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Eastern Gateway – SR 40 from Ormond Beach and Interstate 95

Eastern Gateway

If you’re entering the byway from the east through the Gateway City of Ormond Beach in Volusia County, you’ll be heading west on SR 40.

Highlights

    • Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts
    • Tiger Bay State Forest and Tram Road Equestrian Area
    • Lake George State Forest
    • Bluffton Recreation Area
    • Fawn Road Equestrian Trail

Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts

     

This is one of the best kept secrets of the byway. The Barberville Pioneer Settlement has been preserving culture, folk art, crafts, buildings and heritage for over 35 years. Spend a few hours or a whole day here. The settlement has moved a number of historic buildings here to replicate Cracker life in the Ocala in the early 1900s. The Settlement has numerous events and festivals during the year, but the two biggest are their Spring Frolic (April) and the Fall Jamboree (November). Each festival features local music, crafts, and food.

Links: Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts

Tiger Bay State Forest and Tram Road Equestrian Area

     

Tiger Bay State Forest is a large track of conservation and protected forest that provides access for hiking, horse-back riding, hunting, fishing, boating. For horse-back riders the Tram Road Equestrian Area this is one of the premier equestrian areas featuring: individual stables for horses, picnic tables, water troughs, and camping spots. Access the area through Tram Road, which is on the south side of SR 40 a few miles east of Interstate 95.

Links: Tiger Bay State Forest

Lake George State Forest

     

Lake George State Forest is an extensive conservation and recreation area situated on both sites of SR 40 east of the St. Johns River. The forest area provides access for fishermen, hunters, and boaters. Look for the sign and entry on the south side of SR 40.

Links: Lake George State Forest

Bluffton Recreation Area

     

Situated on the St. Johns River in a remote and pristine, natural setting, it’s hard to imagine that steamboats used to stop by here on their way to Silver Springs, Astor and Jacksonville. Take the access road south off SR 40 near Volusia (just east of the St. Johns River Bridge) and drive a couple of miles to the parking lot and interpretive hiking trail. The area used to have numerous ancient shell middens made by the Native Americans of the area, the traces of which can still be found.

Links: Bluffton Nature Trail – Florida Hikes!

St. Johns River and Astor/Volusia Area (SR 40)

     

Some of the best areas for dining and sightseeing along the byway are in two towns of Astor and Volusia on the St. Johns River. You can take a ride on a pontoon boat along the St. Johns River, or eat overlooking the water at one of the local eateries. The Blackwater Restaurant in Astor has been a landmark for years. Check out the interpretive information on the Byway kiosk adjacent to the restaurant. This was the first kiosk constructed and installed by Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway volunteers.

William’s Landing is upstairs in the Blackwater Inn and provides an inviting indoor or outdoor setting right on the river. On the opposite side of the St. Johns River is the popular Castaways restaurant.

You can sit here overlooking the river and bridge and imagine all the tourists that used to come here on steamboat back in the 1800s. Astor has a rich history of its own, having been named after the wealthy Astor Family from New York who initially operated a hotel here in the late 1800s.

The St. Johns River is one of America’s 14 Heritage Rivers, designated such for its rich history and ecological significance. The Spanish explorer and founder of St. Augustine, Don Pedro Menendez, came near this very spot in the 1500s. He was turned back by the local Native Americans who blocked his way on the river and threatened his party of soldiers.

Volusia and The Yearling Connection

     

On the eastern bank of the St. Johns River is the little community of Volusia, one of the oldest settlements in the area. One of the two Spalding General Stores was in this area back in the 1700s.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ spent time with various families in this area collecting stories that inspired her novel The Yearling. Set in the late 1800s, Volusia is one of the key locations of the novel. The Baxter Family traveled here from Pat’s Island (off SR 19) would cross the St. Johns River by ferry and purchased goods from the general store.

Bartram Oak Tree (SR 40)

     

On the east side of the St. Johns River on the north should of SR 40 is a 350 year old oak tree, which is famous for its connection to William Bartram and his travels through here in the late 1700s. Bartram is known as America’s first Botanist. He traveled through here cataloging flowers and other details of the land and was known to the local Native American’s as “the Flower Hunter.” Bartram stopped by this historic oak, traveled the St. Johns River, and spent a harrowing night fighting off gators near here. His book “Travels” is one of the earliest books featuring this area, and his exotic descriptions inspired Romantic artists such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote his famous poem “Kubla Khan” based on Bartam’s visions.

The most notable local story about the beloved tree comes in the 1930s. A road crew was threatening to knock down the tree. When local resident Barney Dillard heard, he came out with his shotgun and stood guard by the tree, preventing its removal.

Links: Map of the Byway – Highlights

Astor

     

On the west side of the river is the community of Astor. The Blackwater Restaurant (seen from the bridge) has been a landmark for years, its dining room windows look out on the river. William’s Landing is upstairs in the Blackwater Inn and provides a picturesque indoor or outdoor setting right on the river.

Astor was named for the wealthy Astor Family of New York. In the 1880’s, William Astor bought land here and built a hotel on the St. Johns River, to help the then blossoming tourist travel on the river. He named the town Manhattan and began developing the area. But when the steamboat industry died out and the tourist numbers slowed down, the Astor family lost its initial interest in development. By the early 1900s, John Jacob Astor had a renewed interest in his grandfather’s investment in Astor. His life was cut short when he died in the sinking of the Titanic.

You can sit here overlooking the river and the bridge and imagine all the tourists that used to come here on steamboat back in the 1800s. Astor has a rich history of its own having been named after the wealthy Astor Family from New York who initially operated a hotel here in the late 1800s. Check out the interpretive information on the Byway kiosk adjacent to the restaurant. This was the first kiosk constructed and installed by Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway volunteers.

Links: More about Astor

Wildcat Lake

     

This is one of the most picturesque and accessible lakes on the byway. Situated just south of SR 40 and visible from the road as you pass, Wildcat Lake has two designated areas. The west side is for swimming and picnicking and has a parking area, sandy beach and restroom facilities. The east portion is for fishing and boating, it has a boat ramp, fishing dock, and parking area. Both designated areas have unmanned pay stations with a modest fee.

Links: Wildcat Lake