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Great Outdoors

Florida’s National Parks Offer Adventure And A Respite

Bryan Goff

Florida’s National Parks have a story to tell and an experience to provide for every traveler. 

As America’s premier beachside getaway destination, Florida is surrounded on almost all sides by the great, majestic Atlantic. Florida is home to 11 National Parks that host almost 1,200 archaeological sites. So, whether history is your passion, or you are in search of a great adventure, or you just want a quiet day napping under an umbrella to the sound of gently, rolling waves, Florida’s National Parks will meet your passion.

The National Park Service (NPS) boasts 423 different areas that span more than 85 million acres in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico. The Parks provide access to wilderness, hiking trails, outdoor activities, and historical locations. Since its creation in 1916 under President Woodrow Wilson, the NPS has been an invaluable protector and promoter of U.S. natural wonders.

Here are a few National Parks must-sees in the Panhandle State:

EVERGLADES: Everglades National Park is an International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a National Heritage site! This National Park protects important habitats for endangered and rare species including the American crocodile, manatees, and the Florida panther. Covering hundreds of square miles of wetlands, the Everglades serve as an important ancestral home to native tribes, and visitors can learn about their history. 

Photo Courtesy Glenn Haertlein

TIMUCUAN ECOLOGICAL & HISTORIC PRESERVE: Visit one of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic Coast at this national preserve near Jacksonville, Florida. Park visitors can discover over 6,000 years of human history and experience the stunning beauty of salt marshes, coastal dunes, and hardwood hammocks. Kayak around the wetlands or visit one of the historical sites like nearby Fort Caroline, the Kingsley Plantation, or American Beach, essential vital which was founded to provide beach access for African Americans during segregation.

DRY TORTUGAS: For something unique, try going 70 miles offshore! Just to the west of Key West, lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. This 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands and is accessible only by boat or seaplane. The park is known around the world as the home of Fort Jefferson, its picturesque blue waters, majestic underwater coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of birdlife that frequents the area. A must-see for tropical lovers at heart.

Photo Courtesy Christopher Osten

BISCAYNE NATIONAL PARK: Another offshore paradise can be found right here at Biscayne National Park. Within sight of Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne protects a unique combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-speckled coral reefs. One can find evidence of over 10,000 years of human history here too! From prehistoric tribes to shipwrecks, pineapple farmers, to Presidents, Biscayne has it all for the history buffs. For others, the park is a boating, fishing, and diving destination. Or maybe just sit back and enjoy the peaceful scenery.

Photo Courtesy Suresh Ramamoorthy 

CANAVERAL NATIONAL SEASHORE: This nearly untouched barrier island made up of dune, hammock, and lagoon habitats provide protection from storms, preserves ancient Native American mounds, and is a sanctuary for thousands of species of plants and animals. Enjoy this pristine shoreline, explore a historic site, or maybe even experience the rumble of a rocket soaring into space from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. 

Photo Courtesy Don Shetterly

CASTILLO de SAN MARCOS NATIONAL MONUMENT: Boasting the slogan “American Begins Here,” Castillo de San Marcos National Monument protects one of the oldest foreign-built structures in the continental U.S. Built by the Spanish in St. Augustine to defend Florida and the Atlantic trade route, this National Park preserves the oldest masonry fortification on the continent while providing a view of more than 450 years of culture and history. Stand on the parapets and gaze over the Atlantic and transport yourself back in time a few hundred centuries. 

Photo Courtesy NPS
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