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How to Plan the Best Day at the Sweetwater Wetlands Park

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Do you want to immerse yourself in the gorgeous Florida landscape while visiting Gainesville? If that’s the case, we have the perfect place for you. Sweetwater Wetlands Park is a hidden gem in the heart of the city. Picture vast horizons of marsh, ponds, forest, and even alligators! It’s a special spot for nature lovers and visitors wishing to get away from the hustle and bustle. Read on to discover what makes Sweetwater Wetlands so unique and start planning your visit today.

Do you want to find more amazing things to do in Gainesville? Download our free Vacation Guide! This helpful planning tool features some of our favorite local restaurants, museums, events, shops, outdoor activities, and more. 


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Here’s All You Need to Know About Sweetwater Wetlands Park

View point from LaChua Trail

History of the Park

Sweetwater Wetlands Park is the perfect escape in nature in the heart of Gainesville. The Paynes Prairie portion of the park was once used as grazing land for cattle. In the 1600s, La Chua was the largest cattle ranch in Spanish Florida. In the 1700s, it was also known as the home of the Seminole Indians, who moved away after the Second Seminole War (1776-1783). 

By the 1800s, a flood damaged the prairie and turned it into a lake. It was then known as Alachua Lake. It wasn’t until 1890 that the lake was drained and the land became, once again, a marsh. Due to ranchers’ disruption in the early 20th century, the park started to dehydrate, which caused tremendous damages. Restoration efforts began in 2009 and created the park we know and love today!


The best way to explore Sweetwater Wetlands Park is to hike the LaChua Trail. The trailhead is located at the north end of the Paynes Prairie and takes you through a peaceful little journey through nature. The whole trail is flat, so no need to worry about breaking a sweat. You can enjoy your surroundings and unplug while breathing in the fresh air around you. You can make stops along the way, like at the elevated boardwalk or observation tower. You might spot some wild bison, horses, and alligators! The trail also provides great vistas for birding, so make sure you bring binoculars.

The beauty of this trail is that you don’t have to hike the whole length if you don’t feel like it. Once you get to the prairie portion of the park, you’re in the wild, but you can turn around at any time. 

Important Note: Because of the presence of alligators, dogs are not allowed on the trail. If you are with children, stay on the trail and monitor them carefully. 


Restaurants Nearby

You’ll surely work up an appetite exploring Sweetwater Wetlands Park! How about grabbing a bite before you come home to your cozy room at Sweetwater Inn? The park is surrounded by a handful of great spots. Here are a few we love:


Adam’s Rib Co.

Do you want to taste the best B.B.Q. in Gainesville? If so, head over to Adam’s Rib Co. after your hike. Keep in mind that they have two locations downtown. The address is 1515 SW 13th Street. They’re usually open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. We highly recommend their freshly baked cornbread and sweet potato French fries as sides! 


Depot Park’s General Store

Looking for a laid-back, outdoor spot? Head over to Depot Park’s General Store. Pop-a-top has its second location there and offers the perfect little vintage atmosphere for a quick bite. Grab a craft soda inside and make your way to the wine garden outside! They often have 80s music playing and several food trucks—like Humble Wood Fire—which serves the best pizzas in town. 


First Magnitude Brewing

Do you prefer enjoying a cold beer after your hike? If that’s the case, First Magnitude Brewing is the ideal spot for you. Choose from a wide range of craft beer inside, then discover the food truck of the day waiting for you outside! From Thai food to tacos, they have it all. The outside patio has a great atmosphere. Picture string lights hanging from the trees and board games on demand. Bring your friends and family and enjoy a relaxing happy hour! 


Other Parks Near Gainesville

If you want to discover more beautiful parks around Gainesville, we have you covered. We mentioned Depot Park above, for example. It’s one of the newest green spaces in town and offers great paved walking trails. Here are some other parks we think you might like:


Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a sight to behold. It’s named after the beautiful river that runs through it and provides many water activities for you and your loved ones. You can go tubing, rent a canoe/kayak, or even scuba dive!  


Poe Springs Park

Poe Springs Park is a local favorite. The natural springs there contain about 45 million gallons of cool water in which you can swim or snorkel. You can also enjoy several hiking trails and spot boulders along the way! 


San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park 

Do you know this amazing park is only 30 minutes away from Sweetwater Branch Inn? San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park is the ultimate hub for hikers, so pack your best hiking shoes and backpack, then explore their beautiful trails! 

From Sweetwater Wetlands Park to Sweetwater Branch Inn

Heirloom Suite BedroomOur elegant B&B is the perfect place to stay in Gainesville, and we’re not saying that just because of our central location. Sweetwater Branch Inn is as cozy as it is charming, and boasts beautiful  Victorian architecture that will make you feel like you stepped back in time! Our rooms offer the best modern comforts and impeccable amenities that will help you relax and unwind in style. Did we mention our delicious, homemade breakfast? Don’t wait another second– start planning your trip today!


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