There’s something about an activity being free that somehow makes it more enjoyable. “If it’s free, it’s for me,” is a mood, and so for those days when you don’t want to scroll through Groupon, figure out how to stretch a dollar, or settle for a boring day in, we’ve put together a guide for the top 10 free activities to enjoy in Suwannee County, Florida. Whether you want to cool off in a spring, hop on a biking trail or explore a picture-perfect botanical garden, put away your wallet because this guide has you covered.
Managed by Suwannee Parks and Recreation, the First Federal Sportsplex is a free, 40-acre outdoor space complete with an array of amenities and activities including a four-station fitness course; six lighted pickleball courts, five lighted ball fields, and five batting cages; two tennis courts; two playgrounds; a 2/3-mile, dog-friendly walking trail; a 3,500 square-foot skate park; two covered picnic pavilions and a 2,000-square-foot splash pad for cooling off after a day spent in the sun.
Whether you want to walk the trail with Fido or practice your swing at the batting cages, the First Federal Sportplex is a fun, and better yet free, option to take advantage of.
How did Live Oak get its name? Why were the railroads important to the city? What mysteries lie behind the old architectural structures – some of which date back to 1884? All these answers and more can be found at the Suwannee Historical Museum. Whether you’re new to the area or a longtime Suwannee County native interested in learning more about the area’s roots, the Suwannee Historical Museum is the perfect spot for history buffs and curious minds alike.
The museum, which is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., was designed to locate, collect, preserve and exhibit both archaeological and historical objects and data relating to Suwannee County, as noted on their website. While the museum itself hosts lunch and learn sessions on the first and second Thursday of each month, the organization also encourages stepping beyond the museum’s walls and embarking on a self-guided walking tour. Those interested can stop by the museum during business hours to get an in-person rundown of the historical landmarks not to miss or visit the suwanneehistory.com website, download the Geotourist app and listen to the Live Oak, Florida Heritage Square Walking Tour audio guide to start your own tour any day of the week.
While taking a tour of the Crapps Mansion costs a small fee ($2), the rest of the Heritage Park and Gardens property is free to explore. Take a stroll through the blooming floral gardens adorned with a koi pond, picnic tables, swings, arbors, statues, and plenty of birds and butterflies. Wander the paved Heritage Trail or read while you walk with the storybook trail added by the Suwannee River Regional Library. Whether you play a game of disc golf, take the kids to let their energy out at the large children’s playground, or play some catch at the artificial turf baseball field behind the playground, it’s easy to spend the whole day at Heritage Park and Gardens.
Charles Springs consists of five acres of land complete with a paved parking area, boat ramp, portable restroom, walking trails, and, of course, the spring. This small, shallow spring has a depth of two to 10 feet and a diameter of 25 feet, which makes it ideal for a refreshing swim to cool off or a dedicated space to explore the area above water that curves along the Suwannee River.
Known as the “place to be” during Branford’s Fourth of July festivities, which include a waterfall of rubber duckies cascading from the Frank Norris Bridge, Ivey Memorial Park is also a great spot to explore outside the holiday season. Two boat ramps and a walking ramp lead toward a floating dock that offers easy access to the Suwannee River while covered picnic tables at the park make it an ideal spot for lunch ‘al fresco’.
Ivey Memorial Park is also a great central location for two other free activities to take advantage of: Branford Springs and the Suwanee River Greenway.
Whether you find yourself at Ivey Memorial Park in preparation to hike or bike part of the Suwannee River Greenway or you’re looking to cool off after a day spent exploring the eateries and shops downtown, it’s just a small detour from the park to Branford Springs. Admission is free to enjoy this 72-degree spring, which is ideal for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, or enjoying a picnic with a view.
The park is equipped with two boat ramps for those eager to launch boats, kayaks, or canoes; several picnic pavilions and a wooden boardwalk for those who want to observe the beautiful blue spring while staying dry
The Suwannee River Greenway is a 29-mile trail that follows a former CSX Railroad corridor from downtown Branford to the southern entrance of Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Whether you want to hike, bike, rollerblade, or take a walk with your pup, following this greenway offers glimpses of the historic river, sights of old Florida history, and Instagram-worthy nature pics.
For those not looking to hike a whopping 29 miles, we recommend hitting a portion of the trail. Take a more manageable 12.5-mile stretch from just east of the Suwannee River to the west bank of the Ichetucknee River which offers benches, shaded areas, pavilions, and tree canopies along the route. To get the best experience, start your trek at Ivey Memorial Park, which has public parking, a restroom, and a water fountain.
Live Oak isn’t the only spot in Suwannee County with access to a charming and free garden. Located in Wellborn, Hearthstone Gardens is a botanical garden open to the public and leashed dogs every day from dusk to dawn with guided tours offered daily, weather permitting.
Scenic floral sites to behold include the Rose Garden, which has 55 pink, red, and white Konck Out roses that bloom in spring, summer, and fall; The Children’s Garden, which has interactive and educational elements as well as marked sensory experiences; The Butterfly Garden, which is a favorite among pollinators, delicate butterflies and hummingbirds; Mirror Lake, which attracts bass, frogs, wood storks and owls; and the Japanese Garden, which features maples, lotus, iris, lanterns, and a koi pond.
The Wellborn Community Park is a five-acre space outfitted with a playground, lighted asphalt basketball court, sand volleyball court, baseball/softball field, a horseshoe pit, two picnic pavilions and a 1/4–mile concrete walking trail.
Rounding out our list of free activities to enjoy in Suwannee County is Royal Springs. Located in O’Brien, Royal Springs is home to a natural spring, spring run, and even a few short waterfalls that make an appearance depending on the height of the river. Three overlook decks provide an unmatched view and a jumping platform lets visitors take the plunge right into the spring’s 72-degree water. Canoeing, kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, diving, and swimming are all available within the spring, which is suitable for all ages as it features kid-friendly shallow areas and progresses to a more advanced depth of 42 feet.
While the spring is certainly the main attraction, the five-acre county park has amenities like a public boat ramp, picnic tables with grills, and portable restrooms.
From disc golf to batting cages; spring-hopping to garden exploration; hiking trails to skate parks; it’s easy to enjoy fun-filled activities in Suwannee County without spending a dime.
Hayli Zuccola has been a freelance writer for the last eight years for both digital and print publications across north central Florida. She enjoys traveling, finding the best food spots and spending time with her pets. You can find her latest adventures on Instagram @hayztravels.
If it’s interesting, relevant or just plain awesome and it’s happening in Suwannee County, we’ll make sure to tell you all about it!