Trail lovers traveling to Florida's Nature Coast have a lot of options. While there are several long trails in the area, all it really takes to get a feel for the place is a short nature walk.
Heading down Fort Island Trail to the beach, it's easy to miss the entrance and small parking area off to your left. When you pass the Academy of Environmental Science on your left, look for it just beyond the bridge.
Keep in mind, this is a short boardwalk with an salt marsh overlook, but is one that you should add to the list. There are only three parking spots (two regular and one ADA accessible spot) – if they are full, just head down to Fort Island Gulf Beach and work your way back to the trail. Unless there's something absolutely amazing going on, you shouldn't have a problem getting a spot.
The boardwalk leads out through a tidal hammock of cedar and palm. Take a few minutes to pause here and look around for wildlife. On my last visit, I saw three wild hogs on the left side of the boardwalk.
Since it is a short trail, this makes for a easy spot to lug a folding chair and spotting scope out to the observation area at the end and set up for a while. Osprey, Bald Eagles and tons of wading birds are all commonly seen here.
I've attached a panorama so you can get an idea of what to expect. For more information and directions, visit the Florida Community Trust Parks website.