With so many man-made wonders in the Central Florida area, it’s easy to forget that the natural beauty of the state is all around us. But there are plenty of local places you can go to get some fresh air and enjoy lakes, hiking trails, natural springs, wildlife and more. Here are some of the top natural areas within the state parks in the Central Florida region to put on your must-visit list, whether you just stop in for a day trip or decide to camp out for a longer visit.
Deleon Springs State Park, Volusia County
History abounds in Deleon Springs State Park, where a plantation and sugar mill were built back in the 1800s. Shortly after, a hotel for wealthy visitors to stay in during winter months was put up, and visitors flocked to the spring believing it would give them better health and prolonged youth. The recreations of the sugar mill and wheel standing in the park today date back to the 1920s. Within Deleon Springs State Parks, there are many spots for nature lovers to explore. The spring is a great place to visit for swimming, tubing or scuba diving on a hot summer’s day, but the park offers much more to see. The butterfly garden has a beautiful variety of plants and flowers known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and the walking and hiking trails give a great view of the state’s natural foliage.
Wekiwa Springs State Park, Apopka
A little closer to Orlando, Wekiwa Springs State Park contains thirteen miles of trails where you can ride a bicycle, horse or just enjoy a leisurely hike. When you’ve had enough activity, you can lay a blanket down by the spring and bask in the sunlight. The spring is perfect for canoeing or kayaking, and due to its shallow depth, makes a great place for families to take a swim. The sandy bottom of the spring is only five feet underwater and the water is mostly clear, allowing you to see your feet. Bear cubs, deer, butterflies, and turtles are just a few of the animals you are likely to spot as you work your way through the park. This park is particularly popular during the summer months, and campsites fill up quickly on holiday weekends, so arrive early if you’re planning to stay.
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Okeechobee
Most people associate Florida with moist swampland, but prairies exist even in the Sunshine State. The Kissimmee Prairie State Park is home to 54,000 acres of prairie land and several species of endangered animals. The prairie is so large that you might think you’ve been transported to the Midwest for a moment! Wildlife enthusiasts can plan on seeing multiple types of birds, including herons, hawks, and caracara. There are also turtles, frogs, fish, armadillos and cattle to be spotted wandering on the plains. From fall through spring, visitors can hop on a buggy with a park ranger and take a tour of the most remote areas of the park.