Discovering Hamilton, Suwannee, Columbia and Madison Counties
North Central Florida is defined by many things. Its backbone may be farming and agriculture, but healthcare, retail, manufacturing, hospitality and other industries also play major roles in the region’s economy.
Across Hamilton, Suwannee, Columbia and Madison Counties, there are far more residents who own homes (about 75% of the region’s households) compared to those who rent.
Given rivers such as the Withlacoochee, Suwannee and Alapaha, as well as the many lakes within these counties, North Central Florida has become a popular destination for people seeking homes and recreational land on the waterfront.
The area also touts its various historic landmarks throughout cities such as Lake City, Live Oak, Jasper, White Springs and Madison. And there’s clearly a focus on small-town living and events that bring communities together. Let’s take a closer look at the appeal of North Central Florida for visitors and residents alike.
Lots of Farmland, plus Florida’s Front Porch and Gateway
Jennings, Fla. – the place United Country Real Estate | Lifestyle Properties calls home – reflects much of what characterizes a large portion of North Central Florida. And that means a whole lot of agriculture. There are more than 530,000 acres of farmland valued at almost $430 million in Hamilton, Madison, Columbia and Suwannee Counties. From corn, cotton and carrots, to peanuts, tobacco, cattle and calves and more, farming is big business in this area.
On the other hand, for many the appeal of life here is all about the location. Hamilton County is sometimes called “Florida’s Front Porch,” as it’s considered the state’s main entryway from the north where I-10 and I-75 meet. In addition, Lake City and Columbia County are often considered part of “Florida’s Gateway” because of their proximity to I-75.
These counties are just minutes from the Georgia border, but still a relatively short drive from places such as state capital Tallahassee or Gainesville, Fla. — both notable college towns. Likewise, access to air travel is close, with smaller airports in Live Oak and Lake City, plus Jacksonville International Airport about an hour away.
North Central Florida: Homesites and Recreation on the Waterfront
Whether as the homesite for a new lake house or a spot for recreation on the river, waterfront properties are always in high demand. The Suwannee, Withlacoochee and Alapaha Rivers offer good options throughout Suwannee, Hamilton, Columbia and Madison Counties. The Alapaha is particularly interesting, as sometimes long stretches of it disappear underground, leaving a dry river bed before returning later. It’s sometimes called the “River of Sand” for this reason.
Another common feature within the area – and one of the most popular for outdoor recreation – is the significant amount of natural, fresh water springs and spring-fed pools. The limestone-filtered springs make for excellent fishing and swimming. In Suwannee County, you can enjoy the springs and take a nature hike through Little River Springs. Or head to Madison County to experience cave diving in the crystal-clear waters of Madison Blue Spring State Park.
Columbia County has the 2,669-acre Ichetucknee Springs State Park, which can be navigated by canoe and on foot. It’s a wildlife haven with some great trails, plus eight springs that join to create the namesake river. There are also many individual tracts of land with recreation along the river such as Avoca or Jennings Bluff in Hamilton County. In White Springs, you can kayak Big Shoals State Park, or check out Cypress Creek Wildlife Management Area for boating or hunting.
Suwannee River State Park is ideal for hiking, biking, fishing, camping and other outdoor adventures, as is Osceola National Forest, a 200,000-acre preserve covered in cypress and pine woodlands, swamps, ponds and beaches. On a related note, if you’re into bird watching, all four of these northern counties have prominent spots on the Great Florida Birding Trail.
History, Events and Culture in Northern Florida
From Jasper to White Springs, Branford to Live Oak, throughout Lake City, Greenville and beyond, the history of North Central Florida is preserved and celebrated by its residents. Dozens of structures and sites in the region have earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places over the years.
And the focus on family-friendly gatherings and events of all sizes during the year is evident. Hamilton for example, was at one time named Florida’s first countywide “Main Street Community.” There you’ll find events such as the Florida Folk Festival, an annual Championship Rodeo and the Wild Blackberry Festival.
Suwannee County hosts Christmas on the Square, the largest Christmas festival in the southeast, along with regular events at Spirit of Suwannee Music Park. The annual Down Home Days Festival and Parade is a well-attended gathering in Madison County, while Lake City’s Gateway City Craft Beer and Wine Festival is starting to gain a lot of attention.
The culture of an easy-paced southern lifestyle amid small-town charm certainly brings new residents to this part of Florida, but another benefit – the affordable cost of living and some personal tax advantages, including the absence of state taxes – also play a role.
If you’re in the market for a country home with acreage, a fishing property, recreational land, a lot for residential or commercial development, or a single-family house in town, you can count on United Country Real Estate | Lifestyle Properties to help you find your dream property. Welcome to North Central Florida!
Sources: hamiltoncda.org, hamiltoncountyfl.com, floridasfrontporch.com, floridastateparks.org, visitflorida.com, stateparks.com, nflp.org, fdacs.gov, suwcounty.org suwanneechamber.com