By Gary McKechnie

Whether you’re a college student, a college parent, or a traveler who loves to explore off-the-beaten-path Florida, chances are your journeys at some point will take you to Gainesville.

Pretty much in the center of the state, it’s also near five cool destinations that are easily reached on a day trip (or less).

When you’re near Gainesville, get in the car and travel! Here are five things to do around Gainesville: 

1. Fanning Springs State Park 

The natural spring that flows into the Suwannee River is the highlight of this 200-acre park. Settle in on a hot day and enjoy the clear 72-degree waters as well as picnicking, volleyball, and a hiking trail. Come here in cool months and you may discover that it’s just you and a curious manatee lazing about in the main spring. It’s 40 miles west of Gainesville.

2. Steinhatchee

The small community of Steinhatchee 70 miles west of Gainesville also has a fishing village, some nice restaurants, a library, and small motels. As with its popular twin, Cedar Key, you’ll have to head all the way to the coast to find it, but when you do you’ve found that magical place and time known as Old Florida. This is a top choice for anglers looking for things to do around Gainesville.

3. Crystal River Preserve State Park

By safeguarding islands, inlets, backwaters, and forests, this state park still features its undisturbed natural beauty. Attracting nature lovers and photographers, the park borders 20 miles of the northern Gulf Coast between the two cities of Yankeetown and Homosassa and includes nine miles of hiking/biking trails, a 2.5-mile interpretive trail, fishing at Mullet Hole, and kayaking and canoeing on Crystal River. Located 65 miles southwest of Gainesville.

4. High Springs

It doesn’t take much imagination to see this town as it was in the 1940s when the main street was the town’s commercial and social center – because it still is. Over time, High Springs adapted to the times and the town’s main avenue features plenty of antique shops, some nice restaurants, and outfitters for the diving, hiking, and camping that draws folks to the these parts. You’ll find High Springs 23 miles northwest of Gainesville.

5. Dudley Farm Historic State Park

Located 13 miles due west of Gainesville in Newberry, this intriguing park showcases the pioneer era from the 1850s to the 1940s and, incredibly, occupies more than half the original 600 acres tended by the Dudley family. This is a real working farm, and the 18 original buildings include a kitchen outbuilding, a general store and post office, and a cane syrup complex. What’s more, the staff dress in period clothing as they perform daily chores, raise crops, tend to livestock, and demonstrate historic farming techniques.   

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