We all know Florida's beaches and man-made attractions make for a great winter vacation, however most people may not realize just how much natural wilderness exists in the state both on land and in the sea. There's plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures - kayaking/canoeing, snorkeling, diving, hiking, cycling and fishing are all here, if you know where to look for them...
This is part two of a three part series exploring some of our favorite outdoor adventures in the “sunshine state”, which may actually be more aptly called “Water-Wonder-Land”…
Florida Caverns State Park
West of Tallahassee at the northern end of the state, you can find the 1,319-acre Florida Caverns State Park. This is one of the few state parks with dry caves and is the only one in Florida that offers cave tours to the public. View bizarre and dazzling formations of limestone stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones, and draperies within the cavern. The Park’s Visitor Center provides historical interpretation in its walk-through museum and large screen video tour of the caverns. Guided cave tours are offered every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The Park is also popular for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding as well as canoeing and kayaking. The park has 38 campsites with electric and water hookups, along with areas to picnic and swim. The multi-use trails are several miles long and provide views of natural floodplains, sinkholes, rivers and Karst topography. For an exciting and unique experience, canoe / kayak the scenic Chipola River and enjoy what natural Florida has to offer – Maybe you’ll encounter a heron, egret, alligator, beaver and/or snake. But that’s not all - This river features a “sink”, where the water disappears and drops 90 feet below the ground surface before reappearing a mile downstream.
For more info, go to http://www.stateparks.com/florida_caverns_state_park_in_florida.html
Timucuan - Ecological & Historic Preserve
North-east of Jacksonville, you can visit one of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on America’s Atlantic Coast at the Timucuan Preserve. There, you can discover the beauty of salt marshes, coastal dunes and hardwood hammocks. Walk in the footsteps of the Timucuan Indians on hiking trails that take you through shady hammocks, salt marshes and along beautiful rivers and pristine beaches.
Alternatively, one of the best ways to journey through the park’s upland hammocks and salt marsh habitats is by canoe / kayak. There’s a dizzying assortment of snaking rivers to explore in the Preserve. A boat ramp also provides access to some of the best fishing spots in the region.
There are 400 acres of natural north Florida ecosystems at Cedar Point including hiking and biking trails. While enjoying the trails, you may see opossums, armadillos, rabbits as well as lizards, turtles and river otters. Also be alert for rattlesnakes. Birdwatchers can potentially see over 200 species of birds including the beautiful painted bunting.
The Theodore Roosevelt Area is a 600-acre natural treasure of hardwood forest, wetlands and scrub vegetation. Visitors can experience miles of thickly wooded peaceful nature trails, vast grasslands that support a large number of both water and land animals and you may even come across piles of discarded oyster shells from the indigenous people long ago.
The Timucuan Preserve also includes Fort Caroline and the Kingsley Plantation. Fort Caroline memorializes the short-lived French presence during the 16th century when a settlement of 200 soldiers and artisans was established. Slave cabins can still be seen at the Kingsley Plantation.
There's so much to do here - For more information, check out https://www.nps.gov/timu/index.htm
Biscayne National Park
Just south of Miami on the northern tip of the Florida Keys is the 173,000-acre Biscayne National Park. The Park consists of a strip of Florida mainland along with more than a dozen keys and reefs preserving four distinct ecosystems and their overlapping ‘ecotones’. This area supports an incredible diverse array of tropical/subtropical animals and plants including hundreds of species of colorful reef fish, a suite of neo-tropical water birds and migratory habitat with plants found nowhere else in the United States. This includes visitor favorites like pelicans, manatees and sea turtles.
Canoeing/kayaking is a great way to explore the park's mangrove-fringed shorelines, shallow bay waters, lagoons, creeks and channels. There are a variety of birding opportunities along the Biscayne Birding Trail. Biscayne National Park truly is a snorkeler's paradise with great locations to explore in the shallow-water reefs of Biscayne Bay or the many reefs on the other side of Hawk Channel. Maritime Heritage Trail is a unique underwater archaeological trail showcasing six of the more than 50 shipwrecks in the park. Some of the wrecks are better suited for scuba divers but some are in 12 feet of water or less.
To orient yourself to the area, the Dante Fascell Visitor Center provides a gallery and museum. The museum highlights the park's four ecosystems with exhibits, sound and video. Outdoor enthusiasts can also boat, camp, watch wildlife… or simply relax in a rocking chair gazing out over the bay.
For more information visit https://www.nps.gov/bisc/index.htm
Like we said before... There is so much more to Florida than beaches and man-made attractions. Get outside and experience natural wilderness and the adventures that Florida has to offer...
... and when you’re outside enjoying your day in the sun, please remember to protect yourself from UV rays – Beat the heat with an Urban Canairie hat that is made for people who enjoy the outdoors!
Our next look at Florida's outdoor playground will highlight the Everglades and the Florida Reef... So much more to explore - Stay tuned for Part 3