When it comes to natural wonders, Florida isn’t just about its famous attractions and beautiful beaches. It’s also home to some amazing lesser-known Florida State Parks brimming with unique features and endless recreational opportunities.
If you are like me, living life outside, this is a great list for you to hang on to for future road trips or vacations.
Top 10 Lesser Known Florida State Parks
Ready? Great! Let’s enjoy a journey through some of Florida’s hidden gems. It was hard because I have so many favorite Sunshine State Parks, but I narrowed it down to these top picks:
Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, Pensacola
Delve into a world of rare ecosystems, including the largest pitcher plant site in the state. Hike through trails featuring carnivorous plants and explore the diverse habitats of this park. Definitely make time to head into the Bayou on the short walk on the boardwalk.
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Lake Louisa State Park, Clermont
Nestled amid rolling hills, Lake Louisa offers a serene escape, and it is only about 30 minutes from Orlando. Great one to add for a day outside after spending time and money inside the theme parks. Enjoy kayaking on the lakes, hike through the scenic trails, or camp beneath the stars in this peaceful setting.
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Copeland
This State Park is actually the largest in the Sunshine State. Explore the “Amazon of North America” with its dense mangroves and diverse wildlife. Take a guided tram tour or hike through the ancient cypress domes. There is a boardwalk here also, but last I checked it was temporarily closed. Don’t let that stop you from going. There are plenty of other things too.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound
This park is the largest in South Florida and one of my top picks when there. Discover a blend of history and nature, with the Loxahatchee River meandering through the park. Paddle along the river, explore ancient Indian middens, or hike through sand pine scrub.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Micanopy
Lions, tigers and bears? Oh, my! Not here, but you will see wild horses, bison and a LOT of alligators. Please keep in mind, however, if it has been rainy or during summer when we storms daily, parts of this park will not be accessible.
Head to the visitor center so you can check first where you can and can not go. This park is a combination of wetlands and uplands, home to diverse bird species and wildlife. Enjoy birdwatching including migrating cranes, hiking, or scenic drives offering breathtaking views.
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Okeechobee
This is another top pick for sure. In Kissimmee which is near Orlando but far enough away, you can immerse yourself in Florida’s vast prairies and star-filled skies. Camp under the celestial dome, take a guided safari, or indulge in wildlife photography.
Collier-Seminole State Park, Naples
This beautiful park is partly located in the great mangrove swamp of South Florida. It is one of the largest mangrove swamps in the world. Canoe through the mangroves, explore the park’s trails, or camp in the quiet sounds of nature.
St. Andrews State Park, Panama City Beach
I know. You were expecting something about PCB, weren’t you? Yes, this is still my number one beach pick. I also love this State Park. Here you can enjoy a blend of beach and nature, with opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, and exploring trails. Discover the jetties and the diversity of marine life.
Torreya State Park, Bristol
Bristol is in the Panhandle region, south of I-10. Uncover the unique landscapes of bluffs and ravines along the Apalachicola River. Hike through scenic trails, visit the historic Gregory House, and savor panoramic views. The park is named after the very rare species of Torreya tree that grows only on the bluffs along the Apalachicola River.
O’Leno State Park, High Springs
In my stomping grounds of North Central Florida, you can see the convergence of the Santa Fe River, disappearing and reemerging. It’s super cool.
Explore sinkholes, trails, and enjoy picnicking by the riverbanks. Be sure to also hit River Rise State Park while you are here, then head to Itchetucknee State Park and enjoy tubing as well as the other springs inside the park like Blue Hole Spring.
I really could have kept going with this list. There are so many beautiful Florida State Parks located in each part of the Sunshine State.
I picked these as the top 10 state parks because they really give you an insight into Florida’s diverse landscapes, ecosystems, and recreational offerings.
From rare plant habitats to stunning river views, they promise unforgettable experiences for nature enthusiasts seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures.
Tip: Inquire about a Florida State Park pass. Many parks have an admission fee. Some are minimal, while others are a bit more. It may be less expensive for you to buy a pass versus paying at each stop. I renew my pass every year, and it definitely pays for itself.
The Links Below Will Help You Plan Your Getaway To These Lesser Known Florida State Parks
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