Located just north of Gainesville, Bradford County is a haven for nature lovers and history buffs. While the county’s forests and woodland areas make its rustic terrain the perfect camping destination, its historical monuments and landmarks attract visitors of all kinds.
Several thousand acres of Bradford County is classified as “Prime Farmland” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This soil is ideally suited for growing Strawberries. The county celebrates the harvest with its popular Strawberry Festival, which is typically held during the first weekend in April.
Bradford County has several lakes of note. Santa Fe Lake is the largest and borders Alachua County to the south. Three lakes, Sampson, Rowell and Crosby, are located a few miles west of Starke. Two of the lakes, Sampson and Rowell, are connected by a canal which is passable by small boat. The three lakes are excellent for fishing (bring your own boat).
Bradford County has evolved over the years into a bedroom community of both Gainesville and Jacksonville. County residents can take advantage of the job market in both communities without moving to either. Tourists can also exploit this locational advantage by staying in the county while visiting both areas. Consider the Hampton Lake Bed and Breakfast. RV enthusiasts may wish to consider the Starke KOA or coming soon, the Keystone Heights RV resort! The county has other lodging choices as well.
Two bicycle routes exist in the County. The 61-mile Starke-Lake Butler Loop passes through Starke as well as the small Bradford County communities of Hampton and Brooker on its way to Lake Butler and back again. Starting in Hampton, the 32-mile Santa Fe Lake Loop takes riders through the southern part of the County past the Santa Fe Swamp Conservation Area, the town of Melrose as well as Santa Fe Lake.
Established in Starke in 1939, the Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial Park honors the Florida National Guard and other military units. The park maintains a large military memorabilia exhibition inclusive of monuments honoring nine Army Infantry Divisions, and the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, all of whom trained at Camp Blanding. Other monuments on the campgrounds honor Prisoners of War and Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipients. The museum portion of Camp Blanding is home to a collection of U.S. and foreign weaponry, barracks, uniforms and artifacts from World War II, as well as multiple photo exhibits, monuments, statues and aircrafts. Guests have the opportunity to interact with the museum through live lectures and demonstrations offered onsite at the park. Additionally, the museum’s gift shop offers books, videos and souvenirs, and more literature on the history of Camp Blanding.
About 15 miles south of Camp Blanding is the Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park. This 2,000-acre park was developed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and is noted as one of Florida’s first state parks. The state park is situated in the central ridge of Florida. This area is known for its rolling sand hills and springs, which stem from the region’s narrow gorge. The Park’s marshlands, lakes and scrubs are a refuge to various types of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, gopher tortoises and different species of birds. Visitors are encouraged to walk the many nature trails and paths (ideal for both biking and hiking) to experience the natural habitat these animals live in. Mike Roess State Park is fully equipped for aquatic recreation activities, including swimming, fishing and canoeing. Visitors are encouraged to use the Park’s picnic areas, pavilions and playgrounds, which provide tables, benches and grills for the perfect outdoor lunch. Camping is also permitted on site. The park features three full-facility campground loops and 73 campsites. The sites are equipped with picnic tables, grills and potable water stations, and the grounds offer electricity hook ups as well. Bathhouses are available onsite, and well-behaved pets are permitted. For information on camping at Mike Roess State Park, please visit the state park’s website.
The Bradford Sportsmen's Farm is located in Graham, FL and offers some of the best and most diverse shooting facilities available to the public in one site. These facilities include two fully automated, 14 station sporting clay courses with two machines at each station. We also have two fully automated 5-stands controlled by portable long-range controllers as well as a 25-yard pistol range, a 50-yard rifle and pistol range, a 300-yard rifle range, and an 850-yard rifle range. Our sporting clays courses are designed to accommodate all shooter skill levels with one course for novice to intermediate skilled shooters and another for tournament level shooters.
Finally, if you prefer breaking the speed limit in an entirely legal way, be sure to check out the FIRM, the Florida International Rally and Motorsports Park. Located near Keystone Heights on over 400 acres, the FIRM is a European-style rally and road racing driver training facility.