A turtle looks to the camera from the Ecofina River, which is teaming with a variety of wildlife

A turtle looks to the camera from the Ecofina River, which is teeming with a variety of wildlife


La Florida, meaning “Flowery State,” is what the great state of Florida was known as when it was discovered by Spanish explorers in 1513. Not much has changed from those days until now in the sense of Florida’s natural beauty. The only change is that now, people have more access to these areas that host nature’s delights, and that their preservation through the National Parks Service makes them an iconic treasure that can be enjoyed for generations. Here are our Top 10 picks for Florida’s best National Parks to visit this Spring:


15) Ichetucknee Springs State Park

201304_PatrickBairamian_Article_Philsfirstpix_ IchetuckneeSpring

Along the river of the Ichetucknee Springs State Park

This state park takes a step further into real Florida nature. Ichetucknee Springs State Park makes its home around the Ichetucknee River, a six mile long crystal clear river through hammocks and wetlands. During the summer and fall, one can go tubing down the river in rented tubes. From fall to early spring, snorkeling is the premier activity available; snorkel and diving equipment is also available for rent. Ichetucknee is also a wonderful place to picnic, canoe, swim, hike, and view wildlife such as blue herons and wild turkeys. As its name suggests, Ichetucknee is fueled by natural springs. It is also worth checking out the limestone outcrops in the area.


Visiting Ichetucknee in the off season ensures a less crowded park, and a more private experience





14) Cayo Costa State Park

A crystal clear pool of spring-water in De Leon Springs State Park A crystal clear pool of spring-water in De Leon Springs State Park (Photo Credit: Paul Clark)[/caption]


If you’re looking for the Fountain of Youth, you’ll find it here. Named after Juan Ponce de León, this historic park is 611 acres surrounding a sulfur spring. Long before the area was acquired as a recreational area, Native Americans used the springs. When new settlers arrived, they built cotton and sugar plantations. Today, there is a an Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant where you can make your own pancakes at your table. Next to the gloriously comfortable swimming springs is a shady picnic area. Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats are available for rental. During the spring, boaters and kayakers can travel down the De Leon Springs which flow into the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge; 18,000 acres of lakes, creeks, and marshes await eager explorers. Fishing is allowed in the spring, and this park also provides hiking trails, bird watching, picnics, volleyball, and a playground.


If you’re visiting this park for the day, arrive early to ensure a parking spot as spaces fill up quickly!




12) O’Leno State Park

A surfer enjoying the swells of Sebastian Inlet State Park A surfer enjoying the swells of Sebastian Inlet State Park (Photo credit: Jeff Muceus (flickr.com/photos/pdxjeff))[/caption]

Another precious Florida beach, this state park has both shallows and areas of up to six feet deep past the shoreline, as well as tide pools and lagoons. Sebastian Inlet is a famous gathering place for both fishers and surfers; surfing competitions are held here every year. Two nearby museums go in depth with the area’s fishing industry and Spanish treasure fleet; in 1715, a Spanish fleet was wrecked off shore. Enthusiastic treasure hunters and shipwreck divers visit here often in search of some Spanish gold. Sebastian Inlet is also a great place to snorkel, treasure hunt, swim, scuba dive, shell, sunbathe, picnic, hike, and camp.


Between June and July, visit this park to witness nesting season for baby sea turtles!




5) Econfina River State Park

Dry Tortugas National Park Dry Tortugas National Park (Photo credit: Tabitha Kaylee Hawk)[/caption]

This national park is the perfect stop for pirate lovers and history buffs! Located about seventy miles west of the Key West, this national park is composed of seven individual islands surrounded by coral reefs and sand. The only way to reach these islands is by seaplane or boat. The abundance of sea life and tropical birds is astounding; species live and breed here that are uncommon or absent everywhere else in the world. For those that are adventure driven, this park’s history is full of legends of pirates, shipwrecks, and hidden treasure. There are plenty of historic artifacts to gaze at and learn about to further intrigue visitors. Dry Tortugas also offers snorkeling, picnicking, camping, scuba diving, saltwater fishing, birdwatching, and stargazing.


Camping on the beach or staying for a few days will offer a better snorkeling experience with less crowds present.



3) Everglades National Park

The largest protected subtropical wilderness in the United States, Everglades National Park is truly representative as the heart of Florida. It is home to several endangered and rare species of animals. There are multiple tours available through the waterways and mangroves, as well as trams and trails. It’s best to visit the Everglades between December and March when it’s cooler and lacking mosquitoes. Camping is allowed with RVs and fishing is allowed with a state license. Low-powered motorboats are allowed, but swimming is absolutely not recommended.


Bring a lunch or a snack for the guided tours. They’re long, informative, and enjoyable!




2)Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park

Grayton Beach Sunset Grayton Beach Sunset (Photo credit: John Roger Palmour)[/caption]

Grayton is ranked as one of the most stunning beaches in the United States. Larger than 2,000 acres, this park is the best to visit in Florida if romance is in mind. Perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and surf fishing, the expansive sunsets, bright sunrises, and moonlit evenings create an ideal mood for couples. Other activities offered are snorkeling, camping, bicycling, birding, boating, canoeing, hiking, kayaking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Grayton has such a large camping grounds that you can bring your RV, a tent, or stay the night in a duplex cabin.



Grayton is one of the places where nude sunbathing is allowed!