Discover Florida’s natural landscapes while testing limits by sea, land and sky
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (September 22, 2022): The leaves will begin falling around much of the country, but VISIT FLORIDA wants travelers to know that outdoor adventure is still heating up in the Sunshine State. Heart-racing experiences and discoveries make Florida the perfect adventure destination for all ages. Get in touch with some of the lesser known ways to discover the unique escapades hidden throughout the state.
In Northern Florida, Jacksonville is home to adventure by air, on the land and across the water. The Autobahn Indoor Speedway lets visitors put the pedal to the metal, quite literally, as they race Italian go-karts across a Grand Prix-style course. Florida Adventure Sports takes a different approach, granting travelers the chance to hang glide over the city’s beaches. Out on the waves, Dolphin Cruise lets visitors discover ocean life – such as dolphins – up close.
Clay County provides 35 miles of nature trails, including Black Creek Park and Trail that covers more than 71 acres with a variety of ecosystems like pine flatwoods and wetlands. The park’s Black Creek Mountain Bike Trail system features three different trails of differing degrees here. Meanwhile, Camp Chowenwaw County Park, once Florida’s first Girl Scout Camp, offers 150 acres, a swimming pool and numerous trails for exploring and overnight camping in cabins and treehouses. Known as one of Florida’s First State Parks, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park boasts 2,000 acres with 5.44 miles of trails along the Florida National Scenic Trail. Jennings State Forest is home to 15 different biological communities for hiking, bicycling, canoeing and horseback riding.
Meanwhile, Ichetucknee Springs State Park is one of Florida’s most enchanting hideaways. Stargaze by the emerald blue waters and plan to stay at Ichetucknee Springs Campground. The old Florida-style campground offers primitive camping sites surrounded by hundred-year-old oak trees and thick foliage. Eight major crystal-clear springs at the state park are the places to rent a tube on-site to experience the oasis, coming face-to-face with birds, manatees and other local wildlife.
In the Florida Panhandle, South Walton provides 200 miles of hiking and biking trails that real adventurers seek in its four state parks and state forest. Grayton Beach State Park is one of the prettiest in the nation, and while it’s a favorite for relaxing, the nearly 2,000-acre park features a boat ramp that provides access to the lake's brackish waters for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Visitors can paddle a canoe, stand-up paddle board or kayak on scenic Western Lake to explore the salt marsh ecosystem.
For those with S.C.U.B.A. certification, Morrison Springs just east of DeFuniak Springs, offers one of Florida’s most unique diving experiences. The pool, 250 feet in diameter, produces 48 million gallons of freshwater each day. There are three cavities for underwater exploration and the deepest, at 300 feet, leads to an underground chamber that has yet to be fully measured.
With more than 20 miles of coastline and bayous, the emerald coast is a top aquatic destination in Florida. Including Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island, the region provides boat cruises with Destin Vacation Boat Rentals and Cattywampus Catamaran, as well as underwater excursions with Destin Snorkel. Gulfarium Marine Adventure brings insight to the flora and fauna travelers can experience outdoors, and the aquarium inspires conservation effort in guests through hands-on encounters with wildlife.
In Pensacola Beach, Laguna's Adventure Park is the retreat families need. Ropes courses, ziplines and climbing structures keep young ones occupied on land while parasailing and jet ski dolphin tours engage them on the water. Divers can descend approximately 200 feet into the Gulf to view the USS Oriskany, a shipwrecked 872-foot aircraft carrier that now acts as the world’s largest artificial reef. Condor Sailing Adventures brings visitors along on a rare 40-foot Condor racing trimaran to set sail across the Santa Rosa Sound or Pensacola Bay. Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park has 4,000 acres and boasts diverse wildlife to explore while hiking. Big Lagoon State Park, situated just 10 miles southwest of Pensacola, provides opportunities to swim, fish, boat, canoe and crab. Perdido Key State Park is a favorite destination for swimmers, anglers and sunbathers, featuring several threatened and endangered species.
Central Florida – Gulf Coast
Located near Tampa, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park – opening in 2008 – includes a famous mermaid show, river cruise, native animal show and Buccaneer Bay, which is Florida’s only spring-fed water park. Next to the state park, visitors can paddle the Weeki Wachee River by booking a kayak rental from Weeki Fresh Water Adventures. At nearby Croom Motorcycle Area, inside the Withlacoochee State Forest, 2,600 acres await all-terrain vehicles and off-highway motorcycles. On-site training and designated areas for young riders make this a family-friendly activity with something for everyone. Nearby camping is also available at the Buttgenbach Campground. Meanwhile, FLG X Tampa Adventure Park challenges visitors who navigate more than 100 aerial obstacles set among the treetops, 15-to-80 feet above the ground.
Further down the Gulf Coast, St. Pete/Clearwater invite travelers to Weedon Island and Boyd Hill Preserve. These natural escapes are accessible to hikers who want to explore their 3,700 acres or paddle the surrounding waters. With trails, wildlife and more than 90 types of butterflies, these hidden preserves provide the adventure and discovery that’s unique to Florida. Kayak through Shell Key Preserve to view the bird sanctuaries that are home to a variety of wintering and migrating birds.
On Florida’s Sports Coast in Pasco County, guests can enjoy scalloping, cable wakeboarding, in-shore fishing and alongside other adrenaline-pumping adventures year-round. The Lift Adventure Park doubles as a water park, offering wakeboard activities, as well as rental safety gear and essentials. The TreeHoppers Aerial Adventure Park offers more than 100 different zip lines, rope bridges and aerial climbing elements, including the after-hours Cosmic Night Climbs, where nine different courses are illuminated for climbers at night. Fish for tarpon, spotted seatrout, mangrove snapper, jack crevalle, ladyfish and the popular snook and reds that thrive along the shore. And be sure to check out the 10-day scallop season each July in Florida’s Sports Coast, where guests can try their hand at harvesting their scallops with guides like Windsong Charters & Boat Rentals.
Ocala/Marion County invites visitors to zip line higher and faster than anywhere else in the state at The Canyons Zip Line and Adventure Park. With horseback riding, gem mining, kayaking and a wine and chocolate tour, this family destination doesn’t lack thrills of any kind. The newest attraction in the region, Central Florida Skydiving at Airport in Dunnellon, provides bucket list-worthy experiences. More moderate thrill seekers can paddle Rainbow Springs, Silver Springs and the Ocala National Forest, which also provides solid biking trails and horseback riding excursions.
West Volusia also offers skydiving with Skydive DeLand, one of the busiest drop zones in the world. For those intimidated by the 14,000-foot drop, Dyno Climb provides a better compromise with climbing walls for all levels. West Volusia has Florida’s only American Heritage River, the St. Johns River, including Blue Spring State Park, one of the most visited parks in the State of Florida with more than 500,000 annual visitors. Thrills continue along Chuck Lennon Mountain Bike Trail, a clay-based trail with good flow and a lot of quick ups and downs. West Volusia's extensive paved trail network includes the Spring-to-Spring Trail, which goes more than 26 miles from DeLeon Springs State Park to Enterprise’s Green Spring Park.
Orlando has seemingly countless options to explore the Everglades, including Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Rides, Wild Florida and Boggy Creek Airboat Rides. Viking Ecotours offers pedal kayak tours and Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour provides pontoon boat tours through the Winter Park Chain of Lakes. Use your arms with Epic Paddle Adventures, Adventures in Florida and Get Up and Go Kayaking to meet playful otters in the crystal clear waters of places like Rock Springs Run.
Hike Orlando’s Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve or rent a cycle from West Orange Trail-Bikes and Blades Co. to follow the West Orange Trail to Plant Street Market for a lunch break. Revolution Adventures provides off-road experiences, including ATVs, Dune Buggies and ARGO amphibious Mucky Ducks through 200 acres of tracks and trails.
For the entire family, Orlando’s Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort's archery experience and Gatorland’s Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure are exciting ways to bring kids and parents together. Amateurs can bait a hook at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes and Walt Disney World Fishing to learn the ropes while catching and releasing local fish. Bob's Hot Air Balloon Rides offer an unforgettable ride from up above while Wallaby Ranch Hang Gliding Flight & Park allows visitors to soar safely.
South of Orlando in Sebring, the Sebring International Raceway offers high-octane fun while visitors can feel the wind through their hair during airboat rides along Arbuckle Creek with Airboat Wildlife Adventures. Nearby, Lake Istokpoga is a top-ranked destination for trophy bass, so schedule a fishing trip with a local guide and reel in what the fishing experts call a “lunker.” Nearly 100 freshwater lakes in the area provide boating, water skiing, paddle boarding and jet skiing for all ages. Highlands Hammock State Park in the area is one of the state's oldest state parks and features the Cypress Swamp Trail, replete with alligators!
Along the Atlantic Coast, Martin County, known for its laid-back beach town vibe, is actually the best kept secret for adventure travelers. Visitors can channel their own Hemingway adventure while deep-sea fishing alongside companies like The Fighting Lady Sportfishing Charters, Chaos Fishing Adventures and Lady Stuart I Deep Sea Fishing. Biking, hiking and horseback riding through Jonathan Dickinson State Park takes visitors to a variety of landscapes, including mangroves, with full-facility campgrounds and a primitive campground to sleep under the stars. For high-adrenaline antics, Next Level Watersports teaches visitors to ride the LIFT eFoil, the world’s first-ever mass produced electric-powered hydrofoil. Meanwhile, underwater thrill seekers can dive to the Georges Valentine Shipwreck Site to witness the 1904 wreckage with companies like Kirk’s Dive & Surf, Stuart Scuba or Deep Six Dive & Watersports.
Also in Martin County, slow down with some paddle boarding or kayaking to the secluded St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park, located just off the coast of Port Salerno, which has no road access. Gallop through Martin County’s pine with your own steed at Choyce Equitours and visit Standing Oak Farms or Treasure Coast Stables to brush up on your equestrian skills or even develop new ones. Other natural treasures likeSeabranch Preserve State Park, Blowing Rocks Preserve and Halpatiokee Regional Park ensure that adventure travelers have no end to their thrillseeking in Florida.
For more adventure inspiration across Florida, please visit VISIT FLORIDA.com and get in touch to discuss region-specific activities for upcoming coverage.
ABOUT VISIT FLORIDA
VISIT FLORIDA is the Sunshine State’s official tourism marketing corporation and travel planning resource for visitors across the globe. As Florida’s No. 1 industry, tourism was responsible for welcoming over 122 million visitors in 2021, an increase of 54 percent from 2020. VISIT FLORIDA promotes tourism through sales, advertising, promotions, public relations and visitor services programs, and serves more than 13,000 travel industry partners throughout the state. To learn more about VISIT FLORIDA, follow @FloridaTourism on Facebook and Twitter, or go to visitflorida.org. For inspiration in the Sunshine State follow @VISITFLORIDA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit www.visitflorida.com. For media resources, visit www.visitfloridamedia.com.