Last updated on December 21st, 2021 at 10:30 am
Blueberry harvest shares stage with wildlife, natural wonders
As Florida’s strawberry harvest winds down, the packing houses turn their attention to home-grown blueberries.
And like the strawberry harvest, the berry growers of Central Florida hate to miss an opportunity for a party as the harvest celebrations shift from Plant City to nearby Brooksville, where the Brooksville Blueberry Festival occurs annually at the end of April.
You may not think of Florida as blueberry country, but the state is now eighth in the nation in blueberry production. (Twenty years ago, there was no blueberry production, but University of Florida developed the ‘Southern Highbush’ varieties that require very few hours of chill for growth.)
Brooksville is the center of 15 Florida counties that grow blueberries.
The Brooksville Blueberry Festival is the blue cousin to Plant City’s very large Florida Strawberry Festival, although much smaller.
The Florida Blueberry Festival is April 23-24, 2022, under the shade of the gnarly oak trees on the courthouse lawn in Brooksville’s downtown square.
Events at Brooksville Blueberry Festival
While the festival was not staged during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, in the past, it has offered 20 food concessionaires and the Fresh from Florida Market featuring Florida grown blueberries and every variety of blueberry product you can imagine.
Traditionally, there is a car show, street entertainers, a juried art show and retail exhibitors. To appeal to all members of the family, there is a range of other offerings — from beer gardens and wine bars to dogs shows and stilt walkers.
Brooksville area’s natural beauty
Even without the blueberry, Brooksville/Hernando County is the center of one of Florida’s greatest unspoiled natural regions.
Nearby is the Withlacoochee State Forest, named by the World Wildlife Fund as one of the “10 Coolest Places in North America You’ve Never Seen.”
Also nearby are great mountain bike trails (Weeki Wachee Springs plus great kayaking on the spring-fed Weeki Wachee River.
- Website for Blueberry Festival
- Visit a you-pick blueberry farm.
- Paddle the Withlacoochee River
- Bike the Withlacoochee Bike Trail, one of the best rail trails in the state.
- Visit Weeki Wachee Springs for the mermaid show and/or to paddle the beautiful river.
- Hike in the Withlacoochee State Forest. There are more than 100 miles of trails through these beautiful woods.
- Visit the lovely, evocative Dade Battlefield Historic State Park.
- Dine at the Florida Cracker Kitchen, 966 E. Jefferson St. in Brooksville. It is well worth a stop, even if all you get is the Smoked Mullet Dip ($8.99 a tub.) It’s open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Saturday and serves outstanding dinners Friday and Saturday night. The menu is themed around Old Florida, from the Bokeelia Shrimp Omelette to the Apalachicola Po’ Boys (choice of oysters, shrimip, gator tail or fresh fish.) The 10,000 Island Shrimp and Grits is excellent, packed with flavor.
Places to stay near Brooksville
Hotels.com: Hotels in Brooksville
There are a few inexpensive mom-and-pop motels in Brooksville, but there are several modern moderate-priced hotels are at the I-75 intersection about five miles away.
Campsites are available in the Withlacoochee State Forest. The forest’s 131 campsites are available on a first-come, first-served bases. See posted information about camping fees. The rate is $20 per night from April through October for sites with electric hookups. Sites in Crooked River, with water only, are $15. Fees are collected on the honor system at the campground entrances.
- Buttgenbach Mine Campground in the Croom Motorcycle Area: 51 sites with electricity, water, picnic tables and fire rings. Dump station in campground. Warning: It can get noisy here, especially on weekends, because of the motorcycles and off-road vehicles.
- Silver Lake Campground in the Silver Lake Recreation Area: 23 sites with electric, water, picnic tables and fire ring. Dump station in campground.
- Cypress Glen Campground in the Silver Lake Recreation Area: 34 campsites with electric, water, picnic table and fire ring. Also features kayak launch, nature trail and boardwalk.
- Crooked River Campground in the Silver Lake Recreation Area: 26 primitive sites (tents only) with water, picnic table and fire ring. restrooms and showers.
- For more information on Withlacoochee State Forest Camping, contact the Florida Forest Service office in Brooksville at 352-754-6896.
These campgrounds are in the forest, accessible only on dirt roads, and most are shaded well by the forest canopy. If it weren’t for the electric and water hookups, you would think they were primitive. Well worth camping here for an authentic Florida experience, especially if you are in a tent.
Odds and Ends
The Florida National Cemetery, the state’s newest resting ground for American soldiers, is located in nearby Bushnell. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs web site.
A note from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.
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Veteran journalists, Bonnie and Bob founded FloridaRambler.com to explore the natural, authentic Florida, writing about hiking, biking, paddling, RV and tent camping, wildlife, unique lodging, dining and historic places.