Lake City is also known as the “Gateway to Florida” because it’s located near the intersection of I-75 and I-10. It is widely known as the prime jumping off point for visitors on their way to the attractions, beaches and other places of interest across Central and South Florida.
Lake City has more than 2,100 moderately priced hotel rooms, 500 campground sites and more than 50 restaurants, featuring foods to suit anyone’s particular taste.
In it. On it. Under it. If it has to do with water, Lake City is where you want to be. It is the hub for the nation’s most outstanding canoeing, tubing, kayaking and diving venues. That has earned it the title of “Freshwater Recreation Capital of America”.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
To begin with, there are more than 100 freshwater springs located within a 50 mile radius of Lake City. Most special of all, located just a few miles south of Lake City, near the town of Fort White, is the nation’s most pristine river at Ichetucknee Springs State Park. A refreshing 72ºF year-round, the Ichetucknee is a mecca to cool off and enjoy the spectacular beauty of a crystal clear springs that discharges about 230-million gallons of water daily. That’s enough to provide five ounces of water to every man, woman and child on earth. The seven mile long Ichetucknee Springs River is fed by nine named springs with depths reaching up to 40 feet. The river is a favorite for tubing in the summertime and spectacular canoeing year-round.
On Lake City’s southern border is Ginnie Springs which has been proclaimed by Southern Diver Magazine as the “Mount Everest of Cavern Diving”. Legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau said, “The visibility of the water at Ginnie Springs goes on…..forever.”
Not surprisingly, more divers learn to cave dive at Ginnie Springs than anywhere else on the planet. The extensive cavern system has more than 1,100 feet of underground passages, reaching depths of 70 feet. The resort features a full-service dive center and air station, dive equipment rentals and expert cavern and cave diving instruction.
Santa Fe River
The area is bordered by the scenic Santa Fe River on the south. The river emerges out of the ground inside highly regarded O’Leno State Park where you’ll see abundant wildlife and great meeting facilities for family reunions and other special events. Ichetucknee Springs and Ginnie Springs are located along the path of the Santa Fe as it flows into an eventual merging with the storied Suwannee River. Further establishing the area as a freshwater recreation mecca are dozens of lakes within the border of Lake City, along with Olustee Beach at Ocean Pond in the Osceola National Forest.
The legendary Suwannee River is Lake City’s northern border. The Suwannee begins in the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia and winds some 213 miles through Florida before entering the Gulf of Mexico. The Suwannee River has Florida’s only Class 3 white water rafting and then moves past the historic Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center with its carillon tower and annual Florida Folk Festival, held on Memorial Day Weekend.
The Suwannee River is a longtime favorite for fishermen, providing great opportunities for camping, bicycling and hiking along its banks, along with being an ideal river for all facets of boating, canoeing and kayaking.
Suwannee River Wilderness Trail
The Suwannee River Wilderness Trail is a 208-mile long canoe and kayak trail on the river with the availability on alternating nights of staying in cabins on the river or at elevated river camp sites.
Osceola National Forest
Ocean Pond, in the Osceola National Forest, hosts more than 100,000 visitors annually. The two-mile wide lake has a shallow, sandy beach and has facilities for fishing, picnicking, hiking restrooms, grills and sheltered tables. Ocean Pond is a favorite for boaters and skiing enthusiasts.
Just two miles from Ocean Pond and inside the Osceola National Forest is the Olustee Battlefield State Park, the site of Florida’s most important Civil War battle in 1864 and now the site of the nation’s second largest annual re-enactment during President’s Day Weekend in mid-February. More than 2,000 re-enactors participate and many thousands of visitors gather to take in the history, heritage, live entertainment, arts, crafts and food of one of the southeast’s top annual festivals. The readers of Florida Monthly Magazine have chosen the Olustee Battle Festival and Re-enactment as Florida’s top historical event for eight consecutive years.
In addition to the vast array of water adventures available near Lake City, Fort White and Columbia County, the area also provides great opportunities to visit historic homes and museums, along with dozens of exciting antique shops. Lake City’s historic downtown area features great specialty shops, unique restaurants, the community centerpiece of Olustee Park, a 1905 historic Courthouse, the Columbia County Historical Museum and picturesque Lake DeSoto and the Millennium Fountain.