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Koreshan State Park preserves wacky Florida history

Near Naples, Koreshan State Park is popular for camping, kayaking, history

One reason I love Koreshan State Park on Florida’s Gulf Coast is that it is so “on brand.” Leave it to Florida to have a historic state park preserving the story of an eccentric cult.

Koreshan State Park plays it very straight, soberly explaining “the Koreshan Unity believed that the entire universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere.”

Koreshan Founder's Hall in Estero Florida by Mwanner
Historic Founder’s Hall at Koreshan State Park near Naples. (Photos: Bonnie Gross)

Yup. These people picked up and left Chicago to become pioneers on the Florida frontier in 1894 because they thought we lived inside a bubble. OK. They probably left Chicago in the winter. But Florida, with its malarial mosquitoes, was no picnic in the summer.

Today Koreshan State Park offers great natural beauty. Sprawling along the lovely Estero River, there are gardens and exotic bamboo forests left over from the community’s beautification efforts, 11 historic buildings and attractive, shaded picnic sites and an excellent campground.

Scenic Estero riverfront at Koreshan State Park
Scenic Estero riverfront at Koreshan State Park. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

History of Koreshan comunity

The walking tour of the grounds and buildings tells the story of Dr. Cyrus R. Teed, who led the utopian community that eventually attracted 200 followers. By all accounts, they were an industrious group, operating a bakery, sawmill, printing facility, even a restaurant and hotel on the main road, U.S. 41.

Like many of the idealistic communities of the era, followers believed in communal living and celibacy, which certainly limited one form of community growth.

Koreshan was well-preserved over the years even though Teed died in 1908. (The story goes that followers propped up the body and waited days for him to resurrect himself until the county health department made them bury him.) Without Teed, the group did not thrive. Amazingly, though, there were still four members living there in 1961, and it was this elderly contingent that generously gave the 305 acres to become Koreshan State Park.

Thank goodness they did. As a result, we have a park that not only preserves a fascinating historic story but also terrific recreational lands and waters.

Historic buildings at Koreshan State Park
Historic buildings at Koreshan State Park (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Take a tour of Koreshan State Park’s historic buildings

While you can take a self-guided tour using the good signage at the park, the 90-minute tours given by volunteers are the best way to hear the story. In addition, at this point, the buildings are closed to visitors except the Art Hall, which can be view only by tours.

Guided Tours are $10 each and limited to 10 individuals per tour. Tours start at the entrance to the Historic Settlement by the parking lot and can be reserved online. Private tours can be arrange for $60 for up to Six people or $100 for seven to 10 people, paid in advance.

Koreshan State Park kayaking and hiking

That park is a great place to picnic and explore — on foot or by canoe or kayak.

We loved paddling the scenic, bird-filled Estero River. Canoes and kayaks can be rented at the ranger station between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

We paddled from Koreshan to Mound Key Archaeological State Park, which is a long haul.  After doing that, we would highly recommend paddling to Mound Key — but start from the opposite side at Lovers Key.  A shorter exploration of the Estero River, however, makes a lovely short paddle.

The 1.5 mile-long shady loop hiking trail along the Estero River passes through a historic bamboo forest planted by the community. It is an easy and popular hike.

Campsite at Koreshan State Park
Koreshan State Park camping. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Koreshan State Park camping 

Koreshan State Park camping gets good reviews. It’s particularly nice for tent campers.  (Big RV rigs might find the sites a little tight; the sites are all back in.)

A settler's riverfront cabin at Koreshan State Park
A settler’s riverfront cabin at Koreshan State Park. (This is a historic cabin; not one for rent to visitors.) (Photo: David Blasco)

There are 54 sites, with 12 designated for tent campers, and campsites are large and wooded with vegetation providing privacy. 

While Koreshan campsites book up in advance, they are a bit more available than many in the park system.

Map of Koreshan State Park in Estero, just north of Naples
Map of Koreshan State Park in Estero, just north of Naples

Koreshan State Park
3800 Corkscrew Rd
Estero, FL 33928
(239) 992-0311
Directions to Koreshan State Park:  Six minutes off the Interstate. Exit I-75 west on Corkscrew Road/SR 850 and drive two miles west. Admission is $4 single occupancy or $5 per vehicle for two to eight passengers.

Koreshan State Park is located near many interesting and scenic locales:

Things to do near Koreshan State Park:

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