Swim & Float
Florida has around 1,000 freshwater springs. Do your homework and find one that suits your pursuits.
From April through September, consider visiting Dunnellon’s Rainbow Springs State Park. Tube rentals include a tram ride after your two-hour float down the river. Keep your eyes peeled for turtles, fish, and underwater limestone formations.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park boasts the country’s deepest freshwater cave system. Visitors can swim, paddle, take a boat tour, or catch the park’s iconic mermaid show.
Located just outside Orlando, Wekiwa Springs maintains a 72 degree temp all year. This second-magnitude spring isn’t Florida’s largest, but it draws a sizable crowd. If possible, visit during the week.
Another option is Blue Hole Spring at Fort White’s Ichetucknee Springs State Park, where there is plenty of room to splash, swim, snorkel, and tube.
Warren’s Preserve in Gainesville offers 4 miles of spelunking. This cave system, believed to be Florida’s longest dry-air cave, has no safety upgrades or measures in place, making it ideal for a seasoned caver to test their skills and maybe even catch a glimpse of the endangered blind crayfish.
Florida Caverns State Park
During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration established Florida Caverns State Park near the Florida-Georgia-Alabama border. Workers from both organizations carved paths into some of the park’s caves. While certain caves here are off-limits, the park leads guided tours through 12 underground rooms that show a different side of the Sunshine State.
Whether your goal is fitness or leisure, these spots cater to cyclists of all levels
Overseas Heritage Trail
The Florida Keys’ Overseas Heritage Trail includes 90 miles of paved bike trail and traverses 23 bridges. Bonus: Several of the state park campgrounds along the trail reserve tent sites for cyclists, so don’t be afraid to take a few days to cross the Florida Keys by bike.
Off-roaders, delight! These trails in Ocala take you through forests, abandoned limestone pits, sinkholes, and some of the prettiest parts of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. While hikers use these trails too, mountain bikers flock here for the scenery and varying levels of difficulty. All the trails loop, with the inner trails offering the most challenging rides.
Bike the Beach
While you can technically put a bike on the beach almost anywhere in Florida, the Jacksonville area has a wide coastline with firm-packed sand and three thriving beach towns (Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, and Jacksonville Beach) where you can check out mom-and-pop eateries and laid-back bars. The easiest way in is the public beach access point at 19th Avenue.
This 47-mile trail crosses the Pinellas peninsula, with spurs leading to various cities, including Gulfport, Tarpon Springs, and Dunedin. The trail includes more than 30 miles of abandoned railway and connects cyclists with various parks and parts of the county, at times bringing them close to the Gulf of Mexico.
Gear to Have
- Mosquito repellent
- A lightweight bike tool kit with hex wrenches, a mini pump, patches, and spare tire tubes in case of a flat tire
- A tent and other camping tools if you’re pedaling the Overseas Heritage Trail and plan to spend the night
- Drinking water
- Bike helmet
Walk It Out
The state boasts plenty of hiking trails to please day-trippers and overnight campers alike
Big Cypress National Preserve
At this preserve in Ochopee, hikers will pass through cypress domes and spot flora such as miniature orchids. When it comes to wildlife, attentive hikers may notice bear tracks, snakes, gators, or even panther scat. Yet, Big Cypress isn’t all about animals: Camping under the night sky transports you to another world, and the giant cypress trees will make you feel miniature by comparison.
Torreya State Park
Located about an hour west of Tallahassee, Torreya State Park has an elevation gain as high as 1,653 feet, making it a great place to train for more strenuous treks such as the Appalachian Trail. While you’re hiking, look out for the Torreya (rhymes with Gloria) tree, a tiny conifer that once flourished in northern Florida but is now only found in four counties (one in Georgia and three in Florida). You’ll also have panoramic views of the Apalachicola River and the opportunity to leaf peep in the fall—a true Florida rarity.
Little Talbot Island Dune Ridge
In northeast Florida, this 4-mile hike reveals the way the state’s landscapes blend together. Hikers walk through a seaside forest—surrounded by oak trees and saw palmetto—to arrive at sand dunes anchored in place with sea oats and railroad vine, and then end along the Atlantic.
What to Wear
- Lightweight, waterproof hiking shoes
- A brightly colored top for hunting areas such as Big Cypress
- A breathable hat
Soar above the treetops, across a river, or mere feet from a gator’s jaw at these zip-lining parks
Visitors to Orlando’s Gatorland can strap in and fly along the “Screamin’ Gator,” a zip-line course that crosses above an alligator breeding marsh. But don’t fret: Any cries you may hear are adrenaline-fueled, the result of launching off plateaus that are up to seven stories tall and soaring at speeds of up to 30 mph.
Head to this Ocala outfitter to zip-line over a forest, through limestone canyons, and over sparkling lakes. Various tour options last between one to three hours and include lines of up to 1,150 feet long. There’s also a full-moon tour that invites daredevils to zip and cross sky bridges by just the light of glow sticks
Treetop Trekking Miami offers more than just zip lines; it also includes swinging logs, suspended bridges, and other adventure course elements. There’s even a junior Discovery Course for kids as young as 5.
What to Wear
- Closed-toe shoes
- Comfortable clothing (most places discourage or prohibit dresses, skirts, and short shorts)
Saddle up and hit the beach along Amelia Island, which allows beach riding and offers equestrian tours. In the panhandle, take a leisurely ride around the beaches of Cape San Blas. Unlike the coarse sand and wave action of Amelia Island, the Gulf beaches of Cape San Blas have calm water and powdery sand.
In Ocala, there’s no shortage of places to ride along the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. Explore the Shangri-La tract, a 4.3-mile, multiuse, tree-lined trail, or the Ross Prairie Trailhead loop, which is more than 6 miles of oak and sand riding that will transport you to a hidden forest. Riders can spend the night and park their horses at nearby state campgrounds.
Surf & Sail
The surf city of Florida, Cocoa Beach is famous for its waves and amenities, including a large public beach and the Ron Jon Surf Shop. Several local outfitters offer surf lessons—including the Ron Jon Surf School—in a group setting or on a solo basis.
Sunset sails are a mainstay attraction on Florida’s Gulf Coast. For a peaceful sail accented with dolphin sightings, check out Dolphin Landings on St. Pete Beach. If you wish to actively sail, Blue Water Sailing School in Fort Lauderdale hosts courses in sailing and navigation in accordance with standards set by the American Sailing Association.
Grab a Paddle
Kayak in freshwater rivers or clear springs that transport you to the Jurassic Period, or in salt water to see mangroves, seagrass, and dolphins
Every summer, paddlers head to the Indian River Lagoon to view the glitter in the night water. That bioluminescence is caused by nonharmful algae, and when something moves in the water—such as a school of fish or kayak paddle—the disturbed area glows. While bioluminescence can be seen in many areas, the lack of light pollution makes the Indian River Lagoon prime viewing.
Jupiter: Blowing Rocks Preserve
Managed by The Nature Conservancy, this preserve offers vistas not seen anywhere else in Florida, with a shoreline pockmarked with rocks rather than sand. Seasoned paddlers can take to the waters at high tide and watch as the water is forced up through the Anastasia limestone rocks. The preserve also provides sanctuary for three types of sea turtles and endangered plants, so kayaking when it’s calm can be a rewarding sight, too.
The Everglades: Coastal Mangroves
An ecological highlight awaits within the Everglades: paddling across a coastal mangrove forest. Nine Mile Pond boasts a 5-mile excursion that passes through mangrove tunnels. Paddlers are sure to spot alligators, birds, and native plant life galore.
Merritt island: Rocket launch
Where else in the world can you watch a rocket launch while bobbing with the current? Head to the Merritt Island area along the Space Coast to catch the action. Local outfitters such as Adventures in Florida host rocket launch kayak tours, but be sure to check the launch schedule before booking.
Gear to Have
- Mosquito repellent
- Sun protection (reef-safe sunscreen, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses)
- A waterproof, floating phone and key bag
- A paddling jacket that serves as a personal floatation device
- A reflective device (an old CD during the day or a flashlight at night)
- A whistle
- Drinking water
Grab your snorkel and explore what lies beneath these aquatic destinations
You don’t have to be a Pirates of the Caribbean fan to appreciate one of Florida’s best underwater playgrounds. This mysterious submarine path stretches from Key Largo to Key West; the shallowest wreck lies near Sombrero Light at 14 feet, while others are as deep as 120 feet.
Phil Foster Park
Snorkelers and free divers will have plenty to see off Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach’s Phil Foster Park. The surrounding water is shallow (the deepest point reaches only 20 feet) and features a diverse population of sea life as well as a 2-acre snorkel trail composed of limestone boulders and reef modules.
This reef near Islamorada is home to at least one resident sea turtle as well as stoplight parrotfish, purple sea fans, and butterflyfish, to name a few. Robbie’s Marina runs regular trips to the lighthouse, but anyone with a boat can tie up to a mooring ball and dive in. The reef is shallow enough that snorkelers and divers will see plenty of marine life.
What to Wear
- A snorkel and mask or a full-face mask (with caution, as lower-end models may cause CO2 buildup)
- Fins for easy movement
- Reef-safe sunscreen (Key West prohibits the use of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate)
- Swim booties
- Remove all shiny objects to avoid attracting creatures such as barracuda