When they hear “Florida,” most people immediately think of three things: Disney, Miami nightlife, and the beach. But did you know that Florida has 164 state parks to explore and enjoy? As a Florida girl, I have spent a lot of time exploring the nature and landscapes throughout the state. Here are 8 of my favorite state parks in Florida. Included are some great swimming spots, great historical discoveries – and even a park located in the ocean.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
1. Blue Spring State Park, Orange City
With it’s proximity to Orlando, this state park is a perfect day-trip. The spring-fed river has 73-degree water year-round. Float down the river in the summer on a rented inner tube, or visit in the winter to watch the manatee migration, where dozens of manatees swim, feed and play in the cool water.
2. Amelia Island State Park, Jacksonville
This 200-acre park holds beaches, maritime forests and shallow salt marshes. Spend the day riding a horse along the shore or go shelling for unique shells and shark teeth. Be sure to be aware of bird and turtle nesting season and to avoid disturbing their habitats.
3. Suwannee River State Park, Live Oak
Located in North Florida, this state park is perfect for those who enjoy hiking and history. Spend the day exploring Florida’s oldest cemetery, and stop to look at the earthworks built during the Civil War to prevent harm from the Union Navy Gunboats. The park has a full-facility campground along with cabins to rent.
4. San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park, Islamorada
Peacock Springs Conservation AreaMayo, United StatesBe sure to check out the Dive Outpost on the corner of 51 and 180th street for all of your diving equipment including tank refills, hardware, and maps. Don’t forget to grab one of Mrs. Kathy’s favorite cookies on your way out.
The only way to visit this park is by private boat, as this state park is in 18 feet of water. Located about 1.25 nautical miles south of Indian Key, plug in these coordinates into your GPS: (24 degrees 51.802’N, 80 degrees 40.795’W) and look for the diving buoys.
5. Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, Palm Coast
Washington Oaks Gardens State ParkPalm Coast, United StatesTalk a walk along the shore and peek into the coquina rock formations for sea life. The best time to go is at low-tide, that way you can walk on all the rocks! #beach #explore
This park has the best of both worlds. Spend a few hours wandering through the gardens next to the Matanzas River, then explore the fascinating coquina rock formations located next to the Atlantic. The best time to visit the beach is a low tide, so you can climb and explore the coquina rock.
6. Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, White Springs
Music lovers learn about the “Father of American Music” at this Florida State Park. Listen to some of Stephen Foster’s compositions such as “Oh, Susanna!” and “Beautiful Dreamer”, played on the Stephen Foster Memorial Carillon.
7. Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park, Live Oak
This state park is home to one of the largest underwater caves in the continental United States. It’s is a great place to learn how to cave dive from trained professionals.
8. Falling Waters State Park, Washington County
Falling Waters is the perfect place to spend the weekend if you are into camping and hiking. Home of Florida’s largest waterfall, Falling Waters has multiple camp sites, and regular interpretive talks from park rangers.