Sometimes we ignore the small towns around us because they don't seem like they have much to offer. Williston has a population of about 2,000 people. It's not somewhere I would typically visit or even be interested in. What drew us to this city are the unique spots we heard about. It's about two hours away from Orlando but you can do all of these in a day.
Florida has so many springs but this one is definitely the most unique due to its location. To get to it you have to walk down a flight of stairs into a cave. The cave is illuminated by a hole at the very top that lets in natural light. The water is so clear that you can almost see the bottom right as you enter. While you're swimming around exploring the cave, there are small fish swimming right next to you. In order to get access to this spring you must either snorkel or scuba dive. There's an option to rent snorkeling gear for $10 and scuba gear for $40.
Make sure to get there early so that you don't have to wait too long for your time in the cave. You can only be down there for two hours max so make the most out of it. The water is freezing cold (72 degrees year round) so if you're expecting something sunny and tropical then this isn't for you. It's definitely a spot to go to for those who crave adventure and something new. Admission is $15 person ($20 on weekends and holidays). For more information visit their website www.devilsden.com/home.html
Two Tails Ranch
As soon as I heard that there were elephants close by that I can interact with, I had to visit. Two Tails Ranch was built to board Asian and African elephants in need of temporary or permanent housing due to medical reasons, behavioral problems or even emergencies after hurricanes destroyed their homes. At the moment there are about seven Asian elephants housed there. Luke was the first one we got to meet. He painted a picture for us with his trunk and showed us how he cools off in this brutal Florida heat. The ranch keeper explained to us that Asian elephants are endangered and will probably be gone in the next decade. It makes me sad to think we may soon be living in a world without them and that this may be my last interaction with one.
Admission to the ranch is $20 and any activities with the elephants will cost extra. We chose to just feed them for $5 more. You aren't given much food and feeding them one carrot will leave you wanting to spend a little more time with these gentle animals. It was such a cute experience though and I highly recommend it if you want to get up close with an elephant. You can also get a photo with them for $25 but honestly we got pretty good pictures just feeding them. There's also an option to ride the elephants for $40 but it didn't really interest us. You have to schedule a tour in order to go. Make sure to schedule it well in advance because they sell out pretty quickly. Here is their website for more information: https://allaboutelephants.com
Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens
This was a random stop on our little day trip. I saw a couple of reviews about this place and it's literally right next to Devil's Den so we decided to check it out. Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens is a botanical garden full of waterfalls, koi fish, and over 50 gardens. It began as an abandoned limestone quarry but over the course of 27 years the founder, Dr. Raymond Webber, continued to build until it became this unique botanical creation. He donated it in 2014 and since then it's been open to the public.
I didn't expect there to be so much to see. There are so many levels. You can get a good view of the gardens from the top or get up close to them be staying low. There's a Japanese-inspired section with koi fish and a couple of waterfalls that fall into ponds. There's a lot of greenery sprinkled with color here and there. It's such an "Instagrammable" spot if you're looking to take cute pictures with beautiful backdrops. Admission is $12 per person and it's open seven days a week.
All of these places are a max of 10 minutes away from each other. If you plan it, you can do all of them in one day. I recommend going to the garden last because the other two require appointments and waiting times. All of these places are unlike anything else here in Florida. It's well worth the two hour drive from Orlando.