With the term “social distancing” now a part of our everyday lives, VISIT FLORIDA is highlighting the many wide open spaces that are ready and waiting in the State for the day we return. Be it one of the many fabulous parks, stunning forests, hidden springs, sprawling beaches, and more, when it’s space you want, the Sunshine State delivers.
Florida’s Adventure Coast
Whether you prefer the woods or the water, Florida’s Adventure Coast – which stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the Withlacoochee River bordering the East – is the epicentre for outdoor adventures with plenty of room to roam. Offering a diverse range of flora and fauna, the region features 200,000 acres of protected parklands to explore, along with pristine rivers, swathes of old-growth forests, and the beautiful waters of the Gulf. Florida’s third largest state forest – the 158,000 acre Withlacoochee State Forest – teems with options for outdoor recreation, from hiking and camping to off-road biking and horseback riding. There is also the 11,206-acre Sekiwake Preserve, which serves at a sanctuary for wildlife and has been recognized as an Audubon Important Bird Area. The area also features more than eight kilometres of paved and unpaved trails for biking and hiking, as well as lakes for fishing and kayaking.
When it comes to crystal clear natural springs that shimmer with silver and turquoise hues, Ocala-Marion County is home to five, along with two State Parks and a National Forest. Located in the quaint town of Dunnellon, Rainbow Springs is the fourth-largest spring in Florida, and is comprised of five main springs and hundreds of smaller ones. Visitors here are invited to kayak, swim, paddleboard, and explore its many trails on foot or by bike. The Ocala National Forest is the southernmost national forest in the United States. Here, visitors can hike, swim, boat, bike and more in and around the many spring tucked away in the lush, green surroundings.
Fort Myers & Sanibel
Famous for its beaches, fishing and shopping – and two of the most famed inventors and business leaders (Thomas Edison and Henry Ford) that each had winter estates here – Fort Myers and the idyllic neighbouring island of Sanibel are located on Florida’s sunny Gulf Coast. Home to five State Parks – Koreshan State Park, Lovers Key State Park, Cayo Costa State Park, Gasparilla Island State Park and Mound Key Archeological State Park – here you are invited to unwind and breathe. Think secluded beaches and protected estuaries accessible only by boat… undeveloped shoreline where you can spot manatees, porpoises, sea turtles and more… complete freedom to explore without any crowds.
Best known for its enchanting vistas and vibrant flora and fauna, this central Florida locale is just a short drive from Orlando and Tampa but a world apart. Lake Louisa State Park is found here and is home to several lakes and trails that enables visitors to get up close and personal with the State’s natural wonders. Lakes Louisa, Hammond and Dixie are all navigable by canoe, kayak or paddleboard, and whether you are a novice or experienced paddler, there’s a tour here for you. The park also offers more than 11 kilometres of paved trails for cycling, as well as 47 kilometres of unpaved, multi-use trails. Horseback trail rides are also available here. Other state parks in Lake County include Lake Griffin State Park, which is great for hiking and birdwatching, and Alexander Springs State Park, which offers great swimming opportunities.
One of Florida’s most diverse and extraordinary botanical collections, McKee Botanical Garden is located in Vero Beach 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, comprised of over 80 varieties and over 300 potted and 100 free-range plants, which adorn McKee’s ponds and waterways.
Home to 10 state parks throughout its 200-kilometre-long island chain, the Florida Keys features some of the most secluded beaches, rich wildlife, and the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States just offshore. Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon offers the largest uninhabited parcel of land between Key Largo in the Upper Keys and Big Pine Key in the Lower Keys. Year-round birding is popular, as is shallow-water fishing, and the secluded, protected waters make the park an ideal place to kayak and paddleboard.