Photo by Jaime Dantas/Unsplash
Did you know Florida sports 175 state parks? Lucky for central Florida residents, many are only a short drive away and offer healthy perks.
Here's more good news: The National Recreation and Parks Association states that parks decrease health complaints and stress while improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels!
Whether you enjoy hiking, wildlife, or swimming, these five Florida State Parks offer healthy doses of fun for everyone.
Note: due to COVID-19, please call the park for the most up-to-date hours of operation and safety guidelines before you go.
The 4 Best Florida State Parks Nearby (and basic park info. on each)
1. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Let's start with my all-time favorite park nearby that's perfect for all - Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. I've visited this natural gem with toddlers, newborns, grandparents, parents, siblings, etc. . . EVERYONE enjoys it.
Take a 20-minute boat ride to the main gate while spotting alligators, turtles, and Anhingas along the way. Then arrive at the wildlife sanctuary full of various bird species, monkeys, bears, snakes, otters, and more.
Don't forget to visit their famous hippo, Lou, the only non-native Florida animal at the park that Governor Lawton Chiles swore in as a Florida resident in 1991.
He even has his own Facebook page you can check out here.
A word of advice: When viewing this smelly hippo, try not to stand behind his backside - I bet you can figure out why :)
MORE PARK INFO
- Hours: 7 days a week- 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
- Fees: $13 for adults and $8 for kids ages 6-12. Kids five and under are free.
- 6131 Commercial Way
- Weeki Wachee FL 34606
- For more information, call: (352)-592-5656.
2. Weeki Wachee State Park
With Weeki Wachee's State Park tagline "Florida's Most Legendary and Unique Destination," you know you're in for a treat.
Named by the Seminole Indians, Weeki Wachee means "Little Spring", and the water stays at a refreshing temp since 117 gallons of fresh 74-degree water bubbles to the surface each day.
Although primarily known for its live mermaid show, this park offers so much more: Paddle down the river, swim in Buccaneer Bay, or learn about wildlife on the riverboat cruise.
For all those adrenaline seekers, there's a waterpark with a massive slide, too!
Fun Fact: The Weeki Wachee River flows from the springs for 12 miles before pouring out into the Gulf of Mexico.
MORE PARK INFO
- Hours: 7 days a week - 9 a.m. -5:30 p.pm
- Address: 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606
- Price: $13 for adults and $8 for kids ages 6-12; Buccaneer Bay admission is included in the price of admission. Canoe and kayak rentals cost extra.
- For more information call (352) 592-5656
3. Fort Cooper State Park
If you're looking to get your outdoor AND history on, look no further than the Fort Cooper State Park in Inverness, which connects to the Florida Birding, Withlocooochie, and Seminole Heritage trails.
What a trifecta!
Learn from four kiosks that provide a rich history about the Seminoles who lived there.
Mark your calendars for March, when the park puts on their annual Fort Cooper State Park Day, complete with Second Seminole War reenactments.
Daily activities include geo seeking, hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and primitive camping.
MORE PARK INFO
- Hours: 7 days a week - 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year.
- Fees: $3 per vehicle. Please use the honor box to pay fees. Correct change is needed.
- 3100 S. Old Floral City Rd.
- Inverness FL 34450
- For more information, call 352-726-0315.
4. Crystal River Archaeological State Park
While there, stroll through the museum, then hop on the boat tour to soak up the wild views.
Need more to do? Bring your binoculars for the birding trail; grab your fishing pole to salt OR freshwater fish, and explore the archeological excavations through interpretive exhibits.
Fun Fact: The site served as a ceremonial center for 1,600 years, and an estimated 7,500 Native Americans visited the complex annually!
- MORE PARK INFO
- Hours: 7 days a week - 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year. Museum hours are 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Thurs. - Mon.
- Fees - $3 per vehicle.
- 3400 N. Museum Point
- Crystal River FL 34428
- For more information, contact 352-795-3817.