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We know what the big draw is in Orlando, and it’s not nature. But it should be! Even if your destination is a theme park, here are 9 natural experiences and places that are memorable additions to a visit to Central Florida

Read More about Outdoor adventures near Orlando theme parks: See the real Florida when visiting Disney 

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.

Read More about Off-the-beaten path in Marco Island: Go beyond your hotel pool

The East Central Regional Rail Trail deserves a catchier name because it’s a great bike trail – long, smooth, scenic and well-supported with signage and amenities. It travels through one of the most rural areas of Florida with miles of paved path without an intersection.

Read More about East Central Regional Rail Trail: 50 mile bike trail; something for every rider

This state park holds a special place in my heart. In urban South Florida, it preserves a sliver of the natural splendor once all around. There’s a lot to do here: beach, biking, shaded picnics, Intracoastal views. When visiting, a perfect day includes a stop to nearby Bonnet House.

Read More about Hugh Taylor Birch Park in Fort Lauderdale: My favorite Florida state park

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.

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

This paved trail in Coral Gables lets you experience one of Miami’s most beautiful public spaces — Old Cutler Road. It passes several special gardens and parks and is shaded by historic ficus trees, It’s a delightful way to experience one of the oldest neighborhoods in Miami.

Read More about Old Cutler Trail: Bike path along beautiful road passes iconic Miami parks and gardens

Dunnellon is known for its spectacular Rainbow Springs and River, especially during tubing season. But there are more reasons to visit in cool weather, including another exquisite river– the Withlacoochee — several good restaurants, and trails for both hiking and biking.

Read More about More than the Rainbow River; Dunnellon is a good base for exploring