A shorebird on the natural beach of St. George Island State Park
Shore birds and sea turtles are common sights in the summer months on St. George Island.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Swim, Kayak and Hike Your Way Through Florida's Best State Parks

From Inlet to Island to Cape, These are Some of Florida’s Most Beautiful Natural Places

Florida has much to offer visitors. With gorgeous beaches, interesting caves and a beautiful interior, there’s truly something for everyone. If you’re looking to enjoy some of these pristine beaches with the added opportunity to see some incredible animals, state parks are the way to go. Plenty offer great opportunities for some of the best snorkeling in Florida as well.

You can camp overnight, go for the day or just an afternoon — no matter how much time you spend at one, your time will be packed full of fun and excitement. Here are some of the best state parks in Florida.

St. George Island State Park

If you are looking for miles of natural, undeveloped beaches and plenty of outdoor activities, check out St. George Island State Park. Popular activities here include swimming, sunbathing, boating, fishing, camping and just enjoying nature. Dolphins are a common sight as are numerous species of shore birds and sea turtles in the summer months.

You can come and stay awhile with both electric and primitive campsites conveniently located inside the park.

Beach in Caladesi Island State ParkCaladesi Island State Park is known for gorgeous stretches of untouched beachPhoto Credit: Getty Images

Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park preserves one of the only remaining undeveloped islands along the Gulf Coast of Florida. The beautiful white-sand beaches attract visitors looking to enjoy sunbathing, beachcombing and swimming. There are also both paddling and hiking trails on the island, offering plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife and enjoy the natural surroundings.

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Sunset in honeymoon Island, with a birdBring your dog, your kids and your beach towels and spend a fun day on Honeymoon Island.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park is another great place to go for outdoor recreation. The island has more than four miles of beautiful beaches perfect for swimming and fishing. There’s also a pet-friendly section of the beach, so feel free to bring along Fido.

A three-mile nature trail called the Osprey Trail offers opportunities to enjoy the forest and perhaps spot a nesting eagle or great horned owl. There are also amenities such as a cafe with food and beverages as well as rentals such as bikes, kayaks, umbrellas and beach chairs.

Fishing pier in Sebastian Inlet State Park, FloridaFishing is a popular reason to come to Sebastian Inlet State Park.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Sebastian Inlet State Park

Anglers looking for a place to cast a line have likely heard of Sebastian Inlet State Park. One of the best Florida state parks, it’s known across the nation as a premier destination for saltwater fishing. If you aren’t interested in scoring a big mackerel or bluefish, perhaps you’d like to try surfing, which is also popular here.

There are two museums for those looking for an air-conditioned escape as well as three miles of beach, a nature trail and campground.

Beach and Bridge, Bahia Honda State ParkRent some snorkeling gear and seek out underwater marvels. Then finish the day off by watching a beautiful sunset.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Bahia Honda State Park

The once remote island of Bahia Honda Key was turned into a popular tourist destination when Henry Flagler’s railroad to Key West was first built. The island is known for its gorgeous beaches and phenomenal sunsets. It’s also a great place to go snorkeling. Fishing is also popular here both from land and boat.

Kayak and snorkeling gear rentals are available and it’s possible to hire a boat to take you out to the prime snorkeling spots to have a really special time.

Note: this park is still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Irma and some amenities are not yet available. See their website for more details.

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Beach in Lover's Key, FloridaBottlenose dolphins, manatees and more can be seen at Lovers Key.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lovers Key State Park

Even though it used to be said that only lovers traveled to the remote and solitary beach of Lover’s Key, today the islands that make up this state park are much more accessible. This is a great place to go if you’d like to see wildlife as the islands and the water surrounding them are home to bottlenose dolphins, manatees, rabbits, bald eagles and numerous species of shore birds.

You’ll find multi-use trails, beaches and a boat ramp, making for plenty of ways to enjoy your visit.

Bridge in Charlotte HarborThe best way to experience Charlotte Harbor is by canoe or kayak.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park

Charlotte Harbor Preserve is a large state park that preserves and protects more than 100 miles of shoreline and 40,000 acres across two counties. There are numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation across the park’s mangrove forests, pine forests and shorelines.

Activities include fishing, hiking and watching wildlife, although the best way to experience the park is by canoeing or kayaking the park’s paddle trail system.

Lighthouse on the coast of FloridaThis state park is home to a historic lighthouse dating back to 1825.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Lighthouse lovers will want to take note of this state park in Florida that is the home of a historic lighthouse dating from 1825. Visitors can tour the lighthouse and the keeper’s cottage. The lighthouse isn’t the only thing the park has going for it however, as there’s also more than a mile of sandy beachfront offering sunbathing, swimming and picnicking.

Fishing, biking and kayaking are other popular activities.

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Entrance to Hugh Taylor Birch State ParkWant to step away from the hustle and bustle of Fort Lauderdale? Give this state park a visit on your trip.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

If you’re looking for an escape into nature with easy access to Fort Lauderdale, you’ve found it. This park is just a short walk from the beachfront condos and shops but it seems a world away with its beautiful tropical hammocks, freshwater lagoon and hiking trails. This is the perfect way to spend a relaxing day in Fort Lauderdale without all of the hustle and bustle.

St. Lucie InletStroll along the boardwalk or go for a dip.Photo Credit: Getty Images

St. Lucie Inlet State Reserve

It will take a bit of effort to get to this one as this Florida state park is only accessible by boat, but it’s well worth the visit. There’s a boardwalk where you can stroll and enjoy the mangrove forest and tropical plant-life as well as a nice beach. Other recreational options include swimming, snorkeling, surf fishing, sunbathing and picnicking on the park’s quiet beach.

Boardwalk leading to beachCheck out the visitor center to learn more about the local nature of the park.Photo Credit: Flickr

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

Just outside North Palm Beach lies the oasis that is John D. MacArthur State Park. While lesser known, it has its share of wonders in store for you. Birdwatchers will enjoy catching sight of herons, terns and sandpipers, while naturalists will feel privileged to identify the rare and endangered tropical and coastal plant species that reside here.

Don’t know much about plants and birds? Stop by the Visitor Center to learn about the local nature and view live fish, snake and sea turtle exhibits. And don’t forget to rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the outer islands.

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