Discover the 10 Best National Parks in Florida

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: April 17, 2022
Image Credit forestpath/Shutterstock.com
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Also known as “The Sunshine State,” Florida is famous for its magnificent orange orchards, steamy beaches, and natural scenery. So, it should come as no surprise that the state is also home to some amazing national parks, forests, and reserves.

From viewing the unparalleled landscape and wildlife of the Everglades to sunbathing in the Gulf Islands, there are many spectacular things to do in Florida.

Ranging from breathtaking towering mountains, rugged gorges, sparkling lakes, gator-filled swamps, and plenty of hiking opportunities, here are the ten best national parks to visit in Florida.

1. Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park has a few hiking trails, a variety of plants, and more than 40 species of mammals.

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Everglades National Park
Size1,508,976 Acres
Animal to SeeFlorida Panther
Attraction to SeeShark Valley

Everglades National Park is the crown jewel of Florida. While the pine Flatwoods may not be as tall as those of the Redwood National Park or as dramatic as Glenmore Forest Park, the coastal mangroves offer their charm.

The park has a few hiking trails, a variety of plants, and more than 40 species of mammals, including the endangered Florida panther, West Indian manatee, and leatherback turtle. Take a boat tour to view the American crocodiles, dolphins, and American alligators within the park’s waters.

Hiking to the Shark Valley via the Shark Valley Troop Trail will also provide you with a perfect opportunity to closely view alligators, great egrets, snail kites, double-crested cormorants, and numerous species of birds.

2. Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is home to diverse species of mammals both under and above the water.

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Dry Tortugas National Park
Size64,701 Acres
Animal to SeeShark
Attraction to SeeLoggerhead Lighthouse

With the seven islands open year-round, there is never a wrong time to visit Dry Tortugas National Park. It’s the best place to visit in Florida if you want to view the unique marine landscape and learn about the history of the Dry Tortugas Islands.

The Dry Tortugas is home to diverse species of mammals both under and above the water. Take some boating activities to view marine animals like turtles, groupers, squid, octopus, and many tropical reef fishes. Bush Key is the best place to watch seabirds such as sooty terns.

3. Alafia River State Park

Alafia River State Park
Alafia River State Park is home to different animals, including alligators, armadillos, wild boars, raccoons, skunks, turtles, foxes, and many more.

Norm Lane/Shutterstock.com

Alafia River State Park
Size6,260 Acres
Animal to SeeAlligator
Attraction to SeeLithia Springs Park

Alafia River State Park is one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever lay your eyes on. It had always been the center of leisure activities, even before becoming a park. No matter what time of year it is, Alafia has a lot of outdoor activities that you can do. These include hiking and camping as well as horseback riding, fishing, biking, and more.

The park has more than 17 miles of biking trails and approximately nine hiking trails, ranging from beginner to advanced. It’s possible to view wildlife, pine Flatwoods, hardwood forests, and rolling hills from all the trails.

Alafia is home to different animals, including alligators, armadillos, wild boars, raccoons, skunks, turtles, snakes, lizards, hawks, bluebirds, rabbits, foxes, and many more.

4. Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park
At Biscayne National Park, you get a chance to see the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins play.

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Biscayne National Park
Size172,971 Acres
Animal to SeeManatee
Attraction to SeePinecrest Gardens

Get a chance to see the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins play in your wake at Biscayne National Park. Elliot Key, Boca Chita Key, and Biscayne Bayne are the best places for viewing these dolphins and even catching sight of the brown pelicans

Visit the park during winter for your best chance to view the endangered manatees. During winter, they tend to come out towards land to find more shallow and warmer waters. You may spot some manatees at the freshwater canals and Dante Fascell Visitor Centre.

Enjoy all the park’s diverse ecosystems through ranger programs, boat tours, hiking, camping, and other special activities.

5. Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress National Preserve is home to Florida panthers, black bears, bobcats, otters, anhingas, herons, and egrets.

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Big Cypress National Preserve
Size720,566 Acres
Animal to SeeFlorida Panther
Attraction to SeeAh-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

Big Cypress National Preserve offers visitors a plethora of impressive views of the swamp ecosystems and unique wildlife. The preserve is home to Florida panthers, black bears, bobcats, otters, anhingas, herons, and egrets.

Explore the natural landscapes of Big Cypress through hikes, scenic drives, and biking as a way to renew your connection with nature. Most of the boating activities are ranger-guided. Find out more about paddling at the visitor’s center.

6. Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park is home to small nurse sharks, reef fishes, rays, and barracudas.

Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock.com

Bahia Honda State Park
Size524 Acres
Animal to SeeBarracuda
Attraction to SeeSandy Beaches

Bahia Honda State Park is one of Florida’s most exciting destinations and offers incredible views of the island and impressive marine wildlife. Bahia Honda is home to small nurse sharks, reef fishes, rays, and barracudas.

There are a lot of activities to explore, including snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, biking, paddling, swimming, camping, and photography. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the open waters of Bahia Honda. You can bring your kayak or rent one.

Hike to the top of the bridge to get the most magnificent island views. You may also spot turtles, large stingrays, and other marine animals from the bridge.

7. Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs State Park is a perfect place to view the dense sandhill forests and immaculate gardens.

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Silver Spring State Park
Size5,000 Acres
Animal to SeeAlligator
Attraction to SeeSilver Springs

Visit Silver Springs State Park to see one of the biggest artesian springs globally that date back to the 1870s. Silver Spring is also known for its biodiversity, and it’s a perfect place to view the dense sandhill forests and immaculate gardens.

Look out for rhesus monkeys, Sherman fox squirrels, gopher tortoises, armadillos, turkeys, bobcats, alligators, coyotes, and black bears while strolling through Silver Springs State Park. The park is home to more than a hundred rhesus macaque monkeys.

Swim in Juniper Creek or kayak down the glossy Silver Springs to experience the serenity of the forests surrounding the waters. Paddle into the deeper ends of the forests where only the sounds of snorting deers and chattering birds can be heard.

8. Point Washington State Forest

Point Washington State Forest
Point Washington State Forest is a perfect place to go for hikes along the wet prairie, wet flatwoods, basin swamps, and sandhills.

Drew Roberts/Shutterstock.com

Point Washington State Forest
Size15,400 Acres
Animal to SeeAlligator
Attraction to SeeWet Prairie and Sand Hill

If you’re searching for real adventure and wildlife exploration, then look no further than Point Washington State Forest. It’s a perfect place to go for hikes along the wet prairie, wet flatwoods, basin swamps, and sandhills.

There is plenty to discover in this spectacular state forest, especially if you’re tired of sitting in the sand by the beach for a whole week. In fact, you can go hunting with your friends or family at Point Washington. Some of the huntable species outlined by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission include wild hogs, turkeys, quails, ducks, and deer.

Take the park’s Jeep trails if you don’t like hiking. You will have the best opportunity to view many animals on the roads.

9. Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Islands National Seashore
Gulf Islands National Seashore is known as the land of “magnificent white beaches and emerald coast waters.”

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Gulf Islands National Seashore
Size135,457 Acres
Animal to SeeRaccoon
Attraction to SeeFort Picken

Known as the land of “magnificent white beaches and emerald coast waters,” the Gulf Islands National Seashore is Florida’s biggest treasure. The Gulf Islands will seem extra appealing to you if you’re into scuba diving, swimming, and snorkeling.

Boating activities provide the chance to see bottlenose dolphins and other marine mammals. There is an opportunity to see land animals such as raccoons, otters, foxes, armadillos, and beavers at the Fort Pickens Area.

10. Apalachicola National Forest

Apalachicola National Forest
Apalachicola’s primary features are diverse landscapes, unique ecosystems, and distinctive animal and plant species.

Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock.com

Apalachicola National Forest
Size632,890 Acres
Animal to SeeAlligator
Attraction to SeeApalachicola Maritime Museum

Being the largest forest in Florida, Apalachicola National Forest also lays claim to many years’ worth of history. Its primary features are diverse landscapes, unique ecosystems, and distinctive animal and plant species.

Many people visit the park to explore outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, hunting, kayaking, and trail riding. Take a hike and see some of the best scenery Apalachicola offers.

Spend a little more time at Camel Lake, Wright Lake, and Porter Lake with a tent and recreational vehicle. Watch out for alligators and other potentially dangerous animals in the lakes. Black bears roam the area early in the mornings and late in the evenings.

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