The new Silver Springs State Park near Ocala gives kayakers their first chance to launch at the famous springhead and paddle an exquisite waterway that has never been open to kayakers before.
A very old, very big live oak tree inspired me to stop at this park near the Villages in Central Florida, and I found it to be a nice place to picnic, paddle and take a short hike.
Arbuckle Creek is a gorgeous river through an ancient cypress forest. It feels remote and wild but is convenient to Orlando and South Florida. It’s a gem, full of wildlife and magnificent scenery.
Not all of Central Florida’s magic is at Disney. North of Orlando is a vast ecological preserve that offers an abundance of recreational opportunities with unique exposure to Florida’s great outdoors.
The Florida Blueberry Festival highlights not just Florida’s blueberry crop but also Brooksville, a lovely unspoiled region of Florida that is a great place for hiking, biking, kayaking and exploring.
Two large manatee festivals celebrate Florida’s beloved manatee every January – one in Orange City and one in Crystal River. These two locations are probably the best places in the state to see manatees well and in great numbers. First up: Jan. 13 and 14 in Crystal River.
Lake Wales Ridge State Forest is for explorers – folks who like to find places that aren’t in the guidebooks. Here you can hike for miles in the woods, hear only nature and have a chance to spot wildlife, including bear, bald eagles and endangered scrub jays.
Some of the best hiking near Orlando can be found at the Little Big Econ State Forest, where bluffs along a scenic river add interest. The forest is 5,000 acres preserved in a suburban area in the middle of the triangle formed by Orlando, Cocoa and Daytona Beach.
Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is a year-round refuge for birds and other living things, from the dazzling roseate spoonbills to the American bald eagle. During the fall migration, birding is especially good.
Honeymoon Island is an unusual combo: It’s accessible, with first-rate concessions, and yet it’s a big, natural beach where you can get away from people and see wildlife. And you have to love how it got its name.