A few weeks ago my husband and I went on a trip up north to Old Town, Florida. We've stayed in all kinds of places all over the world and figured nothing could be worse than a $7.00 hostel in India so we decided to finally give Airbnb a try. We rented a cabin in the woods that was right on the Suwanee River and I'm happy to say that the experience exceeded our expectations.
We were on a mission for some peace and quiet. The cabin was located 3 miles down a dirt road and had no cell phone service, cable or internet. Mission accomplished. It was exactly what we were looking for.
The lack of distractions gave me more time to create these little travel sketches.
On the second day of our trip, we went to Fanning Springs State Park. Entry is only $6 per car and it is one of the prettiest little State Parks I've ever visited with a canopy of enormous old live oak trees overhead and crystal clear freshwater springs for swimming or scuba diving.
We decided that no matter how cold it was, we would jump into any and all springs we came across. It was definitely brisk! Fanning Springs State Park is located in the town of Fanning Springs. There is a canoe launch but it's down a steep hill and despite what their website says, we discovered that they do not have canoe or kayak rentals. They do offer hiking, swimming, scuba diving, camping, a boardwalk, and a boat launch. We had a great time hiking, swimming and wandering this beautiful little park.
We also spent a few days exploring Manatee Springs State Park. The entry fee was also only $6 per car which is an excellent price for a park that offers so many activities. The park is immaculately maintained by supervised state inmates and highly dedicated park rangers. Our first day there we brought our paddleboards which were a great way to spot manatees.
The park is home to one of Florida's largest freshwater springs and is a winter refuge for West Indian manatees. The springs are also very popular among scuba divers as their underground aquatic cave system is one of the longest in North America. Even though it was cold outside, we had to jump into this spring as well. Make sure to bring snorkel gear or at least goggles to see underwater. You will not be disappointed.
There is also a boardwalk that you can use to view the manatees if water sports are not your thing. Whether in the water or on the boardwalk, everyone was pleased. The manatees were everywhere.
It was raining and cold on our second day at the park and not ideal for being on the water so we went for a hike. Their trail system has 8.5 miles of trails for walking or bicycling.
This was the largest magnolia tree I've ever seen!
Our last day at the park was spent kayaking. Visitors can rent kayaks, canoes or paddleboards from Anderson's Outdoor Adventures which is located in the park. Our kayak rental was only $25. My sketch (above) shows some of the wildlife we encountered when we were kayaking.
If you own your own boat you can use the boat ramp to access the Suwanee River. Manatee Springs is located in Chiefland, Florida and offers trails for bicycling and hiking, a boat launch, canoe launch, camping, snorkeling, swimming, scuba diving, wildlife viewing, and concessions.
Mostly everything was closed on Thanksgiving except for the Nature Coast Trail. The Nature Coast Trail is a 31.7-mile paved trail for walking, biking, skating, horseback riding, and bird watching that spans Dixie, Gilchrist, and Levy counties. We found a trailhead near the cabin and went for a stroll. There is no fee to enter and it's open 7 days a week, 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset.
On our last day, we finally strategized a way to get our very large and very heavy paddleboards off the steep and rickety dock at the cabin and into the Suwanee River. As you can see from my sketch (above) we had to get a ladder involved. I also provided photographic evidence to prove that, yes, this ridiculous plan was in fact undertaken but also accomplished.