bite to eat, then Xapa Coffee is the perfect spot. This local coffee shop is known for its great coffee and freshly baked pastries. Their outdoor seating area is a great spot to enjoy a coffee and the warm Florida sunshine.
Halpatter Brewing Co: Halpatter Brewing Co, located in Lake City’s historic downtown district, is a great spot to grab a cold beer and some elevated pub grub. They offer a wide range of craft beers that are brewed in-house, which you can enjoy with friends in their historic building or their 4,000 sq ft beer garden. Their menu includes burgers, wings, and nachos, all of which pair perfectly with their beer.
Marion Street Bistro: If you’re looking for a unique and upscale dining experience, then Marion Street Bistro is the perfect spot. This restaurant is in a restored historic building, which adds to its charm. They offer a wide range of dishes, including steak, seafood, and pasta. Their outdoor seating area is a great place to enjoy a meal while taking in the scenery.
Brittany’s Cupcake Shoppe: If you’re in the mood for something sweet, then Brittany’s Cupcake Shoppe is the perfect spot. This local bakery is known for its delicious cupcakes, which come in a wide range of flavors. They also offer other baked goods, including cookies and cakes.
Explore More in Lake City
Lake City—Florida’s Springlands are certainly a highlight of Florida. There are many adventures to be had in this charming part of Florida. For those who want to take a break from the every day, Lake City offers a wide range of outdoor activities that are sure to keep you busy.
If you’re feeling adventurous, head out to one of the many hiking trails around town, such as the Ichetucknee Trace or the Alligator Lake Trail. Or, if you’re feeling more relaxed, take a stroll through the historic downtown district, which boasts many charming shops and restaurants.
If camping is more your style, consider spending the night in one of Lake City’s many campsites, such as the Ichetucknee Springs Campground or the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. There’s nothing quite like waking up in the great outdoors, surrounded by the natural beauty of Florida’s wilderness.
When it comes to dining, Lake City has a great selection of local eateries that are sure to please. Whether you’re in the mood for some Southern comfort food, fresh seafood, or international cuisine, you’ll find it all here. Some popular spots include Shirley’s and Phish Tales.
Overall, Lake City offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, relaxation, or simply a delicious meal with friends, you’re sure to find it here in Florida’s Springlands. So, plan your trip today and get ready to explore all that Lake City has to offer.