By  Mike Miller  Updated July 20, 2023

Willison, Florida Things To Do, Lodging, Dining, & Real Estate At End Of Article

Williston is about 22 miles southwest of Gainesville. It is a typical small Florida town that has not changed as much as others have over the years. 

Old Photo Coca Cola Bottling Plant, Williston, FloridaOld Photo Coca Cola Bottling Plant, Williston, Florida

The population is about 2,800.  For more than 25 years, Williston has hosted the Central Florida Harvest and Peanut Festival held in October.


Williston was founded by Dr. Jesse M. Willis in 1853 who reportedly named it for himself.  He established a plantation in the area.

Eventually Williston became one of the largest producers of cucumbers in the world, with as many as 75 carloads a day shipped out by rail.

Other highlights in the history include the opening of the first church in 1856 and the first school in 1857. 

The first store was opened and owned by John Epperson, who had married Pencie Willis, the daughter of Dr. Willis.

This history has been obtained from a Levy County website, Florida and the Birth of Levy County. 

Old Railroad Depot, Williston, FloridaOld Railroad Depot, Williston, Florida


Williston is a working town close enough to the University of Florida for commuting. 

People who don't commute find jobs in forestry, manufacturing and farming.

The town is a major regional crossroads with US-27, US-41, SR-121 and a host of other state and county roads meandering through town. It is about 10 miles west of I-75.

Foolish Pleasure, Winner of 1975 Kentucky DerbyFoolish Pleasure, Winner of 1975 Kentucky Derby

The area around town has a lot of horse farms.

One of the town's claims to fame is that it is the birthplace of Foolish Pleasure, the winner of the 1975 Kentucky Derby.


Another attraction in the area is Two Tails Ranch, an animal refuge that specializes in taking care of elephants.

Elephant Among Corvettes at Two Tails Ranch, Williston, FloridaElephant Among Corvettes at Two Tails Ranch, Williston, Florida

 Over the years the ranch has taken care of more than 250 elephants.  Check out the video below.

The limestone formations underlying the area around Williston have created many interesting features including several springs that are attractive to cave divers.

Blue Grotto Springs, Williston, FloridaBlue Grotto Springs, Williston, Florida

The two most popular of these are Blue Grotto Springs and Devil's Den Springs.

Devil's Den Prehistoric Spring, Williston, FloridaDevil's Den Prehistoric Spring, Williston, Florida

Each of these springs is set up with a vendor that can make your cave diving experience an enjoyable one.

These vendors charge an admission fee, and you should check their websites for fees and hours of operation.

Great America Railway at Kirby Family Farm, Williston, FloridaGreat America Railway at Kirby Family Farm, Williston, Florida

Train lovers will enjoy visiting Kirby Family Farm.

It features a narrow gauge railway (3 feet wide) known as the Great America Railway and claiming to be Florida's largest private railroad.

The farm is an educational facility and is not open to the general public. You have to visit their website and make a reservation.

Recommended Restaurant in Williston, Florida

Restaurant and Boutique

The Ivy House is a two restaurant operation, with the other one being in Ocala. The Williston location is in a beautiful old building in downtown Willison that looks like a boarding house or large home from yesteryear.

The Ivy House Restaurant, Williston, FloridaThe Ivy House Restaurant, Williston, Florida

It feels a bit like dining in an elegant antique store. There are several dining rooms and each is furnished in period pieces that give you a feeling of going back in time.

Read More About The Ivy House Restaurant and Boutique


Devil's Den Prehistoric Spring 
5390 NE 180th Ave, Williston, FL 32696 | (352) 528-3344 
As pictured earlier on the page, this prehistoric natural spring is a hidden gem for snorkelers and scuba divers. Enclosed in a beautiful underground cave, Devil's Den offers a unique underwater experience amidst ancient rock formations and crystal-clear waters.

It’s our favorite spot for those seeking an adventure that combines the thrill of exploration with the beauty of natural wonders. 

Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens 
4990 NE 180th Ave, Williston, FL 32696 | (352) 529-0055 
An enchanting botanical garden set in a reclaimed lime rock quarry, Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens features cascading waterfalls, scenic walking paths, and diverse plant life.

The gardens offer a peaceful retreat for nature lovers and those looking to enjoy the serenity of a beautifully landscaped oasis. It’s a perfect place for a leisurely stroll or a picnic in an idyllic setting. 

Two Tails Ranch: All About Elephants 
18655 NE 81st St, Williston, FL 32696 | (352) 528-6585 
As mentioned above, Two Tails Ranch is dedicated to the care and conservation of elephants. It offers a rare opportunity to learn about these majestic creatures up close.

The ranch provides educational tours that allow visitors to interact with elephants and gain insight into their behavior, biology, and conservation challenges. It’s a must-visit for animal lovers and anyone interested in wildlife conservation. 

Kirby Family Farm 
19630 NE 30th St, Williston, FL 32696 | (352) 812-7435 
As mentioned earlier on this page, Kirby Family Farm is a  working educational farm aimed at families and children. It offers a range of fun activities, including train rides on a historic locomotive, farm animal encounters, and seasonal events.

It’s a great place to experience the joys of farm life and create lasting memories with family and friends. 

Williston Crossings RV Resort 
410 NE 5th St, Williston, FL 32696 | (352) 528-7100 
For those traveling by RV, Williston Crossings offers a luxurious stay with top-notch facilities set amidst the natural beauty of North Central Florida.

The resort features spacious sites, a large clubhouse, nature trails, and a variety of recreational activities, making it a favorite spot for those seeking comfort and relaxation in a scenic outdoor setting. 

Blue Grotto Dive Resort 
3852 NE 172 Ct, Williston, FL 32696 | (352) 528-5770 
Another diving destination mentioned earlier, Blue Grotto is known for its clear waters and vibrant aquatic life. With a depth of up to 100 feet, it’s the largest clear water cavern in the area.

It offers a safe and fascinating dive experience for both novice and experienced divers. Lodging in cabins or cottages and RV hookups are available. It’s an ideal location for underwater adventure and exploration. 
The Ivy House Restaurant and Boutique 
106 NW Main St, Williston, FL 32696 | (352) 528-5410 

The Ivy House is discussed in detail at the link earlier on this page. 


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