By James | Last updated December 8, 2023
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The Northeast of Florida started to become popular with tourists as far back as the 19th century in the era of the steamboat and Henry Flagler’s railroad which opened up the whole region.
Like the Panhandle in the northwest, the climate is more temperate than the more southerly parts of Florida.
The eastern coast of Florida faces the Atlantic Ocean and stretches over 350 miles (560 km) from Jacksonville in the north to Miami in the south.
Jacksonville, named after the American general Andrew Jackson, covers an area of 772 sq. miles and is the largest city in the whole of the USA and its port is a major trading centre with the Caribbean and South America.
St. Augustine’s claim to fame is as the oldest town in North America though this is contested with Pensacola in some quarters. To emphasise its position in history the coastline is known as the ‘First Coast’.
It was first inhabited in 1565 by the Spanish under the command of Admiral Pedro Menendez and today many 18th century Spanish style houses survive.
Gainesville is home to the oldest university in Florida aptly named the University of Florida founded in 1853. It is also home to the Gators American football team and the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, the second largest in Florida. South of Gainesville is the Paynes Prairie State Preserve where you can see the strange combination of buffalo and alligators.
About 19 miles north of Gainesville lies the site of the largest Civil War battlefield in Florida at Olustee. On February 20th 1864, roughly 5,000 Confederate troops fought a similar number of Union troops in what turned out to be one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war in percentage terms. When the battle was over, some 2,800 soldiers were dead or wounded. Today the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park commemorates the event.