To enjoy the Sunshine State in all its glory, paying a visit to one of over 170 Florida state parks is an absolute must. With over 100 miles of beaches, more than a dozen freshwater springs and scenic rivers, and a variety of ecosystems that support a diverse collection of wildlife, Florida's state parks have a lot to offer. The biggest trouble visitors will have is narrowing down which parks to visit!
Beaches and Coastline
Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida is known best for her beaches and coastlines. Travelers in the state are never more than 90 minutes to the nearest beach, so the possibilities are almost endless! Whether you are headed to the Emerald Coast of the northern panhandle with its sparkling, clear waters, the central Florida Space Coast where beach combers might also witness a rocket launch, or to the Florida Keys down south where summer never ends, Florida has no shortage of coastal exploration.
- Curry Hammock State Park: The heart of the Florida Keys, this park contains miles of unique coastlines and ecosystems to explore.
- Henderson Beach State Park: If white sand and warm water to swim in are what you are looking for, this gulf coast park is the place to be!
- Topsail Hill Preserve State Park: This park features not only sandy beaches, but rare freshwater coastal dune lakes and wetlands that are a birdwatcher's paradise.
Springs are, perhaps, Florida's most unique feature. The entire state is underlain by one of the most productive aquifer systems in the world, and it has over a thousand springs to show for it. These important geologic features are integral to the health of the surrounding ecosystems, and visitors are encouraged to visit some of the spectacular locations that are under the care of the state park system.
- Troy Spring State Park: A first magnitude spring on the Suwannee, the final resting place of a Civil War era watercraft.
- Blue Springs State Park: The very first manatee refuge! In cold weather, visitors on the boardwalk can observe hundreds of manatees as they rest in the spring water.
- Madison Blue State Park: Often frequented by cave divers, this spring's crystal clear waters are 72 degrees year round.
- Gilchrist Blue State Park: Florida's newest addition to the state park system, established in summer 2017!
- Weeki Wachee Springs State Park: One of Florida's very first attractions, this park boasts water slides and an underwater amphitheater where visitors can enjoy a live mermaid show!
- Silver Springs State Park: Home to Mammoth Spring and, curiously enough, a non-native population of rhesus macaque monkeys. This is a great spot for a short walking tour before settling in for a tour on the glass bottom boat.
Other Unique Locations
Florida exploration doesn't end with her beaches and springs. Scenic rivers, historic battlefields, secluded islands, and beautiful hiking trails are also found throughout the state park system.
- Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park: The location of Florida's largest Civil War battle. Every February, the park hosts a reenactment.
- Hontoon Island State Park: An island situated in the Saint John's River, this park offers a glimpse into Florida's truly wild history.
- Torreya State Park: Elevation changes in Florida? Yes, they do exist! The trails at this state park offer quite the challenge, and have been used as training grounds for Appalachian through-hikers. The park also features the rare Torreya tree as its namesake!
- Blackwater River State Park: For those looking to explore by kayak or canoe, this park is an especially appealing destination. With one of the most pure sand-bottomed rivers in the nation, the tannic waters meandering around white sandy beaches are a unique sight.
- Homosassa Wildlife State Park: This special state park houses an underwater manatee viewing area, as well as a wildlife park and rescue/rehab facility.
The Florida State Park System is not only one of the largest in the country, it is also the first to have won the Gold Medal for honoring the best of the nation's parks three times. No matter which park visitors choose to visit, the unique ecosystems, abundant wildlife, resplendent scenery, and of course, the year-round mild climate, will make it very clear that Florida State Parks are something special.