The Best State Parks in Florida for a Sunny, Any-Season Escape

Wakulla Springs State Park
Photo: Photo: Gary Clark

With 175 parks encompassing more than 800,000 acres, Florida's expansive state park system is practically begging to be explored. Lucky for us, the Sunshine State's subtropical and tropical climates are ideal for visits year-round. (January and February included!)

Eager adventurers will love the miles and miles of hiking and biking trails leading through sand dunes, marshlands, pine flatwoods, and other centuries-old Florida habitats. Swimmers can cool off in the state's man famous springs. Campsites, including several on the beach, are plentiful—meaning you can fall asleep to the sound of waves gently lapping ashore. In the morning, you'll wake to the sun's rays warming your skin. For those who like a little more R&R with their outdoor time, the parks are home to plenty of white sand beaches for catnapping and unwinding in the presence of the glorious great outdoors.

Ready to see what's in store? Put on your swimsuit, grab a towel, and make sure you have plenty of sunscreen. It's time to check these Florida state parks off your travel bucket list.

01 of 20

Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park
Getty Images / Xianghong Garrison

Florida is known for its gorgeous sparkling springs, and Silver Springs in Ocala is one of the Sunshine State's crowned jewels. Take a classic glass-bottom boat tour, a tradition that's been around since 1878. Explore one of the state's gorgeous emerald waters on a kayak trail while you look out for wildlife ranging from monkeys and manatees to tropical birds, otters, and alligators. The park deserves more than a day trip, so book a two-bedroom cabin complete with a huge screened-in porch for outdoor time minus the pesky skeeters!

02 of 20

Myakka State Park

People walk on a boar walk in Myakka State Park, in Sarasota, Florida.
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This Southwest Florida park located in Sarasota is a birder's paradise. The Birdwalk, a boardwalk that extends over the Upper Myaka Lake attracts bird enthusiasts from all over the country, especially during winter months. Consider yourself lucky if you spot the festive roseate spoonbills which boast brilliant bubblegum pink plumage.

03 of 20

Bahia Honda State Park

florida beaches look like caribbean
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If you're driving along the Florida Keys, you'll hit Bahia Honda State Park just past the Seven Mile Bridge, about 45 minutes before you reach Key West. The park is beloved for its beautiful sand beaches and crystal-clear waters that are ideal for snorkeling. If you visit, be sure to hike the scenic trail that leads to a gorgeous panoramic view of the 100-year-old Bahia Honda Bridge, which brought steam trains across the water beginning in 1912.

04 of 20

Grayton Beach State Park

Grayton Beach State Park in Florida
Courtesy Kurt Lischka/Visit South Walton

See the location that inspired the famous Western Lake paintings at Grayton Beach State Park in the Florida panhandle. The 2,000-acre park includes miles of beautiful beaches, as well as four miles of trails that weave through a lush coastal forest. For a one-of-a-kind experience, paddle through the chain of dune lakes hidden behind the sand dunes.

05 of 20

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve wetlands in South Florida
Getty Images / GGossman

This may not be exactly what you picture when you think about Florida state parks, but allow yourself to be surprised and you never know what wonder awaits. The expansive open prairie at this preserve is ideal for bird, butterfly, and wildflower spotting. The true magic of the park comes alive when the sky darkens, and thousands of twinkling stars come into view. Reserve a campground if you want to stick around for the stunning show as the park closes to day visitors at sunset.

06 of 20

Ochlockonee River State Park

White squirrel
Getty Image / James Robert Smith

Just south of Tallahassee in Florida's Big Bend region, Ochlockonee is a park of rivers and longleaf pine forest. It's also the one of the best places to spot a rare species of squirrel known as the Sherman's Fox Squirrel. Don't be alarmed if you see a flash of white darting across the forest floor or up a tree, it's likely the fox's unusual snow-white coloring.

07 of 20

Windley Key Fossil Reef State Park

Historic coral quarry keystones at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park.
Getty Images / Jeff Greenberg

Did you know that an ancient, fossilized coral reef underlies the entire string of islands known as the Florida Keys? At former rock quarry Windley Key Fossil Reef State Park, you can learn more about the incredible geological history of the popular vacation destination, and gain insight into its human history, too. Walk along 8-foot-high quarry walls to see cross sections of the enthralling ancient coral.

08 of 20

Honeymoon Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park and Honeymoon Island State Park

Just 45 minutes from Tampa near the tiny beach town of Dunedin is Honeymoon Island State Park. Its four miles of pristine beach are ideal for shell hunting, and—if you're really lucky—sea turtle spotting! The island is also home to one of the state's best dog-friendly beaches, where you can let your furry friend splash around in the gentle waves and dig in the soft sand.

09 of 20

Ybor City Museum State Park

Florida, Tampa, Ybor City, Historic Ferlita Bakery
Jeff Greenberg / Getty Images

Not your average state park, Ybor City focuses on the history of old Florida rather than its natural features. The historic Florida city was once known as the Cigar Capital of the World. You can learn all about the city's cultural history in a museum housed in historic Ferlita Bakery. After, check out the park's romantic gardens and fountains.

10 of 20

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

Wakulla Springs
Rob Gelhardt

As the world's largest and deepest freshwater spring, a visit to Wakulla Springs is a bucket list item by any standard. Paddle through the ancient cypress swamps while looking for manatees. If you start to feel the summer heat, a swim in the 70-degree spring water should leave you feeling invigorated, refreshed, and ready to explore more.

11 of 20

Falling Waters State Park

Falling Waters State Park Florida
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The main attraction at this Panhandle state park is a 73-foot-tall waterfall created by a series of sinkholes that funnel water through a large underground cave and into an opening lush with thick trees and bright green ferns. You can get up-close-and-personal with the gorgeous natural feature via a platform located right next to the falls, then spend the rest of our visit hiking the forested trails.

12 of 20

Blue Springs State Park

Wintering Manatees in the Beautiful Blue Spring State Park within Central Florida USA near Orlando
Getty Images / Bkamprath

The waters of Blue Springs State Park stay at a steady 72 degrees year-round, making them one of the best places in the state to see wild manatees, who huddle in the temperate waters during winter when surrounding waterways grow cold. At the park, you can soak in the refreshing waters, then swim upstream to see where the waters boil from underneath limestone below.

13 of 20

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Coral Reef Pennekamp State Park Florida
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Hold your breath if you want to see this state park! The first undersea park in the country, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is located entirely underwater and features 70 nautical miles of colorful, shallow-water living coral reefs. See the natural wonder on a scuba diving trip, snorkeling excursion, or from the comfort of a glass-bottomed boat tour.

14 of 20

Rainbow Springs State Park

Ramp into Rainbow Springs
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This gorgeous spring is no secret. Archaeological evidence seems to indicate that people have been recreating in Rainbow Springs for more than 10,000 years. With a depth varying between 5-18 feet, the headspring is perfect for swimming, and the park even employs a lifeguard in summer months to keep everyone safe. Outside of the buoyed swimming area, there's also a separate drop-in point for tubing, kayaking, and canoeing.

15 of 20

Cayo Costa State Park

Cayo Costa Beach Seagrass
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Only accessible by boat, this state park on the remote island of Captiva is definitely worth the extra effort to visit. The park boasts nine miles of nearly untouched beaches, plus pine forests, oak-palm hammocks, and mangrove swamps. If a wild, uninterrupted natural experience is what you crave, well go ahead and charter a boat because Cayo Costa is your spot.

16 of 20

Weeki Wachee State Park

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Spring Hill, FL
Courtesy of Jenna Sims

You may know Weeki Wachee as home to the famous mermaid performances, but the state park has much more to offer than the family-friendly show—though it is a must-see if you visit. Go swimming, tubing, or kayaking in the cool natural springs, and for more family fun, take your kids to Buccaneer Bay, a water park that draws it water source directly from the natural springhead.

17 of 20

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Cape Florida Lighthouse
Getty Images / Wolfgang Kaehler

See the oldest building in South Florida at this state park located just minutes from Miami. The Cape Florida Lighthouse is the star of the show at Bill Baggs. Despite standing the test of time for more than 200 years, visitors are still invited to climb up to its balcony for unencumbered views of the gorgeous Biscayne Bay below.

18 of 20

Koreshan State Park

Old wooden bridge along the riverway at historic Koreshan State Park
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Step back in time at this state park dedicated to introducing visitors to the Koreshans, a pioneering religious group who created a settlement in Florida in 1893. Today, you can learn about the community in the preserved settlement that includes 11 immaculately restored buildings and gorgeous gardens with exotic plants imported by the Koreshans.

19 of 20

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Getty Images / Paul Harris

The southernmost state park in the continental U.S. offers the chance to learn about America's Civil War-era history and spend a relaxing day on a gorgeous beach. Explore the old fort at the Key West state park, then unfurl your towel and dig your feet deep into the cool sand. It's going to be a perfect day.

20 of 20

Curry Hammock State Park

Boats in a row, Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon, Florida, USA
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If you want to see where many of Florida's unique ecosystems converge, look no further than Curry Hammock State Park. You'll find mangrove swamps, Rockland hammocks, and seagrass beds. Little Crawl Key takes adventurers on a paddle through mangrove tunnels, lagoons, sandbars, and even the open ocean.

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