Bike & Hike

Sunflowers at Pepper Ranch in 2013. Photo by Ron Perkins.

Sunflowers in Florida: ‘Stunning’ fall scene at Oct. 1 sunflower festival

Fields of sunflower bloom in Florida each fall, and a preserve near Immokalee celebrates with a sunflower festival Saturday, Oct. 1. The blooms last two to three weeks. This sunflower only blooms in Florida and Georgia and is common: Watch for it blooming along roadsides in early fall.

Couple enjoys weekday ride

Seminole Wekiva Trail: Smooth riding

The Seminole Wekiva Trail is a 14-mile multi-purpose, paved “rail trail” in the Wekiva River Basin that is part of a network of existing and planned trails across Central Florida in the Orlando metro area.

How many shades of blue? The Old Seven Mile Bridge

Old Seven Mile Bridge closed until 2021; Pigeon Key still open

The Old Seven Mile Bridge will be closed for repairs from July 5, 2016 into 2017. The historic island in the middle — Pigeon Key — will be open for visitors, who are ferried to the island by boat.

A gator seemed to protect the entrance to the mud flats that attracted roseate spoonbills, stilts and storks, among other birds. This is along the river in Myakka Lake State Park.

Myakka River State Park: Expansive, abundant, Sarasota home to wildlife & nature

Myakka is one of the oldest and biggest state parks, a great place for seeing wildlife, from huge gators to flocks of birds in winter. Go here for its log cabins, appealing camp sites, excellent kayaking, extensive hiking and good bike trails. It’s also a good spot for nature neophytes, who enjoy the airboat ride and canopy walk.

The Bluegrill Trail follows a levee along the C-18 canal and passes through a place popular in winter with sandhill cranes. (Photo: David Blasco)

Bike trails on South Florida levees: Long, traffic-free, but a little boring

Bike trails on South Florida levees offer traffic-free paths along the Everglades, though they can get hot and monotonous. The Bluegill Trail in Palm Beach County is better than most with wildlife and better scenery.

Legacy Trail passes through Oscar Scherer State Park

Ride through forests, prairies and quiet neighborhoods on Legacy Trail

The paved 11-mile Legacy Trail follows an abandoned railroad bed from Sarasota’s suburbs to Venice, where it links up with another 10 miles of trails in Venetian Waterway Park. At the halfway mark, the trail hooks into 15 miles of offroad trails within Oscar Scherer State Park.

White pelican flyover at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington

Wellington’s Peaceful Waters: Top birding spot, close to two good nature hikes

Peaceful Waters Sanctuary is an outstanding birding site and a particularly good destination for nature-starved folks from Broward and Palm Beach counties. It’s also close to two good places for 3-mile-long walks in natural settings.

Loop Road: Storied road through Everglades is full of wildlife

Loop Road: Storied road through Everglades is full of wildlife

Loop Road is famous for being a wild place. (That once applied to the people as well as the animals.) It’s a gravel road off the Tamiami Trail in the Everglades. If you’re not in a hurry, it’s a rewarding place to explore.

The Historic Long Key Bridge on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.

Biking the Florida Keys: Overseas Heritage Trail has safe & scenic sections

Everyone wants to bike through the beautiful scenery in the Florida Keys, but the Overseas Heritage Trail isn’t entirely complete or entirely safe. We found four terrific segments, however, that give you a fun day’s ride and a sampling of all the Keys has to offer.

St. Sebastian River

Nature gone wild: St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park

This 22,000-acre wilderness offers 60 miles of trails for hiking, biking and equestrians through five thriving wildlife habitats. Six primitive campsites allow you to get away from everything, or camp near the preserve in a little-used county campground with river access.