Now more than ever, travellers are looking for activities that take them beyond the busy hotspots, to the great outdoors where they can enjoy wide open spaces and surround themselves with nature. Florida has nature and outdoor recreation in abundance, which is often overlooked, so for those planning Florida holidays for when the time is right to visit again, the Sunshine State has 1,350 miles of coastline, 850 miles of beaches, 75 state parks, three National Parks and everything else in-between, waiting to be explored. Here are some of the best ways to experience Florida’s great outdoors…
Take a Pole Boat Eco Tour in the Everglades
Experience Florida culture and ecotourism at its finest with an authentic swamp safari with Everglades Adventure Tours; the only company to provide pole boat tours, which have been used for centuries by the Native tribes and Gladesmen culture to hunt, fish and navigate the shallow marshes of the Florida Everglades. Explore the backcountry of the Everglades National Park and the Western Everglades Big Cypress National Preserve region with a naturalist skiffer guide.
Explore Florida’s Cycling Trails
Hire a bike and cycle the Withlacoochee State Trail, one of America’s top-rated Rails to Trails cycling corridors. At 46 miles long, the trail runs through six distinct natural communities, the vibrant, historic towns of Inverness and Floral City, as well as small towns and ranches. Rugged mountain bike trails weave through Withlacoochee State Forest and Crystal River Preserve State Park.
Perfect for biking, the 49.8-mile Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail has been created along a portion of abandoned railroad corridor and extends from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs, going through small towns and showcasing the natural environment of the area.
In northwest Florida, visitors can explore Henderson Beach State Park, a 200-acre gem home to a winding nature trail that provides a rare view of some of the last remaining endangered coastal scrub communities in the Florida panhandle. With 30-foot sand dunes and 6,000 feet of scenic shoreline bordering the Gulf of Mexico, the park is a haven for shore birds, including six listed and protected species.
Whilst not yet fully complete, the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, currently provides 90 miles of existing trails. When complete, it will offer 106 miles of iconic views, across 37 bridges from Key Largo to Key West. The multi-use bicycle and pedestrian resource serves as serves as a recreational and alternative transportation corridor for the Florida Keys.
Celebrate 20 Years of Geocaching History While Discovering Sebring
Just 90 minutes from Orlando visitors can discover the Sebring area’s unique history, vast outdoor adventures, unusual culinary delights, and charming small towns, through a new GeoTour. Simply Download a geocaching app and find the Sebring Area GeoTour to begin the modern-day treasure hunt. Through four different local tours, visitors can spend a few days exploring cattle ranches, citrus groves, museums, parks, and numerous cultural areas, collecting code words from each cache along the way. Findings can be logged on the downloadable passport to receive a free Sebring Area GeoTour trackable coin.
One of the most unique experiences you’ll find in Florida is swimming with manatees in Crystal River, the Manatee Capital of the World; the only place where you can legally swim with the majestic manatee in North America. During the winter months, manatees head inland to Florida’s warm freshwater springs, where visitors can join a trained local tour guide for the chance to peacefully float side-by-side with these gentle giants. Whilst manatees are inquisitive, friendly and keen to interact, it’s important for guests to remember their “manatee manners”. Before each tour, participants are taught how to safely and respectfully encounter manatees through passive observation.
Spot Hundreds of Bird Species Throughout the State
Did you know that Florida is considered one of the best birdwatching destinations in the world? Due to its unique geographic placement between tropical and temperate regions and its diverse habitats, the Sunshine State attracts hundreds of bird species, including the rare Florida burrowing owl and snail kite. Wherever you are in the state, you’ll find plenty of birdwatching opportunities. Check out the Florida Birding Trail for further information.
See Florida’s Largest Collection of Waterlilies at the McKee Botanical Garden
The McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach, known for its horticulture beauty, is located on an 18-acre tropical hammock where native plants and exotic botanicals combine with Old Florida charm. The Garden features 10,000 native and tropical plants, as well as one of the largest waterlily collections in the state of Florida. McKee’s ponds and waterways are adorned with a vast array of waterlilies in a variety of colors and fragrances for guests to enjoy. The Garden is currently hosting its Ocean Sole Africa sculpture exhibition featuring 40 marine-life species created from recycled flip-flops that have washed upon the shore of Africa.
Catch and Cook Your Own Scallops
One of the most popular saltwater adventures on Florida’s Adventure Coast is scalloping. Scallop season runs from July to September, and is an activity that the whole family can enjoy. Just grab your snorkel and explore the 250,000 acres of seagrass bed in search of the sweet and delicious bay scallops. With your bucket full, just head to one of the many local restaurants that will prepare and cook your fresh catch.
Take to the Treetops in Tallahassee
In Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee, you can soar over cypress swamps and conquer aerial games and obstacles on one of Tallahassee Museum’s Tree to Tree Adventures courses. Beautifully integrated within the Museum’s 52 acres of native plants and wildlife, Tallahassee Tree to Tree Adventures transports adventurers through swamps, forests and wildlife habitats.
Embark on a Deep-Sea Fishing Excursion from Martin County
Martin County on Florida’s east coast holds the distinctive title of “Sailfish Capital of the World”. Boasting more than 20 marinas, a dozen fishing and sightseeing charters, plus a variety of bait and tackle shops, Martin County offers an abundance of boating and fishing excursions and the opportunity to pursue 800 species of fish (including the impressive sailfish) within a 10-mile radius of the St. Lucie Inlet.
Ride a Horse Along the Beaches of Hutchinson Island
The beaches of Hutchinson Island in Fort Pierce are one of the only places in Florida that allows horseback riding on the beach. With Beach Tours on Horseback, you can take a slow-paced, gentle ride along miles of secluded, rustic, and picturesque trails. You can also opt for guided tours of nature preserves filled with a vast array of natural landscapes such as wetlands, hammocks, grass fields, giant old oaks, and a variety of wildlife.
Paddle the Vast Waterways of Polk County
Paddle your way through nature in Polk County; a central Florida county with 554 lakes to choose from. Many of the lakes are interconnected by canals providing multi-hour or even multi-day tours. Many of the trails provide a connection to larger state and national trail systems such as the Florida National Scenic Trail and the Everglades Paddling Train, in case 375 miles isn’t enough to keep you occupied while visiting Polk County.
For further inspiration on outdoor activities in the Sunshine State visit: https://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/things-to-do/outdoors-nature.html
Images available to download here.
About VISIT FLORIDA
As the Sunshine State’s No. 1 industry, tourism was responsible for welcoming 131.4 million visitors in 2019. Based on the latest economic impact study, Florida visitors contributed $91.3 billion to Florida's economy and supported 1.5 million Florida jobs in 2018. According to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, for every $1 the state invests in VISIT FLORIDA, the official tourism marketing corporation for the State of Florida, $2.15 in tax revenue is generated. VISIT FLORIDA promotes tourism to Florida through sales, advertising, promotions, public relations and visitor services programs. As a public/private partnership, VISIT FLORIDA serves more than 13,000 tourism industry businesses, including major strategic alliance partnerships with Busch Gardens Tampa, Disney Destinations, The Hertz Corporation, Hilton, LEGOLAND Florida Resort, SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando, Simon Shopping Destinations and Universal Orlando Resort.