The 10 Best National Parks in Florida
The 10 Best National Parks in Florida
Florida has long been a favorite paradise for families, adventure seekers, and beach adventures. Other than far-distant Hawaii, it is the only tropical state in the country, and its weather and fun attractions draw in people looking for a trip full of relaxation, excitement, or both. From kayaking in Florida, and amazing camping sites there are tons of amazing things to do in Florida so be sure to pick up a brochure on its national parks or continue reading to learn more about the list we’ve put together for travelers like you.
Everglades National Park Florida
While many travelers feel inclined to visit popular spots like Disneyworld or Universal Studios, Florida has enough scenic drives, historical sites, and natural wonders to keep you entertained for as long as you’d like to stay, especially when you’re booked at the best hotels in Florida. Many of these areas are federally protected and preserved for visitors to enjoy. Today we’d like to share our picks for the 10 best national parks in Florida.
1 | Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve | For those that want a blend of historical insights and natural wonders, the Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve is sure to impress. Here you’ll find over 45,000 acres of Atlantic coastal wetlands to explore, with many natural trails that lead through forests, beaches, and marshes. Visitors can also learn about 6,000 years’ worth of human activity and history. You can discover the stories of the native people who once inhabited the area before European contact began a long and difficult struggle during colonialization. Of particular interest is American Beach, a beach designated to African Americans during segregation. Timucuan is perfect for budget travelers because it is free to visit.
WHERE: 12713 Ft Caroline Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32225 | WHO: 904-641-7155
2 | Everglades National Park | The Everglades is arguably Florida’s most famous natural wonder, and it isn’t hard to see why. This park is the largest wilderness in the eastern half of the country, covering over 1.5 million acres. Plan ahead to decide which section of the park you’d like to visit, as it is far too large to cover in one trip. Natural highlights of the Everglades include mangrove forests, coastal lowlands, and tropical hammocks. A diverse array of rare animal species can be found, most notably crocodiles, alligators, panthers, herons, manatees, and dolphins, as well as protected endangered species. The park has various entry points, but it is most easily accessible from Miami.
WHERE: 36000 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33194 | WHO: 305-221-8776
3 | Big Cypress National Preserve | Coming in at about half the size of Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve contains 729,000 acres of swampland on a coastal plain near Florida’s southwest coast. An abundance of plant and animal life makes this park a delight for both amateur and experienced naturalists. Here visitors can explore the landscape using boats, cars, or even swamp buggies. The most avid outdoors-lovers can camp too. If you choose to stay after dark, you will likely be dazzled by the stellar display. This preserve is an official International Dark Sky Place, so it offers some of the best star gazing you can find.
WHERE: 33100 Tamiami Trail E, Ochopee, FL 34141 | WHO: 239-695-2000
4 | Dry Tortugas National Park | If you like exploring islands, Dry Tortugas National Park is the destination for you. The park is comprised of a seven-part archipelago just west of Key West. It may be a little out of the way for most, but it is well worth the time. Relax on beaches, cruise around the islands, go snorkeling, view the marine life, visit the 19th-century historic fort, or look for the park’s unique wildlife. You can even camp here if you’d like to, but be aware that only eight campsites are available. The park is reachable by ferry from Key West, and the bumpy ride takes just over two hours.
WHERE: 281 Trumbo Rd, Key West, FL 33040 | WHO: 305-242-7700
5 | Canaveral National Seashore | Located on a strip of lagoon just east of Orlando is Canaveral National Seashore. This gorgeous stretch of land is one of the most undeveloped and unspoiled spots in the entire state, where visitors are treated to arguably the most perfect seashore one could ask for. Animal and plant lovers will feel right at home. Five species of sea turtle, as well as a variety of snakes, birds, and manatees call Canaveral their home. There are also over 1,000 species of plants that can be found here. Even if you aren’t a huge nature lover, there are plenty of activities related to science, culture, and history to enjoy.
WHERE: S Washington Ave, Titusville, FL 32796 | WHO: 321-267-1110
6 | Castillo de San Marcos National Monument | If you love historical sites, St. Augustine is the Floridian destination for you. The first of multiple forts on this list is Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. The Spanish began building it almost 350 years ago. We recommend the guided tour of the fortress by a park ranger. You can experience living history and demonstrations of old weapons that were used here. This is the oldest masonry fortification you’ll find anywhere in the continental U.S.
WHERE: 1 S Castillo Dr, St. Augustine, FL 32084 | WHO: 904-829-6506
7 | Gulf Islands National Seashore | Gulf Islands National Seashore is the ultimate destination for beach lovers. It’s the longest nationally protected shoreline in the U.S., and it isn’t hard to see why it was chosen for preservation. Beautiful white sands and shimmering blue waters provide an excellent outlet to the Gulf of Mexico, and there is so much room that you will likely find easy privacy. As you might expect, the wildlife found here is incredibly diverse. Herons, dolphins, turtles, starfish, crabs, and endless varieties of fish call the Gulf Islands their home.
WHERE: 1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563 | WHO: 850-934-2600
8 | Biscayne National Park | You won’t find any hiking trails at this park. Over 90 percent of Biscayne National Park’s 172,000 acres are comprised of water. Despite being extremely close to downtown Miami, you will feel like you are in another world here. Rent a boat and explore coral reefs and stunning islands. Snorkel, camp, or search for unique wildlife. You can even go on a guided ecology boat tour adventure. Unlike most other Florida national parks, Biscayne is totally free to visit. However, if you want to camp, you will have to pay a small fee.
WHERE: 9700 SW 328th St, Homestead, FL 33033 | WHO: 305-230-1144
9 | Fort Matanzas National Monument | For a dose of history with your natural beauty, check out Fort Matanzas National Monument. This remarkable Spanish fort was completed in 1742. Three hundred acres of marshes, forests, and dunes surround it. The fort is located south of St. Augustine, and it requires a free ferry to reach it across the Matanzas inlet. Watch out, there are only eight ferries per day, and they work on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once you reach the fort, admire its structure made of a mixture of sand and shells. Once you’ve explored the fort and learned some history, take a walk on one of the surrounding nature trails.
WHERE: 8635 A1A S, St. Augustine, FL 32080 | WHO: 904-471-0116
10 | De Soto National Memorial | Here is another one for history lovers. Hernando de Soto, a Spanish Conquistador, landed in Tampa Bay in 1539. To say the least, locals weren’t pleased with the event. This memorial marks that historic struggle. Learn more at Camp Uzita, where volunteers and rangers will teach kids and adults alike about what life was like there six hundred years ago. As with nearly all these destinations, there are also nature trails to explore too. Fishing, boating, and bird watching are also popular activities.
WHERE: 8300 Desoto Memorial Hwy, Bradenton, FL 34209 | WHO: 941-792-0458
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Last Tips On Other Things To Do in Florida
Florida's national parks and other federally funded sights are great but don’t forget about Florida’s many state parks and attractions. To further your time bonding with this state's natural side, be sure to check out its best trails, fishing piers, your favorite shark tooth beach, and the incredible things to do in Florida near Orlando for an even fuller and more memorable experience. Don't forget to check out our Travel Blog for more vacation tips, tricks and fun things to do.
* Westgate Resorts is in no way affiliated with the attractions featured in this article. Items or places listed are current as of the publishing date of this article. Please call or visit the respective website for the most up-to-date offerings and details.