12 Amazing Things to Do in North Florida: Top Attractions to Visit

by Jen
Amazing Things to Do in North Florida
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North Florida might not have the fame of Orlando’s theme parks or Miami’s nightlife, but it’s a region ripe with its own unique attractions. It’s a part of the state where outdoor enthusiasts, history enthusiasts, and beachgoers alike can find their niche. In St. Augustine, you can walk through the oldest streets in the nation, while Tallahassee offers a blend of collegiate energy and preserved natural beauty.

The real allure of North Florida lies in its natural settings. The Suwannee River carves through the landscape, offering kayaking and camping that feels a world away from the state’s bustling tourist centers. And if you’re after some quiet beach time, the Forgotten Coast provides stretches of sand without the crowds.

This guide is all about showing you the North Florida that locals love. It’s packed with the best spots for authentic Southern eats, quiet beach retreats, and parks where the wildlife is as abundant as the flora. So grab your flip-flops and a sense of adventure, and let’s dive into what North Florida has to offer. To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do in North Florida.

The amazing places to visit in North Florida right now
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Best Places to Visit in North Florida

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in North Florida? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this lush vacation spot in Florida. So keep reading to discover all these unique North Florida places to visit.

Are you looking to go kayaking and hiking in pristine natural parks and explore scenic coastal areas? Or would you prefer to indulge in cultural experiences by visiting museums, enjoying live music, and savoring diverse cuisine? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in North Florida can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in North Florida that you should know about.

1. St. Augustine

Head over to St. Augustine, the oldest city in the U.S., where history isn’t just in the books – it’s right under your feet. Start off at the Castillo de San Marcos, a fortress from the 1600s that gives you a real feel for the colonial battles that shaped Florida. Then, hit the Colonial Quarter. It’s not just a walk around old buildings; it’s like stepping back in time to when the Spanish and British ruled the land. It’s history, up close and personal.

For travelers looking to uncover the best things to do in North Florida, St. Augustine is a must-visit. The site is perfect for enjoying locally brewed craft beers. This can be a delightful way to unwind after a day of exploration. You can visit historic sites such as the Lightner Museum. Or, you might explore the haunting beauty of Flagler College, once a grand hotel erected by Henry Flagler, the railroad tycoon.

Make sure to take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront. As you walk, the sea breeze might bring you stories of pirates and merchants from the past. These figures once made these shores their haven. St. Augustine is a haven for history enthusiasts and lovers of old-town charm alike. It offers a unique blend of educational and leisure pursuits. This city is a standout in the rich mosaic of North Florida’s destinations.

Exploring St. Augustine is one of the amazing things to do in North Florida.
St. Augustine, the oldest U.S. city, offers a living history of colonial times.

2. Amelia Island

Amelia Island is a slice of paradise for those who prefer their Florida experience with a side of tranquility. With 13 miles of uncrowded beaches, it’s a prime spot for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bask in coastal serenity. The island boasts natural beauty. Its rich history is apparent, especially within Fort Clinch State Park. Here, visitors can delve into a well-preserved 19th-century fort and also wander the surrounding trails.

Fernandina Beach, the island’s historic heart, offers a glimpse into the past with its charming Victorian architecture. This locale is ideal for leisurely strolls through charming boutiques. You can indulge in fresh local seafood. Or, you might just savor the relaxed atmosphere of island living.

Outdoor activities abound here. You can saddle up for a horseback ride on the beach at sunrise or paddle through the marshes in a kayak. Are you visiting in May? Be sure to experience the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival. It celebrates the island’s long-standing shrimping tradition.

Amelia Island isn’t about the usual Florida fanfare; it’s about enjoying the quieter, unspoiled parts of the coast. It’s a retreat that offers both relaxation and adventure, all at your own pace.

Amelia Island, a serene paradise with uncrowded beaches.
Amelia Island is a serene paradise with uncrowded beaches.

3. Ichetucknee Springs State Park

For a real touch of North Florida’s natural beauty, head to Ichetucknee Springs State Park. This aquatic sanctuary is a hotspot for kayaking enthusiasts, with crystal-clear waters that offer a window to the underwater world below. Glide over the freshwater springs. Move through shaded hammocks of oak and cypress trees. Here, the only sounds you’ll hear are the dip of your paddle and the calls of river wildlife.

The park isn’t only for kayakers; it’s a paradise for snorkelers and swimmers, too.

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The head spring of the Ichetucknee River is a perfect spot for cooling off on a hot Florida day. With picnic areas and trails, it’s easy to make a day of it, soaking up the sun and fresh air.

Among the coolest things to do in North Florida is tubing down the Ichetucknee River. From May to September, the waters flow gently. Floating down these waters is a relaxing method to absorb the sights and sounds. This experience is unique to this lush state park. It’s an experience that’s as chill as it is charming, offering a unique way to appreciate the state’s natural wonders.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park invites serene kayaking in clear waters surrounded by oak and cypress trees.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park invites serene kayaking in clear waters surrounded by oak and cypress trees.

4. Fernandina Beach

Fernandina Beach is a slice of real Florida life, minus the frills. It’s a straight-up, laid-back spot where history isn’t locked in museums but is part of the everyday scene. Walking down Centre Street, you’ll pass by old buildings that double as cool shops and restaurants. It’s the kind of place where you can grab a beer at the Palace Saloon, Florida’s oldest bar, and feel like you’ve stepped back in time without a heavy dose of kitsch.

The food scene here is solid. You can expect to find good eats, ranging from fresh-off-the-boat seafood to the kind of comfort food that makes you consider staying forever. The marina adds a touch of nautical life to the area. It’s the ideal spot for a leisurely stroll or just to sit and watch the boats glide by.

Downtown isn’t about putting on airs; it’s about community vibes. The farmers market here is a true reflection of local life, not just a tourist attraction. Then there are events like the Shrimp Festival, which bring the whole town together for some fun. If you’re over the usual tourist spots and are looking for a place with a real welcome, Fernandina Beach should be on your radar. Here, history is a part of daily life, not something you only read about on plaques.

Fernandina Beach features a scenic beach boasting genuine island vibes.
Fernandina Beach features a scenic beach boasting genuine island vibes.

5. Devil’s Den Spring

Devil’s Den Spring is a hidden gem for scuba divers and snorkelers. Nestled in a prehistoric cave, this underground spring boasts crystal-clear waters and ancient rock formations.

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It’s a year-round diving destination, thanks to the constant 72-degree water temperature, making it a perfect escape from the Florida heat.

Visitors descend into the cavern through a wooden staircase, entering a world that has remained untouched for millennia. The spring is home to a variety of aquatic life and offers divers the chance to explore the underwater passages that have drawn adventurers for decades.

Above ground, Devil’s Den Spring has facilities for a comfortable day trip, including picnic areas and a heated pool. It’s a spot that combines adventure with the amenities that make for a stress-free visit.

One of the unique things to do in North Florida, Devil’s Den provides an otherworldly experience. It’s not every day you get to swim through a sunlit cavern where fossils line the walls. This natural wonder is a bucket-list-worthy stop for anyone seeking the more unusual side of Florida’s natural attractions.

Devil's Den Spring offers clear waters and a steady 72-degree temperature year-round.
Devil’s Den Spring offers clear waters and a steady 72-degree temperature year-round.

6. Tallahassee

Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, offers a blend of outdoor activities and historical insights. Start your morning in the city with a hike. The lush Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park is the perfect setting. It’s known for its ornamental gardens and scenic walking trails. Then, end your day by exploring the state’s history at the Museum of Florida History.

For the more actively inclined, there’s the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail. This paved path is ideal for cyclists and runners. It follows a historic route once used by steam locomotives. Are you a fan of paddling? The Wakulla River is your go-to spot for serene kayaking. Here, wildlife sightings are as frequent as the gentle splashes against your kayak.

Tallahassee’s charm extends to its vibrant food scene, with local eateries serving up everything from fresh seafood to Southern comfort food. The city will surprise you with its diversity. It offers a piece of Florida life distinct from the coastal towns and beach resorts.

Visiting Tallahassee gives you a glimpse of another side of Florida. It’s a side that melds the natural beauty of the Panhandle with the narratives of its historic roots. It’s a destination that caters to both the nature lover and the history buff in equal measure.

Exploring Tallahassee is one of the amazing things to do in North Florida.
Explore Tallahassee, a scenic walking trail with lush trees.

7. Cedar Key

Cedar Key is a quaint island town that seems to have resisted the rush of modern life, making it a perfect retreat for anglers and boaters. This town is a cluster of small islands on the Gulf of Mexico. It boasts some of the best fishing spots in North Florida. Here, you can find abundant redfish, speckled trout, and clams. Are you looking to fish? You can cast a line from the historic pier. Or perhaps you’d prefer chartering a boat to venture into the surrounding waters. Cedar Key offers a fishing experience as bountiful as the Gulf itself.

Boating around Cedar Key is another way to take in the area’s serene beauty. The calm Gulf waters are ideal for leisurely days on the water, whether you’re sailing, motorboating, or just drifting along on a pontoon. The local marinas offer rentals and all the gear you’ll need for a day of maritime adventure.

But Cedar Key isn’t all about the water. The town’s streets are dotted with art galleries, seafood restaurants, and shops that showcase the work of local artisans. For anyone making a list of things to do in North Florida, take note of Cedar Key. It’s recognized for its mix of cultural and outdoor activities. It’s a place where the simple pleasure of a Gulf sunset can cap off a day filled with as much or as little activity as you like.

Cedar Key showcases a tranquil Gulf town offering pier or charter fishing experiences.
Cedar Key showcases a tranquil Gulf town offering pier or charter fishing experiences.

8. Jacksonville Beach

Jacksonville Beach is the go-to spot for surfers and beachgoers in North Florida. The shores here are wide and sandy and the waves are consistent. This combination makes it a prime spot for seasoned surfers and beginners alike. Surf shops and schools line the beachfront, ready to equip you with all the gear and lessons you need.

Beyond the surf, Jacksonville Beach offers a vibrant boardwalk scene. Here, you can find beachside restaurants serving up fresh catches, live music venues, and a variety of shops. The Jacksonville Beach Pier extends a quarter mile into the ocean. It’s a favored spot for fishermen and sightseers alike.

As the day winds down, one of the local favorites is to gather by the Seawalk Pavilion. It’s a community hub where festivals, concerts, and markets take place throughout the year. The pavilion is also the perfect spot to watch the sunset, with the sky and sea often painted in brilliant hues.

Jacksonville Beach provides a laid-back beach town atmosphere that’s hard to beat. Are you here to surf? Or perhaps to bask in the sun? This place captures the laid-back, sunny essence of North Florida.

Jacksonville Beach boasts wide sandy shores, consistent waves, and surf facilities for all levels.
Jacksonville Beach boasts wide sandy shores, consistent waves, and surf facilities for all levels.

9. Ginnie Springs

Ginnie Springs is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, renowned for some of the clearest freshwater springs in North Florida. With a constant temperature of 72 degrees, the springs invite year-round diving, snorkeling, and swimming. The underwater world here is vibrant, with visibility often exceeding 50 feet, making it a favorite for underwater photographers and nature lovers.

The springs are part of a privately-owned park that offers well-maintained camping spots. Whether you’re pitching a tent or rolling in with an RV, staying overnight is an excellent way to experience the natural nocturnal ambiance. For daytime activities, consider renting a tube. Drift down the Santa Fe River at your leisure, as it meanders through the park.

Above the waterline, Ginnie Springs offers ample space. You can play volleyball and engage in other games. The picnic areas are ideal for family gatherings or barbecues with friends. The park also provides canoe and kayak rentals for those looking to paddle the river’s gentle currents.

Ginnie Springs is more than a diving spot; it’s a full-fledged outdoor destination. With its array of water-based and land-based activities, this place is a haven. Here, you can fully enjoy the sunny days that North Florida has to offer.

Ginnie Springs features crystal-clear springs, ideal for diving and snorkeling.
Ginnie Springs features crystal-clear springs, ideal for diving and snorkeling.

10. Santa Fe River

Embarking on a sailing journey along the Santa Fe River is a tranquil way to take in the natural beauty of North Florida. This meandering river, with its calm waters and lush tree-lined banks, is ideal for a day of leisurely sailing. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a novice, the Santa Fe River promises a tranquil yet captivating experience.

Navigating the river by sailboat allows for a quiet exploration of the diverse ecosystems along its banks. You have the option to drop anchor for a swim in the cool waters. Alternatively, you can dock at one of the numerous springs feeding into the river for a rejuvenating pause. The Santa Fe River is also known for its fishing appeal. If you decide to cast a line, you might catch your own dinner.

One of the coolest things to do in North Florida is to witness the river’s transformation at dusk. As evening approaches, the water mirrors the sky’s shifting hues. The wildlife’s chorus grows louder, crafting a peaceful and almost otherworldly setting.

Sailing the Santa Fe River isn’t about the rush of adrenaline; it’s about savoring the moments of calm and the subtle beauty that makes this region special. It’s a chance to disconnect from the fast pace of life and reconnect with nature.

Sail the tranquil Santa Fe River, featuring calm waters and lush banks.
Sail the tranquil Santa Fe River, featuring calm waters and lush banks.

11. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is a true testament to Florida’s diverse ecosystem. Just a short drive from Gainesville, this park is a wildlife enthusiast’s dream. Here, wild horses and bison roam the fields. This scene is reminiscent of the Great Plains rather than typical Florida landscapes.

The park offers several trails for hiking and biking, each providing a different perspective of the prairie’s vast landscapes and habitats. The La Chua Trail is renowned for its alligator sightings. Meanwhile, the Wacahoota Trail features an observation tower. From this tower, you get a panoramic view of the prairie. It’s an ideal spot for bird watching and observing the roaming herds.

For those who love nature photography or simply want to experience Florida’s wildlife up close, Paynes Prairie is a must-visit. The park has a unique history as a cattle ranch. It has since transformed into a diverse biotic community. This transformation is evident in the flourishing flora and fauna.

Visiting Paynes Prairie offers a break from the usual beach-focused Florida vacation. It presents an opportunity to immerse in the state’s untamed heart. Nature is the main attraction here. The park provides a serene yet untamed sanctuary perfect for those seeking to engage with the great outdoors.

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, a diverse wildlife with roaming horses and bison.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park has a diverse wildlife with roaming horses and bison.

12. Seaside

Seaside is where beach town vibes meet thoughtful design. This place isn’t about flashy attractions; it’s about appreciating a well-crafted community. Picture pastel houses and neat white fences, all arranged in a way that makes you want to ditch the car and walk everywhere. Seaside boasts a simplicity that’s a rare find in today’s world. The streets here lead straight to the beach, and the town squares invite you to take a moment and just breathe.

Eating out in Seaside is an easy win. You’ve got food trucks serving up quick bites that rival the fancy sit-down spots. When it comes to food, make sure to try the fresh, local seafood. This town understands that good food is best served without

When it comes to the best things to do in North Florida, Seaside holds its own. Rent a bike and cruise the town, or grab a paddleboard and hit the clear waters. The outdoor amphitheater often hosts live music and movies, making for perfect evenings under the stars. Seaside is a reminder that sometimes the best way to see a place is to simply live it – no guidebook needed.

Explore Seaside is one of the amazing things to do in North Florida.
Explore Seaside, a beach town charm with pastel houses, walkable streets, and easy beach access.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Amazing Things to Do in North Florida

Looking for more content on the top things to do in North Florida? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to North Florida:

What is North Florida known for?

North Florida is celebrated for its historic sites and natural beauty. It’s home to St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement in the U.S., and boasts a mix of cultural heritage and scenic landscapes. From the Spanish forts to the picturesque beaches and state parks, it offers a unique blend of exploration and relaxation opportunities.

What are some free things to do in North Florida?

North Florida offers plenty of cost-free activities. Enjoy the historic charm of Fernandina Beach, explore the art at Jacksonville’s Cummer Museum on free admission days, or take a scenic hike through the trails of Talbot Island State Parks. The region is rich with natural and cultural spots that don’t cost a penny.

Visit Cummer Museum, an art institution with lush garden and fountain.
Visit Cummer Museum, an art institution with a lush garden and fountain.

What are the most unique things to do in North Florida?

Unique experiences in North Florida include ghost tours through the ancient streets of St. Augustine, horseback riding along the serene beaches of Amelia Island, and stepping back in time at the ornate Wesley House. Each activity offers a distinctive glimpse into the region’s diverse attractions.

What are the best outdoor activities in North Florida?

The best outdoor activities in North Florida involve exploring its clear springs, such as Ginnie Springs for snorkeling, and hiking the trails of Ocala National Forest. The region’s coastline also invites surfing and beachcombing, particularly at the less crowded but equally stunning Atlantic beaches.

Is North Florida a good place to live?

North Florida is a hidden gem in Florida, a great place to call home, offering a blend of laid-back living and diverse cultural experiences. With its lower cost of living compared to South Florida, friendly communities, and year-round warm weather, it appeals to families, retirees, and young professionals alike. The region’s natural beauty and slower pace of life are its main draws.

Is North Florida worth going to?

Absolutely, North Florida is a worthy destination for travelers seeking a mix of history, nature, and leisure. It’s less crowded than its southern counterpart, providing a more relaxed vibe. With unique attractions like the historic sites of St. Augustine and the natural springs scattered throughout, it offers a rich travel experience that caters to a variety of interests.

Final Thoughts on Exploring North Florida

Exploring North Florida offers an adventure that’s as varied as the landscape itself. From the historic streets of its quaint towns to the natural springs and rivers, there’s a slice of the Sunshine State for every kind of traveler, starting the moment you fly to Florida.

Whether you’re paddling through serene waterways or soaking up the local history, you’ll find that North Florida’s charm lies in its ability to offer a slower pace without skimping on the experiences. It’s a region where you can truly savor each moment, from sunrise on a quiet beach to sunset on a bustling pier.

So pack your bags and set your sights on North Florida. It’s a place that might just surprise you with its depth and diversity, proving that there’s more to this sunny state than just theme parks and oranges.

The amazing things to do in North Florida for all types of travelers
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