North Florida is the laid back cousin to its Central and South Florida counterparts. Often overshadowed by its larger neighbors, the region has a remarkably diverse culture and vibrant history. Synonymous with "Old Florida", the area is a treasure trove of natural beauty, southern charm, and unavoidable history lessons.
Often referred to as the "First Coast", the region is located along the Atlantic coast and includes the entire Jacksonville area. Understood as the coastal areas north of Daytona Beach and south of the Georgia state line, it also includes communities in the lower basin of the St. Johns River.
|North Central Florida
Generally viewed as the portion of the state east of the Aucilla River all the way east to Baker County and as far south as Ocala, excepting the coastal counties.
Rural coastal communities, including Dixie, Levy and Taylor counties.
Some of the major cities in North Florida are:
- Gainesville - Home to the University of Florida, the state's flagship university.
- Jacksonville - Regional business and cultural capital.
- Lake City - Quaint town on the edge of the Oceola Forest.
- Ocala - A center of horse culture and abundant natural beauty.
- Orange Park - Jacksonville suburb with a taste for greyhound races and high stakes.
- Palatka - Historic river city abound with cultural assets and complimented by the great outdoors.
- Palm Coast - A relatively new beach resort community on the southeastern edge of North Florida.
- St. Augustine - Oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States and a hub of tourist active.
- Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
- Fort Caroline National Memorial
- Fort Matanzas National Monument
- Ocala National Forest
- Osceola National Forest
- Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
North Florida is "Old Florida" in that it exhibits what the culture of the entire state used to be like only a few decades ago. It is more akin to the Deep South in culture. It is mostly rural and is not as metropolitan as parts of Central or South Florida. The landscape and environment of the region does not typify the sub-tropical environment that most think of Florida. The region is more known for its magnolias and live oaks then palm trees and beaches.
English is spoken almost without exception in North Florida. Most native north Floridians speak with a Southern dialect. The old saying that Florida is the only state in the Union that gets more southern the farther north you go is certainly true in terms of accent.
- 1 Jacksonville International Airport, (JAX IATA).
- 2 Gainesville Regional Airport, (GNV IATA) 3880 NE 39th Ave, ☎ .
- 3 Northeast Florida Regional Airport (St. Augustine Airport), (SGJ IATA).
- Greyhound Bus Lines,  has service to Gainesville, Jacksonville, Lake City, Ocala, and St. Augustine.
- Amtrak, 1-800-872-7245, . Service by the Silver Service/Palmetto lines to Jacksonville and Palatka.
- I-95 runs along the Atlantic coast throughout the entire North Florida region.
- I-75 runs north-south through the middle of North Florida, and connects to the Florida Turnpike south of Ocala for a straight shot into Orlando and Miami.
- I-10 runs westward from Jacksonville to Tallahassee and eventually to Alabama.
Public transportation - Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), Gainesville Regional Transit System (RTS), and Ride Solution provide bus service for much of the region. The JTA operates the Jacksonville Skyway in the immediate downtown area. The elevated monorail is useful for travelers looking to explore Jacksonville's urban environment.
Vehicle rental - If you are planning on exploring the depths of this vast region it is advised to rent a vehicle. Many of the areas charming cities and scenic places are inaccessible otherwise.
- St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States.
- The University of Florida in Gainesville
- Flagler College in St. Augustine
- Florida Lighthouses are numerous and beautiful, take some time to visit these iconic images of the coast.
- Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park in Olustee, Baker County.
- Historic District in Micanopy, Alachua County.
- Amelia Island and Historic Fernandina Beach in Nassau County.
- Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, Hamilton County.
- The Historic Suwannee River
- Forest Capital Museum State Park in Perry.
- Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park in Gainesville.
- Ravine Gardens State Park in Putnam County.
- Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park in Alachua County.
- Silver Springs just east of Ocala.
- Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast.
Due to it being relatively undeveloped compared to the rest of the state, North Florida is paradise for anyone who likes to enjoy nature. Hunting and fishing are the favorite activities for both residents and many visitors to the region. North Florida is also home to one major professional sports team, the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.
- Ichetucknee Springs State Park, 12087 S.W. US Hwy 27 (Exit from I-75 at exit 399. Take US 441 north to High Springs. Take US 27 north to Ft. White the south entrance to the park is 4 miles on the right), ☎ . 8am-sundown, 365 days a year. The park is known for tubing (tubes can be rented nearby for $5-15), kayaking and canoeing down the Ichnetucknee River. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the park has vehicles which take you from the park to the river and from the exit (from the river) to the parking lot. $5/person, $5/vehicle in off-season.
North Florida is a very diversified region for food. One could enjoy fresh seafood in St. Augustine or in Cedar Key. The region is also known for its Barbecue. Sonny's Real Pit BBQ, the largest barbecue chain in America, was started in Gainesville. The region is also known for specializing in "Cracker Cuisine" which is the traditional food eaten by the early pioneers of Florida. Two well known cracker restaurants is the Yearling in Gainesville and Stumpknockers in Ocala.
North Florida is home to two of Florida's four dry counties where the sale of alcohol is prohibited (Lafayette and Suwannee). However, alcohol of any variety can be found in abundance in the cosmopolitan city of Jacksonville and the college town of Gainesville.
Be warned that Jacksonville has the highest murder rate in the state, however, only certain neighborhoods are deemed "unsafe" while most other areas of the city are tourist friendly.