While a huge portion of the Sunshine State’s tourism is owed to its beaches, amusement parks, and active nightlife scene, Florida also boasts one of the largest national parks in the country, as well as a series of smaller national and state parks.
In other words, Florida has so much more to offer than mouse ears and sunny shores.
Everglades National Park
Nearest City: Florida City, Everglades City, Florida
Everglades National Park is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States. The park protects the southernmost portion of the original Everglades environment, and continues to draw more attention as an important ecological site, every single year.
The park was created in 1934, declared a biosphere reserve in 1976, listed as a world heritage site in 1979, and then upgraded to a wetland of international importance in 1987. Impressively, only two other locations in the entire world appear on all three of these lists.
The Everglades largest claim to fame, however, is its biodiversity. More than 800 species live in Everglades National Park alone.
Visitors may be lucky enough to spot a number of these species—including the once-threatened Florida Panther or American Alligator—while kayaking, hiking, camping.
If stargazing is your thing, both the remote Flamingo and Ten Thousand Islands regions of the park offer superb nighttime views.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Nearest City: Key West, Florida
Making up the latter portion of the Everglades and Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve, Dry Tortugas National Park is best known for its sea life and undisturbed coral reefs.
However, the national park, which lies 65 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, also contains a number of other recreational attractions, as well as Fort Jefferson.
Construction of Fort Jefferson began in 1846, but never finished. Made up of over three million bricks, it’s the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere—even while incomplete.
Other popular recreational activities at Dry Tortugas National Park include snorkeling, SCUBA diving, kayaking, and hiking. The park also offers ranger-guided tours.
Biscayne National Park
Nearest City: Homestead, Florida
Located south of Miami, about ninety-five percent of Biscayne National Park is water. It protects Biscayne Bay, as well as some of the largest barrier reefs in the world.
Four distinct ecosystems comprise the park’s environment: the mangrove swamp, Biscayne Bay, limestone keys, and barrier reefs. All protect a diverse series of flora and fauna.
In fact, an incredible sixteen endangered species live in and around these four ecosystems.
Prepare for an otherworldly experience while visiting. SCUBA divers and snorkelers will rejoice as they explore the rich and diverse waters of the park, while other visitors can enjoy wildlife-watching alongside park rangers.
Anastasia State Park
Nearest City: St. Augustine, Florida
Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive at Anastasia State Park to enjoy its beautiful and enticing beaches.
While in Anastasia, you can enjoy beachcombing, swimming, surfing, camping, fishing, sunbathing, and several other outdoor activities. The park is well-outfitted with campsites, nature trails, picnic areas, and outdoor grills.
In addition to its popularity as an outdoor playground, Anastasia State Park contains the archaeological site that unearthed the coquina stone. This stone was used in the construction of the Castillo de San Marcos, which resides in St. Augustine, Florida.
Honeymoon Island State Park
Nearest City: Dunedin, Florida
Honeymoon Island State Park formed after a hurricane in 1921 split the larger barrier island. It sits across Hurricane Pass from Caladesi Island, and protects 2,785 acres.
The park’s gem is its breathtaking beaches, which welcome more than a million tourists annually—making it the most visited state park in Florida.
This sunbather’s paradise also protects a diverse set of wildlife. Many bird species migrate to the park throughout the year, and tourists consistently spot pods of dolphins from the shores.
Explore the Sunshine State
Florida really does live up to its nickname: its warm, island-like feel makes it one of the most popular tourist spots in America—and one of the most diverse ecosystems out there.
Besides the traditional outdoor adventures you’d find in most state or national parks, Florida throws in the extra thrills of water-themed activities, from snorkeling to diving.
Outdoor enthusiasts, families, and honeymooners alike can explore the gorgeous views and vivid, varied ecosystem this state has to offer.