Big Bend in detail

Detour: Upon the Suwannee River

Flowing 207 miles, the Suwannee River was immortalized by Stephen Foster in Florida's state song, 'Old Folks at Home'. Foster himself never set eyes on the river but thought 'Suwannee' (or 'Swannee', as his map apparently stated, hence his corruption of the spelling) sounded suitably Southern. As it happened he was right; the river winds through wild Spanish moss–draped countryside from the far north of the state to the Gulf of Mexico in the curve of the Big Bend. See it for yourself along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail (, which covers 169 miles of the river to the gulf, with nine 'hubs' – cabins – spaced one day's paddle apart. They book up fast, so reserve as early as possible. River camps along the banks of the trail are also in the pipeline.

The trail starts at the Stephen Foster State Folk Cultural Center, north of White Springs. With lush green hills and monolithic live oak trees, the park has a museum of Florida history that you'd swear is a 19th-century plantation. The three-day Florida Folk Festival, a celebration of traditional Floridian music, crafts, food and culture, takes place here every Memorial Day weekend. Next door to the park, canoe rentals are available from American Canoe Adventures, which offers day trips ($35 to $60, depending on mileage and terrain) where you're transported upstream and then paddle down. Overnight canoe rentals are $25.

The Suwannee River State Park, at the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers, has Civil War fortifications. Camping is available, as well as basic cabins that sleep up to six people. The park is 13 miles west of Live Oak, just off US 90 – follow the signs.