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5 outstanding things to do outdoors in Florida

What’s on your bucket list? 

We pick five of our favorite things to do outdoors in Florida, authentic Florida destinations that deliver a sense of adventure.

Kayak down the Suwannee River

Sandy beach along Suwanee River
With low water levels, the Suwanee River has beautiful sand bars for picnics, swimming and camping. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Florida is full of beautiful places to kayak and canoe, but one of the prettiest and longest rivers is the iconic Suwanee River in northern Florida. You can return to the Suwanee over and over again paddling different sections because the Suwanee originates in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and travels 246 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Florida has created the 171-mile-long Suwanee River Wilderness Trail, which begins in White Springs, and a highlight of that trail are the five river camps, with covered, screened camping platforms with bathrooms. Here’s more about paddling the Suwanee from our November trip.

Read more: Paddling and Camping on the Suwannee

Ride your bike on the Legacy Trail

Long bicycle bridge over water.
Some of the prettiest scenery comes at the Legacy Trail’s bridges over waterways.
(Photo: David Blasco)

This trail between Venice and Sarasota Florida makes an ideal bike trip because it combines beautiful scenery and great destinations with a high quality paved trail with excellent amenities. Unlike some trails (the Pinellas Trail in the St. Petersburg area, for example) there are very few road crossings. The destinations on the Legacy Trail are Oscar Scherer Park, which offers scenic hiking and great camping, and Casperson Beach, a broad sandy beach along the Gulf where people love to hunt for fossilized shark teeth.

Read more: Scenic Legacy Trail is one of Florida’s best

Visit Florida’s “best beach” 

Have you been to Florida’s Panhandle lately? The Panhandle shows off many beautiful white-sand beaches, but Grayton Beach is among the best the Emerald Coast has to offer. Ranked No. 3 in the nation by Dr. Beach in 2019, having won the No. 1 slot in 1994, Dr. Beach says of Grayton Beach, “The sugar-white sand is pure as the driven snow, the emerald green water is perfectly clean and clear, and beach development has been restrained so big sand dunes still dominate the landscape.”

Grayton Beach State Park is the centerpiece of this magical beach with 2,000 acres of majestic sand dunes, two campgrounds, four miles of hiking through coastal forest and a paddle trail linking two coastal lakes behind the dunes. Find lodging in the state park’s beachfront cabins, the rustic village of Grayton Beach or colorful Seaside and Watercolor nearby.

Read more: Camp, kayak and bike at one of America’s top beaches

Go camping in the Everglades

Eco-pond, across from the campground in Flamingo in Everglades National Park is full of birds in November. Here, American avocets rest below a roseate spoonbill. (Photo: David Blasco)
Eco-pond, across from the campground in Flamingo in Everglades National Park, is full of birds in winter. Here, American avocets rest below a roseate spoonbill. (Photo: David Blasco)

There may be no better way to experience the Everglades than camping, immersing yourself in this wild, vast eco-system full of birds, alligators, crocodiles and more for a few overnight stays. Facilities are few for hookup-dependent campers, and summers are treacherously humid, but it is an experience you’ll never forget. There are campgrounds deep in the Everglades, primitive tent camping on elevated tikis in the Ten Thousand Islands, primitive sites you can hike to, as well as more accessible campgrounds off the Tamiami Trail in the Big Cypress Preserve, and you can even enjoy “glamping” in the new eco-tents at Flamingo. Just be prepared for mosquitoes at any time of year, less so in winter.

Read more: Camping in the Everglades & Big Cypress Preserve | Glamping in the Everglades

Explore Ocala National Forest

Juniper Run in Ocala National Forest. (Photo: Richard Barrett.)
Juniper Run in Ocala National Forest. (Photo: Richard Barrett.)

Ocala National Forest has a little bit of everything for the outdoors person. Kayaking on waterways cloaked in emerald green sub-tropical vegetation, hiking through forests of hardwood and pines, camping in open plains or developed campgrounds, bicycling or riding horses on hundreds of miles of forest roads and trails, or just taking a casual drive and pulling off a forest road for a picnic or a lonely place to chill. And the springs! Oh my, the colorful springs brimming with wildlife, some filled with manatees in their winter homes. We’re talking about more than 600 square miles of wild things.

Read more: Six things to do in Ocala National Forest

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