Big Bend Florida – Do you think of yourself as an off-the-beaten-path traveler? If so, you may have written off Florida as being too commercialized and swamped with tourists. Actually, though, the Sunshine State is large and diverse, and there are still hidden gems to be discovered.
One such jewel is the Big Bend region. The borders of this area are a bit nebulous but that only adds to the mystique of the landscape.
If youâ€™re looking for a vacation that allows you to explore the feeling of old-world Florida, check out this Northwest region of the state. Whether you want to kayak, fish, hunt, watch for birds, or simply take a scenic drive, Big Bend is an ideal vacation destination.
Intrigued? Stick with us while we explore all the details of this idyllic spot.
What Is the Big Bend in Florida Called?
If youâ€™re looking for a name for the big bend in Florida, you already have it! When youâ€™re looking at a map of Florida, there is a â€œbig bendâ€ in the northern portion of the west coast. The region around this bend is aptly and simply named â€œThe Big Bend.â€
Not everyone agrees about which towns and counties make up the Big Bend, though. Thereâ€™s also a distinction to be made between the Big Bend and the Big Bend Coast. In the next sections, weâ€™ll explore what you need to know.
What Is Considered the Big Bend in Florida?
Are you a bit unclear as to where exactly the Big Bend is in Florida? If thatâ€™s the case, youâ€™re not alone. The definition of the region varies a bit as this is not an officially recognized region.
Only to add to the confusion, there is a more well-known area in Texas named Big Bend National Park. While these two Big Bends are about at the same latitude, they donâ€™t have too much else in common. When youâ€™re planning out your trip, you might want to double-check that your reservations are in the right state!
Some people consider the Big Bend region to include the counties that stretch from St. Johns River to Apalachicola River.
However, you might also hear people refer to the Big Bend Coast. This is typically understood to extend from the Ocklockonee River to Anclote Key along the Gulf of Mexico. The coastline here is free from barrier islands and largely made up of marshlands.
Big Bend Florida Counties
Because there arenâ€™t set borders to the Big Bend region, there isnâ€™t general consensus about which counties compose this area.
Some sources define the Big Bend Region as containing only Levy, Dixie, Taylor, and Jefferson counties. Others include as many as twelve or more counties, including:
Franklin, Leon, and Wakulla counties are also sometimes considered a part of this region. Additionally, Madison, Liberty, and Gadsden could be counted as a part of the Big Bend of Florida.
What Cities Are in the Big Bend of Florida?
One thing that there is consensus about is that Tallahassee is the main city in the Big Bend region. This Florida capital city is the largest city in the Florida Panhandle and the Big Bend. Itâ€™s also the main center for agriculture and trade in this area.
Many of the counties in the Big Bend are rural and have fairly small populations. This can be a lovely place to visit if youâ€™re looking to get away from it all. However, if youâ€™re searching for nightclubs and skyscrapers, youâ€™ll want to head further south.
Where Is the Big Bend Scenic Highway?
Technically named the Big Bend Scenic Byway, this 220-mile road will transport you to another world. Here youâ€™ll find all the right ingredients for a peaceful rural road trip. The byway passes through St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge which is a 68,000-acre preserve.
Big Bend Scenic Byway stretches from Apalachicola in the west to about Newport in the east. It also creates a loop between St. Teresa, Newport, Tallahassee, and Lake Talquin.
On the west side of the route, you can also take this road north from roughly Eastpoint to Apalachicola National Forest. Heading south from Eastpoint, you can venture to St. George Island State Park.
Is It Worth Driving the Big Bend Scenic Byway?
The answer to this question really depends on what youâ€™re looking for. If youâ€™re looking to be transported to another time and place to get away from it all, though, this might be the perfect trip idea.
The pace of life along the byway is relaxed and laid-back. You can explore everything from historic forts and battlegrounds to coastal dunes and marshlands. Opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and hiking abound in addition to many festivals and events.
For part of the trip, youâ€™ll find yourself on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Florida is famous for the hundreds of bird species that call the state home or simply stop by during their migration. Thanks to Floridaâ€™s diverse habitats and mild climate, this byway combines road-tripping and bird watching.
In October, monarch butterflies make a pitstop in the Big Bend region. On their incredible 2,000-mile trip between the Northern U.S. and central Mexico, they visit St. Marks Refuge. Butterfly lovers should consider planning their trip around this magnificent occurrence.
If you are planning on driving the Big Bend Scenic Byway, give yourself at least two days. Entrance fees are charge in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and many other state parks, campgrounds, and museums.
Biking in the Big Bend Scenic Byway
There are a number of paved bicycle paths along the Big Bend Scenic Byway. These include the St. George Island Bicycle Trail, and the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail, and the GF&A Bicycle Trail.
Where to Stay When Traveling the Big Bend Scenic Byway
As far as accommodations go, you can choose to camp or find more civilized lodging. There are a number of developed public campgrounds in the area, including:
- St. George Island State Park
- Lake Talquin State Forest
- Apalachicola National Forest
- Tateâ€™s Hell State Forest
- Luther Hall Landing (Lake Talquin) County Park
- St. Markâ€™s River County Park
- Ochlockonee River State Park
- Myron B. Hodge (Sopchoppy River) City Park
In Carrabelle and Panacea, you can find private campgrounds.
There are lots of lodging options whether youâ€™re looking for a bed and breakfast or a modern hotel. Consider checking out the Franklin Inn, the Wakulla Springs Lodge, and the Water Street Hotel and Marina.
Things to Do in the Big Bend, Florida
The Big Bend region of Florida is an ideal location for hunting, fishing, kayaking, camping, and wildlife viewing. However, you donâ€™t actually even have to leave your car to get a taste of this unique landscape. Whether you want to go on a scenic drive or paddle down incredible waterways, the Big Bend is a nature lovers’ paradise.
Slow Down in Jefferson County
Are you heading to the Big Bend to unplug and unwind? If so, consider starting in Jefferson County.
How laid back is Jefferson County? As a reference point, this is the only county in the state without any stoplights.
Monticello is a historic town with bed and breakfasts and centuries-old oaks. Youâ€™ll find a number of cafes here as well as shops to peruse. While in town, consider checking out a performance at the 19th-century Monticello Opera House.
Kayak Down Fresh and Saltwater Trails
There is an abundance of waterways in Florida. From extensive coastlines and sparling lakes to blackwater rivers and spring runs, this is heaven for kayakers and canoers.
The best-known river in the region is the Suwannee, but the Econfina, Wacissa, and Aucilla shouldnâ€™t be overlooked. Whether youâ€™re a novice or a pro, thereâ€™s something here for everyone.
Go Hiking Along Hundreds of Miles of Trails
When you look at a Big Bend Florida area map, you find that the region is exceptionally green. Hidden in these expansive wildernesses are hundreds of miles of hiking trails in diverse ecosystems. The Big Bend is a hiker paradise comprises of national, state, and local wildlife areas.
If this is your first visit to the area, consider hiking along the Aucilla Sinks Trail. This primeval journey allows you to watch the river disappear and reappear beneath sinkholes and limestone outcroppings.
The Nature Coast State Trail is a nice paved path for hikers and bikers. Adjoining with the nearly one-hundred-year-old Putnam Lodge, you can even enjoy luxurious lodging after a day of exploration.
Explore Relaxed Villages
Is there anything as calming as driving down rural roads? Is the stress and hassle of life bringing you down? If thatâ€™s the case, a trip to the small towns of the Big Bend might be just what the doctor ordered.
There are a number of sweet little fishing villages in the Big Bend. Steinhatchee is a classic example. Famous for its egrets, Spanish moss, and, of course, fishing, a visit here is like a visit to another world.
This Big Bend town really combines the vibe of the 19th century with the amenities of the 21st. Youâ€™ll find gardens and footpaths to wander around as well as beautiful Victorian waterfront homes.
Another charming town is Apalachicola. Located southwest of Tallahassee, this historic town is full of restored and preserved buildings. On nearly every block, you can find plaques describing the history of the area.
This town on the Apalachicola River and Bay is walkable and compact. Full of good restaurants, sweet shops, and a local craft brewery, you wonâ€™t find any chain restaurants here.
Head to the Beach
Can you really even call a trip to Florida a vacation if you donâ€™t spend some time on the beach? There are a number of beautiful beaches along the Gulf of Mexico in the Big Bend region.
Some of the most popular sandy spots in the area include:
- Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island Lighthouse State Park
- Bald Point State Park
- Carrabelle Beach
- Shell Point Beach
- Mashes Sand Beach
While the area known as the Big Bend coast is largely made up of marshy land, the Big Bend region has quite a bit of beachy shoreline.
Floridaâ€™s Big Bend: A Hidden Gem
In our increasingly commercialized world, it can feel hard to really get away from it all. Nice little cities across the country that were once well-kept secrets are increasingly on the map. While some people might love the tourist life, others yearn for a more genuine experience.
Floridaâ€™s Big Bend offers an opportunity to get a taste of â€œOld Florida.â€ Not only can you explore the history and culture of this region, but there are also abundant chances to explore the wilderness here. If life has got you stres to the max, the Big Bend can be a great place to get some perspective and recharge.
If youâ€™re planning out your perfect vacation, weâ€™re here to help. Be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more information about all of the must-see destinations!