It’s 9 am on Saturday morning and the smell of coffee rouses you awake. The sun is streaming through your windows and it is too beautiful outside to hibernate inside and binge watch The Office all day. Your dog is pawing your hand because she has to go out and wolf down some kibble. So, what’s the weekend plan? Well, we’ve got you covered. Here are seven state parks to choose from, and hopefully one of them is nearby! If not, you can always check the Florida State Parks website and they’ll help you out.
If you’re a Miami native and want to escape the buzzing city streets in no time, Oleta is the place for you. Grab the bikes, your best friend, and a couple of granola bars to clear your mind with a refreshing cruise through Florida’s largest Urban State Park. There’s also a place to put in the kayaks and paddle boards for a peaceful paddle through the mangroves. Remember your sunscreen and sunhat!
Located just south from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Fakahatchee State Park is a wonderful place to explore, hike, fish, bike, and see wildlife, specifically the Florida panther. As a part of an incredibly large combination of protected land, Fakahatchee State Park is among the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, the Everglades National Park, and Big Cypress National Preserve. The Cypress trees are the main attraction at this park. The park is so magnificent because it was once completely cleared during WWII and is now almost replenished with new trees, covering up the previous logging. There are so many activities at Fakahatchee, a notable one being bird watching. If you’re interested in spotting all types of different species, you’re going to the right place. Fakahatchee is located directly on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Don’t forget your binoculars!
Along with the beautiful and unique habitat that makes up the Highlands Hammock State Park, there is also some rich history to the place as well. It is one eight parks in Florida that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression under FDR. The Corps, which operated from 1933-1942, provided unemployed, unmarried men with shelter, clothing, food, and wages in exchange for service and labor on public projects. There is a museum on site that tells the entire history of the Corps and the park’s rich history. Spot an alligator and then check out the museum for a fun and enriching day!
In order to get to Anclote Key Preserve State Park, you’ll need to take a ferry since it is a chain of four different islands: Anclote Key, North Anclote Bar, South Anclote Bar, and Three Rooker Island. If you’ve had a busy work week and looking for some serious downtime, this beautiful island is the place to go. Whether you want to stargaze with your significant other while camping by the coast or work on your tan after a long winter, come to Anclote Key. Not to mention, there is an awesome lighthouse that has been standing since the 1800’s! The only hiking you’ll be doing is down the shoreline, so no boots required. Grab the shovels and the fishing poles, I know what you’re doing this Sunday.
Native Americans settled in Silver Springs in the 16th century, and a canoe is displayed in the visitors’ center as evidence of its long history. Silver Springs is located right at the start of the Ocala National Forest, marking one of the southernmost forests in the country. Silver Springs offers glass bottom boat rides, wedding venues, paddle boarding, kayaking, and school field trips! The glass bottom boat rides are one of the main attractions at this park. This is a way to see what’s underneath the surface without having to grab goggles. It’s basically like a giant swimming mask that exposes the fish and wildlife below the clear blue waters.
Maclay Gardens is a whole different animal than the other state parks we’ve talked about. Formerly the residence of Alfred and Louise Fleischmann Maclay in the twenties, it was donated to the state when Alfred passed away. There are so many beautiful treasures in Maclay Gardens such as a reflection pool; trails for hikers, bikers, runners, walkers, and horseback riders; a lake for swimmers and non-motorized boats, and much more. As a historical landmark, Maclay Gardens is protected by the state of Florida and is a perfect venue for events like weddings and family get-togethers. Come visit this exceptional part of Florida!
Like the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Amelia Island State Park is on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Watchers can find Bald Eagles, pelicans, royal terns, and many more shore birds. This place was made for a good rom-com or an episode of The Bachelor, as it is the only place in Florida with shoreline horseback riding. You may fish, walk, or comb for seashells and enjoy the coastal beauty. The beach is currently going through a re-nourishment project to help prevent damage from future storms. The park is still open but caution is required.
Some of these photos are not taken at the actual parks but are fun depictions of what the sites look like and what they offer. Thanks!