Central Florida

To some, Central Florida is the land of Orlando and theme parks.

To Florida Rambler, it’s a place of incredible natural beauty and history – pristine freshwater springs with manatees, long broad beaches where you can walk for miles without a sign of man, quaint old towns with historic hotels and a national forest that is home to the Florida black bear.

Here are some of our favorite places to begin your exploration of the area. Each of these stories contains links to places to kayak, hike, bicycle and fascinating historic sites.

Mount Dora, a charming small town that is home to antique fairs and festivals that draw people from afar.

The Lake Wales Ridge, a geographic high point in Florida where you’ll find small towns, abundant wildlife, hiking and paddling.

Lakeland, home to Florida Southern College and its 12 structures built by Frank Lloyd Wright, and to Circle B Bar Reserve, a remarkable place to see birds and wildlife.

Daytona Beach, where there is more to see than its famous beach.

Crystal River, a small town on the Gulf Coast dedicated to manatees and the springs that attract them.

Tarpon Springs, best known for its Greek heritage.

Alexander Springs in Ocala National Forest is a wide, slow-moving stream with extremely clear, clean water. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Central Florida, Kayak & Canoe

Ocala: Four great kayak or canoe rivers within 45 minutes

You can experience four outstanding Florida rivers in one trip if you base yourself in the Ocala area. In four days of paddling, you have a good chance to see wildlife — from manatees to American eagles to alligators and even monkeys. Three of the four rivers are aquarium-clear spring-fed streams. The fourth is a wild and peaceful place where you can escape the modern world.