For a panorama of Pensacola’s shores, the four-story tower at Big Lagoon State Park can’t be beat. This birding hot spot provides a sweeping overview of the lagoon, the park and Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Built in 1956 as a roadside attraction, this 22-story tower in the rolling hills of Central Florida is an iconic memory for 1960s road-trippers who stopped to sniff the orange blossoms. The ride up the elevator is as smooth as ever, but the view from the top has changed dramatically, with citrus groves displaced by suburbia around Clermont’s lovely lakes.
At 86 feet high, Hobe Mountain is the highest natural hill south of Lake Okeechobee. Set amid a sea of ancient sand dunes in Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the Hobe Mountain Tower adds another 27 feet to this promontory for a panoramic view of the scrub-topped dunes, the lush Loxahatchee River basin, the aquamarine ribbon of the Intracoastal Waterway, Jupiter Island and the Atlantic Ocean.
Lettuce Lake Park Observation Tower
Rising over Lettuce Lake, a hardwood swamp in a sharp bend of the Hillsborough River, this observation tower stands four stories high. From the top, take in the curve of the river and the park’s dense maple and cypress forests.
6920 E. Fletcher Ave., 813-987-6204, www.hillsboroughcounty.org
When tall ships plied the waters beyond Key West, someone was watching. Building observation towers throughout the Keys, wreckers like Asa Tift made their living by salvaging shipwrecks along the Florida Reef. Climb the 65-foot-high tower on top of the Key West Shipwreck Historeum Museum at Mallory Square to see how far you can see. Before you go, check out the view from the online “towercam.”
Cross the live-oak canopy walkway, a swinging bridge suspended 25 feet above the ground, to clamber to the top of this 74-foot-tall tower. With more than 38,000 acres of protected wilderness surrounding you, it’s a birds-eye view of the Myakka River basin and surrounding habitats.
13208 S.R. 72, 941-361-6511, www.floridastateparks.org/myakkariver
Paynes Prairie Observation Tower
Micanopy, near Gainesville
Close to the visitor center, the 50-foot-tall observation tower at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park overlooks Florida’s most notable open prairie, in 1774 dubbed the “Great Alachua Savanna” by naturalist William Bartram. From the top of this tower, you might see wild ponies and bison grazing, with Gainesville in the distance.
100 Savannah Blvd., 352-466-3397, www.floridastateparks.org/paynesprairie
Shark Valley Observation Tower
Shark Valley, Everglades National Park
The view is worth the 15-mile circuit of hiking, biking or riding the park tram through the Everglades. Swirl up the ramp of this one-of-a-kind concrete tower, and see the “River of Grass” stretching to the horizon. Bring your birding list.
36000 S.W. 8th St., Miami, 305-221-8776, www.nps.gov/ever
Since SeaWorld opened in 1973, this 400-foot-tall tower has been a notable landmark. The slowly rotating tower offers the best view of the park and the landscape around it, including the cityscape of downtown Orlando.