About the Area

Covering nearly 383,000 acres, the Ocala National Forest is located in North Central Florida, two hours north of Orlando and an hour west of Daytona Beach. Although it is spread across three counties - Lake, Marion, and Putnam - the majority of the forest lies inside Marion County, with its western boundary less than a dozen miles east of the county seat of Ocala.

The core of the Ocala National Forest, the Big Scrub, was first protected in 1909 by Theodore Roosevelt as the first National Forest east of the Mississippi River. Over the decades, land acquistion has more than tripled the size of the forest, protecting rare and endangered species of plants and animals on some of the most ancient land in Florida.

Since the forest grew around existing communities between the Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers, there are many private amentities to be found along its major highways, SR 40 and SR 19, including campgrounds from basic to luxurious, fish camps along Lake Kerr and Lake George, and several small lodges. Outfitters in Eureka and Salt Springs provide guide services and livery / shuttle services.

Dining options in the Ocala National Forest include clusters of down-home restaurants in Forest Corners, Salt Springs, and Astor, and some stand-alone favorites along SR 40 specializing in BBQ or seafood.