From the Panhandle to the Atlantic Coast and all the way down to the Florida Keys, the National Parks across the state of Florida offer a fantastic number of outdoor experiences for residents and visitors.
No matter what type of outdoor adventure you are looking for, there is something for just about everyone at each of these national treasures, and most of them offer experiences that will keep you coming back over and over again for many years to come.
Let’s jump right in and get you better acquainted with the National Parks across the state of Florida.
Big Cypress National Preserve
Established in 1974, Big Cypress National Preserve was the very first national preserve in the country. And with 729,000 acres of swampland located just west of the Florida Everglades, it is actually larger than the entire state of Rhode Island.
More than one million people make the trip to visit Big Cypress National Preserve every year, and activities here include everything from ranger-led astronomy programs to independent activities like bicycling, birding, canoeing, hunting, and camping. It is also one of the best places in the state to track the elusive Florida panther.
No matter where you happen to be coming from, a visit to Big Cypress will have you within a stone’s throw of Everglades City, which is an amazing Florida destination that is also worth exploring. Plan on arriving hungry here, because the stone crab and grilled shrimp at Triad Seafood will have your mouth watering in minutes.
Biscayne National Park
Located on the water outside of Miami, Biscayne National Park is one of the most unique national parks you will find across the entire country. Everything revolves around the water at this destination, and that includes quiet islands, ancient shipwrecks, and stunning coral reefs.
Fishing and boating are at the top of the list for just about everyone who visits Biscayne National Park, but there is also plenty to explore underwater, so this is an ideal destination for snorkeling and scuba diving.
There is also a fantastic art gallery located inside the park’s visitors center that features a wide range of local artists.
Venturing out to Biscayne National Park will certainly put most people in the mood for seafood, and there are plenty of great options to grab a bite in the area, but the iconic Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami is one of the best options nearby.
Canaveral National Seashore
While Cape Canaveral itself is best known as the home of the Kennedy Space Center, there are almost 58,000 acres of barrier islands and coastal waterways to the north that comprise the Canaveral National Seashore.
With more than 24 miles of pristine Florida beaches, the Canaveral National Seashore provides a safe environment for a wide range of marine wildlife, including nesting space for thousands of marine turtles each year.
Checking out the marine life from the beaches is the most popular activity at Canaveral National Seashore, but the area is also a fabulous place for kayaking and canoeing, specifically in and around Mosquito Lagoon.
A short drive north of Canaveral National Seashore is the town of New Smyrna Beach, which is the perfect destination for grabbing a bite to eat or turning a day trip into a weekend getaway.
Castillo de San Marcos
Located right in historic St. Augustine, Castillo de San Marcos is the ultimate National Monument for anyone looking to learn about the rich history of life here in Florida.
At almost 450 years of age, this iconic fort has seen just about everything over its lifetime. Today, it shares that history and culture with visitors through a wide range of interactive exhibits set up for self-guided tours, as well as many events throughout the year.
In addition to being the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine is also the home of a thriving restaurant scene, which means that visitors to Castillo de San Marcos have a plethora of dining options for before or after their visit.
If you only have time for one meal while you are in town, Prohibition Kitchen is the perfect option for just about any palate.
De Soto National Memorial
De Soto National Memorial is a national park that was created to pay tribute to Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto and his famous landing on the southern shore of Tampa Bay.
The park is best known for hosting events like their BARK Ranger program and the Rancho Fishing Clinics. There is also a visitor center, theater, and bookstore that are all packed with information about the famous conquistadors.
The perfect way to cap off any trip to De Soto National Memorial is with a delicious meal from O’Brick’s Irish Pub & Martini Bar in nearby Bradenton. And if you have enough time to turn this into a weekend getaway, there are more than enough options to keep you busy in Bradenton.
As the most remote of the national parks in Florida, Dry Tortugas is not exactly easy to get to, even for people who live right in nearby Key West. But while getting to the park can be a challenge, the experience once you get there is second to none.
Pictures of Dry Tortugas typically feature the historic Fort Jefferson on Garden Key, but the real attraction here is the stunning coral reefs underneath the picturesque waters between the seven small islands that make up the park.
If you are excited to snorkel or scuba dive, this is definitely the place to do it.
Any trip to Dry Tortugas will likely include a stop in Key West before and after your adventure, and since Key West is a destination of its own, you’ll definitely want to consider spending a few days there.
When dining in Key West, the real hidden gems are located just off of Duval Street, which is where you will find options like oyster happy hour at Pepe’s Cafe and world-class tapas and sangria at Santiago’s Bodega.
Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is probably the best-known of Florida’s national parks, and there are an astounding number of ways to enjoy this 1.5 million acre tropical paradise.
There are three different entrances that can be used to access the massive Everglades National Park, but these entrances are not connected, so you will definitely need to do some planning to understand which option is best suited to your adventure.
Visitors to the park can enjoy a wide range of activities that include everything from taking a short hike to climbing a 65-foot observation tower or exploring “the ‘glades” by boat.
If you plan on visiting Everglades National Park from the east side of the state, you might also want to consider spending some time in Fort Lauderdale for a meal at S3 Restaurant, which offers a unique combination of sushi and American cuisine right along the iconic A1A with views of the ocean.
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Much like Casillo de San Marcos, Fort Matanzas National Monument has a rich history that blends perfectly with its location near St. Augustine. The fort sits on an island just south of the city that is only accessible by ferry.
In addition to being a historic national monument, Fort Matanzas is also a popular fishing location for residents and visitors to the area. Anglers can cast for redfish, sheepshead, black drum, spotted seatrout, bluefish, and flounder in the waters surrounding the fort.
If you are looking for a great spot to eat without venturing into St. Augustine, Commander’s Shellfish Camp is a great local spot right on the water near Crescent Beach that always delivers a delicious meal.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
The Florida Panhandle is probably one of the most underappreciated areas of the state, which is exactly why a trip to Gulf Islands National Seashore should be on your bucket list.
Located almost all the way to the Alabama border, this pristine beachfront park offers visitors a combination of history, wildlife, and activities that can’t be found anywhere else in the state. Gulf Islands National Seashore is also one of the only national parks in Florida where you can actually lay out and enjoy the beach.
After a fun day enjoying the beaches at Gulf Islands National Seashore, Gulf Shores is the place to head for a delicious meal. Options like Bahama Bob’s, The Beach House Kitchen & Cocktails, and S & S Seafood Market all serve up outstanding versions of fresh Gulf seafood.
Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor
The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor includes 12,000 square miles of designated space that stretches from Jacksonville, Florida all the way up to Wilmington, North Carolina.
This coastal corridor recognizes the unique culture of the Gullah Geechee people and includes dozens of historically significant locations. Here in Florida, there are five of those locations focused in and around Jacksonville and St. Augustine.
Exploring the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is a great way to get familiar with Northeast Florida, and it is also a fantastic excuse to end up in Jacksonville Beach for dinner at Southern Kitchen & Bar.
Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve
As one of the most beautiful locations in Northern Florida, Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve is a popular attraction for anyone in the Jacksonville area that enjoys spending time outdoors.
In addition to thousands of acres of woods and salt marshes to explore, Timucuan Preserve is also the home of the Fort Caroline National Memorial. This 16th-century French fort tells the story of the original encounters between European settlers and American Indians.
There are hundreds of fantastic places to enjoy a meal nearby in Jacksonville, but Timucuan Preserve is also close to beautiful Amelia Island, which boasts lunch options like Timoti’s Seafood Shack and dinner destinations like Lagniappe.
Whether you are a seasoned outdoors enthusiast or just a traditional snowbird with some time to kill, Florida’s national parks offer all kinds of amazing experiences that can almost always be accompanied by a great meal or turned into a full weekend getaway.
Which one are you planning on visiting next?