If you live in Florida, you are used to the intensely hot weather that feels ten degrees warmer than the thermometer says. The sun beats down on weathered land, wind rustling over grasses and bushes. Who would want to go out in the dead of summer here?
Many people like to go out and enjoy the weather, especially those who grew up in significantly cooler climates. You don’t need to be from the Sunshine State to appreciate what nature has to offer, and you can check it out in one of the many state parks within Florida.
State parks tend to be more unique in Florida because there are so many different habitats the further you go. Forests, scrub, wetlands, and more are all a part of the Florida nature experience. Let’s explore some of the prettiest state parks in Florida!
1. Blue Springs State Park
This is the place to go in the winter months to put your eye on some manatees. In 2022, they had a record number of 692 manatees at one time in the water. The colder the weather gets, the more manatees flock to the warmer waters of places like Blue Springs.
In the summer month, manatees and alligators are still making their way through the water. Blue Springs State Park is known for more than just its manatee housing capabilities, though. It is also known for its crystalline waters and beautiful trails for both hiking and kayaking.
A boardwalk trail winds through the park and comes to a head at the boil, where the spring waters boil upward and out. Experienced divers love spelunking underwater to explore the small caverns within.
The average swimmer can enter the water off the boardwalk and float on down to the boil, reveling in the feeling of swimming over what feels like a bottomless pit.
Other trails exist for hiking and biking, with ample campgrounds as well. Blue Springs State Park is a great day trip for a family and a wonderful option for those who like a bit of a moderate hike.
2. Wekiwa Springs State Park
Wekiwa Springs is known for its luscious water hole, framed in concrete but filled with naturally clear water and slippery with algae and sand. Walking over, you are at the rim of a deep depression.
You follow the boardwalk down to the water and prepare for an icy cold dip in its scenic waters. Watch out for fish and the like; just because it is encased in concrete doesn’t mean animals aren’t alive and well in the water.
There is a food bar to keep you sated and a gift shop where you can rent kayaks and innertubes, depending on the goals for the day’s fun. Kayaking takes you down the river to spot beautiful wildlife like turtles, alligators, birds, and all types of fish.
For those looking for casual exercise, walk the Wet to Dry Trail on a wooden boardwalk that takes you on a small loop within the park to get some first-hand nature experience.
Some people enjoy getting lost in nature on a relaxing hike through the heat. There are a few trails of a few miles that one can utilize and quite a few different camping spots that can be reserved.
Be careful where you end up, though, because there is a vast fourteen-mile hike that you could end up spending all day on, so keep an eye on the markers and stay safe. The area is known to be rife with wild animals, from black bears to feral hogs, and there’s always something out there to see.
3. Florida Caverns State Park
When the summer heat becomes too much to bear, you can take your family to the Florida Caverns State Park. Take a few steps down to the caverns, let the naturally cool air take over, and erase the sweat from your brows.
Amazing views don’t always have to be green and blue. At this state park, you’re more likely to be fascinated by shades of brown that live in the darkness. Stalactites and stalagmites grow from the ceiling and the floor, while other natural phenomena stand out.
Water drips slowly down the rocks, often forming magnificent natural rock formations known as draperies or flowstones. Some rocks glisten the white color of milk, while others hold glassy pools of completely still black water.
The original walkthroughs began in the 1930s, with workers carving out the cave entrances so that people could easily walk through them during the tours. It’s like stepping into another world when you get the chance to explore the Florida Caverns State Park on a guided tour.
Take a break from the sun and explore the other-worldly depths of the caverns, which is a sight unlike any other in the state of Florida. This park is definitely worth the visit.
4. Rainbow Springs State Park
Rainbow Springs State Park is named for the waterfalls that can be found within the park. The waters are deep sapphire blue and are always at an autumnal 72 degrees, perfect for the hot Florida summer.
This park was originally a frequently visited place by the indigenous people of Florida and has been around for the last 10,000 years. A lot of work has been done over the years to change it into a place now accessible by all. Paved walkways can lead you to sparkling waterfalls, with more rugged nature trails available for the intrepid adventurers.
There is even an area with the remains of an old zoo for you to explore, along with the waters, which are cool and inviting. You can swim, kayak, or hike in this gorgeous state park. It’s up to you to decide what part of it calls more to you and your family.