Featuring the cities, towns and distinctive communities of Altoona, Astor, Cassia, Paisley, Umatilla.
Local highlights: The Black Bear Festival, The Blackwater Inn, The Mason Jar
Astor is the place to dock for the avid fisherman, with half a dozen boat ramps and Powell's Campground for campers wishing to have an extended trip. The St. Johns River and Lake George, both located on the border of northern Lake County, are known for some of the best fishing in the state for catfish and trophy largemouth bass.
The area's waterways also play host to three of the county's Blueways, or state-designated trails on the water. By canoe or kayak, travelers along the St. Francis/Dead River Run, Stagg Mud Lake Run or Blue Creek Run can take in picturesque views of wading birds, alligators, otter and eagles, or see remnants of the ghost town of St. Francis, also formerly known as “Old Town.”
This area's unique ecosystem and focus on wildlife preservation make it the ideal location for the annual Florida Black Bear and Wildlife Conservation Festival, which seeks to raise awareness and promote the safe coexistence of humans and wildlife.
The elusive Red-cockaded Woodpecker may be found in one of the largest nesting colonies inside the Ocala National Forest, a draw for birdwatchers wishing to check them off their birding list.
For those looking for a quick, southern-inspired meal, The Mason Jar in Umatilla was recently selected as having the best fried chicken in Central Florida. Those seeking a more elegant meal may dine atop the Blackwater Inn at William's Landing, where boat tours depart the docks from Astor and travel through the St. Johns River, rich with the sights of local wildlife and native plants.
For families, Fiddler’s Green Ranch Resort offers guided horseback riding adventures, or take a trip to North Lake Community Park, a 96-acre facility dedicated to recreational sports and surrounded by Florida native plants and citrus trees.