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Things to See & Do in Florida
Highlands Hammock State Park
One of Florida´s oldest parks, opening to the public in 1931, this park was established when local citizens came together to promote the hammock as a candidate for national park status. During the Great Depression, just prior to World War II, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed additional park facilities and the beginnings of a botanical garden. Many visitors enjoy bicycling the scenic 3-mile loop drive or hiking along the park´s nine trails. An elevated boardwalk traverses an old-growth cypress swamp. For equestrians, there is an 11-mile, day-use trail. Picnicking is another popular activity as are ranger-guided tours of the park.
Lovers Key State Park
For years, Lovers Key was accessible only by boat and it was said that only lovers traveled to the island to enjoy its remote and solitary beach. Today, it is one of four barrier islands that make up this state park. A haven for wildlife, the islands and their waters are home to West Indian manatees, bottlenose dolphins, roseate spoonbills, marsh rabbits, and bald eagles. The two mile long beach is accessible by boardwalk or tram and is popular for shelling, swimming, picnicking, and sunbathing. Black Island has over five miles of multiuse trails for hiking and bicycling. Anglers and boaters can launch their vessels from the park's boat ramp.
Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park
This park protects four miles of pristine coastline along the Gulf of Mexico in western Pasco County. The salt spring looks small, but it is an amazing 320 feet deep. Gray fox, gopher tortoises, alligators, and West Indian manatees call this park and its waters home. Birdwatchers can enjoy sighting raptors, wading birds, shore birds, and migratory songbirds. A recent addition to the state park system, Werner-Boyce now has a picnic pavilion, tables, informational kiosk, and a short hiking trail.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
More than 80 percent of Gulf Islands National Seashore is under water, but the barrier islands are the most outstanding features to those who visit. The Seashore stretches 160 miles from Cat Island in Mississippi to the eastern tip of Santa Rosa Island in Florida. There are snowy-white beaches, sparkling blue waters, fertile coastal marshes, and dense maritime forests. Visitors can explore 19th century forts, enjoy shaded picnic areas, hike on winding nature trails, and camp in comfortable campgrounds. In addition, Horn and Petit Bois Islands located in Mississippi are federally designated wilderness areas. Nature, history, and recreational opportunities abound in this national treasure.
Located south of a sharp bend in the St. Johns River, this is one of the newest additions to the state park system. The park's natural communities include sandhills, covered with longleaf pines and wiregrass, and sand pine scrub. These communities protect several endangered and threatened species, such as the gopher tortoise, as well as a variety of other native animals.
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
Although the formal gardens are the centerpiece of this park, Washington Oaks is also famous for the unique shoreline of coquina rock formations that line its Atlantic beach. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas River, this property was once owned by a distant relative of President George Washington. The gardens were established by Louise and Owen Young who purchased the land in 1936 and built a winter retirement home. They named it Washington Oaks and, in 1965, donated most of the property to the State. The gardens make remarkable use of native and exotic species, from azaleas and camellias to the exquisite bird of paradise, sheltered within a picturesque oak hammock. Visitors can picnic and fish from either the beach or the seawall along the Matanzas River. A number of short trails provide opportunities for hiking and bicycling. Visitors can learn about the park's natural and cultural resources in the visitor center.
Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park
Home of one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, this park plays host to an abundance of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, deer, and birds. Daily guided riverboat tours provide a closer view of wildlife, and glass bottom boat tours are offered when the water is clear. Swimming is a popular activity during the hot summer months. A nature trail offers a leisurely walk along the upland wooded areas of the park. The Wakulla Springs Lodge was built in 1937 by financier Edward Ball and is open year-round.
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
Once slated to become a condominium development, this park contains one of the largest tracts of West Indian tropical hardwood hammock in the United States. The park is home to 84 protected species of plants and animals, including wild cotton, mahogany mistletoe, and the American crocodile. Exploring the park´s trails gives visitors a chance to see some of these rare species of plants and animals. Over six miles of nature trails provide a wealth of opportunities for birdwatchers and photographers. Most of the park´s trails are paved and accessible to both bicycles and wheelchairs. Signs along a self-guided nature trail provide information about the park´s ecosystem and wildlife; ranger-guided tours are also available.
Bahia Honda State Park
Henry Flagler's railroad to Key West turned the remote island of Bahia Honda Key into a tropical destination. Today, the island is home to one of Florida's southernmost state parks, known for beautiful beaches, magnificent sunsets, and excellent snorkeling. Visitors can picnic on the beach and take a swim, or simply relax and enjoy the balmy sea breezes that caress the shores year-round. Anglers can fish from shore or bring a boat and launch at the boat ramp. The park's concession rents kayaks and snorkeling gear and offers boat trips to the reef for snorkeling excursions. Bahia Honda is an excellent place to see wading birds and shorebirds. The nature center can introduce nature lovers to the island's unique plants and animals.
Devils Millhopper Geological State Park
In the midst of north Florida's sandy terrain and pine forests, a bowl-shaped cavity 120 feet deep leads down to a miniature rain forest. Small streams trickle down the steep slopes of the limestone sinkhole, disappearing through crevices in the ground, and lush vegetation thrives in the shade of the walls even in dry summers. A significant geological formation, Devil's Millhopper is a National Natural Landmark that has been visited by the curious since the early 1880s. Researchers have learned a great deal about Florida's natural history by studying fossil shark teeth, marine shells, and the fossilized remains of extinct land animals found in the sink. Visitors can enjoy picnicking and learn more about this sinkhole through interpretive displays.
Fort Pierce Inlet State Park
The shores and coastal waters at this park provide an abundance of recreational opportunities. The breathtakingly beautiful half-mile beach welcomes visitors for swimming, snorkeling, surfing, and scuba diving. Beachcombing, picnicking, or just relaxing on the sand are also popular activities. Dynamite Point was once the training site for WWII Navy Frogmen, but is now a haven for birdwatchers. Along the south end of the park, Fort Pierce Inlet is a popular place for anglers to catch their dinners. Jack Island Preserve, located one mile north of the park, has trails for hiking, bicycling, and nature study. At the west end of the Marsh Rabbit Run Trail, visitors can climb an observation tower to get a bird's-eye view of Indian River and the island.
Alafia River State Park
This park offers some of the most challenging off-road bicycling trails in Florida. Once the site of a phosphate mine, the reclaimed land has unique topography that offers some of the most radical elevation changes in Florida. Equestrians and hikers can explore 20 miles of trails that travel through mixed hardwood forests, pine flatwoods, and rolling hills. Bird-watchers and nature enthusiasts will delight in the abundance of wildlife along the trails. Scattered lakes and the south prong of the Alafia River provide opportunities for canoeing and fishing. Picnic pavilions, a playground, horseshoe pit, and volleyball court are available.
Hontoon Island State Park
This island, located in the St. Johns River in Volusia County, welcomes visitors to enjoy nature and history in quiet solitude. The island is accessible only by private boat or park ferry. Evidence of Native American habitation over thousands of years can be witnessed as visitors hike through the park. Stop in and walk through the impressive visitor center to learn more about the many inhabitants and uses of Hontoon Island over the years. Boating, canoeing, and fishing are popular activities and canoe rentals are available. Picnic areas include tables, grills, and a playground.
Hillsborough River State Park
Opened in 1938 as one of Florida´s first state parks, this park is divided by the swiftly flowing Hillsborough River. Fort Foster, a replica of an 1837 fort from the Second Seminole War, is located on the park grounds, adjacent to the river. Fort tours are offered on weekends or with a reservation. The river provides opportunities for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking; a canoe/kayak launch is available on the river. Canoes can be rented at the park´s concession, which also provides food, beverages, picnic supplies, and souvenirs. Hikers can walk over seven miles along four nature trails. The Wetlands Restoration Trail accommodates bicyclists and hikers.
Bulow Creek State Park
This park protects one of the largest remaining stands of southern live oak forest along Florida's east coast. The reigning tree is the Fairchild Oak, one of the largest live oak trees in the south. For more than 400 years it has been a silent witness to human activities along Bulow Creek, including the destruction of the neighboring Bulow Plantation during the Second Seminole War in 1836. Several trails allow hikers to explore the interior of the park, where visitors can see white-tailed deer, barred owls, and raccoons. The Bulow Woods Trail, nearly seven miles long, takes hikers to Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park. Visitors can picnic in a shady pavilion or at a table on the lawn within view of the Fairchild Oak. Located five miles north of Ormond Beach on Old Dixie Highway (County Road 4011).
Collier-Seminole State Park
This park features a wealth of vegetation and wildlife typical of the Everglades, plus a forest made up of tropical trees. Although rare elsewhere, the Florida royal palm is a common tree here. The park is also the site of a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark which was dedicated by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1994, the Bay City Walking Dredge. Built in 1924, it was used to build the Tamiami Trail highway (U.S. 41) through the Everglades, linking Tampa to Miami. Hiking, bicycling, and canoeing trails offer opportunities for visitors to explore the park´s remarkable wilderness. The park has canoe rentals along with a boat ramp that provides access to the Blackwater River, where anglers can enjoy both freshwater and saltwater fishing.
San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park
This preserve has one of the few remaining mature forests in Florida. The limestone outcrops and extreme changes in elevation provide ideal conditions for many species of hardwood trees, including several champion trees. Bobcats, white-tailed deer, gray foxes, turkeys, and many species of songbirds make their homes in the 18 natural communities found in the preserve. The park offers outdoor adventure to hikers, off-road bicyclists, horseback riders, and nature lovers. To ensure solitude and quiet for a true wilderness experience, the southern two-thirds of the park is designated for hiking only.
Silver River State Park
This park has more than 10 distinct natural communities, dozens of springs, and miles of beautiful trails. The park is home to a pioneer cracker village and the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center. Visitors can canoe down the crystal clear river, hike or bike along one of the nature trails, or just sit and watch for the wide variety of birds and wildlife.
St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park
This site preserves open grassy forests of longleaf pine that were once commonplace throughout Florida. The pine flatwoods form a backdrop for other biological communities, including cypress domes, scrubby flatwoods, sandhills, and a beautiful strand swamp. These habitats are home to many native plants and animals, including over 50 protected species. Photographers, bird-watchers, and nature enthusiasts can explore miles of trails on foot, bicycle, or horseback. Canoeing, boating, and fishing on the St. Sebastian River are popular activities.
Caladesi Island State Park
One of the few completely natural islands along Florida´s Gulf Coast, Caladesi´s white sand shores have been rated as the nation´s #1 best beach. Beach lovers can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. Saltwater anglers can fish from their boats or throw a line out into the surf. Nature enthusiasts watch wildlife while hiking the three mile nature trail through the island´s interior or paddling a three mile kayak trail through the mangroves and bay.
Fort Mose Historical State Park
The power politics of 18th century England and Spain reached across the Atlantic to the Florida frontier. In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida chartered Fort Mose as a settlement for freed Africans who had fled slavery in the British Carolinas. When Spain ceded Florida to Britain in 1763, the inhabitants of Fort Mose migrated to Cuba. Although nothing remains of the fort, the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 for its importance in American history. Visitors may view the site from a boardwalk and stop for a picnic in a covered pavilion.
Estero Bay Preserve State Park
The first aquatic preserve established in Florida, this is one of the most productive estuaries in the state. The bay is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including the bald eagle. The preserve protects the water, inlets, and islands along 10 miles of Estero Bay. Visitors can canoe or kayak in the bay or on the Estero River. Miles of trails offer visitors the opportunity to hike, bicycle, or study the variety of wildlife and native vegetation protected here. There are gopher tortoises, fiddler crabs, slash pines, and live oaks.
Golden in the morning sun, silvered by moonlight, Grayton Beach has consistently been ranked among the most beautiful and pristine beaches in the United States. The beach provides an idyllic setting for swimming, sunbathing, and surf fishing. Visitors can paddle a canoe or kayak on scenic Western Lake to get a closer look at a salt marsh ecosystem. A boat ramp provides access to the lake's brackish waters for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. A nature trail winds through a coastal forest where scrub oaks and magnolias, bent and twisted by salt winds, have an eerie "Middle Earth" look. Hikers and bicyclists can enjoy over four miles of trails through pine flatwoods; the trail begins across from the park entrance on Highway 30-A.
St. Andrews State Park
Well known for its sugar white sands and emerald green waters, this former military reservation has over one-and-a-half miles of beaches on the Gulf of Mexico and Grand Lagoon. Water sports enthusiasts can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and canoeing. Two fishing piers, a jetty, and a boat ramp provide ample fishing opportunities for anglers. Two nature trails wind through a rich diversity of coastal plant communities - a splendid opportunity for bird-watching. Those wanting to relax can sunbathe on the beach or enjoy a leisurely lunch under the shade of a picnic pavilion.
George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park
Located northeast of Jacksonville, this mile-long, pedestrian-only fishing bridge spans Nassau Sound providing access to one of the best fishing areas in Florida. Fishermen catch a variety of fish, including whiting, jacks, drum, and tarpon. The whole family (no pets) can enjoy a safe, fun day of fishing or give the fish a rest and take a leisurely walk along the beach of Amelia Island State Park.
Indian Key Historic State Park
In 1836, Indian Key became the first county seat for Dade County. At that time, this tiny island was the site of a lucrative business-salvaging cargo from shipwrecks in the Florida Keys. Accessible only by canoe or kayak, visitors come here to swim, sunbathe, and hike. Fishing is also a popular activity.
Anastasia State Park
Anastasia State Park is a picturesque getaway near historic St. Augustine. With 139 shaded campsites and four miles of one of the most pristine beaches in Florida, Anastasia State Park is an absolute paradise. Come make some memories with friends and family telling tales and stories around the campfire while mouthwatering food is cooking on the grill. Take a lazy walk along the beach and leave all your cares behind. What better way to spend a weekend than relaxing at the beach. Whether you like fishing, hiking, kayaking, bird-watching or looking for shells on the beach, Anastasia State Park has something for everyone.
Big Talbot Island State Park
Located on one of Northeast Florida’s unique sea islands, Big Talbot Island State Park is primarily a natural preserve providing a premier location for nature study, bird-watching, and photography. Explore the diverse island habitats by hiking Blackrock Trail to the shoreline, Big Pine Trail to the marsh or Old Kings Highway and Jones Cut through the maritime forest. Launch a boat from the north end of the island to fish and tour the salt marsh or rent a kayak and take a guided paddle tour.
Little Talbot Island State Park
With more than five miles of beautiful, white sandy beaches, Little Talbot Island is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in Northeast Florida. Maritime forests, desert-like dunes, and undisturbed salt marshes on the western side of the island allow for hours of nature study and relaxation. The diverse habitats in the park host a wealth of wildlife for viewing including river otters, marsh rabbits, bobcats, and a variety of native and migratory birds. Surrounding surf and tidal streams present excellent fishing for bluefish, striped bass, redfish, flounder, mullet, and sheepshead. Other popular park activities include hiking, kayaking, beachcombing (use of metal detectors is prohibited north of the first boardwalk and landward of the last high tide line), surfing and picnicking.
Wekiva National Wild & Scenic River
The Wekiva River Basin is located in Orange, Seminole, and Lake Counties, Florida and is composed of a delicate and complex system of rivers, springs, seepage areas, lakes, streams, sinkholes, wetland prairies, hardwood hammocks, pine flatwoods and sand pine scrub communities. Located where the temperate and tropical climatic zones meet, the basin supports plant and animal species that are endangered, threatened, or of special concern, including the American Alligator, the Bald Eagle, the Wood Stork, and the West Indian Manatee. While this area of Florida has experienced tremendous population growth in the last two decades with over 1.3 million people now living within 20 miles of the Wekiva River, the Wekiva Basin, combined with the adjacent Ocala National Forest, is the largest contiguous undeveloped landmass in Central Florida. In addition to the wild and scenic designation, the Wekiva River System includes over 70,000 acres of state-protected lands and has become a major Central Florida recreation area. The Wekiva is one of the most heavily canoed waters in the state and is an outstanding example of Florida's crystal clear spring-fed runs and black-water creeks.
Oscar Scherer State Park
A large acreage of scrubby flatwoods makes this park one of the best places to see Florida scrub-jays, a threatened species found only in Florida. The park protects scrubby and pine flatwoods that were once widespread throughout Sarasota County. Fifteen miles of trails through these beautiful natural areas provide opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and wildlife viewing. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle along South Creek, a blackwater stream that flows to the Gulf of Mexico.
Lake Talquin State Park
In 1927 the Jackson Bluff Dam was constructed on the Ochlockonee River to produce hydroelectric power. The waters held back by the dam formed Lake Talquin, which now offers outstanding recreational opportunities. Catch largemouth bass, bream, shellcracker, and speckled perch. Visitors can enjoy nature walks, picnicking, boating, and canoeing. Nature lovers will enjoy the rolling hills and deep ravines with forests of pines and hardwoods where they may spy wild turkeys, bald eagles, ospreys, and deer.
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
Situated on the banks of the legendary Suwannee River, this center honors the memory of American composer Stephen Foster, who wrote "Old Folks at Home," the song that made the river famous. The museum features exhibits about Foster's most famous songs and his music can be heard emanating from the park's 97-bell carillon throughout the day. In Craft Square, visitors can watch demonstrations of quilting, blacksmithing, stain glass making, and other crafts, or visit the gift shop. Hiking, bicycling, canoeing, and wildlife viewing are popular activities. Miles of trails wind through some of the most scenic areas of North Florida.
Three Rivers State Park
Where Florida meets the southwest corner of Georgia, the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers converge to form Lake Seminole, the setting for this peaceful park. Hiking through forested hills of pine and mixed hardwoods, visitors might catch sight of fox squirrels, white-tailed deer, gray foxes, or many species of native and migratory birds. Anglers can launch from a boat ramp to enjoy some of the best freshwater fishing in the state, or fish from a 100-foot pier in the camping area. A shady picnic area, with tables and grills, overlooks the lake.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
The crystalline Ichetucknee River flows six miles through shaded hammocks and wetlands before it joins the Santa Fe River. In 1972, the head spring of the river was declared a National Natural Landmark by the U. S. Department of the Interior. From the end of May until early September, tubing down the river is the premier activity in the area. In addition to tubing, visitors can enjoy picnicking, snorkeling, canoeing, swimming, hiking, and wildlife viewing. October through March scuba diving is available in the Blue Hole only (you must be cave certified). White-tailed deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, wood ducks and great blue herons can be seen from the river.
More than two miles of beautiful, unspoiled Atlantic beaches beckon visitors to this park. Across State Road A1A, this Florida haven shelters rare creatures such as Florida scrub-jays, indigo snakes, and gopher tortoises. Visitors can spend the afternoon swimming, sunning at the beach, or surf fishing. Bird-watchers will enjoy spotting the native and migratory species seen in this park.
Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park
Central Florida nature exists in its purest form along four miles of the Wekiva River and Blackwater Creek. For thousands of years, Native Americans valued the abundance of wildlife in this area. This system of blackwater streams and wetlands provides habitat for black bears, river otters, alligators, wood storks, and sandhill cranes. Visitors can stroll along the Sand Hill Nature Trail for a self guided tour of the native Florida plants and wildlife found at the park. Canoeists can paddle through the park on the Wekiva River.
Crystal River Preserve State Park
A place of exceptional natural beauty, the undisturbed islands, inlets, backwaters, and forests of this preserve are especially cherished by nature lovers and photographers. The park borders 20 miles of the northern Gulf Coast between the two cities of Yankeetown and Homosassa. Visitors can hike or bicycle along nine miles of trails or study the native wildlife and plants on the two-and-a-half mile interpretive trail. Anglers can walk down a short path to the Mullet Hole for a relaxing afternoon of fishing. Paddlers can launch a kayak or canoe into the waters of the scenic Crystal River to see the park from the water.
De Leon Springs State Park
Native Americans visited and used these springs as long as 6,000 years ago. In the early 1800s, settlers built sugar and cotton plantations that were sacked by Seminole Indians during the Second Seminole War. By the 1880s the springs had become a winter resort, and tourists were promised "a fountain of youth impregnated with a deliciously healthy combination of soda and sulphur." The swimming area is adjacent to a beautiful, shady picnic ground. Canoe, kayak and paddleboat rentals are available for a paddling tour of the spring and spring run.
Museum of Arts and Sciences
The Museum of Arts & Sciences (MOAS) is the primary art, history and science museum in Central Florida. Located on a 90-acre Florida nature preserve, the 86,000 square foot facility is host to over 30,000 objects including the finest collection of American Art in the southeast, the largest collection of Cuban art outside of Cuba, a significant Chinese art collection, and Florida's prehistoric Giant Ground Sloth. Also on display, is Coca-Cola entrepreneur Chapman Root’s lifetime collection of Americana, including two private rail cars. The museum’s theater, planetarium, and children’s center make for a truly interactive experience.
T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
With miles of white sugar sand, this park has one of the top rated beaches in the United States. Sunbathing, snorkeling, and swimming are popular activities along the Gulf of Mexico and St. Joseph Bay. From offshore, canoeists and kayakers can take in a superb view of the high dunes and sand pine scrub. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy camping, fishing, hiking, and bicycling. As a coastal barrier peninsula, St. Joseph provides excellent opportunities for bird watching; over 240 species have been sighted in the park.
Econfina River State Park
Nestled along the northern Gulf Coast, this park protects a mosaic of diverse landscapes. The Econfina River meanders like a dark ribbon through pine flatwoods, oaks and palm forests to broad expanses of salt marsh dotted with pine islands. Nature lovers can explore the scenic beauty by foot, bicycle, or horseback on nine miles of wooded trails-or drift along the river in a kayak, canoe, or boat. Trails lead to a panoramic view of coastal Florida where lush islands, sand dunes left from a bygone era, dot the horizon. The Econfina River empties into the Gulf of Mexico 2.2 miles south of the park's boat ramp.
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach
Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, this windswept park is named for Florida folk singer Gamble Rogers and railroad entrepreneur Henry Flagler. The beach is the most popular feature at this park, where visitors enjoy swimming, sunbathing, or beachcombing. The daily low tide is an ideal time to observe shore birds feeding in tidal ponds; summer months bring sea turtles who lay their eggs in the golden-brown sand. On the Intracoastal Waterway side of the park, picnic pavilions provide a shady place to enjoy a meal. A nature trail winds through a shady coastal forest of scrub oaks and saw palmetto. Boaters and canoeists can launch from a boat ramp on the Intracoastal Waterway. The park's full-facility campground overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is just a short walk along a boardwalk from the beach.
Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail
Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail State Park stretches 16 miles from the City of Gainesville's Boulware Springs Park through the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and the Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area. The recreational trail is designed for walking, cycling, and horseback riding. Passing by native plants and wildlife, unique scenery, and backyard Florida culture, the old railbed turned greenway is both a paved multi-use recreational surface and a grassy path for equestrians. As you make your way down the trail, trade your modern life for the days of citrus groves, small railroad towns, and coal burning locomotives. The Gainesville Hawthorne Trail, a "Trader's Path," stretches back even further in time to the days of William Bartram, Seminole Indians, and Florida's first people.
Savannas Preserve State Park
Freshwater marshes or "savannas" once extended all along Florida's southeast coast. Stretching more than 10 miles from Ft. Pierce to Jensen Beach, this preserve is the largest and most intact remnant of Florida's east coast savannas. A good place for visitors to start is the Environmental Education Center where they can learn about the importance of this unique and endangered natural system. Wildlife enthusiasts and photographers can enjoy the diversity of habitats this undisturbed area offers. Over eight miles of multi-use trails provide opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. Guided walks and canoe trips are available by reservation.
Suwannee River State Park
About a quarter mile past the ranger station, a high bluff overlooks the spot where the Withlacoochee River joins the Suwannee River on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Vestiges of history in the park show how important the Suwannee River was to Florida history. Along the river are long mounds of earthworks built during the Civil War to guard against incursions by Union Navy gunboats. Other remnants from the past include one of the state´s oldest cemeteries, and a paddle-wheel shaft from a 19th century steamboat. Five trails, ranging from a quarter mile to 18 miles, loop through surrounding woodlands and provide panoramic views of the rivers.
Rainbow Springs State Park
Archaeological evidence indicates that people have been using this spring for nearly 10,000 years. Rainbow Springs is Florida's fourth largest spring and, from the 1930s through the 1970s, was the site of a popular, privately-owned attraction. The Rainbow River is popular for swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, and kayaking.
Stump Pass Beach State Park
At the southwest corner of Charlotte County there is a mile of beach where seashells and shark teeth wash up, and anglers fish the surf for prize catches. Visitors can enjoy an excellent view of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a stretch of undeveloped Florida coastline. Visitors come to this secluded beach to enjoy the year-round swimming and sunbathing; shelling is best during the winter months. A hiking trail passes through five distinct natural communities that provide homes for many species of wildlife; covered picnic tables are located along the trail. While at the park, visitors might see West Indian manatees, gopher tortoises, snowy egrets, least terns, and magnificent frigatebirds. Ranger-led turtle walks and beach nature walks are available in the summer.
Fanning Springs State Park
Located on the Suwannee River, this inviting source of cool, clear water has attracted people for thousands of years. Fanning Springs produces an average of 65 million gallons of water daily, making it one of Florida´s 33 first magnitude springs. Swimming or snorkeling in the spring is a refreshing activity on a hot day; fishing is also a popular recreation. Visitors can enter the park by boat from the Suwannee River as well as by car. Many visitors enjoy the picnic area, playground, and the park's large open areas for Frisbee, football, soccer and also for several local events. A nature trail and boardwalk overlook the spring and river. White-tailed deer, gray squirrels, red-shouldered hawks, pileated woodpeckers, and barred owls are some of the animals seen in the park. Manatees sometimes visit the spring during the winter months.
San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park
This underwater archaeological preserve features a submerged shipwreck that is available for diving and snorkeling. Part of a Spanish flotilla, the San Pedro was a 287-ton, Dutch-built ship which sank in a hurricane on July 13, 1733. Her remains were discovered in 1960 in Hawk Channel near Indian Key. After major salvage efforts in the 1960s, all that remains of San Pedro is a large pile of ballast stones covering an area 90 feet long and 30 feet wide. The underwater site has been enhanced with seven replica cannons, an anchor, and an information plaque. Visitors can also appreciate the marine life that occupies the site.
Big Cypress National Preserve
The first National Preserve in the National Park System, Big Cypress has a mixture of pines, hardwoods, prairies, mangrove forests, cypress strands and domes. White-tailed deer, bear and Florida panther can be found here along with the more tropical linguus tree snail, royal palm and cigar orchid. This meeting place of temperate and tropical species is a hotbed of biological diversity. Hydrologically, the Preserve serves as a supply of fresh, clean water for the vital estuaries of the ten thousand islands area near Everglades City. Visitors will find a recreational paradise with camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking and birdwatching opportunities. Those passing through may be enticed to linger in this remnant of wild Florida to search for evidence of the elusive Florida panther or to watch an endangered woodstork feeding along a roadside canal.
Fort George Island Cultural State Park
Native Americans feasted here, colonists built a fort, and the Smart Set of the 1920s came for vacations. A site of human occupation for over 5,000 years, Fort George Island was named for a 1736 fort built to defend the southern flank of Georgia when it was a colony. Today´s visitors come for boating, fishing, off-road bicycling, and hiking. A key attraction is the recently restored Ribault Club. Once an exclusive resort, it is now a visitor center with meeting space available for special functions. Behind the club, small boats, canoes, and kayaks can be launched on the tidal waters.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a 2,180-mile footpath along the ridgecrests and across the major valleys of the Appalachian Mountains from Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in northern Georgia. It traverses the scenic, wooded, pastoral, wild, and culturally resonant lands of the Appalachian Mountains. Conceived in 1921, it was built by private citizens and completed in 1937. The trail traverses Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia.
Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park offers mangrove shoreline, crystal clear waters, emerald isles, and living coral reefs. The park is accessible by boat or by car. Biscayne National Park is the largest marine park in the National Park System, with 95% of its 173,000 acres covered by water. The park protects four primary ecosystems. Along the mainland shoreline of Biscayne Bay lies the longest stretch of Mangrove Forest on Florida's east coast. Though only a small part of the park, mangroves are critically important to the park's food chain. Biscayne Bay, the park's namesake, is a broad, shallow body of water teeming with life. Its southern end, still relatively pristine, provides abundant recreational opportunities. The Florida Keys are ancient coral reefs left exposed when sea levels dropped (for more information on the park's geology, see Geology Fieldnotes — Biscayne). The northernmost 50 or so islands, untethered by roads or bridges, offer a glimpse into what all of the Keys looked like before development. The world's third-longest Coral Reef tract begins in Biscayne National Park. Home to over 200 species of fish and countless other marine plants and animals, it is one of the best-preserved reefs in Florida.
Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park
Accessible only by boat, this preserve is a favorite of anglers because it boasts both saltwater and freshwater fishing. Bordering Florida's Gulf Coast between Cedar Key and Yankeetown, extensive salt marshes and tidal creeks create habitats for saltwater fish, crabs, and shellfish. The park's uplands protect a remnant of the Gulf Hammock that once spanned thousands of acres between the Suwannee and Withlacoochee rivers. Endangered and threatened species-including West Indian manatees, bald eagles, American alligators, and Florida black bears-live or feed within the preserve. Although there aren't any marked foot trails, nature enthusiasts can enjoy wildlife viewing from a canoe.
St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park
This classic Florida barrier island is accessible only by boat, but it is worth the ride. A boardwalk takes visitors across mangrove forests and hammocks of live oaks, cabbage palms, paradise trees, and wild limes to a neatly preserved Atlantic beach. During the summer months, the island is an important nesting area for loggerhead, leatherback, and green turtles. They come ashore at night to dig holes in the beach sand where they lay their eggs. The preserve is a favorite for nature students interested in learning about the native flora and fauna of Florida barrier islands. Visitors come to swim, sunbathe, or picnic at the pavilion on the quiet beach. Others make the trip for the great surf fishing. Snorkeling and scuba diving are also popular activities.
Lake Louisa State Park
A short drive from Orlando, this park is noted for its six beautiful lakes, rolling hills, and scenic landscapes. Lake Louisa is the largest in a chain of 13 lakes connected by the Palatlakaha River, which is designated as an Outstanding Florida Waterway. Lake Louisa, Dixie Lake, and Hammond Lake, the park's most accessible lakes, provide access for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. For hikers and backpackers, the park has over 20 miles of hiking trails with excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Anclote Key Preserve State Park
Blue-green Gulf waters lap gently along the preserve´s beautiful four-mile-long beach. Located three miles off the coast of Tarpon Springs, this park is accessible only by private boat. Visitors must bring water and supplies; there are no provisions on the island. The park is home to at least 43 species of birds, including the American oystercatcher, bald eagle, and piping plover. A picturesque 1887 lighthouse stands as a sentinel on the southern end of the island. Visitors can swim and sunbathe at the beach, then fire up a grill and enjoy a picnic.
Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek
Located on the Lake Wales Ridge, ADB Catfish Creek State Park contains some of the rarer habitats in Florida, and is home to several species of protected animals. The park offers six miles of hiking trails along with eight miles of equestrian trails; meandering through scrub, sandhill and flatwoods habitats to name a few. Wildlife viewing in the park is exceptional.
Fort Clinch State Park
A part of the park system since 1935, Fort Clinch is one of the most well-preserved 19th century forts in the country. Although no battles were fought here, it was garrisoned during both the Civil and Spanish-American wars. During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps began preserving and rebuilding many of the structures of the abandoned fort. Daily tours with period reenactors depicting garrison life bring the fort to life for visitors. Sunbathing, swimming, and beachcombing are popular activities at the beach. Anglers can fish from the pier or take advantage of excellent surf fishing. Hikers and bicyclists can enjoy a six-mile trail through the park. Self-guided nature trails provide opportunities to learn about and observe native plants and wildlife.
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
This preserve protects one of the largest remaining stretches of Florida dry prairie, home to an array of endangered plants and animals. While driving the five-mile-long road into the park, visitors can enjoy sweeping vistas of grasslands reminiscent of the Great Plains of the Midwest. The park offers excellent seasonal birding opportunities and is home to the endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow, as well as the crested caracara and sandhill crane. Over 100 miles of dirt roads allow hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians to explore prairies, wetlands, and shady hammocks. Ranger-led prairie buggy tours take visitors to remote areas of the park.
Crystal River Archaeological State Park
National Historic Landmark, this 61-acre, pre-Columbian, Native American site has burial mounds, temple/platform mounds, a plaza area, and a substantial midden. The six-mound complex is one of the longest continuously occupied sites in Florida. For 1,600 years the site served as an imposing ceremonial center for Native Americans. People traveled to the complex from great distances to bury their dead and conduct trade. It is estimated that as many as 7,500 Native Americans may have visited the complex every year. Although primarily an archaeological site, the park sits on the edge of an expansive coastal marsh. Anglers may catch saltwater and freshwater fish. As part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, the park offers bird-watchers the chance to observe a variety of birds. The park has a boat tour of the river every Friday, weather permitting.
Camp Helen State Park
The park is bordered on three sides by the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Powell– one of the largest coastal dune lakes in Florida. Coastal dune lakes are extremely rare worldwide; in the United States they occur only along the Gulf Coast. Prehistoric middens and mounds indicate that humans lived in the area more than 4,000 years ago. From 1945 until 1987, Camp Helen was a company resort for employees of an Alabama textile mill and some of the buildings are now being restored. Natural areas range from coastal dunes and salt marshes along the Gulf to freshwater wetlands and sand pine scrub along the lake. Activities include swimming, beachcombing, nature study, hiking, and both freshwater and saltwater fishing.
Manatee Springs State Park
A first magnitude spring, Manatee Springs discharges an average 100 million gallons of water every day. This water comes from rain that falls on lands within a 40 mile radius from the spring. Geologically the surrounding lands resemble a sponge, with sand and the underlying limestone quickly transferring rainfall into deep caverns that deliver the water to the spring from every direction, but mostly from the South and East. The spring is a source of life for many species of fish, reptiles, mammals, birds and invertebrates. From November through April, manatees use the spring's life-giving waters for warmth. During the summer months, huge prehistoric-looking Gulf Sturgeon can be seen leaping out of the river as they have done for eons.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Visitors can see West Indian manatees every day of the year from the park's underwater observatory in the main spring. The park showcases native Florida wildlife, including manatees, black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American alligators, American crocodiles, and river otters. Manatee programs are offered three times daily. At the Wildlife Encounter programs, snakes and other native animals are featured. Recreational opportunities include picnicking, nature study, and bird-watching. The park features a children's education center, providing hands-on experiences about Florida's environment.
Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park
More than eight centuries ago, Native Americans inhabited the area around Lake Jackson, just north of Tallahassee. The park site was part of what is now known as the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. Today, it encompasses six earthen temple mounds and one possible burial mound. The largest mound is 278 feet by 312 feet at the base and approximately 36 feet in height. Artifacts of pre-Columbian societies have been found here including copper breastplates, necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and cloaks. Visitors can enjoy a short hike past the remains of an 1800s grist mill or picnic on an open grassy area near the largest mound. Guided tours and interpretive programs of the park are available upon request.
Myakka River State Park
One of the oldest and largest state parks, Myakka protects one of the state´s most diverse natural areas. The Myakka River, designated as a Florida Wild and Scenic River, flows through 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and pinelands. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing from a boardwalk that stretches out over the Upper Myakka Lake, then take to the treetops with a stroll along the canopy walkway. The park´s river and two lakes provide ample opportunities for boating, freshwater fishing, canoeing, and kayaking; a boat ramp provides access to Upper Myakka Lake. Hikers can explore trails that cross large expanses of rare Florida dry prairie. Scenic lake tours are offered daily on the world´s two largest airboats. Safari tram tours of the park´s backcountry are offered from mid-December through May.
Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve
The 46,000 acre Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve was established to protect one of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic Coast, and to preserve historic and prehistoric sites within the area. The estuarine ecosystem includes salt marsh, coastal dunes, and hardwood hammocks, all rich in native vegetation and animal life. Archaeological evidence indicates 6,000 years of human habitation in the area. The arrival of Europeans over 400 years ago resulted in exploration, colonization, agriculture, and commerce under the flags of France, Spain, Great Britain, the Confederacy, and the United States. The Preserve features the Fort Caroline National Memorial, Kingsley Plantation, and the Theodore Roosevelt Area.
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
This park offers a wide variety of natural resources including 3.2 miles of secluded, white sand beaches with majestic dunes over 25 feet tall. Three rare coastal dune lakes provide excellent freshwater fishing. Although boats are not allowed, fishing from the shoreline yields bass, bream, panfish, and catfish. Lakes, pristine beaches, old-growth long leaf pines, sand pine scrub, and a variety of wetlands offer a bird-watching and hiking paradise. Visitors may bike, walk, or enjoy a quick ride to the beach on our timely tram service to swim, fish, sunbathe, or beachcomb.
Faver-Dykes State Park
Noted for its pristine condition, this tranquil park borders Pellicer Creek as it winds along Florida's east coast highways down to the Matanzas River. Pellicer Creek is a popular site for birding with more than one hundred bird species seen during spring and fall migrations. Songbirds, including the colorful wood warblers, along with eagles and falcons, return to nest at the park each year. Wading birds, such as egrets, wood storks, white ibis, and herons, feed in the tidal marshes and creeks. This peaceful park is also home to deer, turkeys, hawks, bobcats, and river otters. Fishing, picnicking, and nature walks are popular activities.
Don Pedro Island State Park
This beautiful little island is part of an extensive chain of barrier islands extending along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Between Knight Island and Little Gasparilla Island, Don Pedro is accessible only by private boat. Boaters can tie up at the dock on the bay side of the island, which is lined with mangroves. Access to the dock is through a 2.5 -foot - deep channel south of the Cape Haze power line crossing. Visitors might see endangered animals such as West Indian manatees, gopher tortoises, bald eagles, and American oystercatchers. With a mile of white sand beach, popular activities on the island´s Gulf side include sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and shelling. Boat and surf fishing are also favorite pastimes. For hiking and nature study, trails meander through the island´s 11 natural communities.
Cedar Key Museum State Park
Picturesque Cedar Key, on Florida's Gulf Coast, was a thriving port city and railroad connection during the 19th century. The museum contains exhibits that depict its colorful history during that era. Part of the collection has sea shells and Indian artifacts collected by Saint Clair Whitman, the founder of the first museum in Cedar Key. Whitman's house is located at the park and has been restored to reflect life in the 1920s. A short nature trail gives visitors the opportunity to see wildlife and birds, as well as native vegetation. Small gray squirrels, doves, mockingbirds, blue jays, woodpeckers, and green tree frogs can be seen on the museum grounds and along the walking trail.
Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park
The virgin tropical hardwood hammock that thrives on this island was once common on most of Florida's Upper Keys; most of these forests have been lost to development on other islands. In 1919, William J. Matheson, a wealthy Miami chemist, bought this tiny island and built a caretaker's home with a windmill for electricity and a cistern for rainwater. Today, his hideaway is the visitor center for this island forest. Ranger-guided tours are given twice daily, Thursday through Monday. The park is accessible only by private boat or tour boat.
Koreshan State Historic Site
Throughout its history, Florida has welcomed pioneers of all kinds. Cyrus Reed Teed was probably the most unusual, bringing followers to Estero in 1894 to build New Jerusalem for his new faith, Koreshanity. The colony, known as the Koreshan Unity, believed that the entire universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere. The colony began fading after Teed´s death in 1908, and in 1961 the last four members deeded the land to the state. Today, visitors can fish, picnic, boat, and hike where Teed´s visionaries once carried out survey experiments to prove the horizon on the beaches of Lee County curves upward. A boat ramp and canoe rentals are available. Visitors can take self-guided tours of the settlement or a ranger-guided tour.
Everglades National Park
Spanning the southern tip of the Florida peninsula and most of Florida Bay, Everglades National Park is the only subtropical preserve in North America. It contains both temperate and tropical plant communities, including sawgrass prairies, mangrove and cypress swamps, pinelands, and hardwood hammocks, as well as marine and estuarine environments. The park is known for its rich bird life, particularly large wading birds, such as the roseate spoonbill, wood stork, great blue heron and a variety of egrets. It is also the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles exist side by side.
World Golf Hall of Fame IMAX Theater
Get ready for an exciting semester of stunning new IMAX films! The World Golf Hall of Fame IMAX® Theater is the only place that brings these experiences to you and your students with larger-than-life, IMAX 3D Digital technology. Rich in educational content, the films meet curriculum standards and are accompanied by educator guides for pre- and post-field trip activities. From outer space to the depths of the sea, there is a program to meet every learning level.
Skyway Fishing Pier State Park
When the new Sunshine Skyway bridge was built over Tampa Bay, connecting St. Petersburg with Sarasota, the old bridge was turned into the world's longest fishing pier. Anglers love being able to park their cars or campers within a few feet of their favorite fishing spot. The bridge is lighted at night, so anglers can see to rig a line, bait the hook, and get a good look at their catch. The light also attracts many species of fish after sundown. Common catches include snook, tarpon, grouper, black sea bass, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cobia, sheepshead, red snapper, pompano, and many more.
Colt Creek State Park
Purchased from the Overstreet Family in May of 2006, this 5067 acre park nestled within the Green Swamp Wilderness Area and named after one of the tributaries that flows through the property was opened to the public on January 20, 2007. For over 60 years this property was managed as a cattle ranch by the Overstreet family. Past activities on the land also included lime rock mining, timber harvesting, citrus production and turpentining. Comprised mainly of Pine Flatwoods, Cypress Domes and open pasture land, this piece of still pristine wilderness is home to many animal species including the American Bald Eagle, Sherman’s Fox Squirrel, Gopher Tortoise, White-Tail Deer, Wild Turkey and Bobcat.
Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park
In 1836, the Second Seminole War swept away the prosperous Bulow Plantation where the Bulow family grew sugar cane, cotton, rice, and indigo. Ruins of the former plantation-a sugar mill, a unique spring house, several wells, and the crumbling foundations of the plantation house and slave cabins-show how volatile the Florida frontier was in the early 19th century. Today, a scenic walking trail leads visitors to the sugar mill ruins, listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The park has picnic facilities and an interpretive center that tells the plantation's history. A boat ramp provides access for canoes and small powerboats to scenic Bulow Creek, a designated state canoe trail. Anglers can fish from the dock or a boat.
Visitors to this archaeological site will see Florida's tallest Native American ceremonial mound-46 feet-built between 1100 and 1800 years ago. The people who built the mound are believed to have been members of the Weedon Island Culture, a group of Native Americans who lived in North Florida between 200 and 800 A.D. The park offers picnicking, birding, and hiking. A nature trail winds around the perimeter of the ceremonial mound.
Avalon State Park
One of the state's newest seaside parks, Avalon has more than a mile of increasingly rare undeveloped beachfront. The park provides habitat for many species of wildlife. Threatened and endangered sea turtles, like the loggerhead, Atlantic green, and leatherback, nest on the beach during the spring and summer. Dune crossovers protect the fragile dune ecosystem. They welcome swimmers, snorkelers, fishermen and sunbathers for beach recreation.
Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park
This preserve protects one of Florida's last remaining tracts of wet prairie, including the largest community of pitcher plants in the state. The carnivorous plants flourish here, passively trapping insects in specialized tube-shaped leaves and absorbing nutrients from their decomposing prey. The preserve is located in Santa Rosa County on Garcon Point, which separates Escambia Bay from Blackwater Bay. Nearly 20 rare and endangered species of plants and animals make their homes along the bay and its wet prairies, dome swamps, and flatwoods. There are no recreational facilities in the preserve, but the sweeping landscapes of the pitcher plant prairies offer a tremendous opportunity for photography and nature appreciation.
Rock Springs Run State Reserve
Sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, swamps, and miles of pristine shoreline along Rock Springs Run and the Wekiva River make this reserve a refuge of natural beauty. Visitors can enjoy bicycling, hiking, or horseback riding along 17 miles of trails. Guided trail rides and horse rentals are available.
Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve
Salt marshes on the Gulf of Mexico give way to a succession of swamps, hardwood forests, pine flatwoods, and scrub, providing splendid opportunities for nature study and wildlife observation. The scrub is dominated by species such as sand live oak, myrtle oak, and Chapman's oak, along with rusty lyonia, and saw palmetto. Hikers and off-road bicyclists who want to experience a mosaic of Florida habitats will find it on the miles of trails that wind through the park. The shallow waters and numerous creeks near the salt marshes are ideal for canoeing and kayaking. Rental canoes and kayaks are available in the city of Cedar Key.
Blackwater River State Park
A favorite destination for canoeists and kayakers, Blackwater River offers opportunities for a variety of outdoor recreation. The river is one of the purest sand-bottom rivers in the nation, making this park a popular place for swimming, fishing, camping, and paddling. Shaded campsites are just a short walk from the river, and visitors can enjoy a picnic at a pavilion overlooking the river. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy strolling along trails through undisturbed natural communities. In 1980 the park was certified as a Registered State Natural Feature for possessing exceptional value in illustrating the natural history of Florida. Atlantic white cedars line the river and one of them was recognized in 1982 as a Florida Champion tree, one of the largest and oldest of its species.
Oleta River State Park
Florida's largest urban park, Oleta River is located on Biscayne Bay in the busy Miami metropolitan area. Although it offers a variety of recreational opportunities, the park is best known for miles of off-road bicycling trails, ranging from novice trails to challenging trails for experienced bicyclists. Along the Oleta River, at the north end of the park, a large stand of beautiful mangrove forest preserves native South Florida plants and wildlife. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle the river to explore this amazing natural area. Swimming from a 1,200-foot sandy beach and saltwater fishing are also popular activities.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
The first underwater park in the U.S., John Pennekamp encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles. While the mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks in the park´s upland areas offer visitors a unique experience, it is the coral reefs and their associated marine life that bring most visitors to the park. Most enjoy the view from a glass bottom boat tour, but visitors can get a closer look by scuba diving or snorkeling through the reefs. Canoeing and kayaking through the park´s waters are popular activities; fishing is permitted in designated areas. Visitors can enjoy hiking two short trails, or picnicking and swimming at the beach. The visitor center has a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and theater showing nature videos.
Henderson Beach State Park
Pristine white sugar sand beaches and more than 6,000 feet of natural scenic shoreline border the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Natural features of the park include sand pines, scrub oaks, and dune rosemary. Boardwalks provide access to the beach for swimming, sunbathing, and fishing. Two large pavilions allow for picnicking and grilling. A playground is the first stop on our nature trail and is sure to be a success with the kids. The nature trail provides visitors a rare glimpse of the coastal dune ecosystem and abundant wildlife and is pet friendly.
Florida Caverns State Park
This is one of the few state parks with dry (air filled) caves and is the only Florida state park to offer cave tours to the public. The cave has dazzling formations of limestone stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones, and draperies. Florida Caverns is also popular for camping, swimming, fishing, picnicking, canoeing, boating, hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding.
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park
These beautiful ornamental gardens were first planted in 1923 by Alfred B. and Louise Maclay after they purchased the property for their winter home. A masterpiece of floral architecture, the gardens feature a picturesque brick walkway, a secret garden, a reflection pool, a walled garden, and hundreds of azaleas and camellias. Lake Hall provides opportunities for swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Only boats without motors or with electric motors are allowed. Pavilions and grills along the lake shore provide the perfect setting for a picnic. For walking enthusiasts, two short nature trails meander through the woods overlooking the lake. Hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians can enjoy five miles of multi-use trails winding through the woods surrounding Lake Overstreet, located on park property adjoining the gardens.
Big Shoals State Park
This park features the largest whitewater rapids in Florida. Limestone bluffs, towering 80 feet above the banks of the Suwannee River, afford outstanding vistas not found anywhere else in Florida. When the water level on the Suwannee River is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level, the Big Shoals rapids earn a Class III Whitewater classification, attracting thrill-seeking canoe and kayak enthusiasts. A smaller set of rapids downstream is called Little Shoals. Over 28 miles of wooded trails provide opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing. The Woodpecker Trail, a 3.4 mile long multipurpose paved trail, connects the Little Shoals and Big Shoals entrances to the park. The river offers excellent opportunities for freshwater fishing.
Ringing Charlotte Harbor like a necklace of mangroves, the park provides vast areas of unspoiled scenery and vital habitat for many varieties of wildlife. The upland areas of the park are accessible at pedestrian walk-through's available in each section of the park. The Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (CHEC) Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center is located within the park. The park also manages more than 80 miles of Charlotte Harbor shoreline. Most of it is shallow water fringed by mangroves. These areas provide amazing opportunities to view wading birds, manatees, dolphins and other wildlife. It is best accessed by kayak or canoe and there are many opportunities to access the Preserve from Placida, El Jobean, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Cape Coral, Matlacha, Pineland, Bokeelia and St. James City. Portions of two paddle trail systems wind through the park.
Troy Spring State Park
The depths of this spring contain the remains of the Civil War-era steamboat Madison, scuttled in the spring run in 1863 to keep it from being captured. This 70-foot deep, first magnitude spring offers opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Bring the family for an old fashioned swimming hole party!
Falling Waters State Park
Huge trees and fern-covered sinkholes line Sink Hole Trail, the boardwalk that leads visitors to Florida's highest waterfall. Falling Waters Sink is a 100-foot deep, 20-foot wide cylindrical pit into which flows a small stream that drops 73 feet to the bottom of the sink. The water's final destination remains unknown. Only a few miles south of I-10, the park provides travelers with a quiet, serene stop on their journey. Visitors can see beautiful native and migrating butterflies in the butterfly garden, take a dip in the lake, or have a family picnic. Hikers can experience the verdant, gently sloping landscape of North Florida. Park rangers host interpretive programs in the amphitheater.
Ponce de Leon Springs State Park
This beautiful spring is named for Juan Ponce de León, who led the first Spanish expedition to Florida in 1513-as legend has it-in search of the "fountain of youth." Visitors might well regain their youth by taking a dip in the cool, clear waters of Ponce de Leon Springs where the water temperature remains a constant 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The main spring is a convergence of two underground water flows, and produces 14 million gallons of water daily. Visitors can take a leisurely walk along two self-guided nature trails through a lush, hardwood forest and learn about the local ecology and wildlife. Rangers also conduct seasonal guided walks.
Torreya State Park
High bluffs overlooking the Apalachicola River make Torreya one of Florida's most scenic places. The park is named for an extremely rare species of Torreya tree that only grows on the bluffs along the Apalachicola River. Developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, Torreya is popular for camping, hiking, and picnicking. Bird-watching is also a popular activity. Over 100 species of birds have been spotted in the park. Forests of hardwood trees provide the finest display of fall color found in Florida.
Long Key State Park
The Spanish named this island "Cayo Vivora" or Rattlesnake Key because its shape resembles a snake with its jaws open. In the early 20th century, Long Key was the site of a luxurious fishing resort that was destroyed during the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. Today, visitors can explore this island by canoeing through a chain of lagoons or hiking two land-based trails. The Golden Orb Trail leads visitors through five natural communities to an observation tower that provides a panoramic view of the island and its profusion of plant and animal life. Some of the best bonefishing in the Keys is found here.
Ravine Gardens State Park
A ravine was created over thousands of years by water flowing from the sandy ridges on the shore of the St. Johns River. In 1933, this ravine was transformed into a dramatic garden by the federal Works Progress Administration. Much of the original landscaping still exists as formal gardens and an extensive trail system. A 1.8-mile paved road winds around the ravine, offering motorists and bicyclists a view of the gardens.
Peacock Springs State Park
This park has two major springs, a spring run, and six sinkholes-all in near pristine condition. One of the longest underwater cave systems in the continental United States, about 28,000 feet of underwater passages have been explored and surveyed by cave divers. Only divers who have proof of their scuba certification are allowed to explore the underwater caverns. Mature forest stands around the springs represent four major natural plant communities. A nature trail leads visitors on a path tracing the twisting tunnels of the caves far below their feet. Swimming in Peacock Spring and Orange Grove Sink are popular activities during the summer.
Curry Hammock State Park
Curry Hammock State Park is the largest uninhabited parcel of land between Key Largo and Big Pine Key. The park protects large areas of mangrove swamp, rockland hammocks and seagrass beds essential to the Florida Keys ecosystem. The shallow, protected waters of Curry Hammock State Park make an ideal place to kayak and paddleboard, with a beautiful mangrove creek and miles of pristine coastline. Bring your own equipment or inquire at the ranger station about rentals. When the wind is blowing, the oceanfront is a popular place to launch windsurfers and kiteboards. This park is made up of a group of islands in the Middle Keys, with public access to swimming, a playground, picnic tables, grills, and showers on the ocean side of Little Crawl Key. The hardwood hammocks found on these tropical islands support one of the largest populations of thatch palms in the United States. Mangrove swamps, seagrass beds, and wetlands provide vital habitats for tropical wildlife. A 28-site campground is located along the oceanfront. There are great opportunities for birding year-round within the park. Shallow water fishing is available on both the ocean and bay sides of the park. Hikers enjoy a moderately difficult 1.5-mile trail through the bayside hammock of the park. A variety of ranger-led activities are offered.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
One of the most popular seashore destinations in Naples, this park's mile-long stretch of white sugar sand has been rated as one of the best beaches in the nation. The beach is popular for sunbathing, swimming, beachcombing, snorkeling, and picnicking. Fishing at the beach along Wiggins Pass, where swimming is not allowed, is another popular activity. For saltwater or freshwater fishing, boaters can launch their vessels into Water Turkey Bay and travel to the Gulf or up the Cocohatchee River. Kayakers can enjoy paddling through estuaries; scuba divers can explore the hard bottom reef in the Gulf. At the north end of the island, a tower gives visitors a bird's-eye view of Wiggins Pass and the surrounding coastal habitat.
St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum Home School Programs
All programs and tours focus on a broad range of maritime topics as they relate to Florida, the country, and the world. Program content is tied to the Sunshine State Standards and teach Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. Programs can easily be designed and formatted to meet the needs of ESE students, older students and students with other educational challenges.
Lake June in Winter Scrub State Park
This park protects one of the state's most endangered natural communities-sand scrub-which is sometimes called "Florida's desert." Some of Florida's rarest plants and animals, including the Florida scrub-jay, Florida scrub lizard, Florida mouse, deer, gopher tortoise, and bobcat are found in the scrub. Ospreys and bald eagles are frequently sighted along the three miles of lakefront. This relatively new park is still in development and best suited to those seeking a remote wilderness experience and nature study. Visitors can hike along the white sand firelanes, walk a half-mile nature trail, fish from the lakeshore, or launch a canoe or kayak onto the lake.
O'Leno State Park
Located along the banks of the scenic Santa Fe River, a tributary of the Suwannee River, the park features sinkholes, hardwood hammocks, river swamps, and sandhills. As the river courses through the park, it disappears underground and reemerges over three miles away in the River Rise State Preserve. One of Florida's first state parks, O'Leno was first developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. The suspension bridge built by the CCC still spans the river. Visitors can picnic at one of the pavilions or fish in the river for their dinner.
Amelia Island State Park
An easy drive from Jacksonville, the park protects over 200 acres of unspoiled wilderness along the southern tip of Amelia Island. Beautiful beaches, salt marshes, and coastal maritime forests provide visitors a glimpse of the original Florida. Amelia Island State Park is the only state park in Florida to offer horseback riding on the beach; a 45-minute riding tour through the forest and along the Atlantic Coast beach. Although the view from the park is breath-taking in itself, most of our visitors come for the fantastic fishing opportunities. Fishermen can surf fish along the shoreline or they can wet their line from the mile-long George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier which spans Nassau Sound. Visitors can also stroll along the beach looking for seashells or relax and watch the numerous bird species that feed in the area.
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
Formed of Key Largo limestone, fossilized coral, this land was sold to the Florida East Coast Railroad, which used the stone to build Henry Flagler's Overseas Railroad in the early 1900s. After the railroad was built, the quarry was used until the 1960s to produce exquisite pieces of decorative stone called Keystone. Today, visitors can walk along eight-foot-high quarry walls to see cross sections of the ancient coral and learn about the quarry and its operation- an important part of Florida's 20th century history. Samples of the quarry machinery have been preserved at the park. Visitors can enjoy the natural attributes of this island while strolling five short, self-guided trails.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Cape Florida is the home of a historic lighthouse built in 1825 and reconstructed in 1846, the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. Visitors come to the park to sunbathe, swim, and picnic on over a mile of sandy Atlantic beachfront. Biking and kayaking are also popular activities. Anglers can throw in their lines from the seawall along Biscayne Bay for some of the best shoreline fishing in the region. Guided tours of the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper´s cottage are given twice daily, Thursdays through Mondays.
Fort Cooper State Park
The sparkling waters of Lake Holathlikaha were a welcome sight to sick and wounded soldiers during the Second Seminole War. In 1836, the First Georgia Battalion of Volunteers built a stockade for the soldiers resting here, enabling the Volunteers to hold their own through several skirmishes with the Seminole Indians. The park´s diverse natural areas provide a refuge for many plants and animals, including threatened and endangered species. Fishing in Lake Holathlikaha is a popular activity; swimming is available only when the lake level is high enough.
Seabranch Preserve State Park
Ancient oceans shaped the physical landscape of this park, which allowed a variety of habitats to develop over time. Today, this preserve provides a unique opportunity to experience several different natural communities in a relatively short distance. In less than one mile, visitors can see rare sand pine scrub, scrubby flatwoods, a baygall community, and a mangrove swamp. Hikers can explore these natural communities over four miles of trails.
Tomoka State Park
Native Americans once dwelled here, living off fish-filled lagoons. Today, these waters are popular for canoeing, boating, and fishing. The park protects a variety of wildlife habitats and endangered species, such as the West Indian manatee. Tomoka is a bird-watcher's paradise, with over 160 species sighted, especially during the spring and fall migrations. Visitors can stroll a one-half mile nature trail through a hardwood hammock that was once an indigo field for an 18th century British landowner. A boat ramp gives boaters and canoeists access to the river.
Honeymoon Island State Park
The pioneers called it Hog Island, but it became Honeymoon Isle in 1939 when a New York developer built 50 palm - thatched bungalows for honeymooners. Today, visitors can drive across Dunedin Causeway to enjoy the sun - drenched Gulf beaches, mangrove swamps, and tidal flats. Nature lovers will find osprey nests, a wide variety of shorebirds, and one of the few remaining virgin slash pine forests in South Florida. The park boasts several nature trails and bird observation areas. Visitors can swim, fish, and snorkel in the warm waters of the Gulf or picnic while they enjoy the beautiful scenery. Shelling is particularly good here, as the Gulf currents deposit an incredible variety of seashells on the shore.
Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park
U.S. Air Force Colonel Fred Gannon was instrumental in transforming this site from a bombing practice range during World War II to a picturesque state park. The property now preserves beautiful oldgrowth long leaf pine trees, several over 300 years old, that once dominated this area of Florida. Rocky Bayou, the main feature of the park, is the trailing arm of Choctawhatchee Bay and is popular for boating and fishing. Puddin Head Lake, at the center of the park, is a great spot for freshwater fishing and canoeing.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
A short walk from beachside shops and condominiums, this park is an oasis of tropical hammocks-a gift from Hugh Taylor Birch to Florida's posterity. His former estate preserves four distinct natural communities, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. Visitors can rent a canoe and paddle along a mile-long freshwater lagoon or fish from the seawall. Nature lovers can hike along two short trails and learn about local plants and wildlife while bicyclists and skaters glide along the paved park road.
Egmont Key State Park
Although this park is primarily a wildlife refuge, it can be a personal refuge - a place to relax and collect shells along secluded, pristine beaches. Accessible only by private boat, Egmont Key has a unique natural and cultural history, including a lighthouse that has stood since 1858. During the 19th century, the island served as a camp for captured Seminoles at the end of the Third Seminole War and was later occupied by the Union Navy during the Civil War. In 1898, as the Spanish - American War threatened, Fort Dade was built on the island and remained active until 1923. After touring the historic sites and trails, visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing, wildlife viewing, and picnicking.
Lake Manatee State Park
This park extends along three miles of the south shore of Lake Manatee, which serves as a water reservoir for Manatee and Sarasota counties. The rest of the park is primarily pine flatwoods and sand pine scrub with some depression marshes and hardwood forests. A boat ramp provides easy access to the lake; boat motors must be less than 20 horsepower. Canoeing and kayaking are also popular activities. The lake offers excellent freshwater fishing, and anglers can fish from their boats or from the park's fishing dock. Swimming is permitted in a designated area of Lake Manatee.
Lake Griffin State Park
Located within an hour of central Florida attractions and theme parks, this park is home to one of the state's largest live oak trees. A short trail near the park entrance takes visitors to the mammoth oak tree. A canal connects the park to Lake Griffin, the eighth largest lake in Florida, where visitors can enjoy boating and canoeing, as well as fishing. Anglers will find plenty of largemouth bass, bluegill, speckled perch, and catfish. Visitors can observe the park's wildlife while picnicking or strolling along the half-mile nature trail.
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park is called “the Amazon of North America.” The Fakahatchee Strand is a linear swamp forest, approximately twenty miles long by five miles wide and oriented from north to south. It hosts a wide array of habitats and forest types from the wetter swamps and prairies to the drier islands of tropical hardwood hammocks and pine rock lands. Its groves of native royal palms are the most abundant in the state and the ecosystem of the Fakahatchee Strand is the only place in the world where bald cypress trees and royal palms share the forest canopy. It is the orchid and bromeliad capital of the continent with 44 native orchids and 14 native bromeliad species. Florida panthers still pursue white-tailed deer from the uplands across the wetlands. Florida black bears and Eastern indigo snakes, Everglades minks and diamondback terrapins can still be found here. The resident and migratory bird life is spectacular and attracts many enthusiastic visitors.
Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park
One of Florida´s first state parks, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park was developed on a 2,000-acre site by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930s. The extraordinary craftsmanship of the CCC is still evident today. Located on rolling sandhills in an area known as the central ridge of Florida, a deep ravine with springs issuing from its side bisects the area and forms Gold Head Branch. Marshes, lakes and scrub provide a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking and wildlife viewing along the park´s nature trails and a three-mile stretch of the Florida Trail. For aquatic recreation, visitors can swim or fish in the lake, or spend a lazy afternoon canoeing. A large picnic area, with tables and grills, overlooks Little Lake Johnson.
Ochlockonee River State Park
This jewel of a park is a great place to get away for a weekend or a weeklong vacation. Picnic facilities and a swimming area are located near the scenic point where the Ochlockonee and Dead rivers intersect. Ochlockonee, which means "yellow waters," is a mix of brackish, tidal surge, and fresh water. Pristine and deep, the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Trails allow visitors to explore the park and see the diverse wildlife, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, and natural communities such as pine flatwoods and oak thickets. A boat ramp provides easy access to the river. Both freshwater and saltwater fish inhabit the waters around the park, including largemouth bass, bream, catfish and speckled perch.
Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park
East of Jacksonville's skyscrapers and west of the beaches, this state park protects one of the largest contiguous areas of coastal uplands remaining in Duval County. The uplands protect the water quality of the Nassau and St. Johns rivers, ensuring the survival of aquatic plants and animals, and providing an important refuge for birds. Wildlife is abundant and ranges from the threatened American alligator to the endangered wood stork. Equestrians, hikers, and off-road bicyclists can explore five miles of multi-use trails that wind through the park's many different natural communities. The park has a canoe/kayak launch accessible by a 500 foot portage to the marshes.
Canaveral National Seashore
Canaveral National Seashore is on a barrier island which includes ocean, beach, dune, hammock, lagoon, salt marsh, and pine flatland habitats. The barrier island and adjacent waterways offer a blend of plant and animal life. Records show that 1,045 species of plants and 310 species of birds can be found in the park. Endangered species include, but are not limited to, loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles, West Indian Manatee, Southern bald eagle, wood stork, peregrine falcon, eastern indigo snake, and Florida scrub jay. The park has two districts and the Seminole Rest Site. The North District is in Volusia County, near New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Seminole Rest is also located in Volusia County in Oak Hill, Florida. The South District, in Brevard County is near Titusville, Florida. Visitors may enjoy walking the nature and historical trails during the cool winter months. Throughout the year opportunity for recreational activities include; lagoon and surf fishing, boating, canoeing, surfing, sunbathing, swimming, hiking, horseback riding and backcountry camping.
Blue Spring State Park
Join the fun, its summer at Blue Spring State Park, hot days, cool refreshing spring water, and a great opportunity for kids and parents to cool off in the spring. Bring your swim gear, pack a picnic lunch, and bring the whole family for a picnic and family fun in the Florida sun! The largest spring on the St. Johns River, Blue Spring is a designated Manatee Refuge and the winter home (mid-November through March) to a growing population of West Indian Manatees. For centuries, the spring area was home for Native Americans. In 1766 it was visited by Colonial American botanist John Bartram, but it wasn´t until 1856 that it was settled by Louis Thursby and his family. The Thursby house, built in 1872, remains standing.
Bald Point State Park
Some of the most picturesque scenic areas along north Florida´s Gulf Coast can be found at this park. Located on Alligator Point where Ochlockonee Bay meets Apalachee Bay, Bald Point offers a multitude of land and water activities. Coastal marshes, pine flatwoods, and oak thickets foster a diversity of biological communities that make the park a popular destination for birding and wildlife viewing. Every fall, bald eagles, other migrating raptors, and monarch butterflies are commonly sighted as they head south for the winter. Bald Point offers access to two Apalachee Bay beaches for swimming, sunbathing, and fishing. Other activities include canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, and hiking.
Lake Kissimmee State Park
Florida's cowboy heritage comes alive with living history demonstrations of the early Florida "cow hunters" in an 1876-era cow camp. White-tailed deer, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, turkeys, and bobcats have been seen in the park, located on the shores of lakes Kissimmee, Tiger, and Rosalie. Visitors enjoy boating, canoeing, and fishing in the picturesque lakes. Nature students can hike over 13 miles of trails to observe and study the abundant plant and animal life. Six miles of trails are open to equestrians. A large, shaded picnic area with pavilions is available.
Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park
The preserve is home to four species of endangered pitcher plants, as well as other rare and endangered plant species. The rare, carnivorous white–top pitcher plant is unique to the Gulf Coast and found only between the Apalachicola and Mississippi rivers. Almost 100 other rare plants and animals depend on the wet prairie habitat, including the alligator snapping turtle, sweet pitcher plant, and Chapman´s butterwort. A boardwalk offers visitors a view of the wild and beautiful Tarkiln Bayou. Visitors can enjoy a picnic and then take a hike on the nature trails to observe the rare plants and animals. For a more adventurous outing, visitors can take a day–hike across the park to the Perdido River.
Lafayette Blue Springs
Located on the Suwannee River, this inviting source of cool, clear water has attracted people for thousands of years. Lafayette Blue Springs produces up to 168 million gallons of water daily, making it one of Florida's 33 first magnitude springs. Swimming or snorkeling in the spring is a refreshing activity on a hot day; river fishing is also a popular recreation. Visitors can enter the park by boat from the Suwannee River as well as by car. Many visitors enjoy the shaded picnic area. White-tailed deer, gray squirrels, red-shouldered hawks, pileated woodpeckers, and barred owls are some of the animals seen in the park.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973, Florida's southernmost state park is popular for recreation, as well as U.S. military history. The fort was one of a series built in the mid-1800s to defend the nation's southeastern coastline. Completed in 1866, Fort Zachary Taylor played important roles in the Civil War and Spanish-American War. A beautiful beach at the southern end of the park provides opportunities for picnicking, swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. Visitors can also enjoy a short nature trail and bicycling within the park.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park
Located just south of Stuart, this park teems with wildlife in 13 natural communities, including sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, mangroves, and river swamps. The Loxahatchee River, Florida's first federally designated Wild and Scenic River, runs through the park. Ranger-guided tours of the 1930s pioneer homestead of Trapper Nelson are available year-round. Visitors can enjoy paved and off-road biking, equestrian, and hiking trails. Boating, canoeing, and kayaking along the river are also great ways to see the park. Anglers can fish along the riverbank or from a boat. The nature and history of the park comes to life through exhibits and displays in the Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center. Programs for the kids, or for the whole family, are also offered here.
River Rise Preserve State Park
The Santa Fe River goes underground in O'Leno State Park and reemerges over three miles away in River Rise State Park as a circular pool before resuming its journey to the Suwannee River. Surrounded by quiet woods and huge trees, anglers can spend a relaxing afternoon fishing on the river. Hiking and wildlife viewing is also a favorite pastimes for park visitors.
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
A unique mixture of coastal and tropical hammock and mangrove forest, this barrier island provides a haven for several rare or endangered native tropical and coastal plant species. The park's Nature Center shows visitors why the park is a biological treasure. Visitors can swim, picnic, and surf at the beach; scuba diving and snorkeling are also popular activities. Birdwatchers can see herons, brown pelicans, terns, sandpipers, and gulls. Anglers can fish in the lagoon by wading, kayaking, or canoeing. They can also fish from non-swimming areas of the beach.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Paynes Prairie is biologically, geologically, and historically unique. This park became Florida´s first state preserve in 1971 and is now designated as a National Natural Landmark. Noted artist and naturalist William Bartram called it the great Alachua Savannah when he wrote about his visit to the prairie in 1774. Over 20 distinct biological communities provide a rich array of habitats for wildlife, including alligators, bison, wild horses, and over 270 species of birds. Exhibits and an audio-visual program at the visitor center explain the area´s natural and cultural history. A 50-foot-high observation tower near the visitor center provides a panoramic view of the preserve. Eight trails provide opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling.
John U. Lloyd Beach State Park
Perfect for a day at the beach or a family picnic, this park provides an abundance of recreational activities. Surf fishing, canoeing, swimming, nature study, boating, and picnicking will keep the whole family busy. For those interested in South Florida's underwater beauty, Lloyd Beach has one of the easiest and most interesting shore dives in the area. The park has two boat ramps with easy access to the ocean through the Port Everglades Inlet, which will please those who prefer to fish in open water. The mangrove-lined waterway is a scenic place to canoe, observe bird life, and take photographs.
Little Manatee River State Park
The Little Manatee River begins in a swampy area near Fort Lonesome and flows almost 40 miles before emptying into Tampa Bay. The river has been designated an Outstanding Florida Water and is part of the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve. Visitors can fish along the banks of the river. Wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy hiking a six-and-a-half mile trail through the park's northern wilderness area.
The Barnacle Historic State Park
This beautiful house with a whimsical name dates to a quieter time. The Barnacle, built in 1891, offers a glimpse of Old Florida during The Era of the Bay. Situated on the shore of Biscayne Bay, this was the home of Ralph Middleton Munroe, one of Coconut Grove´s most charming and influential pioneers. Munroe's principal passion was designing yachts. In his lifetime, he drew plans for 56 different boats. As a seaman, civic activist, naturalist, and photographer, Commodore Munroe was a man who cherished the natural world around him. A walk into the park passes through a tropical hardwood hammock. In the 1920s, it was representative of the original landscape within the city of Miami. Today, it is one of the last remnants of the once vast Miami Hammock. Enjoy sitting in the rocking chairs on the spacious porch used as a gathering place or on a bench under a tree for solitude.
Cayo Costa State Park
With nine miles of beautiful beaches and acres of pine forests, oak-palm hammocks, and mangrove swamps, this barrier island park is a Gulf Coast paradise. The park is accessible only by private boat or ferry. Visitors may see manatees and pods of dolphins in the waters around the park, as well as a spectacular assortment of birds. On the island, visitors can swim or snorkel in the surf, enjoy the sun, and picnic in the shade. Shelling is especially good during the winter months. Nature trails provide opportunities for hiking and off-road bicycling. Saltwater anglers can fish from their boats or throw a line out into the surf. An amphitheater provides educational programs about the islands ecology and history.
Madison Blue Springs State Park
Located in one of Florida´s newest state parks, this crystal clear, first magnitude spring is a popular spot for swimming. About 82 feet wide and 25 feet deep, the spring bubbles up into a limestone basin along the west bank of the Withlacoochee River. Scenic woodlands of mixed hardwoods and pines create a picturesque setting for picnicking, paddling, and wildlife viewing.
Perdido Key State Park
Barrier islands protect the Florida mainland from the harsh effects of storms and provide habitats for shorebirds and other coastal animals. Perdido Key is a 247-acre barrier island near Pensacola on the Gulf of Mexico. White sand beaches and rolling dunes covered with sea oats make this park a favorite destination for swimmers and sunbathers. Surf fishing is another popular activity. Boardwalks from the parking lot allow visitors to access the beach without causing damage to the fragile dunes and beach vegetation. Covered picnic tables overlooking the beach provide a great place for family outings.
Wekiwa Springs State Park
Located at the headwaters of the Wekiva River, the beautiful vistas within this park offer a glimpse of what Central Florida looked like when Timucuan Indians fished and hunted these lands. Just one hour from most central Florida attractions, Wekiwa Springs offers visitors the opportunity to relax in a natural setting, enjoy a picnic, or take a swim in the cool spring. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle along the Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run. Thirteen miles of trails provide opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding.
Gasparilla Island State Park
Separated from the mainland by Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound, this island is part of a chain of Gulf Coast barrier islands. The centerpiece of Gasparilla is the restored Boca Grande Lighthouse built in 1890. Swimming, snorkeling, fishing, and nature study are popular activities. Shelling is particularly good in the winter months.
Paynes Creek Historic State Park
During the 1840s, tensions between the settlers and Seminole Indians prompted authorities to establish a trading post in Florida´s interior, away from settlements. Built in early 1849, the post was attacked and destroyed by renegade Indians that summer. In late 1849 Fort Chokonikla was built nearby as the first outpost in a chain of forts established to control the Seminoles. The Seminoles never attacked the fort, but the Army was nearly defeated by mosquitoes. Today, nature enthusiasts and hikers can enjoy walking along trails through the park´s natural areas. Paynes Creek and the adjoining Peace River provide opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. A museum at the visitor center depicts the lives of Florida´s Seminole Indians and pioneers during the 19th century.
Big Lagoon State Park
This coastal park sits on the northern shoreline of its namesake, Big Lagoon, which separates the mainland from Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico. Natural communities, ranging from saltwater marshes to pine flatwoods, attract a wide variety of birds, especially during the spring and fall migrations. Beaches, shallow bays, nature trails, and open woodlands offer splendid opportunities for nature study. The park also beckons visitors with opportunities for camping, swimming, fishing, boating, canoeing, and hiking. Crabbing in the shallow waters of Big Lagoon is a popular activity as well. The West Beach picnic area, shaded by pines and oaks, is just the place to enjoy a relaxing meal.
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