The Ichetucknee is the most pristine spring run in the state. It has eight major springs, crystalline water, lush jungly vegetation plus plentiful birds and wildlife. It’s a shame that most visitors only experience it as a busy tubing river. It’s a fabulous winter kayaking destination in North Florida — worth a drive!
Every fall, the skies over the Florida Keys fill with thousands of birds from hundreds of species heading south for the winter. A remarkable citizen science project, Hawkwatch, based in Curry Hammock State Park, keeps a tally. The star of the show here is the peregrine falcon, seen here in numbers unmatched by any other US location.
It’s not the best known destination in southwest Florida, but there are a lot reasons that make Lovers Key State Park so lovable: A 2.5 mile beach lined with natural vegetation that is perfect for beachcombing and bird watching, and mangrove-lined waterways that are draws for both manatees and kayakers.
The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail is a guide to 500+ places. It’s a great tool for discovery. I used it to find a colony of burrowing owls in an unlikely spot — a city park in the middle of overbuilt Broward County.
Twenty minutes off I-4 between Orlando and Tampa, there is a little-known wildlife preserve that one visitor calls “a free safari.” It attracts thousands of migrating birds in winter, but it has more to offer than just excellent birding.
Amateur astronomers love this place in the heart of Florida’s cow country. With 54,000 acres of wide-open prairie 25 miles from the nearest town, light pollution does not exist, making the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve one of a few destinations in Florida for stargazing under a pure night sky. The campground set aside for astronomers is known as “the red light district.”
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. Right now, birding is especially good.
The Fort Walton Beach area is famous for its spectacular white sand beaches, but there is more to discover inland, from sand dunes to clear sandy-bottomed streams to miles of hiking trails.
2018 is an exceptional one for nesting birds in Everglades National Park. Two super colonies– more than 25,000 birds clustered together– are nesting in the park for the first time since the 1940s. We couldn’t resist a visit. And while you can’t reach the super colonies, there is much to see on a spring visit.
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.