Florida offers an amphitheater for nature to give one of her best performances. With 700 natural springs, over 1300 miles of coastline, and a wide variety of biodiversity and wildlife it is a state for nature lovers and people that want to explore the outdoors. It is also the perfect place to visit and stay outside to have an outdoor vacation that allows you to social distance and explore new places. Here is a list of the best Florida State Parks that you cannot miss on your next Florida trip or road trip.
Best Florida State Parks
Bahia Honda State
For my birthday this year, I made it a mission to get a camping spot on Bahia Honda, which is highly coveted and often reserved months in advance. I was lucky enough to get one night. That was perfect for me as I just wanted to chill at one of the best beaches in the Florida Keys with barely anyone on it as soon as I woke up. Bahia Honda State Park is about 45 minutes from Key West and is located close to the 7-mile bridge. The 7-mile bridge and in fact the entire system of bridges stretching to Key West from the mainland make up one of the most beautiful drives in the United States.
Cost $8 USD per vehicle
Silver Springs State Park
One of the original state parks and attractions that brought people to Florida before Disney World was Florida’s natural blue springs. Silver Springs State Park is among the largest springs in the United States, with arguably the most crystal-clear blue waters. Not only can you see manatees here, but you can also see monkeys!
Another, fun attraction at Silver Springs is the glass bottom boat that offers a window into the underwater world. Whether you want to soak in the springs or explore the forest and wetlands by kayak there will be an adventure for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts. The cost per vehicle is $8 USD.
Located Near Ocala, Fl
Blue Spring State Park
Not far from Orlando, Florida is Blue Springs State Park where you can see some of the largest concentrations of manatees during the cooler months in Florida. Manatee season runs from November 15th to March 2021, and no water activities will be allowed since there are sometimes hundreds of manatees in the water and no room for humans! I recently went and the park ranger told me they have as many as 300 some mornings when it is really cold. The manatees come for the constant 72-degree water.
If you want to see these gentle giants, head to the park early as the park often fills up during the weekends and weekdays. The cost per vehicle is $6 USD.
Located Near Orlando, Florida
Wekiwa State Park, Rock Springs Kelly Park, and Wekiva Island
My most frequented state parks and springs in Florida are Wekiwa and Rock Springs located only 30 minutes away from Downtown Orlando both of these springs offer some of the clearest waters. If you are brave to float down the run at Rock Springs rent a tube before you enter the park! Go on a tour, rent a kayak or SUP to Kings Landing a scene straight from Jurassic Park. However, if you want to soak in a giant pool, then head to Wekiwa State Park to swim at the head of the spring.
Many people who come here love to rent a kayak and spend the day in the sun at Wekiva Island. Wekiva Island is a privately-owned business that has beach volleyball, lawn chairs, cabanas for rent, and kayaks/canoes for rent. I started coming here to play beach volleyball and fell in love. There is a food truck, bar with drinks including soda, and Gatorade to stay cool.
Located near Orlando, Florida
Cost $6 USD per vehicle
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Get out of South Beach Miami, and check out Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and feel a world away from the craziness of Miami Beach. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is a paradise located on Key Biscayne. We rented bikes to check out the entire park and hiked around the entire seawall. The oldest structure in Miami Dade County is located here. Cape Florida Lighthouse was built in 1825, visitors can climb to the top to see a view of the world-famous Miami Beach. I highly recommend this beach. I went there on New Year’s Day and it was way less busy than Miami Beach and made you feel like you were on a far-off island.
The cost is $8 USD per vehicle, but this state park also offers camping, cabins, and areas to dock boats. The Lighthouse Café and Boater’s Grill are restaurants at Bill Baggs that are equally delicious with amazing views. A day here is a day well spent on the Florida Coast.
Located Near Miami, Florida
Cost $8 USD per vehicle
Rainbow Springs State Park
Close to Williston, Florida, and Gainesville, Florida is Rainbow Springs State Park that offers a wide river run with clear blue water to the head of the springs. Whether you want to just soak in the sun at Rainbow Springs, or explore the trails and waterfall here there is something for all levels of explorers. I personally love to rent kayaks at all the springs or take a tour. If you are in Florida you must check out Get Up and Go Kayaks. Luckily, I was able to snag a spot on Get Up and Go Kayak’s Rainbow Springs Clear Bottom Kayaking tours and it was the perfect way to see the wildlife along Rainbow River and hike through part of the springs to scenic hidden spots that I would definitely not have found on my own!
$2 USD per person
Located near Ocala, Florida
Fort Desoto County Park
Fort Desoto County Park is a secret oasis known to locals and in-the-know visitors that covers 5 islands near St. Petersburg, Florida. The park is over 1,300 acres and also has a historic fort that has been around since the Civil War days. Fort Desoto has consistently been named as one of the top beaches in the entire country and is perfect for kayaking, cycling, and other outdoor adventures. If you want to stay the night, the park offers camping sites as well.
Located Near Tampa Florida
Cost $5 USD per vehicle
Suwannee River State Park
Where Florida’s nature and history intersect, Suwannee River State Park has many areas to explore from different runs to paddle, to two historic ghost towns, and an old 19th-century steamship to discover. The Suwannee River State Park is one of the most interesting state parks in Florida and is located in Live Oak, Florida. Wander along Sandhill Trail to find a spooky old cemetery, and see how life before air-conditioning, and cars was like for the original settlers of Florida.
Suwannee River has 5 main trails ranging from a mile to 18 miles long. There are also camping options at this extensive state park, and is also a cave system for people that love scuba diving.
Located Near Lake City, Florida
Falling Waters State Park
Don’t miss out on this hidden gem in Florida, Falling Waters State Park is home to Florida’s highest waterfall and is an amazing campground. Florida is known for having sinkholes and this state park has a trail named after them. As you walk along Sinkhole Trail, you will see fern-covered sinkholes along the sides of the boardwalk. The main attraction here is Falling Waters sink which is a huge sinkhole with 100 feet drop and is where the water from the stream falls into the sink. No one knows where the water ends up, but it is definitely a unique phenomenon of Florida.
Cost $5 USD per vehicle
Located Near Chipley, Florida
Little Talbot Island and Big Talbot Island State Park
Located in the northeast area of Florida and close to Jacksonville are Little and Big Talbot Island State Park. These islands are perfect for birdwatching, hiking, pristine shoreline and marshes as well as maritime forests to explore by kayak or canoe. Highlights include visiting Boneyard Beach where on Big Talbot Island where you can see the picturesque scenery of driftwood scattered along the beach. Another great way to see the park is by bike, rollerblading, or running the 3.9-mile paved Timucuan Trail that runs parallel to A1A Florida’s scenic coastal highway.
Little Talbot Island is amazing for the white sand dunes, and pristine beaches to relax and take in the Florida sun. Adventure awaits on Little Talbot Island where you surf, kayak, hike, and travel along the bluffs of Myrtle Creek before camping in a forest hammock to get some shade.
Near Jacksonville, Florida
Cost $3 USD per vehicle
Crystal River Preserve State Park
Florida has many waterways, and estuaries but the most ecologically diverse estuary in Florida by far is Crystal River Preserve State Park located. The park covers over 22,000 acres of land, pine grove forests, mangroves, and salt marshes. This estuary plays an important role in keeping Florida’s aquifer that provides life to Florida clean and refreshed.
What makes Florida state parks unique is that no matter what time of year you can experience the destinations year-round. Crystal River Preserve offers many opportunities to hike, kayak, and paddleboard. During the day rent canoes or kayak in town to paddle to the spring head and possibly see manatees. But if you want to explore Crystal River at a more leisurely pace the visitor center offers boat tours for $20 USD.
Another great option to see Crystal River Preserve is taking a 7-mile loop trail by bike or foot for an experience to remember. What is amazing is this wildlife haven is FREE! Want to grab a bite or coffee/tea in Crystal River, Florida? Check out Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters and Teahouse 650 Cafe.. Located in Crystal River, Florida
Weeki Wachee State Park
Where do mermaids go to escape the winter? Well, they head to Weeki Wachee State Park. Well, they may not be real mermaids, but they will give you a show. This state park not only offers year-round swimming in some of the bluest spring water you have ever seen, but they also have a water park, entertainment, and many paths to see the wildlife in the park.
Weeki Wachee State Park has a submerged auditorium where you can watch live mermaid shows like the Little Mermaid. The park is also home to the largest network of underwater caves in the United States.
Buccaneer Bay is a great way to throw some adrenaline your way with waterslides and more at this state park that keeps on throwing surprises at you. Definitely check this place out for a unique only in Florida attraction. Pro tip rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard for a self-guided tour with an easy 2.9-mile paddle for $32 USD for 1.5 hours.
Near Tampa, Florida
Cost $13 USD for Adults, and $8 USD for Children
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
The first undersea park in the USA is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It is located on the Florida Keys, specifically Key Largo, and is often missed by visitors rushing to get down to Key West. However, this undersea paradise is the perfect spot for divers to explore the rich biodiversity of Florida’s marine life and can even be experienced by glass-bottom boat tours. The park covers 70 nautical square miles and extends 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. A favorite past-time for visitors that don’t go diving into the ocean, is renting a kayak to paddle through the mangroves.
For those less inclined for snorkeling or scuba diving, you can see the marine life up close and personal at the 30,000-gallon aquarium at John Pennekamp State Park. This park is perfect for taking a picnic and relaxing all day at the beach in the idyllic waters of the Florida Keys.
Cost $8 USD per vehicle
Located in Key Largo, Florida
De Leon Springs State Park
De Leon Springs State Park is a Central Florida treasure close to Deland, Florida. Start your day off bright and early to head to the Old Spanish Sugar mill. Located on the state park grounds, where you can make your own pancakes! It was great and has been around since the 1980s. Be sure to come early as the wait can often be an hour or more. Then, swim off the pancakes in the De Leon Spring nearby. If you aren’t in the mood to go for a swim, head out on the Wild Permission Trail for a 4.4-mile loop trail through jungle-like terrain. Be prepared to get a little muddy.
The state park also has guided boat tours down Spring Garden Creek. There is also a museum for those wanting to learn about the 6000-year-old history that has been discovered there. In 1985 and 1990 park rangers found 2 dugout canoes that were 5,000 and 6000 years old respectively. They are the oldest canoes found in the western hemisphere. This area is also the site where Ponce de Leon himself visited to find the “Fountain of Youth”.
$6 USD per vehicle
Located near Deland, Florida
Myakka River State Park
Myakka River is Florida’s first state-designated wild/scenic river meanders through vast wetlands, hammocks, and pinelands. The main activities here include boating, kayaking, and hiking the many trails in the park.
See the state park from up above. The Myakka Canopy walkway to explore the pine/oak tree canopy from 25 ft in the air. There is also a bird walk and center where you can rent kayaks/canoes. If you get hungry during your visit head to the Pink Gator Café and try some alligator stew!
Cost: $ 6 USD per vehicle
Florida is Perfect For Outdoor Lovers
Florida is the perfect place to explore the outdoors safely. The beautiful state parks are the perfect place to visit for a socially distanced vacation. There is something for all levels of adventurers. These destinations and state parks will show you the natural side of Florida and will show you that the Sunshine State has more to offer than just our theme parks. Florida State Parks are some of the most beautiful in the United States. Don’t miss out on your next road trip or Florida vacation.