Located along the inside curve of Florida’s coastline, the Nature Coast region connects the Sun Coast counties with the areas located further west along the Florida Panhandle.
It is comprised of nine counties that include Wakulla, Jefferson, Taylor, Dixie, Levy, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, and the city of Dunnellon, which is a part of Marion County.
This area of Florida is known for being a nature lover’s paradise with some of the best collections of state parks and wildlife populations that you will find anywhere in the country.
In addition to all of the wildlife opportunities located along the nature coast, the area is also known for having a number of small towns that each offer a unique twist on small town living with an “Old Florida” vibe.
While the lower regions are within driving distance of Tampa and Orlando and the northern regions are close to Tallahassee, the Nature Coast represents a part of Florida where relaxed, small town living is still possible.
Small Town Living
Each of the small towns located along the Nature Coast contain their own unique combination of history, culture, and wildlife. Horseshoe Beach in Dixie County is known for crabbing and scalloping while Brooksville in Hernando County is known for its great attention to history and beautiful antebellum homes. The town of Dunnellon is known for being located alone the crystal clear Rainbow River while the symbol of Wakulla County is St. Mark’s Lighthouse.
Regardless of which portion of the Nature Coast you choose to explore, there are three things you can expect to find from any of the towns located here. First, you can be assured that each area will have an “Old Florida” feel to it. Second, there is going to be access to water close by. The third thing you can expect is that you will be virtually surrounded by a number of great state parks, forests, trails, and wildlife preserves.
Many of the small towns located throughout the Nature Coast got their start as fishing villages and have grown and expanded over the years to include aspects of culture, history, shopping, and dining. One of the best examples of this is the town of Cedar Key in Levy County.
Cedar Key is able to combine everything you might be looking for in a small town, “Old Florida” community into one location. In addition to great fishing and boating, there is the Cedar Key Historical Museum, the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Preserve, Seahorse Key Lighthouse, and plenty of other cultural attractions. The area is also flush with unique shops and great restaurants.
If water-based activities and wildlife are what you are looking for, the Crystal River area in Citrus County is where you want to be! Here you will find a number of different opportunities to observe, and even swim with the local manatee population. Because the Crystal River region contains so many natural springs, it is a prime location for manatees to gravitate towards during the cooler winter months.
While the town of Crystal River is located right along Kings Bay and the Crystal River, it is also close to other popular water and wildlife areas like Homossassa Springs, Lake Rousseau, the Rainbow River, and the Withlacoochee State Forest.
This area is also home to the Villages of Citrus Hills community which provides an unbelievable host of country club amenities to its residents while keeping them located right in the heart of Florida’s Nature Coast.
Where Cedar Key and Crystal River offer residents a location that is right on the Gulf of Mexico, Dunnellon can offer a calm historic community that is located along the beautiful Rainbow and Withlacoochee Rivers. The combination of these two rivers make this an ideal location for people who love to kayak or canoe. While Dunnellon is the furthest inland portion of the Nature Coast, it is still only a 20-minute drive from Crystal River.
If you are looking for a laid back lifestyle surrounded by plenty of outdoor activities and opportunities to observe local wildlife, Florida’s Nature Coast might be the perfect place for you to retire, but the best way to know for sure is to actually experience it!
Take a ride through the Nature Coast and you are sure to find at least a few places that you wouldn’t mind calling home!