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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Koreshan State Park
3800 Corkscrew Rd
Estero, FL 33928
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:
- Lovers Key: Great beach, kayaking, manatees
- Mound Key Archaeological Park
- Fort Myers Beach is a charming seaside getaway
- Barefoot Beach is on Southwest Florida’s wild side
- Clam Pass Park, a Naples beach where you ride the tide
- Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park for beaches and picnics
- Estero Bay Preserve State Park, just west of Koreshan, has longer hiking trails.
- Corkscrew Bird Rookery Swamp Trail: Excellent for shady hiking with abundent wildlife.
- Kayaking Imperial River in Bonita Springs
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.