By: Carly Zinderman
Whether you enjoy spending time on water or dry land, Gainesville offers numerous outdoor activities for both pursuits. A plethora of parks in the area provide opportunities for fishing, boating, kayaking, hiking and generally getting up close and personal with local wildlife. Whether you’re an avid outdoors enthusiast or merely want to take in the fresh air, the area in and around Gainesville has plenty to see, do and experience.
If you love fishing or just want to experience the thrill of a catch, then head to any number of Gainesville fishing spots. Lake Santa Fe and the surrounding areas are prime spots for fishing. The lake is great for fishing black crappie, bluegill and redear sunfish and is connected to the smaller Little Lake Santa Fe by a pass that is full of large-mouth and stocked sunshine bass. The nearby Santa Fe Swamp is also filled with wildlife.
Gainesville hotels have swimming pools, but not many places offer the opportunity to swim in natural waters. Ichetucknee Springs State Park is frequently described as “Florida at its best.” The state park gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy the clear waters of the Ichetucknee River before it joins the Santa Fe River. Six miles of beautiful water are available for exploration. Outside of the park, private vendors rent tubes, snorkeling and diving equipment to visitors who wish to experience the beauty of the river. The park also features picnic tables, hiking and wildlife exploration, but enjoying a tube ride down the river before a swim tends to be the highlight of a day trip to the national park. It’s also a fun and inexpensive way to get some of the thrill of a water park without the long lines and high ticket prices.
No visit to Florida is complete without a trek to a swamp, and the Gainesville area has the nearby Gum Root Park to give visitors a glimpse of what Florida used to be like. Gum Root Park has many trails that go through different types of natural habitats, including a swamp. Spanning 741 acres, Gum Root Park is a prime location for wildlife viewing, birdwatching and seeing the natural wonders of Florida and is conveniently located just outside of Gainesville. San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park also includes a swamp. Located at the northwestern edge of Gainesville, San Felasco is different than what you might expect of Florida’s habitat as the forested area is filled with trees and trails as well as wildflowers, picnic tables and playgrounds for families looking to spend the day on a great outdoor adventure.
The area in and around Gainesville is perfect for exploring whether you’re already a lover of the great outdoors or just looking to commune with nature. Many parks offer campgrounds and are also suitable for visitors with pets, so you can bring your four-legged family members along for your trip.