Highway 13: A Rural Riverfront Drive Along the St. Johns

    By Gary McKechnie

    A few weeks ago, I drove north to Jacksonville and when I looked at a map to see if there was a new way to drive back home to Mount Dora, I saw an opportunity.

    This new way will be a regular way from now on.

    It was Highway 13 and for much of the distance, roughly between Orange Park and Palatka, the road is sewn into the shoreline of the St. Johns River.

    The wonderful thing about this road (aside from the fact relatively few people know about it) is that it reminds you how beautiful the state can be and how, just by taking a different road, you can make wonderful new discoveries.

    I saw the town of Switzerland, which features the Alpine Groves Park, and miles down the road a dot of a place called Picolata, which was founded in 1700.

    There were roadside crab shacks and oyster bars and signs noting that this is also the William Bartram Nature Trail. (ncredibly, Bartram explored this area in the 1770s). Above all, there were nearly endless views of the St. Johns River, wide and quiet and seemingly still.

    And then you would turn your attention back to the road and it would be before you – a canopy of trees overhead and small homes dotting the waterfront.

    I can’t believe it took me so long to discover Highway 13, but now that I know it’s there it won’t be long before I’m back again.

    And again and again and again.

     

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