Planning your next vacation? Florida has many beautiful national parks offering primitive sites with amazing views and an ethereal glimpse of nature that should not be missed in a lifetime. These national parks offer a wide range of fun-packed experiences whether it is camping, snorkeling or just historic site seeing.
Each national park in Florida has its own exclusive element where you can delve into the reefs, wildlife, and history. The weather is best from November to mid-April, most of the parks are open whole year but during wet summers, some tend to close for a brief period.
Here is a must-try list of best six national parks in Florida that you should include in your itinerary immediately.
1. Everglades National Park
This national park is one of a kind. Everglades National Park is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States which is a 1.5 million-acre subtropical and tropical habitat. It was established in 1947 to retain the biological diversity and is home to alligators, Florida panthers, the American crocodile, 350 species of birds and many other species, giving you an extraordinary view of wildlife and ecosystems.
Best time to visit
Every year over a million people visit this national park specially in from December to March when temperature is low, making it the ideal time for camping as there are lesser bugs.
This Park is huge and in contrast to most of the other National Parks, the Everglades has three entrances in three different cities. The first main entrance is Homestead Entrance, the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is located at this entrance, as well as Royal Palm and Flamingo. The second one is Miami Entrance referred to as the Shark Valley Visitor Center which is closest to the Greater Miami Area, Florida. And the last one is the Everglades city entrance called the Gulf Coast Visitor Center closest to Naples, Florida in the west.
Things to do
For having the best experience of Everglades, it would be advised to either rent a boat as most of the park is only accessible by water .Visitors like to take a walk on the boardwalks and trails along the main park road to join in ranger-led events. If you like biking, you must visit the Snake Bight Trail near Flamingo and the Shark Valley. Long Pine Key and Flamingo campgrounds offer great sites for camping along with the facility of drinking water, grills, rest rooms and tents. There are several walking trails in the park like the Pineland trail, Pahayokee Overlook and Mahagony Hammock trail which vary in hiking difficulty, making them attractive spots. Along with these,
Everglades National Park offers fascinating wildlife view, and if you are lucky, you may also get a glance of exquisite birds or alligators. This park is a famous spot of fishing too.
2. Big Cypress National Preserve
The 720,000-acre Big Cypress National Preserve has a similar wildlife and terrain like the Everglades National Park, but this park custom made for camping and hiking. The freshwaters of the Big Cypress Swamp back the prosperous marine estuaries along Florida’s southwest coast. This amazing National Park is massive, diverse and accommodates a blend of tropical and temperate plant communities that are central to a diversity of wildlife including the Florida panther.
You can visit Big Cypress with your own vehicle or take a walk, exploring the scenic drive and a lot of the viewpoints and boardwalks.
When to Visit
People like to visit mostly in dry winter months. Although hiking in this national park is pleasant in all seasons. Programs and activities begin November go through April.
Things to do
Hiking lovers can explore the southern terminus of the Florida National Scenic Trail which is located in Big Cypress in the winter season. You can also explore Turner River Road that runs alongside Turner River and expect to see alligators, birds, turtles, fish, and wildflowers. Other recreational activities like hunting and camping are famous too. The Loop Road and the Tamiami Trail are acclaimed for wading and walking.
3. Biscayne National Park
Located in South Florida, Biscayne National Park is the largest marine park in the National Park System covering 172,971 acres and safeguarding the southern section of Biscayne Bay, including a rare combination of aquamarine waters mangrove shorelines and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. Almost 95% of this National Park is forest and the bay has broad mangrove forest. Simply rent a boat and enjoy the beautiful park; boat rentals are widely available.
This national park is considered one of the most fascinating parks in the whole country. It consists of four primary ecosystems: the southern expanse of Biscayne Bay, the northernmost islands of the Florida Keys, a narrow fringe of mangrove forest along the mainland shoreline and the beginning of the third-largest coral reef in the world
Things to do
There are many things to do for the whole family, counting guided ranger walks, fishing, boating, diving, snorkeling, paddling, hiking, camping, wildlife watching, etc. With a guided boat tour, this park is ideal for saltwater fishing, you can catch lobsters, crabs, snapper but a lot of species are protected so it is better to take fishing awareness classes first and keep yourself informed.
Also, if you are looking for something intriguing, spearfishing is also allowed in this park. Other than fishing, visitors also find snorkeling and scuba diving in the park. You can find many shipwrecks that are amazing dive sites; Biscayne national park is home a minimum of five shipwrecks.
This National Park is also famous for sightseeing. Outside the park boundaries is the Key Biscayne where you’ll find the alluring and historic Cape Florida Lighthouse which has been there since 1825.
4. Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park lies almost 68 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, established in the year 1976. With seven small islands, this 100- square mile national park is mostly open water. It is the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, archipelago’s coral reefs and abundant sea life and the huge number of species of bird life that frequent the area. It is accessible only by boat or seaplane. The center of attraction of this park is Fort Jefferson, an enormous but incomplete coastal fortress which is the biggest brick structure in the Western Hemisphere and is buildup of more than 16 million bricks.
It is estimated that on an average about 63,000 visitors annually visit the Dry Tortugas National Park. It is difficult to visit the park with private boat considering the distance that is why most of the visitors come by ferry or seaplane from Key West.
Climate change has shrunk some of the seven islands. The Dry Tortugas is classified as a borderline subtropical-tropical ecosystem. It anchors species that do not commonly breed in and are not ordinarily found anywhere else in the continental United States or the water body enveloping it.
There are 299 species of birds in Dry Tortugas National Park making this park one of the top birding destinations in North America, however out of the 299 only 8 species nest generally inside the park. During the month of April, birdwatching exercise increases as many migratory bird species pass through the park. Even if you are not an ardent birder they are an eye-catching extension to the amazing scenery.
During the summers, the water in this park is exceptionally clean and clear, making it ideal for snorkeling as compared to diving in most of the keys. As the park is away from the land and sits in a guarded area, the reef has not been harmed by humans. In comparison to rest of the state, it has more sea life too.
This national park is considered as one of the most divergent diving sites in the United states where you will see rare nighttime creatures like octopus and basket starfish.
5. Canaveral National Seashore
Canaveral National Seashore bluster the longest stretch of undeveloped beach on Florida’s east coast almost 24 miles of pristine beachfront was created on January 3, 1975. Canaveral is essentially a conservationist beach containing 58,000 acres of barrier island, open lagoon, coastal hammock and pine flatwoods and as a protected area will continue to be as it is today. It is a United States National Seashore based in Brevard County and Volusia County in the East Central Florida. The best and accomplished aspect in the park is actually man-made -a 35 feet high mound of oyster shells constructed by Native Americans referred to as Turtle Mound which summit gives a splendid view of the lagoon, ocean and the island. It represents an amazing illustration of a comparably stable barrier beach supported by a dynamic lagoon system.
Along with hiking, visitors can spend time in watching turtles and finding out many of the archeological assets in the park. Recreational activities include fishing, canoeing, surfing, sunbathing, swimming, camping, sightseeing and boating. This beach has almost hundred and fifty recorded archeological acquisitions, largely consisting of sea fossils. As wildlife is more accustomed to cold weather, that is why this national park is considered great to be visited in winters and on top of that its location in Central Florida is an added advantage. You can get into the National park either by a plane or drive a car.
In summers the temperature goes up to 90’s and its hot and humid while in winters the temperature remains 60-70 degrees and weather is mild. However, in January and February the temperature can go down to freezing point. The hurricane season starts from June and goes through November and would be most affluent in the month of August and October.
Canaveral National Seashore has a huge, diversified and alluring range and variety of sea and terrestrial animals. The park provides habitat for fourteen species of federally-listed endangered animals which is the second greatest number in the whole National Park Service. These include seven reptiles- Loggerhead sea turtle, Green sea turtle , Leather back sea turtle, Kemps’s Ridley sea turtle, Hawksbill sea turtle, Eastern indigo snake, Atlantic salt marsh snake and Gopher Tortoise; four birds- Bald eagle, Wood stork ,Florida scrub jay and Arctic peregrine falcon and three mammals- West Indian Manatee, Southeastern beach mouse and Right whale.
6. Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is a United Nations National Preserve in Jacksonville, Florida, established in 1988 and extended in 1999.It is named after for the primitive Timucua people (Timucua Indians) who lived along northeast Florida’s waterways. Considered an ecological time capsule of Old Florida, the essentially undeveloped land comprises of 46,000 acres of wetlands, habitats, city, county, state, salt marshes, coastal dunes, hardwood hammocks and federal land. It is one of the most beautiful national parks in the south and also the most ecologically significant one.
The Timucua-speaking tribes who had 35 chiefdoms throughout northern Florida and South Georgia Archaeologists believe their culture had remained originally consistent for more than 1000 years. But that is before the Europeans arrived, after that the Timucuans handled badly and the tribe faded by 1800.
The preserve is huge and entirely free making it ideal to explore openly and settle in for a complete weekend. Visitors take a ferry to reach the preserve which is located on parcel separated by St. Johns River.
When to visit
The best time to visit this national park would be mid-October to April as the weather is cool then and bugs are less. And for the Kingsley Planation’s living history garden, May to September would be the ideal time. Also in those months, you can view American bald eagles, wading birds, and pink-hued roseate spoonbill.
What to do
The four trails of the Theodore Roosevelt Area located near the Fort Caroline National Memorial give a glance of old Florida, walking on these trails would be give a spectacular and worthy view. This park is considered a great spot for hiking as well.
If you are planning a trip soon, this detailed description of each National park would give you a clear picture.