Last updated on May 23rd, 2020 at 07:15 am


face-maks-bicyclist
Wear a face mask and maintain social distancing. Photo by David Blasco

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park has expanded the areas that are open.

  • Royal Palm/Anhinga Trail, Long Pine Key, West Lake, Research Road
  • Additional areas of Flamingo.
  • Canoe, kayak and skiff rentals will resume at Flamingo

Entry fees are waived, and the following spaces continue to be available:  

  • Main Park Road from the Homestead entrance to Flamingo (note exceptions below)
  • External restrooms at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
  • Flamingo Marina and boat launch ramps
  • Flamingo Marina Store, restrooms, and gas pumps
  • Flamingo Fish Cleaning Station and restroom
  • Chekika Day Use Area (roads and surrounding areas only)

Wilderness (backcountry) ground campsites and chickees in Everglades National Park are closed until further notice. North Nest Key and the area 100 yards from shore are also closed. Portable toilets are closed.

Beach campsites are open and permits are not required.

The following facilities remain closed:

  • All visitor centers
  • Shark Valley
  • Gulf Coast 
  • Long Pine Key and Flamingo campgrounds
  • West Lake area
  • Flamingo campground
  • Concession tours and houseboat rentals
  • Wilderness campsites (ground sites and chickees)

Florida State Parks: 

Florida State Parks have re-opened for day use and camping


Beaches Statewide:

These Florida beaches are open today


Florida Keys:

The Florida Keys reopen to visitors on June 1


Play Safely: Protect Yourself and Others Outdoors


Outdoor Escapes in South Florida


Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is open.

Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge

Open and entrance fees have been waived.  The levy is also open to bicycles and, while unpaved, the levy road is level and smooth. The boat launch is open and families were fishing from shore or just lounging in the sun at safe distances. The refuge is also a great escape for birders. Updates: Loxahatchee NWR

South Florida Water Management District

The South Florida Water Management District has reopened all district lands to active recreation such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, wildlife viewing, photography, kayaking and boating, Visitors must practice social distancing, including limiting group sizes to 10 or less and staying six feet apart from other visitors. Camping, picnicking and gatherings of more than 10 people, are not allowed at this time.  Status of individual district lands: SFWMD Recreation

Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail

Open in areas where the dike is not under reconstruction. You can ride a bike or hike on the rim. Here’s a link to a map of areas open for recreation. The map shows areas closed because of construction. Port Mayaca looks like the best access point. 

Biscayne National Park.

Open to boaters, but rafting is prohibited. Boats must stay 50 feet away from each other. he kayak launch and restrooms at Convoy Point are open on a limited basis. The visitor center, and Boca Chita, Elliott and Adams Keys remain closed. Biscayne National Park Institute tours are suspended until further notice. Park waters remain open. Updates: Alerts and Conditions

Go for a drive:

alligator alley recreation area Outdoor Escapes
Recreation areas are open on Alligator Alley (I-75). We saw family picnics and fishing out there this week. (Photo/Bob Rountree)

Alligator Alley. An hour or so across, another hour or so back, through the Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve. There are multiple open recreation areas to pull off the highway to picnic under a pavilion or fish (or both). We were out there this week and saw families picnicking. Some (not all) boat launches are open. On the west end in Collier County, two recreation areas have gates allowing you to hike in the Big Cypress Preserve. Even if you don’t stop, the kids can count the alligators in canals that run parallel to the highway. Legal turnarounds are limited, but halfway across, the Miccosukee gas station and deli are open. You can turn around there. Alligator Alley is an interstate highway (I-75), so rest areas with restrooms are open.

Into the Everglades on Loop Road. Loop Road is a 24-mile, two-lane road that parallels Tamiami Trail into the Big Cypress region of the Everglades. The roadside teems with wildlife – alligators, birds, otters, deer, even the rare Florida panther. Because the Loop Road is mostly unpaved, it takes several hours. You’ll find a places to stop and hike and scenes that are a photographer’s delight. Read more: The Scenic Loop Road.

Along the Indian River Lagoon from Stuart to Fort Pierce. The long, wide lagoon leaves a sliver of barrier island for a hundred miles along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. While naturally drawn to scenic A1A, the west side of Indian River Lagoon is worth exploring, too. Because the lagoon is wide enough to discourage bridge construction, the western shore is a different world from beach communities. You’ll find an Old Florida flavor on the 20-mile scenic drive between Stuart and Fort Pierce. Here’s a guide with more details about this scenic road along the Indian River Lagoon. If you are making a return trip, take A1A through Hutchinson Island, although you won’t be able to pull off at beaches in either Martin and St. Lucie county sections. The beaches were closed because beachgoers were not practicing social distancing. Updates: Martin County | St. Lucie County


Outdoor Escapes in Southwest Florida

Legacy Trail Trestle
Legacy Trail

Legacy Trail

Offers a great escape on its 20 miles of isolated pavement from Venice to Sarasota along a former rail line — and for now, it’s still open. There’s plenty of room for social distancing, and multiple trailheads offer access points. Although Oscar Scherer State Park is closed, the section of trail through the park remains open. Updates: Friends of the Legacy Trail

The Ten Thousand Islands

A vast wilderness where you can paddle away from it all, but you’ll need your own kayak or small boat to take advantage of the isolation. Land-based access to through the Gulf Coast Visitor Center is closed. Updates: Everglades National Park

Big Cypress National Preserve

The preserve remains open for recreational uses. Roads and trails are open, but campgrounds, visitor centers, restroom facilities are closed, and ranger programs have been cancelled. The Turner River paddle trail is closed because of low water, but Halfway Creek remains open to kayakers. Updates: Alerts and Conditions

Southwest Florida Water Management District

Many public lands managed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District are open for recreational use, except campgrounds and pavilions and some recreation areas. Closed sites include Alston Tract, Dead River Park, Edward Medard Park and Reservoir, Sargeant Park, Lake Tarpon Outfall Canal, Morris Bridge Park, Tampa Bypass Canal, Trout Creek Park. Status of recreation sites for: Canoeing and Kayaking | Hiking | Fishing | Bicycling | Equestrian 


Outdoor Escapes in the Tampa Bay Area

Bike Trails

Pinellas Trail is open and social distancing rules apply. Updates: Pinellas County

The Suncoast Trail, Starkey Boulevard Trail, Starkey Gap Trail are open. Updates: Pasco County

Legacy Trail offers a great escape on its 20 miles of isolated pavement from Venice to Sarasota along a former rail line — and for now, Multiple trailheads offer access points. Oscar Scherer State Park is now open. Updates: Friends of the Legacy Trail

Beaches

Beaches and parks have reopened with limitations. In Pinellas County, beach access and beach parking at are open, including Sand Key Park, Fred Howard Park, and Fort De Soto Park. Restrooms are also open. Social distancing rules apply. Fort De Soto Fishing Pier will be accessible during park hours beginning from 7 am to sunset. Shell Key Preserve is open, but camping permits are not available until further notice. 


Outdoor Escapes in the Florida Keys

Access to the Florida Keys is restricted to residents and property owners until June 1. Visitors are being blocked from entering the Keys. A few outdoor options are available for residents.

State parks and beaches in the Florida Keys have reopened with limitations, as have most county and municipal parks and beaches.

Go for a bike ride

With traffic reduced, this may be the time for Keys residents to take a bike ride along the Florida Keys Overseas Highway Trail. Other good places to explore by bike are Big Pine Key, Niles Road on Summerland Key, or Middle Torch Road on Middle Torch Key. 

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park has temporarily closed all islands, docks, finger piers, and camping. Programs and concession tours are cancelled. Marine waters and harbors remain open. Updates: Alerts and conditions.


Social Distancing

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “socially distancing” means keeping space between yourself and other people outside your home:

Stay at least 6 feet from other people

Do not gather in groups

Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings.

Wear masks when out in public.


Outdoor Escapes in Central Florida

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Recreation areas are open, including the scenic Blackpoint Wildlife Drive and hiking trails, although the Visitor Center, Biolab Road, the Manatee Observation Deck and the Haulover Canal access road are closed. Access to Canaveral National Seashore is closed, as are beaches. Updates: Merritt Island NWR

Southwest Florida Water Management District

Many public lands managed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District are open for recreational use, except campgrounds and pavilions and some recreation areas. Closed sites include Alston Tract, Dead River Park, Edward Medard Park and Reservoir, Sargeant Park, Lake Tarpon Outfall Canal, Morris Bridge Park, Tampa Bypass Canal, Trout Creek Park. Status of recreation sites for: Canoeing and Kayaking | Hiking | Fishing | Bicycling | Equestrian 

Ocala National Forest

Forest Service officials has reopened most trails, trailheads, boat ramps and dispersed camping areas and some recreation areas. For a complete list of openings, go to this page. You can also strike out on your own and explore the forest, and you can look for trailheads to hike. One of the more popular trails, the Yearling Trail, off State Road 46, is still open and historically significant. Be aware, though, that we are entering fire season. Updates: Ocala National Forest

West Orange Trail 

A 22-mile-long paved rail-trail about 15 miles west of Orlando.  Its northern end is Apopka and it wanders through rural and suburban landscape near Lake Apopka, through Winter Garden and five miles west. It’s smooth, wide (14 feet) and well-marked. The prettiest sections go through historic towns or under a beautiful canopy of trees. 

Van Fleet State Trail

A 29-mile bike trail into the Green Swamp west of Orlando — the most rural bicycle trail in the state. Because it’s a former railroad line, the path is straight and flat. You won’t see many people. You will see cattle ranches, lush forests and wetlands, wild flowers, birds and butterflies. The middle stretch goes through the heart of the Green Swamp Conservation Area and offers the best wildlife viewing. Restroom availability may be limited, all other park facilities are closed. Updates: Van Fleet Trail


Outdoor Escapes in Florida’s Panhandle

Gulf Islands National Seashore

All recreation areas are open or partially open except Fort Barrancas and Ship Island. Check this page for the latest Updates: Map of closed areas and updates.

Apalachicola National Forest

Trails and dispersed camping (hunting camps) are open, but facilities, such as offices and restrooms, are closed. Some areas of the forest, including the Leon Sinks Geological Area, remain closed due to continuing restoration efforts due to Hurricane Michael. Updates: Apalachicola Recreational Status

Go kayaking

Blackwater River (Panhandle)

One of the prime rivers for kayaking in Florida. The river is so cool, the state created a 190,000-acre buffer zone around it called Blackwater River State Forest. The campground at Blackwater State Park has reopened, as has camping in the forest. Private outfitter Adventures Unlimited in Milton has cabins and campsites available, and they are offering three paddling adventures, including an overnight kayak trip. Give them a call at 850-623-6197. Updates: Adventures Unlimited

Go for a bike ride:

The Nature Coast Trail

A high-quality rail-trail with a picturesque train trestle over the Suwanee River and some good scenery. It offers 32 miles of paved bike trail centered in Fanning Springs near Fanning Springs State Park with three spokes  — one to Cross City, one to Trenton and one to Chiefland. The region is about an hour west of Gainesville. Updates: The Nature Coast Trail

Go for a drive

State Road 30a. So you’ve always wanted to explore the coastal highway State Road 30a through Seaside, Watercolor and Destin. This may be your chance. The beaches and state parks along 30a are closed, as are the restaurants, but bring a lunch and mountain bikes to ride in Point Washington State Forest, which has reopened. Updates: Point Washington State Forest


Outdoor Escapes in Northwest Florida

Lower Suwannee River National Wildlife Refuge

Outdoor sites remain open at the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges during the current coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing rules apply. Updates: LSRNWR.

Suwannee River Water Management District

The Suwannee River Water Management District (District) will keep District-managed recreation lands open for individual and small group day use in its 15-county region to provide the public with recreational opportunities. All campgrounds and campsites remain closed but are open for day use. Social distancing rules apply. The district says it will close all district lands if it finds that visitors are not practicing social distancing. Updates: SRWMD Status

Shell Mound Park. The boat ramp, which provides access to the Lower Suwannee River National Wildlife Refuge, remains open. For updates on all Levy County Parks: Levy County Parks.


Outdoor Escapes in Northeast Florida

butler beach st augustine
Plenty of room for social distancing on Butler Beach in St. Augustine, which opened this week. (Photo/Robert Kershner)

Osceola National Forest

Recreation areas, visitor centers and restroom facilities have reopen, and the forest itself is open to visitation. Visitors are warned to be aware of dangerous fire conditions. All fires, including campfires, are banned. Trails are open, subject to fire restrictions. Updates: Osceola National Forest.

Ocala National Forest

Many recreation areas have reopened. For a complete list of openings, go to this page. You can strike out on your own and explore the forest roads in your car, and you can look for trailheads to go for a hike. Dispersed camping is permitted. One of the more popular trails, the Yearling Trail, off State Road 46, is still open and historically significant. Be aware, though, that we are entering fire season. Updates: Ocala National Forest

Northeast Florida Water Management District

Most district lands remain open from sunrise to sunset with social distancing rules in place. District campgrounds have reopened. Camping details. The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is closed. Updates: NWFWMD Status 

Go for a drive

Ride the Ormond Scenic Loop.  One of the most beautiful stretches of road anywhere in Florida is north of Daytona Beach in an area rich with parks, historic sites and natural beauty. There are five state parks along the Loop, and all have reopened. The Ormond Scenic Loop offers spectacular ocean views as well as sections where the live oaks and Spanish moss form a cathedral ceiling. Here’s more about the Ormond Scenic Loop.


 

8 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Chris Olson

    Thanks for the info. Looking forward to more

  2. Avatar
    ingrid kennemer

    The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail info was inspiring! We decided to bike this weekend and started at Okeechobee & US Hwy 441. We went east (into the wind) only to go 3 mile and end up at Taylor Creek @ the lock. We had to go off of the Dike to go around the lock/canal- No problem (so you would think)! There was no bike lane/path going on US Hwy 441 over the skinny bridge with very fast traffic. Okay, that was scary with kids! Then when we got to the east side there was no access back onto the dike. Locals said a private owner, who has a reputation of being less than kind, completely gated off the area and access back to the dike. Lots of no tresspassing signs, etc. How does there exist a private property that denies access to a pubic bike path of this magintued? it is not like there is another way to the path 10, 20 or even 100 feet later. This is the only access on this side of the dike for a couple miles!! The info on the path says nothing about this small interuption between Okeechobee and the Nubbin Slough. We did love the ride on the path, the view was fabulous and I would strongly recommend it to walkers, joggers & cyclist!!

  3. Avatar

    not too much around the Tampa Bay area or did I miss it?

    • Bob Rountree

      Sorry about that. I’m updating it now.
      FYI… here’s what I’ve found so far. Pinellas County parks and preserves remain open except for Sand Key Park, Fort De Soto Park, Heritage Village and the education centers at Weedon Island Preserve and Brooker Creek Preserve. At Fort De Soto, the campground remains open to those with existing reservations, and the boat ramp is open. The Pinellas Trail is open and social distancing rules apply.  
      Hillsborough County. Boat ramps remain open, other than those that were previously closed for construction work. All parks, campgrounds and playgrounds are closed. 
      Some Sarasota County parks are open with restrictions, although all beaches, recreation facilities and rest rooms are closed. For a list of parks in Sarasota County that are open for socially distant activities, see this updated list.

    • Bob Rountree

      Terri, I have now updated the Tampa Bay section to include what’s still open in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota counties. And thanks for the heads up! 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Dennis Horn

    Thank you for letting us know our outdoor options.

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