Rural Road Trips: Discover the Florida Big Bend Region

At the eastern end of the Panhandle — where the Gulf of Mexico takes a bite out of the coast — lies an area Floridians call Big Bend. Consisting of 12 counties, the scenic drive north of Clearwater and St. Petersburg, find Florida’s untouched landscapes and small towns. These places offer vacationers a peek at what Florida looked like before the state became a popular vacation destination. To get started, here are three small towns worth checking out in the Florida Big Bend region.

Florida Big Bend Region: 3 Small Towns and Things to Do

Cedar Key, Levy County

A place of quiet serenity, Cedar Key is a small town sitting amidst 13 tiny islands that comprise Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. A remnant of a by-gone era, the historic town has a mid-1800s ambience. Its charming boutiques, antique shops and galleries spill out of old buildings, with some dating back to the Civil War.

Cedar Key features a pristine natural wilderness that begs to be explored. Cabbage palms and live oaks draped dot a landscape that houses birds, including white pelicans and eagles. A hiking trail near town follows an old railroad bed, and shallow waters make renting a kayak a top option.

Find modern amenities, taverns and restaurants along Dock Street. However, the wrap-around lanai on the second story of the Island Hotel offers the place to sip a cold glass of mint tea.

Live Oak, Suwannee County

Admire Old Florida architecture or attend an event in downtown Live Oak. Enjoy shaded oak trees, sit by the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers, and enjoy a picnic with loved ones. The town also hosts family-friendly events year-round. Visitors are also welcome to canoe at three state parks and canoe outpost.

Lake City, Columbia County

This small town sits between three big cities: Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Gainesville. Lake City offers a natural beauty that attracts outdoor lovers. Float and tube down streams, take a peaceful drive, or try paddling and biking. In addition to adventure, Lake City also hosts live concerts and antiquing events shoppers can’t miss.

This is only a glimpse into everything there is to do in the Florida Big Bend region. Read about the counties before planning a trip.