By  Mike Miller  Updated November 18, 2021

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, 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.

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

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

Over the years the ranch has taken care of more than 250 elephants.

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

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

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.

The menu has a lot of variety, and is primarily loaded with good old southern specialties like fried green tomatoes, cheese fritters and barbecue shrimp and grits.

Many of the entrees are southern fried, but you can find a few baked selections if your cardiologist insists.

One of their specialties is Baked Krispy Chicken served with macaroni and cheese, cornbread and a light delicious dinner roll.

We had this and it was unanimously pronounced excellent. For drinks we had Good Ole Southern Tea; it was refreshing and delicious on the hot day we visited.

Other entrees include shrimp, codfish, steak, tilapia and many sandwiches and salads that are large enough to serve as a meal.

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

The second floor of the building has a nice little gift shop with many unique items. We had to hit the road and didn't have time to give it our full attention. Maybe next time.

The Ivy House is open from 11am to 2pm Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and from 11am to 8pm all other days except Monday when it's closed.


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