I love the weather we are having lately! It's cool in the mornings and evenings, but during the middle of the day the temperatures are perfect for a swim. That's a perfect Florida combination - and when I think about camping in Florida, these five Florida State Parks are at the top of my list. Check 'em out, load up your gear and get outside!
Florida Caverns State Park
At Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna you'll find the only guided tour of dry caves in the state. These spectacular marvels are the main draw to the park, but the camping, paddling, hiking, biking, and golf (yep, there's even a golf course!) can't be beat. Bring your own horse - equestrian campsites and stables are available. A perfect day? Check out the caverns, rent a kayak and paddle the Chipola River, take a bike ride and finish up with a evening around the campfire. Tours are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so plan accordingly. Visit www.floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns for all the details.
Collier-Seminole State Park
Get a taste of the Everglades just south of Naples at Collier-Seminole State Park, where one the original stands of Royal palm trees in Florida surrounds a memorial to Barron Collier, who among other things constructed the Tamiami Trail through the wilds of the Everglades in the 1920's. Campsites are framed by lush tropical vegetation, and provide an excellent base for paddling through mangrove tunnels or rugged hiking on a 6.5-mile trail. Fishing, biking, and wildlife viewing are all popular activities at the park. For more information, visit www.floridastateparks.org/collierseminole.
Hillsborough River State Park
Discover one of the most picturesque spots in all of Florida along the Rapids Trail at Hillsborough River State Park, near Tampa. An impressive set of Class II rapids provides the perfect setting for a riverside picnic or photography session. Built in 1938 by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Hillsborough River State Park is filled with Florida Seminole Indian War history. This is a do-it-all state park - bring your bikes, hiking gear and kayaks. The park also has a large swimming pool and two children's playgrounds, making it an ideal park for family camping. Visit www.floridastateparks.org/hillsboroughriver for complete details.
Lake Kissimmee State Park
A little east of Lake Wales is Lake Kissimmee State Park, where you can see firsthand Florida's cowboy roots. An 1800's-era cow camp with live demonstrations and authentic examples of life when cattle ranching ruled the state opens every year in the fall. Camp among the oaks, and explore miles and miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails that pass through pine flatwoods, hammocks, and marshland. Some of the best freshwater fishing in the state is at Lake Kissimmee - don't forget your rod and reel. Visit www.floridastateparks.org/lakekissimmee for the full scoop.
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
You can hear the sounds of the park's 97-bell carillon throughout the town of White Springs, one of Florida's hidden gems. Home of the annual Florida Folk Festival, Stephen Foster Folk Culture State Park is where it's at when it comes to exploring the real Florida on rugged hiking trails or paddling the historic Suwannee River. At nearby Big Shoals State Park, the largest rapids in Florida churn over massive limestone outcroppings - it's a must-see when in the area. Off-road biking trails in the area are top notch, with miles of technical rocky singletrack that's just begging to be ridden. Base all of your adventures at Stephen Foster Folk Culture State Park and enjoy this North Florida outdoor paradise. Visit www.floridastateparks.org/stephenfoster for more information.