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Northern Florida is the "quiet" part of the state, untouched by much of the frenetic development of the South and the Atlantic Coast. Here, the emphasis is on Florida's rich legacy of natural beauty, and the different ways of experiencing it: boating, canoeing, hiking and camping, cycling, and bird-watching are popular leisure activities. But that doesn't mean Northern Florida is devoid of more fast-paced excitement: the chief city, Gainesville, is home to the University of Florida, a sports mecca that boasts national championship teams in several sports. Gainesville also serves as the cultural center for the area, and is home to acclaimed galleries and theater groups.
The Gulf Coast of this region, the northern part of what is known as "the Nature Coast," is one of the most sparsely populated—and best preserved—areas of Florida. Vast wetlands near the coast provide habitat and nurseries for birds and other species. Winding through this part of the state is the famed Suwannee River.