Down US 19/US 98 from Steinhatchee, you’ll be going through the Nature Coast. There’s not much development in this area, compared to places like Orlando and Miami. Partly it’s because there are several large National Wildlife Refuges and some state forests here. Also there aren’t any beaches. Well, at least not the white sandy beaches that you imagine when you think of Florida. On the west coast, those are found up in the Florida Panhandle and from around Tampa southward. So I doubt there’ll be an explosion of growth here anytime soon. Which is fine by me.
I don’t know of anything historical in Cross City. It is the Dixie County seat, so yeah, there’s a courthouse here. Not impressive, though, ’cause it looks like an aircraft hangar. When returning from the Panhandle, I do look forward to getting to Cross City, though. Because after driving through the forty odd miles of wilderness to Perry, and another forty miles after Perry, I’ve gotten my fix of rurality. Not so bad during the day, but at night, you wouldn’t believe how lonely it is driving along US 98 with no street lights. After this, there’s at least a town every five to ten miles. This is a good section of road to drive if you want to get away from it all without getting awaaaaaaay from it all. When I get to Cross City, I’ll usually grab some food (Hardee’s most of the time), stretch my legs, get some gas if needed, and I’ll feel like I’ll be able to make it back to Ocala.
- Dixie County Courthouse (214 Northeast CR 351)
East of Cross City is another name on a map, Eugene. According to AGFHA, the school bell for the old Eugene School is here. Supposedly it’s on the grounds of the New Prospect Baptist Church, but I couldn’t find it. There’s what looks like a boarded up well on the property, and the bell could be inside, but that’s just a guess. (see Google map)
- Old Eugene School Bell (New Prospect Baptist Church now there) (AGFHA)
How old is Old Town, the next city on the way? The first school there was built around 1909, so there’s a clue. There’s some old stuff in it, according to AGFHA. It also has the only NRHP in Dixie County, which is also the only Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve that’s inland. It’s the City of Hawkinsville, which was sunk in the Suwannee River decades ago. You can see the spot in the river where it lies from the old railroad bridge, which is now part of the Nature Coast State Trail. It’s a long walk to get there, though. And you can’t see the boat itself, or at least I couldn’t. Maybe if the river level was really low. If you’re a diver, you can see it that way. (see Google map)
- Old Town Methodist Church (Methodist Drive)
- City of Hawkinsville (Suwannee River 100 yards south of Old Town railroad trestle) (NRHP)
- Old Town Elementary School (221 Southeast 136 Ave)
- other houses/buildings within a mile of school (221 Southeast 136 Ave) (AGFHA)
It’s barely 4 miles until you get to Fanning Springs, on the banks of the Suwannee River. There used to be a military post here, Fort Fanning. The site has been made into a park, on the north side of US 98 right next to the bridge. Just beyond on the right is Fanning Springs State Park. I use a closeup photo I took when I first visited as my desktop wallpaper. It’s in the photo series above. See what I mean? (see Google map)
Chiefland, the last place I’m covering this post, is about 10 miles south. Just before you get there, you’ll pass the Dakotah Winery. If it’s open, stop in for a wine tasting. They’ve got some unusual ones, like blueberry wine, but also the garden variety. It’s not in an area I’d think of as wine country, but they seem to be doing OK. The wine I tried was good, which I’m sure helps.
Off US 98 is the old Hardeetown Hotel, which is now a private residence. West of Chiefland is what I’d guess is a big draw, Manatee Springs State Park, which is also a National Natural Landmarks. When I worked for a boat manufacturing company back in the 1990s, we had a company picnic here. Any employees who wanted could get a ride on one of our boats on the Suwannee River. That was a pretty cool day. And it’s a pretty nice park. (see Google map)
- Dakotah Winery (14365 Northwest Hwy 19) winery
- Old Hardeetown Hotel (Northwest 13th St at Northwest 16th Ave) (AGFHA)
- Manatee Springs State Park (11650 N.W. 115th St.) (NNL)
That’s it this go-round. See you on the road!
Route length: 25 miles