For prime manatee watching, head to Blue Spring State Park or Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

    For prime manatee watching, head to Blue Spring State Park or Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

    - Carol Grant for VisitCitrus.com

    Florida State Parks, Preserves, Rec Areas, and Trails: Nearly 200 Natural Adventures

    By Jodi Mailander Farrell          

    Up for a wild adventure? Or, is a remote, secluded island more your speed? How about a trail, on land or water? Swimming? Camping? Just want to camp in the midst of tranquility?

    Florida's state parks system all that, and more, a special outdoors place just for you.

    From thrill seekers and nature lovers to dreamers and history buffs, the planet has custom-designed the Sunshine State's wilderness to please every personality.

    Covering more than 1,250 square miles, these natural theme parks boast the best of the state’s raw resources, offering clear, 72-degree spring waters and waterfalls, award-winning beaches, and mysterious caves.

    Florida has nearly 200 state parks, campgrounds, preserves, recreation areas and trailheads. There’s a planet-friendly space here to match every personality, every superlative.

    But why stop at one? Purchase a Florida State Parks Annual Pass to save money and explore many, or all of them. Plan your journey on the Florida State Parks website or use this guide below to jump-start a trip.

     

    Christ of the Deep underwater statue in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo

    The first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park spans 70 nautical miles where snorkelers and scuba divers can explore an early Spanish shipwreck or the famous “Christ of the Abyss” statue.

    - Peter W. Cross and Patrick Farrell

     

    Best State Park for Snorkeling

    The first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is Florida’s underwater version of the Grand Canyon. The park in Key Largo spans 70 nautical miles where snorkelers and scuba divers can explore an early Spanish shipwreck or the famous “Christ of the Abyss” statue. For land lubbers, there’s a 2½-hour, glass-bottomed boat tour.

    Best State Park for Breakfast

    De Leon Springs State Park near Orlando is home to one of Florida’s most unique restaurants, the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House, known for its popular all-day, flip-your-own flapjacks.

    Best State Parks for Natural History

    Follow the underground trail on a 45-minute guided exploration of Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, west of Tallahassee. It’s the only Florida state park to offer public cave tours as a cool retreat. Or go high to marvel at the state’s highest waterfall at Falling Waters State Park near the Northwest Florida town of Chipley.

    Best State Park for Beach Horse Rides

    Amelia Island State Park near Jacksonville offers the rare treat of horseback riding tours along the shoreline. The family-owned Kelly Seahorse Ranch at the southernmost end of the island takes riders out four times daily.

    Best State Park for Lighthouse Climbing

    The Cape Florida Lighthouse in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne offers a bird’s eye view of one of the “Top 10 Beaches in the United States.”

    Best State Park for Tubing

    The nine major springs of Ichetucknee Springs State Park are a comfortable 73 degrees year-round, prime for floating on a tube down the clear, lazy waters near Fort White, northwest of Gainesville.

    Best State Park for Whitewater Rafting

    With Class III Whitewater rapids, Big Shoals State Park in White Springs is on the largest whitewater rapids in Florida. Thrill-seekers in kayaks and canoes can fly down the Suwannee River at top speed.

     

    surfers at Sebastian Inlet State Park, near Melbourne, Fla.

     

    Best State Park for Surfing

    Sebastian Inlet State Park, south of Melbourne, is one of Florida’s surfing hot spots . As the epicenter of East Coast competitive surfing, the swell magnet is where native sons, including Kelly Slater, the Hobgood twins and the Lopez brothers, first learned to rip.

    Best State Parks for the Beach

    John D. MacArthur Beach State Park boasts tangles of mangrove swamps, trails that meander through canopies of trees, and a vast walkway that traverses a lagoon – never mind almost two miles of unspoiled Atlantic beach. Bahia Honda State Park has the best beaches in the Florida Keys, legendary snorkeling, a bounty of shore and wading birds, and a plentiful underwater population that will keep anglers smiling. Big Talbot Island State Park is home to Boneyard Beach, a unique, eerie and strangely striking stretch of sand strewn with the bleached skeletons of dead trees. There’s a simple explanation for the phenomenon: Live oaks and cedars, some a century old, grow on Big Talbot’s dunes. As the dunes erode, the trees tumble onto the beach below. Lovers Key State Park promises two miles of natural beach, thick with white sand, that’s perfect for shelling, swimming, picnicking and sunbathing. You might see manatees swirling in its waters, dolphins leaping from the surf, or bald eagles soaring on the salty currents of air. Grayton Beach State Park, a wonder of nearly 2,000 acres in South Walton, encompasses one of the most stunning, unblemished beaches in the United States. The park also encompasses Western Lake, a rare coastal dune lake that’s ideal for both freshwater and saltwater fishing, and for canoeing, kayaking and paddle-boarding.

    Best State Park for Mermaid Watching

    The famous mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Spring Hill, north of Tampa, has been enthralling audiences since 1947.

    Best State Parks to Spot Manatees

    From mid-November through March, hundreds of manatee can be viewed atop the overlook at Blue Spring State Park, a designated manatee refuge near Daytona Beach with its own Manatee Cam. Across the state, at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, visitors can see West Indian manatee every day from the park’s underwater observatory.

    Best State Park to Discover African-American history

    One of the most important sites in American history, Fort Mose Historic State Park in St. Augustine is the site of the first free community of ex-slaves, founded in 1738, when la Florida was a Spanish colony. Reenactments, replicas and an interactive museum bring the past to life.

    Best State Park to Play Pioneer

    Dudley Farm Historic State Park, just west of Gainesville, is a real working farm from the 19th century. Staff dress in period clothing as they shuck corn, raise crops and tend livestock.

    Best State Park for Ogling Orchids

    Covering more than 77,000 acres of linear swamp forest in Southwest Florida near the Everglades town of Copeland, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, also known as the “Amazon of North America, is Florida’s largest state park. The vast wilderness is the continent’s orchid and bromeliad capital, with 44 native orchids, including the rare and endangered ghost orchid, the subject of books and movies.

     

    Boneyard Beach at Big Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville, Fla.

    Welcome to "Boneyard Beach," on Little Talbot Island.

    - Lauren Tjaden

     

    Best State Park for Nature Photographers

    The maritime forest at Big Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville is a favorite photo spot, with a giant driftwood collection on mile-long “Boneyard Beach.”

    Best State Parks for Camping

    Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys offers the joys of beach camping, with three island campsites for tents or RVs, along with six cabins for rent. In Northwest Florida, campers can utilize 59 full-facilities camp sites or 39 modern cabins amid the powdery, white sand and emerald water of Grayton Beach State Park in South Walton.

    Following, a list of the state's parks, campgrounds, preserves, trailheads and recreation areas. (Discover details for each park on the Florida State Parks website, including an interactive map of all the parks.)

     

    Addison Blockhouse Historic State Park

    Alafia River State Park

    Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park

    Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park

    Amelia Island State Park

    Anastasia State Park

    Anclote Key Preserve State Park

    Avalon State Park

    Bahia Honda State Park

    Bald Point State Park

    Baseline Road Trailhead

    Beker-South Fork

    Beker Wingate Creek

    The Barnacle Historic State Park

    Big Lagoon State Park

    Big Shoals State Park

    Big Talbot Island State Park

    Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

    Blackwater Heritage State Trail

    Blackwater River State Park

    Blue Spring State Park

    Buckman Lock-St. Johnson Loop North and South

    Bulow Creek State Park

    Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park

    Caladesi Island State Park

    Camp Helen State Park

    Cayo Costa State Park

    Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve

    Cedar Key Museum State Park

    Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park

    Cockroach Bay State Park

    Collier-Seminole State Park

    Colt Creek State Park

    Constitution Convention Museum State Park

    Crystal River Archaeological State Park

    Crystal River Preserve State Park

    Curry Hammock State Park

    Dade Battlefield Historic State Park

    Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

    De Leon Springs State Park

    DeSoto Site Historic State Park

    Deer Lake State Park

    Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park

    Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park

    Don Pedro Island State Park

    Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park

    Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park

    Dudley Farm Historic State Park

    Dunnelon Trail

    Dunns Creek State Park

    Econfina River State Park

    Eden Gardens State Park

    Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

    Egmont Key State Park

    Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

    Estero Bay Preserve State Park

    Eureaka West Recreation Area

    Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park

    Falling Waters State Park

    Fanning Springs State Park

    Faver-Dykes State Park

    Felburn Park

    Fernandina Plaza Historic State Park

    Florida Caverns State Park

    Florida Keys Overseas Trail

    Forest Capital Museum State Park

    Fort Clinch State Park

    Fort Cooper State Park

    Fort Foster State Historic Site

    Fort George Island Cultural State Park

    Fort Mose Historic State Park

    Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

    Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

    Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

    Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail

    Gamble Plantation Historic State Park

    Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach

    Gasparilla Island State Park

    General James A. Van Fleet State Trail

    George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier

    Grayton Beach State Park

    Haw Creek Preserve State Park

    Henderson Beach State Park

    Highlands Hammock State Park

    Hillsborough River State Park

    Historic Santos Recreation Area

    Honeymoon Island State Park

    Hontoon Island State Park

    Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

    Ichetucknee Springs State Park

    Indian Key Historic State Park

    Indian River Lagoon Preserve State Park

    Inglis Bypass Recreation Area

    Inglis Dam & Island Recreation Area

    Inglis Lock Recreation Area

    John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

    John Gorrie Museum State Park

    John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

    Jonathan Dickinson State Park

    Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park

    Koreshan State Historic Site

    Lafayette Blue Springs State Park

    Lake Griffin State Park

    Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park

    Lake June in Winter Scrub State Park

    Lake Kissimmee State Park

    Lake Louisa State Park

    Lake Manatee State Park

    Lake Talquin State Park

    Landbridge Trailhead

    Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park

    Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park

    Little Manatee River State Park

    Little Talbot Island State Park

    Long Key State Park

    Lovers Key State Park

    Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park

    Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site

    Madison Blue Spring State Park

    Manatee Springs State Park

    Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway

    Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park

    Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

    Mound Key Archaeological State Park

    Myakka River State Park

    Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park

    Nature Coast State Trail

    North Peninsula State Park

    O'Leno State Park

    Ochlockonee River State Park

    Okeechobee Battlefield State Park

    Oleta River State Park

    Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park

    Orman House Historic State Park

    Oscar Scherer State Park

    Palatka-to-St. Augustine State Trail

    Palatka-to-Lake Butler State Trail

    Paynes Creek Historic State Park

    Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

    Perdido Key State Park

    Ponce de Leon Springs State Park

    Price's Scrub State Park

    Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park

    Rainbow Springs State Park

    Ravine Gardens State Park

    River Rise Preserve State Park

    Rock Springs Run State Reserve

    Rodman Campground

    Rodman Recreation Area

    Ross Prairie Trailhead & Campground

    Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park

    San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park

    San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park

    San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park

    Santos Trailhead & Campground

    Savannas Preserve State Park

    Seabranch Preserve State Park

    Sebastian Inlet State Park

    Shangri-La Trailhead & Campground

    Silver Springs State Park

    Skyway Fishing Pier State Park

    St. Andrews State Park

    St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park

    St. Marks River Preserve State Park

    St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park

    Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park

    Stump Pass Beach State Park

    Suwannee River State Park

    Suwannee River Wilderness State Trail

    T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park

    Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail

    Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park

    Terra Ceia Preserve State Park

    Three Rivers State Park

    Tomoka State Park

    Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

    Torreya State Park

    Troy Spring State Park

    Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park

    Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

    Weeki Wachee Springs

    Wekiwa Springs State Park

    Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park

    Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park

    Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

    Withlacoochee Bay Trail

    Withlacoochee State Trail

    Ybor City Museum State Park

    Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park

    Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park

    Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

     

     

    Places to Remember

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