Florida Outdoors and Nature

    Discover Florida's incredible outdoors and nature. The Sunshine State is full of beautiful natural landscapes, vibrant wildlife, thousands of miles of pristine beaches, and the unmatched grandeur of the Everglades.

    Florida nature and outdoors - kid on swinging on rope over lake

    Suwannee River (Carlton Ward Jr. photo)

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    Explore Outdoors

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    Florida is where you’ll find the great outdoors at their greatest.

    Peek at photo albums around the world and of the hundreds of billions of pictures taken by Florida visitors, it’s likely most of them were taken outdoors. That’s because much of Florida basks in the middle of a subtropical climate so, aside from a few spikes, the weather’s never too hot or too cold to head outside and savor the outdoors.

    But it’s not just the weather. The 500 miles between Northwest Florida and the Florida Keys encompasses a diverse assortment of landscapes and environments, ranging from the Okefenokee Swamp that seeps into Baker County to the Ocala National Forest in north central Florida to the famed "River of Grass" that creates Everglades National Park.

    And if you trace the coastline from Jacksonville to Pensacola, you’ll find thousands of miles of beaches, bays, inlets, islands and estuaries designed by nature for swimming, surfing, sunbathing, camping and exploring. The result of a limestone cap trapping saltwater thousands of feet below sea level, Florida's 320 known freshwater springs offer the luxury of living it up in deliciously chilly comfort as you drift downstream. Locals and visitors have enjoyed these cool, crystal clear springs and rivers for decades - and so have the gentle manatees who’ve made these waterways their winter home and created lasting memories for the visitors who adore them.

    Florida Outdoors: The Inside Scoop

    If you’re wondering how many outdoor adventures you’ll find in Florida, consider that in addition to the aforementioned springs, rivers, woods and oceans, this is where you’ll find the third-largest concentration of nesting bald eagles in America. Making things even better for birdwatchers is the fact much of the state is covered by the Great Florida Birding Trail, a network of 510 wildlife viewing sites found along a flyway for migrating birds. And between Sugarloaf Key and Big Pine Key en route to Key West, you’ll pass a habitat for the elusive Key deer, the smallest in North America. You can also see wildlife by taking a nature tour, dropping into award-winning zoos or scheduling a visit to private preserves that protect wolves, bears, elephants, tigers, lions and primates.

    Nature itself is preserved at places like the Gulf Islands National Seashore that stretches along barrier islands east from Pensacola, and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge where 140,000 protected acres look largely the same as they did thousands of years ago. Explore Florida and you’ll also find St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge, St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge and 174 state parks where guests enjoy camping, swimming, hiking, picnicking, canoeing, kayaking and, in one unique park, the universe. Florida’s Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park is the only state park certified by the International Dark-Sky Association.

    Water You’re Waiting For

    Whether fresh, salt or brackish, Florida waters are meant for fishing, but there’s far more beneath the surface. Off Florida’s Miami coast divers from around the world explore coral reefs at Biscayne National Park and, further down the Keys, slip into turquoise waters at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, America’s only underwater state park. Off the northern Gulf Coast, the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail marks dive sites for a dozen of wrecks-turned-artificial reefs including the massive USS Oriskany, a WWII-era aircraft carrier. Off the beaten path, ferries offer a shortcut across the water and a glimpse at Florida’s past, like the Fort Gates ferry that first set sail in 1843, the Mayport ferry that crosses the St. Johns near Jacksonville and a ferry that carries passengers to Dog Island, the training ground for troops preparing for D-Day. Add recreational trails created atop historic railroad beds, bicycle trails that will soon connect the Gulf to the Atlantic, back roads that offer a great escape whether in a car or on a motorcycle and ever-changing vistas that making photography a snap… and it all adds up to something wild and wonderful.

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