In this article, we will answer the question: How many state parks are in Florida? But first, let’s consider why state parks are an important part of our public lands.
State parks are essential facets of our nation’s natural and recreational landscape, providing accessible spaces for all of us. These parks serve as havens of biodiversity, offering sanctuary to diverse plant and animal species, while at the same time serving as playgrounds for outdoor activities. Among the vast array of state parks across America, Florida stands out as a shining example, boasting a wealth of natural wonders to explore and enjoy.
How Many State Parks are in Florida?
The Sunshine State has 175 state parks, which ranks as the 5th most state parks in the U.S.!
Overview of Florida State Parks
State Parks in Florida are more than just pieces of public land. They are living showcases of the state’s natural beauty and cultural heritage. With a total of 175 state parks scattered across the state, Florida has made it a priority to conserve and share its remarkable landscapes and historical sites.
You can explore the lush forests and winding rivers of the Panhandle, revel in the pristine beaches and crystal-clear springs of the Central and Northern regions, or venture into the unique ecosystems of the Everglades and the Florida Keys in the South. Each park has its own distinct charm, from the tranquil, moss-draped oak hammocks to the vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life.
Florida State Parks provide opportunities for camping, hiking, wildlife observation, birdwatching, fishing, and swimming. Many of them are also steeped in history, with remnants of Native American settlements, Spanish colonial forts, and Civil War-era sites waiting to be discovered.
Why Are State Parks in Florida Important?
Florida’s state parks play a crucial role in preserving the state’s natural landscapes and cultural heritage for both residents and visitors. These parks serve as protected areas where the environment can thrive, ensuring that future generations can enjoy the same natural beauty and historical significance that you can experience today.
One key purpose of these parks is conservation. They safeguard unique ecosystems, endangered species, and sensitive habitats, helping to maintain the state’s biodiversity. When you visit, you indirectly contribute to the funding needed to protect and restore these fragile environments.
Top Things to do at State Parks in Florida
Florida has some of the best recreational opportunities in the world. That’s why it’s one of the most popular destinations for outdoor and nature lovers. Here are just some of the top activities to do here:
Beaches, Springs, and Trails
- Beaches: Florida boasts some of the most pristine and beautiful beaches in the world, and many state parks have beachfront access. You can relax on the sandy shores, swim in the crystal-clear waters, and even go snorkeling or scuba diving in some parks. Two great ones are: Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park in the Panhandle, and Caladesi Island State Park just north of Clearwater in the town of Dunedin.
- Springs: Discover the state’s unique freshwater springs, where you can take a refreshing dip in the cool, spring-fed pools. These springs also provide excellent opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. Two great options are Rainbow Springs near Dunnellon, and In Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park.
- Note: The spring known as Gilchrist Blue at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is phenomenal. It releases roughly 44 million gallons of fresh water daily. Due to its exceptional water clarity, it’s no wonder that paddling, snorkeling, and swimming are so popular here.
- Trails: There are tremendous hiking trails to explore, from short, family-friendly nature walks to challenging backcountry trails. These trails take you through diverse ecosystems, offering glimpses of native flora and wildlife.
Wildlife to See, Camping, and Fishing
- Wildlife Viewing: Florida’s state parks are havens for wildlife. Birdwatchers will delight in the opportunity to spot both migratory and resident bird species. You might also encounter manatees, alligators, deer, and other native animals.
- Camping: If you’re seeking an outdoor adventure, many state parks offer camping facilities. Whether you prefer tent camping or RV camping, you can surround yourself in nature and enjoy the tranquility of the parks after dark. There are some excellent parks for stargazing.
- Fishing: Anglers will appreciate the fishing opportunities in many parks, with options for freshwater and saltwater fishing. You can cast your line from riverbanks, and piers, or even take a boat out for a day on the water.
Historical Sites, Boating, Picnicking, and Geological Wonders
- Historical Sites: Several parks contain historical structures and artifacts that provide insight into Florida’s past. Explore old forts, pioneer settlements, and archaeological sites to learn about the state’s rich history.
- Boating: If you have a boat or kayak, you can enjoy the interconnected waterways within many parks. Paddle through mangrove tunnels, drift down lazy rivers, or venture out into the open ocean.
- Picnicking: Bring your favorite snacks and enjoy a relaxing picnic in designated areas within the parks. It’s a great way to unwind and savor the natural surroundings.
- Geological Wonders: Some parks showcase unique geological features, such as limestone caves, sinkholes, and karst landscapes to explore.
Some of the Most Visited State Parks in Florida
- Honeymoon Island State Park: Located on the Gulf Coast, this park offers pristine beaches, nature trails, and a tranquil escape. It is also the most visited Florida State Park receiving over 1 million visitors annually.
- Anastasia State Park: Enjoy the beautiful Atlantic Ocean beaches, perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. The park also features hiking trails and opportunities for birdwatching.
- Fort De Soto Park: Explore the historic fort, pristine beaches, and scenic landscapes. It’s a popular spot for picnicking, kayaking, and observing wildlife.
- Bahia Honda State Park: Located in the Florida Keys, this park boasts picturesque beaches, snorkeling opportunities, and stunning sunsets.
- St. Andrews State Park: With its emerald waters and sandy shores, this park is a paradise for beachgoers. You can also fish, hike, and spot wildlife along the nature trails.
- John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: Discover the underwater wonders of the Florida Keys with snorkeling, scuba diving, and glass-bottom boat tours in this marine haven.
- Topsail Hill Preserve State Park: Enjoy the scenic beauty of coastal dune lakes and white sandy beaches. The park offers a range of outdoor activities, from hiking to swimming.
- Silver Springs State Park: Take a glass-bottom boat tour to view the crystal-clear springs and underwater life. You can also hike, kayak, and enjoy picnics in this park.
- Rainbow Springs State Park: Known for its vibrant blue waters and waterfalls, this park is perfect for swimming, tubing, and picnicking.
- O’Leno State Park: Explore the Santa Fe River and its unique sinkholes. Hike along the riverbanks, spot wildlife, and immerse yourself in the natural surroundings.
State Parks in Florida with Camping
Bahia Honda State Park
Located in the Florida Keys, Bahia Honda offers beachfront camping. You’ll find a range of campsites right along the beach, providing you with beautiful waterfront views and the soothing sounds of the ocean as your backdrop.
With approximately 80 campsites available, you have options for both RVs and tents. Keep in mind that reservations are required for camping here, so it’s a good idea to secure your spot in advance, especially during peak seasons.
The campsites are well-equipped, featuring picnic tables and grills, allowing you to enjoy outdoor meals while taking in the stunning surroundings. Restrooms with showers are also available.
Fort De Soto Park
This park near Tampa Bay features waterfront campsites, allowing you to camp right by the water’s edge. Explore the historic fort, go fishing, or simply relax on the sandy shores.
Fort De Soto Park is a popular camping destination, so it’s a good idea to make reservations in advance to secure your spot, particularly during busy seasons. The campsites here offer a unique blend of convenience and natural beauty, with picnic tables and grills available for you to enjoy outdoor meals while taking in the serene surroundings. There are also restrooms and showers.
This coastal park is not just about camping. It’s also an excellent place to explore history at the historic fort. This well-preserved fort dates back to the Spanish-American War era and offers a glimpse into the past.
Here, you can take a self-guided tour through the fort’s historic structures, including gun batteries, bunkers, and barracks. It’s a fascinating opportunity to step back in time and learn about the fort’s role in protecting Tampa Bay during the early 20th century.
St. George Island State Park
Set along the Gulf of Mexico, this park provides an incredible backdrop for your camping adventure.
You’ll find well-maintained campsites along the coastal dunes, providing a serene atmosphere with the sound of waves in the background. While camping here, you can choose between RV and tent sites, accommodating various camping preferences.
The campsites are equipped with picnic tables and grills, perfect for outdoor dining with family and friends. And when you’re ready to explore, the park offers miles of pristine shoreline, where you can swim, sunbathe, and explore the beach.
In addition to beach activities, St. George Island State Park provides opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and observing the local wildlife in their natural habitat. It’s a place where you can connect with nature and enjoy the coastal beauty of the Florida Panhandle while camping in a peaceful and scenic environment.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park
Located along the scenic Loxahatchee River, this park provides a range of camping options. You’ll discover well-kept campgrounds, including spots for both RVs and tents. Whether you’re traveling with a camper or prefer a traditional tent setup, you’ll find a comfortable place to call home during your stay.
At the campsites, you can enjoy conveniences like picnic tables and fire rings for cozy outdoor gatherings. The park also features clean and modern restroom facilities with showers.
Beyond your campsite, there are some other great activities to explore. Paddle down the river in a kayak or canoe, hike through lush forests on scenic trails, or take a leisurely bike ride through the park’s picturesque landscapes. Birdwatchers will appreciate the abundant birdlife. Additional wildlife include deer, river otters, and turtles.
Grayton Beach State Park
Also located in the heart of the Florida Panhandle, this park offers a serene landscape among the coastal dune ecosystem. The campsites are well-maintained and provide a comfortable place to relax, whether you’re in an RV or prefer traditional tent camping.
Each campsite comes equipped with picnic tables and grills, perfect for outdoor meals while enjoying the fresh sea breeze. Nearby, you’ll have access to clean and modern restroom facilities with showers, ensuring your camping experience is convenient and comfortable.
During your stay, you can explore the park’s stunning beaches, known for their sugar-white sands and emerald waters. Swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing are popular activities. For those seeking adventure, hiking along the scenic trails or birdwatching in the lush coastal forests are terrific options.
Myakka River State Park
Myakka River State Park is situated along the banks of the scenic Myakka River. The campsites here are surrounded by towering oak trees and the sounds of nature.
There are a variety of camping options, accommodating both RVs and tents. You will find amenities like picnic tables and fire rings, ideal for outdoor meals and campfire gatherings. Restrooms with showers are also available.
While here, you can explore the park’s extensive network of hiking trails, providing opportunities to observe local wildlife, including alligators, deer, and a rich variety of bird species. For those who enjoy the water, you can paddle down the river in a kayak or take an airboat tour for a thrilling adventure.
Florida is home to a remarkable array of state parks, each offering its own unique blend of natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and historical significance. With 175 state parks across the state, you have a wealth of options to explore.
Whether you’re seeking serene beaches, crystal-clear springs, or lush forests, Florida’s state parks are ready to welcome you with open arms, inviting you to discover the diverse wonders of the Sunshine State’s natural and cultural heritage.
So, get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through Florida’s magnificent state parks.
National Parks List, Map, and Complete Guide (All 63 Parks + Downloadable List & Map)
Want a FREE complete list and recap of all our US National Parks as well as downloadable maps and other great resources? Check out our US National Parks List and Map guide!
What is the largest state park in Florida?
The largest state park in Florida is Big Cypress National Preserve, covering a vast area of swampland and wilderness.
What is the darkest state park in Florida?
Big Pine Key’s Bahia Honda State Park is known for its relatively dark skies, making it a great spot for stargazing and enjoying the night sky.
What is the smallest state park in Florida?
The smallest state park in Florida is the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, a small but ecologically significant park in the Florida Keys.
What is the most beautiful natural spring in Florida?
Wakulla Springs State Park is often considered one of the most beautiful natural springs in Florida, known for its crystal-clear waters and abundant wildlife.
Where is the best spring in Florida?
Many consider Silver Springs State Park, located in Ocala, to be one of the best springs in Florida due to its stunning glass-bottom boat tours and scenic beauty.
Where is the clearest spring in Florida?
Juniper Springs Recreation Area, situated in Ocala National Forest, is known for having some of the clearest spring water in Florida.
What was the first state park in Florida?
The first state park in Florida was Highlands Hammock State Park, established in 1931. It is known for its lush, old-growth hammocks and scenic beauty.