Florida’s Best Outdoor AdventuresNovember 2020
By Visit Florida Staff
Outdoor adventures are easy to come by in the Sunshine State. Sometimes you want to rough it, and sometimes you don’t. Either way, Florida’s got you covered. From snorkeling a living barrier reef to wildlife viewing from the comfort of your car, here are some of the best hot spots in Florida to experience the great outdoors.
Throughout Florida, you’ll find miles and miles of trails, both paved and off-road. For paved riding, choose the 46-mile Withlacoochee State Trail, which offers long stretches of straight, well-maintained pathways perfect for fast-paced road biking or a leisurely pedal underneath huge oaks and pines. Off-road riders should check out the challenging single-track trails at Miami’s Oleta River State Park or on Florida’s East Coast at Flagler County’s Graham Swamp Conservation Area. Bring your skills and be prepared to ride hard.
Take a hike and explore pathways that showcase Florida’s history, culture, and natural beauty. Hal Scott Preserve near Orlando is a great getaway for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Look for pitcher plants in bogs along the trail. At Hillsborough River State Park in Thonotosassa, near Tampa, you’ll find one of the most scenic hikes in Florida as the trail follows along the river. In the summer, see the ultrarare ghost orchid — nicknamed the Super Ghost — along the boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples.
Paddling in Florida is the best you’ll find anywhere. In Milton, called the “Canoe Capital of Florida,” paddle the Blackwater River or Coldwater Creek, two extremely scenic northwest Florida waterways. Spend a couple of weeks plying the waters of the famed, cypress-lined Suwannee River along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, complete with screened-in camping platforms in its river camps. Moving south, the Peace River Canoe Trail starts at Fort Meade and terminates near Arcadia, and you’ll find tons of great day paddles along the way.
More people travel to Florida for wildlife viewing than any other place in the U.S. — and for good reason. There are more than 2,000 miles of viewing opportunities on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, where you’ll spot the inquisitive Florida scrub jay, swallow-tailed kites, and the majestic crested caracara. On Sanibel Island, check out the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to American crocodiles, bald eagles, and 270 species of birds.
Ready for some underwater fun? Grab your snorkel gear and see what’s happening beyond the beach. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo is the crown jewel of snorkeling hot spots in Florida. Take a short boat ride and snorkel a section of the only living barrier reef in the continental United States. The crystal-clear water and intense colors of the reef are unmatched. In Stuart, Bathtub Reef Beach is perfect for beginners or groups with children, with a shallow reef creating a protected swimming lagoon and beach.