The beach town of Marco Island is all manicured and modern, but here are four adventures into the wild and authentic Florida that are within a quick drive. You can wade across a lagoon to a wild beach or have lunch in a funky fishing town or stroll on a boardwalk into a beautiful old growth cypress swamp.
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 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.
Avalon State Park is a quiet little beach once alive with Navy “frogmen” who trained here for the D-Day invasion.
With eight state parks, a national park, scads of history and top beaches, Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach make a great base to explore northeast Florida.
This Miami state park, 10 minutes from sprawling Aventura Mall, is a remarkable island of green where you can kayak, mountain bike, picnic and enjoy a sandy beach. There are even rustic cabins to rent.
This wild island on the Gulf coast is never crowded — it’s too hard to get there. For those who drive to Pineland on Pine Island and then take the hour-long ferry to the state park, the rewards are many: Nine miles of perfect beaches, shaded jungle-like trails and wildlife that includes osprey nests, dolphins, stringrays and all sorts of bird and sea life.
If riding a horse through sand and surf is your dream, here are a half dozen places in Florida that can make that dream come true. Riding opportunities are located on both coasts as well as in northern and southern Florida.