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Don’t Just Drive Through Newberry, in Western Alachua County, Florida

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Newberry’s Historic Downtown

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Many consider Newberry to be a “suburb” of busy Gainesville, the county seat of Alachua County, Florida.  Located at the crossroads of US27 and SR26, it seems Newberry is often overlooked by folks traveling through the downtown.   Newberry’s official Main Street is US27, but it’s along east/west SR26 (Newberry Road/University Avenue if you’re heading west from Gainesville) where you’ll find the Historic District, with some interesting shopping opportunities and places to eat.

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Old F A R T Studios’ sign will get your attention….

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…but be sure to stop and shop!

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You’ll find arts, crafts, jewelry and antiques in Old F A R T Studios in Newberry, FL

Newberry’s Main Street Organization has done a stellar job of attracting and sustaining several small businesses, including the Fire House Gallery & Studio at 25435 West Newberry Road, just up the street from the Country Kitchen restaurant.

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Newberry’s Fire House Gallery and Studio

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Try Newberry’s Country Kitchen for breakfast or lunch!

There are also some long-established businesses along Newberry Road (SR26), including Newberry Cold Storage, the source of some excellent bacon and sausage, and Newberry’s Backyard Bar-B-Q.

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Newberry Cold Storage is the oldest business in downtown Newberry, Florida

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Newberry’s Backyard Bar-B-Q has been serving locals some good eats for years.

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Craving authentic Mexican tacos? Try Cilantro’s in Newberry, Florida

 

 

 

 


“Meat and Three” at Bett’s Big T Restaurant in Chiefland, Florida

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Bett’s Big T Restaurant
2525 N Young Blvd (US19)
Chiefland, FL 32626

“Meat and Three” restaurants are a southern tradition.  In many parts of Florida, they’re dying out and being replaced by fast-food enterprises, especially in the more urbanized areas.  But if you’re traveling through (or hopefully stopping in) our 11 county Natural North Florida region, you’ll find several of these classic eateries.  A good example is Bett’s Big T in Chiefland, in Levy County, on US 19.  It’s the source of a great meal served by seasoned waitresses–and always with a smile. Bett’s is also located within a short drive of two of our favorite State Parks and swimming holes, Manatee Springs and Fanning Springs.

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Manatee Springs State Park is about 8 miles from Bett’s Big T Restaurant in Chiefland, FL

If you believe the legend that “you shouldn’t go swimming for at least a half-hour after you eat a big meal” you might want to save your visit to Bett’s for a day when you’re not going to the springs.  Plates here are heaped with real Southern “cookin'” and always accompanied with rolls, cornbread (the real stuff!) and butter.  On the menu of daily specials, you’ll find great things like fried mullet, hamburger steak and liver and onions.  And they even have macaroni and cheese, which to many visitors’ surprise, is considered to be a vegetable in the American South!

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Bett’s isn’t fancy, but the food sure is good!

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A recent lunchtime special: hamburger steak, real mashed potatoes, lima beans and mustard greens!

The menu changes daily, but on weekends you can take advantage of several all-you-can-eat seafood specials.  They also have sandwiches,  fried chicken and seafood on the regular menu, so everyone can find something they like.  And don’t forget that Bett’s is also open for breakfast, serving first-rate pancakes!


“Early Birds” Catch The Fish–Summertime Fishing on Florida’s Big Bend

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You need to be fishing when the sun comes over Natural North Florida’s coastline–especially in the summer months!

There are several reasons to get up early and go fishing on hot summer days.  One, if you’re fishing from one of our busy scalloping areas (Steinhatchee, Keaton Beach, St. Marks), you’ll beat the crowds to the water.  Another, the weather is more likely to be calm, unlike the afternoons when thunderstorms usually develop. The water temperatures will also be cooler — and finally, the fish will be hungrier!

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Redfish (red drum) are a popular inshore fish species on Florida’s Big Bend.

As summertime progresses, the Big Bend grass flats come alive with bait fish, like mullet, white bait (sardines, glass minnows) and pinfish.  As the sun comes up over the horizon, predators like redfish and seatrout start hunting for breakfast, so you need to be along the shallow shoreline waiting for the feeding to begin.  Look for flashing pinfish in the water–or even better, jumping or schooling mullet.  Don’t be afraid to get close to shore (if the tide’s rising), as that’s where these predators lurk.  That being the case, this is the perfect time to fish from paddle (or pedal) craft like canoes or kayak or shallow draft boats.

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Artificial lures (topwater plugs, soft plastics and noisy slow-sinking baits) work best for early AM Big Bend redfish.

For a good recipe for redfish, try this one—Redfish On The Half Shell


Hike, Bike and Camp at Paynes Prairie State Park’s South Side, in Alachua County, Florida

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The view of Paynes Prairie from the observation tower, looking north.

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is biologically, geologically and historically unique. The park became Florida´s first state preserve in 1971 and is now designated as a National Natural Landmark. Noted artist and naturalist William Bartram called it the great Alachua Savannah when he wrote about his visit to the prairie in 1774.

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The State Park has two main entrances.  On the south side of the immense prairie, the main Ranger Station and Visitors’ Center are located about 10 miles south of Gainesville, near Micanopy, just off US441.  The north side entrance to the prairie and La Chua Trail is located just south of Boulware Springs, off SE 15th Street, in east Gainesville.

More than 20 distinct biological communities provide a rich array of habitats for wildlife and livestock, including alligators, bison, horses and more than 270 species of birds. Exhibits and an audio-visual program at the visitor center explain the area´s natural and cultural history. A 50-foot-high observation tower near the visitor center provides a panoramic view of the preserve.

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The Paynes Prairie State Park Visitors’ Center

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Interpretive displays in the Visitors’ Center

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One of the many bird speccies you’re likely to see here–the sandhill crane.

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Climb the 50-foot observation tower near the Visitors’ Center for a great view of the prairie.

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Lush hardwood hammocks and cypress swamps are found throughout the park.

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Expect to see pine forest reclamation in several areas of the park.

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Wildlife abounds, especially at the shore of Lake Wauburg

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Electric and paddle-powered boats are allowed to launch at the park’s boat ramp.

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Full-facility and primitive tent camping sites are available in the park’s southern region.

 

 


How to Ensure You’re Getting Fresh Gulf Seafood!

Thanks to The Catch for this excellent information regarding fresh seafood!

theCatchHeader How to Ensure Youre Getting Fresh Gulf Seafood!

Log on to EatGulfSeafood.com for more information on Fresh From the Gulf Florida Seafood!

When you’re looking to buy fresh Gulf seafood, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting the highest-quality seafood sourced straight from the Gulf. The first and most important step before you purchase seafood at a store (or order it in a restaurant) is to double-check with the seller that the catch is from the Gulf. After that, you can check the seafood’s freshness by using some of our tips below.

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If you’re buying fish filets…

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Look to make sure the flesh of the fish is vibrantly colored, with a translucent (not opaque) sheen. The fish’s flesh should be free of cuts, discoloration, separations, or dry spots; if the fish has scales, they should look smooth and unruffled. If the fish is packaged: make sure there’s little (if any) liquid surrounding the fillet. If there is a small amount of liquid, it should be clear, not milky. The fillet should be in a natural position (not rolled or folded).

 

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Smell the fish fillet to check for foul or overly strong odors. Fresh fillets should smell clean with mild scents of saltwater, seaweed, and cucumber.

 

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Store your fillet in tightly wrapped moisture-proof paper or plastic wrap. Surround the wrapped fillet with crushed ice to prevent moisture loss. You can keep the fillet in the refrigerator for up to two days. If frozen, thaw fish fillets in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water, changing the water frequently.

 

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If you’re buying whole fish…

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Look to make sure the fish appears fresh, without any signs of cuts, discoloration, or dryness. Make sure its gills are a rich, cherry-red color and that they’re free of slime and mucus. The fish’s scales should be smooth and tightly arranged, not ruffled or disheveled. The fish’s eyes can bulge a little, but make sure that they’re clear and not cloudy.

 

nose How to Ensure Youre Getting Fresh Gulf Seafood!

Smell the fish to make sure it’s free of foul or overly strong odors. Similar to a fish fillet, you’ll want to check that the fish smells like the ocean — you might get whiffs of saltwater, cucumber, and seaweed.

 

touch How to Ensure Youre Getting Fresh Gulf Seafood!

Touch (or ask your seller to touch) the fish to make sure its flesh is firm. If you hold the fish by the middle of its body, its head and tail should remain straight. If gently poked, the flesh should bounce back and retain its shape.

 

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Store your fish in tightly wrapped moisture-proof paper or plastic, and refrigerate it in a bowl of crushed ice to keep it fresh. Eat it within two days.

 

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If you’re buying shellfish…

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Look to make sure that it’s in fresh and undamaged condition. The shell should be tightly closed, without any gaps or cracks. If you’re buying shrimp, make sure that they look firm and fresh; if you’re buying live crabs, check to see if the crabs are moving and active.

 

nose How to Ensure Youre Getting Fresh Gulf Seafood!

Smell the shellfish to see if you can identify any foul or overly strong odors. Like whole fish and fish fillets, shellfish should have a very light, ocean-like scent.

 

storage How to Ensure Youre Getting Fresh Gulf Seafood!

Store your shellfish like you would a whole fish or fish fillet — tightly wrapped and surrounded by ice in your refrigerator. Use within two days. If you’re buying frozen shrimp, remember that raw, headless shrimp tend to store better than pre-cooked frozen shrimp.


“Main Street” Natural North Florida–Alachua

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Main Street, Alachua, Florida

Don’t be fooled by all the new development, gas stations and fast food outlets when you exit I-75 at Exit #399, US441.  You’re in the town of Alachua (pronounced Al-ach-u-way) in rural Alachua County (pronounced Al-ach-u-wah).  And you’re in a real gem of a Natural North Florida town.

The restoration of downtown Alachua is impressive, and includes commercial building, restaurants, as well as some very well-preserved residences.

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Be sure to check out all the “nooks and crannies” along Main Street in Alachua

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There’s plenty of fun shopping here.

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Photo opportunities abound in downtown Alachua, FL

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A rare photo of Bev’s Better Burgers–without a line of eager diners!

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Newly opened (2015) Harvest Health Food Cafe is a great place for a snack, a sandwich, or some take-away goodies.

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Don’t miss a meal at Conestoga’s Restaurant on Main Street in downtown Alachua!

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Bike, Hike or Ride Your Horse at San Felasco Hammock State Park, in Alachua County, Florida

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The south trail head, behind Progress Business Park near Alachua, allows cyclists, horseback riders, as well as hikers.

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The trailhead off Millhopper road is reserved for hikers.

This preserve has one of the few remaining mature forests in Florida. The limestone outcrops and extreme changes in elevation provide ideal conditions for many species of hardwood trees, including several champion trees. Bobcats, white-tailed deer, gray foxes, turkeys, and many species of songbirds make their homes in the 18 natural communities found in the preserve. The park offers outdoor adventure to hikers, off-road bicyclists, horseback riders, and nature lovers. To ensure solitude and quiet for a true wilderness experience, the southern two-thirds of the park is designated for hiking only. The northern third of the park has horse trails, off-road cycling, and hiking. Equestrians must carry proof of a negative Coggins test. The hiking trailhead is located four miles northwest of Gainesville on State Road 232. The horseback and bicycle trailheads are located off U.S. 441 just south of  the town of Alachua.

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The north trailhead, with separate paths for horses and off-road bikes.

 

 


Don’t Stand In Line–Order Your Florida Fishing License Online!

If you have a major credit card, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) offers you two ways to buy your fishing license without leaving your home. Convenience fees apply.

Some licenses are not available online or over the phone (read more below).

  • Follow this link to buy your license online. *(A $2.25 or $1.75 + 2.5% surcharge of total sale per person will be added to your purchase.)

  • Dial toll-free,  888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356) from anywhere in the United States or Canada. (A $4.25 + 2.5% surcharge of total sale per person will be added to your purchase.

Warning: print or write down the “print number” and have it with you when you are fishing or hunting.

 

NOTE: A fishing license is required to be with you when you are engaged the licensed activity.  When ordering online or by phone, you’ll have a temporary license or “print number” that will be good for 30 days from the date of purchase, enabling you to fish on the date your license starts.

If you purchase a short-term license (3 or 7-day, for example) less than 7 days before the start date of your license, your temporary license or “print number” will serve as your license, otherwise your annual or longer term license will be mailed within 48 hours.

Before purchasing a recreational license or permit…

ada Dont Stand In Line  Order Your Florida Fishing License Online! Resident Persons with Disabilities Hunting and Fish Licenses

Lifetime licenses may be purchased at tax collectors’ offices, except that you may purchase a Lifetime license online if you are age 16 or older and have a valid Florida Driver License or Identification Card with residency verified by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.  Additional documentation is required for other children.

Military Gold Sportsman’s, Recreational Vessel, Pier and Charter Captain/Boat licenses are available at tax collector’s offices only.

Tarpon Tags are only available at select county tax collector offices. Call the local tax collector’s office to see if they sell them.

Annual recreational fishing licenses and permits are valid for 12 months from the date of purchase or the alternate starting date if selected at the time of purchase, unless otherwise specified on the face of the license.

Licenses, permits and fees for residents and non-residents…

| Freshwater Fishing | Saltwater Fishing | Lifetime Licenses  Military Gold

Prices listed on this website include a tax collector’s fee.  In addition to the cost of a license or permit, the license or permit vendor may charge an issuance fee of 50¢.


Boat Rentals at St. Marks and Steinhatchee on Florida’s Natural North Florida Gulf Coast

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Renting a boat for a scalloping trip is a great option for visitors to the Natural North Florida coast.

Not everyone has a boat (AKA a hole in the water in which to pour money!).  And not everyone needs to have a boat if they only use it a couple of times each year.  Florida’s recreational bay scallop season, running from June to September each year, is the perfect time to rent a boat at either Steinhatchee or St. Marks.

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Harvesting bay scallops is fun, and having access to a boat makes it easier!

At Steinhatchee, in Taylor County, rental boats are available at the Sea Hag Marina, Good Times Marina, River Haven Marina and Ideal Marine Supply.  At St. Marks, in Wakulla County, rental boats are available at Shell Island Fish Camp.  Renting a boat has several advantages, especially if you only fish or scallop a couple of times a year.  You leave the dock with a boat that’s safe, runs well, is fully equipped with safety gear.  And when you return, you let someone else clean it up!

 


Wade For Bay Scallops at Taylor County’s Hagens Cove Park

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Hagen’s Cove sits between Sponge Point and Piney Point, on the Taylor County, FL coastline.

For the most part, harvesting bay scallops on Florida’s Big Bend is a boat-oriented exercise.  However, there’s one place, on coastal Taylor County, where folks can wade out to gather bay scallops.   The park at Hagens Cove is located between Steinhatchee and Keaton Beach, just off CR361 and is a good location for waders, kayakers or airboaters.  The shallow shoreline here can be a good place to find a few scallops, if you don’t mind wading out a quarter-mile or so, where the water may still be less than waist-deep!

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You’ll find an observation tower, picnic pavillions and rest rooms at Hagens Cove Park

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Hagens Cove is a great spot for kayaking, scalloping or inshore fishing.

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Wading for scallops at Hagens Cove, in coastal Taylor County

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The shore at Hagens Cove is shallow, making launching of small boats an easy task.