Florida Outdoor Activities
Florida outdoor activities overview
Florida is a state surrounded by water and for this reason you will no doubt want to take advantage of the many water sports available there. You can take your pick, from calm water related pursuits like fishing or sailing to more exciting adventures, such as jet skiing, SCUBA diving, kite or wind surfing, wake boarding, parasailing, and more. With 8,500 miles of shoreline, 7,800 lakes, 320 springs and 35 rivers, the possibilities are endless! Many beach hotels offer free use of non-motorized watercraft and outfitters throughout the state peddle charter fishing cruises, dive lessons, and other opportunities which enable you to enjoy Florida’s beautifully warm waters.
Camping in Florida
Florida has lots of places to camp, but for families, these are some of the state’s best spots. Be sure to check out our State and Federal Parks page for some additional camping information.
1. Fort De Soto Park | Pinellas County
The county park has a 238-site, full-service campground that seems to have been created with families in mind. The amenities include picnic tables, grills, fresh water, electricity, washers, dryers, sanitary disposal stations, modern restrooms, showers, play areas and a camp store. The park has more than 7 miles of waterfront recreation, including two fishing piers, nature trails, paved bike trail and a canoe trail. Campsites range from $30 to $35 a night. Call (727) 582-2267 or go to the Web site.
2. Oscar Scherer State Park| Venice
This is one of the best places in the state to see the elusive Florida scrub jay. Hike 15 miles of trails through the pine flatwoods or rent a canoe or kayak and paddle South Creek, a tannic stream that flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Fish the creek or Lake Osprey, which is also open to swimming. Like most state parks, the full-service campground is clean and well-maintained. The park’s nature center is a great place to introduce youngsters to the ecology of this unique area. Campsites are $22 a night. Call (941) 483-5956 or go to the Web site.
3. Myakka River State Park| Sarasota
It is one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks, and as a result, there is no shortage of things to do. The Myakka River, designated as a Florida Wild and Scenic River, flows through the heart of the 58-square-mile wilderness playground. Tour the lake on one of the world’s largest airboats or take to the treetops on the canopy walkway. There’s also excellent fishing, canoeing, kayaking, bike riding and bird-watching. The park has cabins and back country sites as well as a full-service family campground. Campsites are $22 a night. Call (941) 361-6511 or go to the Web site.
4. Lake Kissimmee State Park| Lake Wales
You will be taken back to a time when “cracker” cowboys ruled the Florida scrub land. No trip is complete without a visit to the park’s 1876-era cow camp. Not much has changed since “cow hunters” ruled the prairie. You’ll see white-tailed deer, bald eagles, sandhill cranes and wild turkeys. Anglers can catch bass on lakes Kissimmee, Tiger and Rosalie. There are also 13 miles of hiking trails, six of which are open to equestrians. The full-service campground is one of the best places in Florida for stargazing. Campsites are $17 a night. Call (863) 696-1112 or go to the Web site.
5. Anastasia State Park| St. Augustine
This park is a rare gem. The beach and surrounding wetlands have been preserved and look much the way they must have 500 years ago when the Spanish explorers first made landfall. Besides great surfing, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, the park has an archaeological site where coquina rock was mined to create the nearby Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the oldest Spanish fortress in America. Explore the dunes and stunted oak hammocks via the nature trail or paddle Salt Run, a tidal salt marsh, in a canoe or kayak. Campsites are $23 a night. Call (904) 461-2033 or go to the Web site.
6. Tomoka State Park| Ormond Beach
This was once home to a thriving American Indian community. Visit the park’s fish-filled lagoons and you will see the attraction. A water lover’s paradise, Tomoka is also a great place to watch birds. Naturalists have identified more than 160 species. In the river, you can catch red drum, sheepshead, spotted sea trout, snook and tarpon. Visitors can also take a hike on the half-mile nature trail through a hardwood hammock that was once an indigo field for an 18th century British landowner. Campsites are $20. Call (386) 676-4050 or go to the Web site.
7. Blue Spring State Park| Orange City
The park has the largest spring on the St. Johns River. This area was once inhabited by American Indians, and in 1766, was home to botanist John Bartram. The spring’s gin-clear 73-degree water is a haven for swimmers, snorkelers, scuba divers and the West Indian manatee. The spring run provides a warm water refuge for these gentle sea cows during the winter months, and as a result, is closed from Nov. 15 through March 1. But visitors can still fish, boat and canoe the St. Johns. Camping is $20 a night. Call (386) 775-3663 or go to the Web site.
8. Silver Springs State Park | Ocala
The park is the home of the famous glass-bottom boat tours. You can spend out on your own paddling the Silver River. The state park also has a pioneer cracker village and the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center, which is open on weekends and holidays. You can also hike or ride one of the park’s many nature trails. Camping is $21 a night. Call (352) 236-2121 or go to the Web site.
9. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park | Micanopy
Paynes Prairie Preserve is valued for not only its natural communities, but its history as well. In 1774, botanist John Bartram wrote a detailed description of this region and called it the “great Alachua Savannah.” Park activities include hiking, bird-watching, fishing, picnicking and bicycling. Climb the 50-foot-high observation tower to see a wide array of wildlife, including alligators, bison and wild horses. You can also pick from eight trails for hiking, horseback riding and biking. Camping is $15 a night. Call (352) 466-3397 or go to the Web site.
10. Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park | New Port Richey
This park has more than 8,300 acres of forest, with bike, hiking and horse trails. The park, a joint venture of the Pasco County Parks Department and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, has a great, heavily wooded camping area. Stop by the Environmental Education Center and see artifacts from a 19th century “Cracker” homestead that was discovered, excavated and is now maintained by a local Boy Scout Explorer post. Camping is $10 a night. Call (727) 834-3247 or go to the Web site.
Fishing in Florida
There are so many productive places to fish in the state it’s not stretching the truth to say if you see some water and it’s more than a few inches deep, it’s worth checking out. There’s probably fish to be caught.
The fact that you can fish every day of the year adds to the state’s attraction as a fishing mecca. Your chances of catching what you want do vary with the time of year and where you’re fishing so if you are planning a trip check with a knowledgeable local bait and tackle store, marina or fishing guide before you go.
Kayaking and Canoeing in Florida
Relax and explore part of the Sunshine State from the seat of a canoe or kayak, you will find there are miles of slow moving, wildlife laced rivers to discover and vast stretches of marsh and mangrove lined coastline where kayakers and canoeists can see dolphins and manatees while fishing for redfish and snook as ospreys and pelicans fly overhead.
Florida is blessed with over 1700 rivers, 40 of them major ones, hundreds of miles of low energy shoreline in the Big Bend region along the west coast and thousands of places among the mangrove forested southwest coast and Florida Keys to poke and probe. A place to paddle, whether it’s for a few hours or a few days, is never far away. Many of these sites include some of the last wilderness areas east of the Mississippi. They are magical places where you can get close to wildlife and experience true isolation. Read our articles on kayaking in Florida.
Boating in Florida
In a state where no one lives more than 50 miles from salt water and more than a few miles from some type of navigable fresh water, there are endless opportunities to enjoy a day on the water. Along the state’s 8,200 mile plus coastline there are places for boaters to enjoy the solitude, fishing and wildlife of an undeveloped estuary or cruise by the spectacular homes that line the Intracoastal Waterway along the state’s east coast. And, with three million acres of lakes and 1,700 miles of rivers and streams to explore from a boat, there are also plenty of places to fish, alligators to watch and sites to see.
Hunting in Florida
Hunters can try their luck on one of 100 public hunting areas, lease land from a private landowner, or connect with an outfitter who will set up a hunt on land reserved exclusively the outfitter’s use.
White-tailed deer and wild hogs are the state’s two big game animals. Upland bird hunters can harvest the Osceola race of wild turkeys, northern bobwhites, doves, and snipe while ducks hunters have a variety of species including blue-winged teal, wood ducks, and ringed-necked ducks to aim for. There is an abundance of small game including gray squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, opossum, coyote, nutria, skunk, and beaver. Florida is also one of the few states that has a legal alligator hunting season. Licensing requirements and the seasons, dates and bag limits are extensive so make sure you know when and where it is legal to hunt.
For deer, hog and turkey, the state divides Florida’s hunting seasons into three zones. In each zone, there are archery and muzzle-loading only seasons plus a modern antlered deer and wild hog season in which hunters can use any of the legal weapons. Thus, hunters can, depending on location and weapon, hunt deer in Florida from early September until mid-January.