The shores of South Walton. Caves. Coral Reefs. Wild rapids. These are just a few of the incredible geologic landmarks and great natural attractions in Florida. These unique and grand natural destinations are easily accessible via a short walk or boat ride. Have your camera handy – these locations will bring out your inner Ansel Adams.
1. Northwest Florida's Coastal Dune Lakes
The shores of South Walton are incredibly beautiful, but another amazing treasure here lies just on the other side of the powder-white dunes. Coastal freshwater lakes – some of the world’s rarest – are right here for you to discover. These lakes are part of an extremely short list of places that lay claim to such wonders – New Zealand, Australia and Madagascar are the only other locations where coastal freshwater lakes can be found. Explore the lakes at Grayton Beach, Topsail Hill, Camp Helen and Deer Lake State Parks.
2. Florida Caverns State Park
Another unusual natural wonder can be found at Florida Caverns State Park, where visitors can experience other-worldly underground cavern formations that are tens of thousands of years old. This is the only place in Florida that offers cave tours to the public, so it is a must-see and an incredible photo opportunity. Florida Caverns State Park is one of those “do it all” outdoor destinations where you can add a hike, a weekend campout or a paddling trip down the Chipola River to your cave tour.
3. Devil’s Millhopper State Park
Explore this fascinating 120-foot sinkhole that is designated as a National Natural Landmark and has been attracting people for more than a century. Take the staircase and walk down through the ages, past clusters of lush ferns and streams that trickle from craggy limestone walls. During the summer months, you can feel a significant temperature drop as you descend farther and farther into Devil’s Millhopper.
4. Big Shoals State Park
Listen as you hike the Big Shoals Trail along the Suwannee River. You’ll most likely hear the rapids before you see them. When the river is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level, Big Shoals becomes a torrent of whitewater that reaches a Class III level. It’s a sight to behold and is the largest set of rapids in Florida.
5. Blowing Rocks Preserve
Seeming out of place in Florida, 73-acre Blowing Rocks Preserve is home to the largest exposed section of Anastasia limestone on the East Coast. This rocky area of coastline on Jupiter Island is best visited during the winter months after a storm or when seas are rough and the tides are high. At these times, the waves crash upon the exposed rock with tremendous pressure, shooting water up to 50 feet in the air.
6. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
During the summer months, take a trip to Key Largo, which is considered the diving capital of the world. The only living coral reef in North America lies just a few miles off the coast in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and can be easily accessed by glass-bottom boat tours or diving and snorkeling excursions from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
When you go...
For the most part, these natural attractions in Florida are considered “soft” adventures, and you shouldn’t need much in the way of special skills or equipment. For diving trips, you’ll need to be certified. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park offers a full range of certification courses. Snorkeling trips are also available. As for the other locations, wear comfortable clothing and bring along a basic kit for a day outdoors – water, sunscreen, basic first aid, cell phone and camera.