If you talk to a true Floridian, they will tell you one of the biggest benefits of living in Florida is the incredible wildlife. Florida has over 160 state parks, so this is sure to be an incomplete list, but here’s some of our favorites.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Little Manatee River State Park
Located not far from Tampa, Little Manatee isn't just the state park with the cutest name ever, it's a real hidden treasure. The Little Manatee River is a designated Outstanding Florida Water and flows for nearly five miles through rare and varied ecosystems. This one's a must-see for the nature nerds out there.
2. Torreya State Park
Challenging trails, high bluffs and the extremely rare Torreya tree can be found here.
3. Anastasia State Park
This park in St. Augustine is perfect for fishing and canoeing, and a great addition to any trip to the historic city.
4. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
This secluded beach is a great place to explore Florida's wildlife, take a nature walk or go kayaking.
5. Blue Spring State Park
At Blue Spring State Park, not only is the water a beautiful bright blue, endangered manatees are actually present in large numbers. Maybe it's because I've lived here so long, but I think they are adorable!
6. Florida Caverns State Park
This park provides access to the only air-filled caves open to the public in Florida. The park also offers bicycling, boating, canoeing, kayaking, and camping.
7. Millhopper Geological State Park
8. Ichetucknee Springs State Park
This beautiful park and National Natural Landmark offers snorkeling, swimming and scuba diving in crystal clear waters, but the most popular activity is tubing down the river.
9. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Florida's first state park and a National Natural Landmark, Paynes Prairie should not be missed. Where else are you going to catch a glimpse of alligators, bison and wild horses?
10. Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
This beautiful park near Palm Coast has incredible formal gardens and a completely natural barrier island.
11. Weeki Wachee State Park
Mermaid performers have been captivating audiences in Weeki Wachee Springs since 1947. Visitors can also enjoy its waterpark and boat rides.
12. Withlacoochee State Forest
Named one of the "10 Coolest Places You've Never Been in North America" by the World Wildlife Fund, Withlacoochee (located in western central Florida) offers camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding and seasonal fishing and hunting.
13. Ocala National Forest
The Big Scrub is 360,000 acres of hiking heaven. Ocala’s 75-mile section of the 1,300-mile Florida National Scenic Trail is widely considered one of the best and most beautiful. Here you'll find bountiful hills, ponds, pine forest and boardwalks through cypress and gum swamps.
14, Bulow Creek State Park
This park near Ormond Beach is home to some of the largest and oldest live oaks in Florida. The star is the Fairchild Oak, which is over 400 years old and one of the largest live oaks in the South.
15. Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
Forested swamp featuring diverse wildlife, including panthers and black bears. Also the home of the legendary ghost orchid.
16. Big Talbot Island and Little Talbot Island
17. Wakulla Springs State Park
These springs were once the home to prehistoric humans, and still attract us today for their beauty.
18. Bahia Honda
Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys looks like a real-life paradise. It has some of the best beaches and snorkeling in the state, and it also offers fishing, kayaking, and camping.
19. Crystal River State Park in Citrus County, FL
Crystal River not only has some of the clearest water in Florida, it is also the only place you can legally swim up close with endangered manatees.
20. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
This park on Key Biscayne is home to the Cape Florida Light (the oldest standing structure in Miami), was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and has one of the best beaches in the country.
21. Caladesi Island, Dunedin, FL (offshore)
Caladesi Island is one of the best beaches in the country and one of the few in Florida that have been kept completely natural.
22. Fort De Soto Park
Fort De Soto consists of five offshore keys near St. Petersburg, Florida. The park is steeped in history, attracting Native Americans, Spanish explorers, and soldiers in the Civil War History aside, visitors should not forget the park's celebrated beaches.
23. Ravine Gardens State Park
This lovely park is part manicured order and part wild unfettered nature.
24. St. Andrews State Park
This 1,200 acre park three miles east of Panama City Beach is yet another beach in Florida that has been named the most beautiful beach in the country. The park features camping, scuba diving, snorkeling, biking, and tons of wildlife viewing. It's a very popular spot so reservations through the park are recommended for campers.
25. Big Shoals State Park
Big Shoals is located approximately a mile east of White Springs, FL, and home to the largest whitewater rapids in Florida. If thrill-seekers come at the right time, they can kayak down the Suwanee in class III whitewater rapids. It's also a beautiful spot just for hiking.
26. De Leon Springs State Park
This park is perfect for swimming and canoeing, and it's home to a pancake house with a DIY twist: a griddle in every table allows patrons to flip their own flapjacks.
27. Falling Waters State Park
Falling Waters near Chipley, FL, is home to the tallest waterfall (and one of very few, period) in the state of Florida. It can be quite impressive after a heavy rain, as the water rushes down 73 feet of limestone into a huge sinkhole.
What do you think, Florida? Please tell us about your favorite state parks below!