The US state of Florida has shell-strewn beaches, historic forts, wildlife preserves, cultural hubs such as Miami, theme parks, and more. No wonder it calls to travelers from around the world. Here but 12 of the Sunshine State’s state parks that will make you fall in love with Florida.
Florida State Parks You’ll Love!
1. Anastasia State Park
Found in St. Johns County, this park spans 1,600 acres. It’s popular for its beaches, hammock forests and marshes. Here you can go biking, birdwatching, boogie boarding, kayaking, paddle-boarding, swimming, and surfing.
You can also hike the popular Ancient Dunes Nature Trail, camp at one of the 139 campsites, and eat at the park’s restaurant. Admission is $4.00 per car. Campsites run $28.00 plus tax nightly. Seniors 65 and older get a 50 percent discount.
2. Fort Mose Historic State Park
Located in St. Augustine, this historic park was the first official, legally sanctioned, free African settlement in what would become the USA. The fort was built in 1738 to defend against invading British soldiers. Visit the interactive museum and learn how Fort Mose was actually a precursor to the Underground Railroad. Admission to the museum is $2 per visitor. Kids under the age of six are free. Admission to the park is also free.
3. Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
Found along Flagler County’s Palm Coast, this park is famous for its 200-year-old live oak trees draped in green Spanish moss. You’ll find a picnic spot near the Matanzas River, a playground, and a maritime hammock forest. Visit the three-quarter-mile beach, see the coquina rock formations and the formal gardens complete with azaleas, birds of paradise, camellias, and roses. You can bike, hike, and fish here too. Admission is $2.00 for bicyclists and pedestrians.
4. Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park
This park, close to Tallahassee, includes one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs anywhere. A prehistoric-looking cypress swamp surrounds the springs and with a year-round temperature of 70 degrees, it’s great for taking a dip. Enjoy a guided riverboat tour and hike the nature trails. You can stay at the 27-room lodge and eat at the restaurant there. Admission is $2.00 per bicyclist or pedestrian and $4.00 per single-occupant vehicle.
5. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Situated in Spring Hill on the Gulf Coast, this park is less than a one-hour drive north of Tampa. It’s best known for the 72-degree freshwater springs and the mermaids. Stop in at the 400-seat submerged theater erected in 1947 and take in a performance of “The Little Mermaid.” The spring here feeds the popular Buccaneer Bay waterpark. Enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking, or take a riverboat ride. Adult admission is $13.00.
6. Silver Springs State Park
This 4,800-acre park in Marion County east of Ocala in Central Florida is home to one of the country’s largest freshwater springs. Here you can see Mammoth Spring, take in the underwater sights from a glass-bottom boat, tour the gardens, visit the historic buildings, go paddling down the Silver River, and hiking through the forest. Grab a bite at the restaurant and learn something at the educational Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center.
7. Caladesi Island State Park
You’ll find this park on the Gulf Coast west of Dunedin and northwest of Clearwater. You either need to have your own boat or take the ferry from nearby Honeymoon Island to reach it. Here you can picnic under the palms, go biking, fishing, or hiking along the nature trail and see what’s left of the Scharrer Homestead. Hit the white-sand beach there. Look for some gopher tortoises and admire the shells and sand dollars.
8. Lovers Key State Park
Here in Lee County this 712-acre park is known for its barrier islands, beaches, cottages, mangrove forests, and resorts. It includes Lovers Key and three other isles: Long Key, Inner Key, and Black Island. The two-mile-long beach is great for shelling, watching the sunset, and even weddings. Look for manatees and dolphins as you paddleboard or kayak through the lagoons and canals. Go fishing, hike the Black Island Trail and visit the Welcome and Discovery Center too.
9. Gasparilla Island State Park
This barrier island off the state’s Gulf Coast is a favorite of fishermen around the world. The fish camps here harken back to the 1700s. To this day, fishing for grouper, redfish, snook, tarpon, and whiting here is excellent all year long. If you’re not a fisherman, you can go shelling, snorkeling, swimming, or stroll the beach. There are also picnic areas and the distinctive and educational 1890 Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and museum.
10. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
If you go to Naples, you must see this almost 200-acre park. 80 percent of it is underwater or unexplored mangrove swamp. Hence, it’s a great place for birdwatching and kayaking.
You can also go paddle-boarding, have a picnic, or kick back on the beach. It’s roughly a mile in length and is mainly white quartz sand. Look for the 275-pound turtles on the beach and take in the beautiful sunset too.
11. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Climb the 109 steps to the very top of the historic 1825 Cape Florida Lighthouse and take in the incredible views of Miami’s South Beach and Biscayne Bay. This is but one way the park combines nature and state history. Other highlights here include the gorgeous beach, shoreline fishing, nature trails, a bike path, and a harbor for boat campers. Be sure to dine at the Lighthouse Cafe as well.
12. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
The fort in this park in Key West predates the Civil War. It was erected in 1845 on the day Florida officially became a state. Named after President Zachary Taylor following his death in 1850, it was used during the infamous Civil War, the Spanish-American War, both World Wars, and even the Cuban Missile Crisis. Not a history buff? Have a picnic. Stroll the beach, go fishing, swimming, and snorkeling too.