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.

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.

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.

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

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