We’ve missed Florida State Parks during the pandemic shutdown; it’s helped us realize how much we love them. As we again return to the state parks, we’re sharing with you our eight favorite state parks — special preserves located all across Florida. Did we include your favorite?
Parks, Forests & Preserves
Some of the best hiking near Orlando can be found at the Little Big Econ State Forest, where bluffs along a scenic river add interest. The forest is 5,000 acres preserved in a suburban area in the middle of the triangle formed by Orlando, Cocoa and Daytona Beach.
Lake Wales Ridge State Forest is for explorers – folks who like to find places that aren’t in the guidebooks. Here you can hike for miles in the woods, hear only nature and have a chance to spot wildlife, including bear, bald eagles and endangered scrub jays.
Nature hikes, free camping, off-road bicycling, fishing and paddling are fabulous in this pair of magical wildlife areas in the far reaches of Palm Beach County
This state park is more natural than it has been for decades. Enjoy the terrific beach and tropical hammock, tour the historic lighthouse, dine at restaurants with great views and walk or bike trails.
What took me so long? Like a lot of visitors, I had overlooked Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park on my visits to Key West because it is tucked away out of site. But the historic fort and great beach are worth discovering.
Silver Springs State Park near Ocala lets kayakers launch at the famous springhead and paddle an exquisite waterway where paddlers often see monkeys, manatees and an array of birds and other animals.
This cypress-lined Alafia river has an unusual feature for Florida: Rocky shoals that create fun rapids to kayak. It’s near hiking trails, springs and a very nice paddling trail at Little Manatee River State Park.
Natural beauty makes Riverbend Park in Jupiter a delightful place to explore. Its 10 miles of bike trails are particularly well suited to family bicycle outings. It’s also the site of a historic battleground from the Second Seminole War.
A very old, very big live oak tree inspired me to stop at this park near the Villages in Central Florida, and I found it to be a nice place to picnic, paddle and take a short hike.