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.
Renting a houseboat in Everglades National Park lets you glide into the wilderness of Whitewater Bay and experience its splendor at dawn, at sunset and marvel at its starry skies. Fishermen will love it, but even without fishing, there’s plenty to enjoy.
This bird rescue center offers an up-close-and-personal wildlife experience that makes a short, fun stop on a Keys trip, especially for families with kids.
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.
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.
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.