It’s amazing to think that 500 years ago, Ponce de León stepped ashore on land that became the state of Florida. Things have certainly changed since then! Now when people think of Florida, they might picture laid-back Key West, the colonial architecture of St. Augustine, or the hustle and bustle of Miami and Tampa. Few imagine a forested and pastoral countryside. But that is exactly what can be found along Scenic U.S. 441, the Old Florida Heritage Highway.
The unique landscape of the area has inspired naturalists, writers, and painters for centuries, including William Bartram, America’s first naturalist, who visited the area in 1774. Travelers can still visit this well-preserved area to see more of Florida’s natural, scenic, recreational, historic, and cultural heritage.
Fans of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Yearling can visit Majorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park in Cross Creek, a few miles from Gainesville. Visitors will experience 1930s Florida farm life at Rawlings’s home, which has been restored and preserved as it was when she lived here.
One of the jewels of the area is Micanopy, the oldest inland town in the state. Micanopy is a former Seminole Indian town settled in 1821 as Wanton’s town. Today, the town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Because of its authentic Old Florida ambiance, the movies Cross Creek and Doc Hollywood were both filmed there.
In 1971, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park became the state’s first preserve and is now a National Nature Landmark. The preserve’s habitats are home to alligators, bison, horses, and more than 270 species of birds. The observation tower at the visitor center offers a panoramic view of the preserve. Visitors can also hike, ride horses, bicycle, and fish.
You can learn more about other treasures along the Old Florida Heritage Highway on the Micanopy website.
No matter where you go in historic Old Florida, don’t forget to use the beautiful La Florida stamps on your cards and letters to remind you of your trip. La Florida Forever® stamps are currently available online and in Post Offices around the country.