Florida is covered in breathtaking views, beautiful scenery, and sunny beaches from the northern panhandle to its southern islands. Most of these views and beaches are accessible from one of Florida’s dozens of state parks. These parks are located throughout the state, and there’s rarely an area without at least one within an hour’s drive.
If you’re looking for your next camping adventure or day in nature, you’ve come to the right place. This article will look at some of the best state parks in Florida, where they’re located, and how to plan your visit.
Best State Parks in Northern Florida
1. Anastasia State Park
Kicking things off on our best state parks in Florida list is Anastasia State Park is located in the historic town of St. Augustine and accounts for over 1,600 acres of land. Most of the park is covered in sandy beaches, tidal marshes, and tropical forests. While swimming, fishing, and lounging on the beach are the most popular activities at Anastasia, it’s also famous for Ancient Dunes Nature Trail, which consists of a moderate four-mile hike.
If you get tired of nature, you can venture into the beautiful and scenic town of St. Augustine. It’s one of the oldest cities in Florida and one of the most unique. The park also consists of 139 campsites, boat rentals, yurts, cabins, and nearly 200 different bird species. Camping costs $28 per campsite, and there’s also an $8 entry fee per vehicle.
2. Suwannee River State Park
This park earns the right to be on our best state parks in Florida list! There are few state parks in Florida with as much history and intrigue as Suwannee River State Park. While the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers are the parks’ focal points, there are also several historical sites from the Civil War worth exploring. This includes remnants of a 19th-century steamship, two ghost towns, and many other relics.
You should expect an entry fee of $5 per vehicle and $22 per night for one of the 30 campsites. There are also five riverside cabins that are open for rent. Even if history isn’t your thing, there is plenty of hiking, birding, biking, boating, and fishing along the river and trails that run through the park.
3. Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
Although it sounds like a sinister mouthful, Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is one of the most unique in Florida. This is mainly because of the limestone sinkhole that is 120 feet deep and 500 feet across residing in the park. A half-mile trail with 232 wooden steps takes you to the pit while traveling through a miniature rain forest of trickling streams, lush ferns, and wild orchids.
This is one of the smaller state parks in Florida and doesn’t have many camping or activity options outside of the limestone pit. However, it’s well worth the $4 per vehicle entry fee and makes for the perfect day trip or picnic.
4. Three Rivers State Park
If you are on the hunt for the best state parks in Florida to camp in Three Rivers is a perfect spot! Located along the Florida-Georgia line, Three Rivers State Park is ready to be explored. There are several hiking and biking trails and access to the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers and Lake Seminole. Swimming, boating, and fishing are popular activities at this state park.
There are numerous camping options, ranging from RV sites to primitive tent sites. Regardless of what you choose, you should expect a $3 entry fee and a $16 fee for the various campsites.
5. Big Talbot Island State Park
Located in Jacksonville on an Atlantic island off the coast of Florida, Big Talbot State Park is a nature-lovers paradise. Its various hiking trails, birding opportunities, sandy beaches, and maritime forest are a stark contrast to the nearby city.
There are tons of awesome things to do at Big Talbot Island, including biking, hiking, boating, beaching, birding, and more. You can even go on a paddle tour or pack a picnic out to the scenic Bluffs. With a minimal entry fee of $3, Big Talbot Island State Park is a hidden gem waiting to be explored.
6. Big Shoals State Park
If you’re looking for thrills and chills, you definitely need to check out Big Shoals State Park. This park has the Suwannee River running through its middle and is home to the largest whitewater rapids in Florida. You can kayak or whitewater raft down the biggest Class III rapids in the state.
If hair-raising rapids aren’t your thing, there are many hiking trails, birding sites, and fishing opportunities. You should also check out the legendary 80-foot limestone bluffs towering over the Suwannee. With only a $4 entry fee, Big Shoals State Park has some of the state’s cheapest thrills and most scenic views.
Best State Parks in Central Florida
7. Honeymoon Island State Park and Caladesi Island State Park
Here you get a two for one on our best state parks in Florida list! Honeymoon Island State Park and Caladesi Island State Park are located on top of one another off the west coast of Dunedin, Florida. These island state parks offer unmatched beauty, bliss, and white sandy beaches that will make you feel like you’re in the Caribbean. Thanks to these magical beaches, Honeymoon, and Caladesi are two of the most popular parks in Florida.
Getting to these islands is a little tricky. You can drive to Honeymoon Island, but the only way to get to Caladesi is by hopping on the ferry that takes visitors back and forth. Both islands are home to an array of water and birdlife, including eagles, ospreys, and owls. The entry fee to Honeymoon is $8 per vehicle, and a ferry ride to Caladesi is $16.
8. Wekiwa Springs State Park
Located in Apopka in the heart of the state of Florida, Wekiwa Springs State Park is another hidden gem worth exploring. The park’s focal point is kayaking along the Wekiwa River into King’s Landing. The waters here are crystal clear, allowing you to see down to its sandy bottom.
The banks of the river are lined with tropical hammocks, and there are a number of hiking trails waiting to be conquered. There are also tent and RV campsites for $24 per night. The park is conveniently located within a half-hour of Orlando and Disneyland. However, the $6 entry fee to Wekiwa Springs is slightly cheaper than a trip to Disneyland.
9. Silver Springs State Park
Out of all the state parks in Florida built around springs and rivers, Silver Springs State Park might be the best. A big reason for this is because of the glass-bottom boat tours that made the park famous. The waters at Silver Springs are deep and clear, and you can expect to see everything from wild monkeys to manatees to alligators to otters to a vast variety of birds.
Be prepared, however, because Silver Springs is one of the most popular attractions in north-central Florida. There is plenty of camping, hiking, swimming, and other outdoor activities to keep you busy, and the serene gardens and tropical forests are breathtaking. The entry fee is $8 per vehicle, and camping sites are $24 per night.
10. Blue Spring State Park
Coming in at number ten on our best state parks in Florida list is Blue Spring State Park in Mayo, Florida. It’s another top-notch state park founded around a natural spring. Blue Spring isn’t quite as big or grand as Silver Springs, but the waters are just as warm and clear. This spring also features a natural limestone bridge that spans its width, adding to the natural grandeur of the park.
You even have the chance to see or pet a wild manatee when you canoe or kayak through the crystal clear waters. Just make sure to be on the lookout for alligators! The entry fee to this park is $6, and there are plenty of hiking and biking trails, birding opportunities, and campsites to choose from.
11. De Leon Springs State Park
De Leon Springs State Park is named after the legendary European explorer Ponce de Leon. No, you won’t find the fountain of youth here that he was desperately seeking, but you will find a beautiful spring with warm, clear waters. It’s the perfect pick on our best state parks in Florida for the kayaking, swimming, canoeing, fishing, and enjoying a DIY pancake at the legendary pancake house within the park it offers visitors.
The park is also home to lush, tropical forests, giant cypress trees, and historic grist mills from ages past. There are also plenty of hiking trails, birding locations, boat tours, and much more at De Leon Springs State Park.
12. Lake Kissimmee State Park
Located in Lake Wales, Lake Kissimmee State Park takes a slightly different turn than most of the parks we’ve covered. It’s situated in cow country, features a lake, and has numerous hiking, biking, and cow trails. This park brings a slightly western flair to the normally tropical Florida.
Lake Kissimmee is also a great place for camping and spending the night under the stars. You can expect to see different types of wildlife here, including white-tailed deer, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, turkeys, and bobcats. The park’s focal points are the various hiking and paddle trails and the 1876-era cow camp that made the park famous.
Best State Parks in Southern Florida
13. Myakka River State Park
It’s no surprise this one is on our best state parks in Florida list! Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s biggest and oldest state parks. It features over 58 miles of the slow and alligator-infested Myakka River and provides some of the state’s best edge-of-your-seat kayaking and canoeing.
There are also a number of hiking trails, several different campgrounds, and tons of great fishing and birding opportunities. The park also features the Canopy Walkway, which is the first public treetop trail in North America. You can stay at Myakka River State Park for an entire weekend and not see everything the park has to offer.
14. Oleta River State Park
Oleta River State Park is a hidden gem located just thirty minutes outside of Miami, Florida. It’s one of the country’s largest and most beautiful urban parks and provides some much-needed nature to contrast the city life. Aside from the Oleta River that the park is named for, there are also 15 miles of hiking and biking trails to explore.
Whether you’re looking to kayak, paddleboard, fish, swim, or relax for a weekend of camping, there’s plenty to love about Oleta River State Park. You can even go snorkeling in the saltwater lagoon of Biscayne Bay!
15. Lovers Key State Park
If you’re ready to head back out to the beach, the remainder of the state parks we’ll discuss have that recurring theme. First on the list of our best state parks in Florida with a beach is Lovers Key State Park. The park is partially so-named because of how popular it is for beach weddings. The 712-acre park is comprised of Lovers Key plus three additional barrier isles: Black Island, Inner Key, and Long Key.
It’s also one of the most popular beaches on Florida’s west coast for day trips and vacationers.
16. Gasparilla Island State Park and Cayo Costa State Park
Gasparilla Island State Park and Cayo Costa State Park are located tip to tip on the western side of the Florida coast. These islands are most famous for their fishing, as fishermen and women from around the world visit the parks for their legendary ocean fishing. The centerpiece of Gasparilla Island is the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, built in 1890.
Gasparilla is the northernmost of the two parks and is accessible by car, but Cayo Costa is only accessible by boat. Whether you choose a ferry or take a kayak, it’s definitely worth the trip. Both islands offer miles of untouched beaches and beachside camping opportunities, but Cayo Costa is the more primitive of the two.
17. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
This park is very unique and is why it’s on our best state parks in Florida list! Let’s head even farther south to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, located along the Key Largo islands. This state park is one of the most unique in Florida and is famous for being the first state park that’s completely underwater! It consists of 70 nautical miles of coral reefs and ocean animals that are viewable with a glass-bottom boat tour.
If you want to get up close and personal, there are also snorkeling and scuba diving tours. If you get tired of fishing, swimming, and exploring the waters, take some time to relax on one of the many tropical hammocks throughout the park. This park truly is one of a kind, and missing out on a chance to visit would be unfortunate.
18. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Last, but not least on our best state parks in Florida list is Fort Zachary Taylor. If I could only visit one of the parks on this list, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park would probably be the one. This incredible park is located on the southern tip of Key West and is as close as you can get to Cuba from Florida. It combines natural beauty and animal life with history and Civil War monuments. It’s also one of Florida’s most popular fishing and bird-watching parks.
However, the park’s focal point is the fort itself, which is a National Historic Monument and houses the largest cache of Civil War armament in the world. Once you’re tired of the outdoors, enjoy a guided tour of the fort as experts explain its historical importance.
Regardless of your interests or what you look for in a state park, Florida has something for everyone. You would do well to take this list of best state parks in Florida and get to as many of them as possible!
While you are visiting the best Florida state parks make a special stop at one of Florida’s best zoos!