Every fall, the skies over the Florida Keys fill with thousands of birds from hundreds of species heading south for the winter. A remarkable citizen science project, Hawkwatch, based in Curry Hammock State Park, keeps a tally.
Punta Gorda is blessed with a beautiful riverfront location, but it doesn’t have a beach. And there lies the reason it has an off-the-beaten-track quality. It’s a great place for kayaking, biking, hiking, birding and discovering funky crab shacks and other authentic Florida experiences.
Twenty minutes off I-4 between Orlando and Tampa, there is a little-known wildlife preserve that one visitor calls “a free safari.” It attracts thousands of migrating birds in winter, but it has more to offer than just excellent birding.
Myakka is one of the oldest and biggest state parks, a great place for seeing wildlife, from huge gators to flocks of birds in winter. Go here for its log cabins, appealing camp sites, excellent kayaking, extensive hiking and good bike trails. It’s also a good spot for nature neophytes, who enjoy the airboat ride and canopy walk.
People and birds alike enjoy the beautiful beaches and sandbars plus the pristine mangrove creeks at Bunche Beach. There are several routes for kayakers or it’s a great place for just combing the beach and enjoying the wildlife.
Amateur astronomers love this place in the heart of Florida’s cow country — 54,000 acres of wide-open prairie, 25 miles from the nearest town, ideal for stargazing under a pure night sky.
Chances are, you’ve never heard of Blue Cypress Lake near Yeehaw Junction. If that’s so, you’re missing a spectacular natural lake rimmed by old growth cypress trees and home to hundreds of ospreys and osprey nests. This lake is the headwaters of the mighty St. Johns River. What a great kayak destination!
The beach town of Marco Island is all manicured and modern, but here are four adventures into the wild and authentic Florida that are within a quick drive. You can wade across a lagoon to a wild beach or have lunch in a funky fishing town or stroll on a boardwalk into a beautiful old growth cypress swamp.
This original Florida roadside attraction still thrills, especially in the spring and early summer when its rookery fills with hundreds of nesting birds. The gators and crocs are well-presented with lots of information as well as entertainment.
One of the best places to see wood storks and other wading birds nesting up close in winter is Wakodahatchee Preserve in Delray Beach. In February and March, dozens of storks build nests close to an easy-to-walk .75 mile boardwalk.