When you think of Florida, of course the beach, mosquitos and the almighty everglades might come to mind. But, behold, the sunshine state is a mecca for state parks that offer visitors more than just the usual humid temperatures and swampland. Here are 7 lesser-known Florida State Parks to visit on your next trip down south.
Ocala National Forest
Located in central Florida, you’ll be amazed driving through acres of peaceful, untouched forest made up of varieties of palms, pines and old oaks. Ocala National Forest offers outdoor enthusiasts a plethora of activities from camping to canoeing; hiking trails, wildlife viewing and several pristine fresh water springs perfect for cooling off in the hot summer sun.
Falling Waters State Park
Nestled in the panhandle of Florida lies a rare sight uncommon in this non-mountainous state- a waterfall. When rain is abundant, hike on trails passing enormous sinkholes burrowed deep into the earth to a wooden platform overlooking Falling Waters. Make sure to check ahead before visiting- during days of drought; the falls may be dried up!
Big Talbot Island State Park
Nestled along the sea just north of Jacksonville are the beautiful Talbot Islands, portraying southern coastal environment at its best. Comb the shoreline of Big Talbot, passing giant, gnarled oak trees that pepper the sand or hike the trails that weave along the beach They are situated amongst a dense oak tree forest, and as erosion creeps up, the oaks slowly fall to their final resting place in the sea, creating the unique but beautiful scenery.
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
Explore the maritime marvels of southern Florida with a kayak trip through the mangroves at MacArthur. Take in the islands of nesting sea birds, and keep your eyes peeled for manatees peeping their whiskers out of the brackish waves. Stroll along the massive boardwalk that connects the intercostal waterway to the ocean to get a little bit of the beach on your trip.
Silver River State Park
For a truly unique Florida experience, explore Silver River State Park located in central FL- particularly in the spring- for plenty of wildlife sightings. There are hiking trails, camping, biking and Springs nearby, but you will definitely want to canoe the river. Crystal clear water opens up an underwater world of fish, turtles and alligators. But the most interesting critter to be found at this state park? Monkeys. They were brought to the park years ago as part of an attraction, but escaped and adapted to the Florida wilderness.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
This North Florida park is most popularly known for Ichetucknee springs, where visitors can rent tubes and float down a refreshing, clear as glass creek for the day without a worry in the world. Not feeling the water? Take a hike on one of three trails offered that lead through dense, peaceful Florida flora.
Bahia Honda State Park
Located on Bahia Honda key in the Florida Keys, Bahia Honda offers beach camping at it’s finest in an untouched setting. Get your fill of the tropics without the tourism and spend time kayaking, snorkeling and soaking up the sun in island paradise.