Picturesque downtowns, storied pasts, rural lifestyles and laidback atmospheres — it is that type of vibe that is exhibited in many of Florida’s small towns, including High Springs. Voted as the “Friendliest Small Town in Florida,” High Springs is the epitome of small-town life.
High Springs – A history built on the rails
To put it simply, High Springs is a town that the railroad industry built. The first railroad company arrived in 1884, but it wasn’t until 1895 and the arrival of the Plant System Railroad Line (later called the Atlantic Coast Line) that High Springs became an important railroad center.
Even though most of the original railroad buildings have disappeared, you can still catch a glimpse of rail history in High Springs. The original passenger depot, built in 1910, sits along NE Railroad Avenue and is all that remains of what was once a vast railroad complex. The building, which was moved to its current location and renovated in 1994, now serves as the office to the Community Redevelopment Agency.
Another depot serves as the High Springs Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, along the old railroad bed at Railroad Avenue. The office is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is a good place to stop for information, if you are there during the week.
Gateway to the springs
In addition to its history with the railroad, High Springs is a destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Situated in the heart of North Florida’s famous spring country, it is within driving distance of numerous springs and state parks and lives up to its motto: “Enjoy Our Good Nature!”
One of our favorite locations is O’Leno State Park, which is about six miles north of High Springs along the banks of the Santa Fe River. O’Leno is one of Florida’s first state parks, developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. A unique feature of O’Leno is that the Santa Fe River disappears underground at the park and then reemerges about three miles away in the River Rise State Preserve. It is worth the hike back to where the river ends, both for the novelty and the beauty of the river.
From the intersection of Main Street and U.S. Highway 27, there are a couple of directions you can start your downtown exploration. Rest assured, all roads lead to antique stores and specialty shops.
Places to eat and drink
As with all small towns, there are always a few eateries you need to visit. One of those is the Great Outdoors Restaurant in the old Opera House building. Enjoy the inside dining room or the outdoor patio with the large stone fireplace.
The High Springs Brewing Company is one of the new hot spots in town. Located on NW 237 St, the brewery is housed in an old welding shop and serves up its own craft beers, as well as other Florida brews. Live entertainment, special events and a variety of food trucks provide a well-rounded experience no matter when you go.
High Springs is located about 130 miles north of Orlando off Interstate 75 and, whether you plan to visit for the history, the shopping or the outdoor adventures, it is a great place to spend a relaxing day or even weekend.
About the writer
Doris Keeler is a freelance writer and blogger from Orlando who travels the state on weekends searching for people and places that represent “Old Florida.” If you’re looking for things to do, see some of the unique things around the Sunshine State or want to make some suggestions for Day Trippin’, visit her blog at www.FloridianaMagazine.com.