The Good Neighbor Trail
There’s just something about exploring a new place on a bike that is my ultimate favorite mode of discovery. Now, I’m not talking a 50-mile speed ride, I’m talking pedal, pedal, snap a pic, pedal, pedal, roadside café pick-me-up, pedal, pedal, marvel at nature, pedal, pedal, make conversation with a fellow traveler, pedal, pedal. Recently I discovered a new trail that meets all my criteria for perfection—the Good Neighbor Trail that runs 10 miles from Downtown Brooksville to the Withlacoochee State Forest.
My husband and I decided to try out this brand-new trail one Saturday afternoon and were delighted to pull up to the trailhead in precious Downtown Brooksville (more on that to come!) at the historic 1885 Train Depot Museum, complete with an 1880s rail car. We hopped on our bikes and rode out of the downtown area towards Withlacoochee State Forest. Along the paved route we saw birds, enjoyed great shade and a few gradual hills. The canopied ride into the park was gorgeous with large cypresses and longleaf pines all around. After a brief exploration into the park we headed back downtown and celebrated our accomplishments with some Peanut Butter Pie from Main Street Eatery!
Good Times And Rich History
Chinesgut: “The spirit of things lost and regained.” Chinesgut Hill has lived up to its name over and over since its birth more than 165 years ago. This property began as a plantation, was bought by an advisor to several U.S. presidents, hosted guests like Helen Keller and J.C. Penney, served as an environmental research area, and accommodated college classes. Today Chinesgut Hill offers the chance to see what has been lost and regained as a museum and event facility.
The home, complete with original and period furnishings, welcomes visitors for tours Tuesday – Thursday and Saturdays. On Wednesdays, visitors delight in guided manor house tours before or after a sumptuous luncheon complete with appetizer, entrée and dessert. (Be sure to follow them on Facebook to reserve your spot.) It’s an amazing place to tour, but the most enchanting way to engage with Chinesgut Hill is to host an event here. The historic estate exudes Southern hospitality and features classrooms, rustically modern accommodations, hiking trails, and rich Old Florida scenery that will leave guests with a lingering sense of peace.
Good Coastal Stewardship
Have you ever heard of artificial reefs? In Hernando County, on Florida’s Adventure Coast, this innovative approach not only protects the environment, it also proactively supplements it and has done so since the late 1970s with the creation of Bendickson Reef. Other projects have been added over the years and recently the public banded together to boost reef creation. The new reef balls began as a grass-roots project developed through community conversation. Closer to shore and smaller than past projects, these new reef balls allow improved resident and visitor access.
So, what is the result of these new artificial reefs? Fishermen are happy; more fish are protected and thriving! Aquatic life has the habitat needed to not only survive but to flourish. Artificial reefs help prevent coastal erosion and, with the help of new oyster reefs, serve as pollution-cleaning filters. Residents win with more visitation as scuba divers and snorkelers flock to these rich, vibrant habitats. What a great example of community collaboration. Blending environmental preservation with enhanced quality of life and a stronger economy; everyone wins.
The Good Stuff
It started with a simple trip but grew to an obsession. Hidden among the gems that we had already discovered along Florida’s Adventure Coast we uncovered a rich wine, beer, spirits, and ‘shine scene.
Our appetites were whetted at the renowned Marker 48 Brewing in Brooksville. Ranked as the number one craft beer attraction in the area on TripAdvisor, it didn’t take long to see why this former car shop gets such a good rap with its delicious brews and even better vibe.
This got us diving deeper into the craft beverage scene. As we drove deep into the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area on our way to NJoy Spirits, we couldn’t help but feel we were being let in on an awesome secret. This pristine setting is where they create their award-winning whiskey and rum, making a tour of this distillery one-of-a-kind. Then on we went to see more of the countryside at local vineyards like Masaryk Winery and Strong Tower Vineyard, with sweet wines and breathtaking views. Sparacia Witherell Family Winery offers food trucks and outdoor concerts at their picturesque location on Snow Hill Road. Mark these and more off your lists with the impressive Kegs, Casks, & Corks Trail.
Good (Great!) Events
Downtown Brooksville is always charming, classy, and beautiful. But on event days, this city comes alive with an air of excitement so compelling that we trek two hours from our home to Florida’s Adventure Coast; it’s worth the drive every time. Let’s talk recurring events: first, there’s Friday Night Live the 2nd Friday of every month featuring live bands, food trucks, a full bar, market and games in the park. Every first Sunday is the Brooksville Bike Rally and Cruise-In. Then there are all the makers events: the pet-friendly farmer’s market every Sunday, the Un-Common-Ly Artsy Market every fourth Saturday, and the Orange Avenue Market staying open late on those perfect Florida evenings.
Accordingly, not only are the recurring events extra good, but you cannot miss events like the Florida Bluegrass Classic for five days of live Bluegrass and Classic Country performers such as TG Sheppard, Penny Creek, Big Cypress and more. In fact, nearly every weekend boasts festive outdoor music events like the new Blues Bash at the Ranch at picturesque Sertoma Youth Ranch. Other favorites are the Brooksville Native American Festival, featuring authentic Native music and demonstrations; or the Hernando Heritage Day – a celebration of 1800’s Hernando County, where visitors tour historic homes, enjoy carriage rides and learn about “Old Florida”.