From ornate caves to underwater coral reefs, Florida is home to astonishing natural beauty.
These wonders showcase the best that Florida's state parks have to offer. If you want to be amazed, here are eight parks you definitely shouldn’t miss!
The underground caves at Florida Caverns State Park are like an alien world. You can explore a dozen caves filled with stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone. Shaped by the slow drip of water, these intricate formations grew slowly over many thousands of years.
The amazing beauty of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park lies just below the water's surface. Colorful fish swim through living coral. Closer to shore, fields of seagrass and underwater mangrove roots create an oasis for marine creatures.
Encompassing 70 square nautical miles, this was the first undersea park in the country.
Discover the cool waters of a first-magnitude spring at Manatee Springs State Park. Surrounded by majestic cypress trees, this freshwater spring releases an astounding 100 million gallons of water every day, all at an amazing 68 degrees.
The park also offers camping, hiking trails and an opportunity to see manatees in the cooler months.
Swimming in the freshwater spring at Manatee Springs State Park.
Out on the beaches of Washington Oaks Gardens State Parks, you’ll discover a curious sight: rock sculptures. These weren’t made by an artist but rather by the natural erosion and wear of the soft coquina rock.
Made from sand-sized fossil fragments, the coquina outcroppings at this park are the largest along the Atlantic Ocean. Look for bowls in the rock that make tide pools for small marine creatures.
In the middle of Florida, you can find Lake Kissimmee State Park. The lake and river are part of a massive connected waterway that flows into the Everglades and out to the Gulf of Mexico. On the western side of the park, you can see the remnants of an ancient sand dune.
Known as the Lake Wales Ridge, this 150-mile-long ridge runs up the center of the state.
Most ravines are made by erosion, but the ancient slopes of Ravine Gardens State Park were formed by a flowing spring. These steephead ravines are rare. The water trickling through creates a lush landscape. Hike around the ravines or view them from high suspension bridges.
In the early spring, the park blooms with azaleas — hundreds of bushes were planted here in the 1930s.
Explore the Amazon of North America at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park! Located in the western Everglades, Fakahatchee is home to some of the rarest plants and animals in the world. Wade through the swamps to see orchids and bromeliads.
A massive wetlands, the Everglades is nicknamed the River of Grass. There’s no better place to see the grasslands than at Fakahatchee!
Discover an unexpected rainforest and millions of years of geological history at Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park. A sinkhole in the park exposes 100 feet of rock layers. The farther you go into the sinkhole, the further back in time you go.
The waterfalls and streams that trickle down the sinkhole basin feed thick vegetation that grows green even in hot, dry summers.
This article was published in the Real Florida ℠ Connection, the Florida State Parks e-newsletter. Sign-up to get updates and stories from your state parks the first week of every month.