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Southern Florida’s State Parks - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > State Parks

The average traveller, whether they be from overseas or North America, is probably unaware that Florida has over 160 State Parks. While the majority head for the famous Theme Parks of Orlando they fail to realise that Florida offers a huge variety of simpler pleasures for the days when an alternative to Disney and Universal are ‘just what the doctor ordered’.

Caladesi Island State Park features a white sandy beach that has recently been named as the Number 1 beach in America. In addition to its wonderful beach, the park also features a mangrove-sheltered kayak trail which winds from the marina to the St. Joseph Sound and back, with kayaks available for rent from Cafe Caladesi. Its nature trail is a great place to view Osprey or cross paths with gopher tortoises.

The park is located one mile west of Dunedin off the Gulf Coast and is accessible only by private boat or via the Caladesi ferry service. The ferry costs $10. 00 for adults and $6. 00 for children ages 4-12. Visitors are allotted a four-hour stay on the island and trips depart hourly from 10 a. m.

Another park accessible only by boat is Cayo Costa State Park, situated west of North Fort Myers. The park boasts nine miles of sandy beaches plus acres of pine forest and mangrove swamp for you to explore, as well as five and a half miles of walking and biking trails, with bikes available for hire. As well as a great variety of birds, you may be lucky enough to see manatees and pods of dolphins in the waters around the park. A popular pastime with visitors is shell collecting and the southern part of the island is where the sea deposits a wonderful array of treasures especially during the winter months. For ferry information and reservations call (239) 283-0015.

If you are in Florida in early January then you may wish to visit the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, where, in 1835, the battle that started the Second Seminole War is re-enacted. Only three soldiers, out of one hundred and eight, survived an attack by Seminole Indians. However, the park not only protects the historic site but also the natural flora and fauna as they existed when the soldiers and Seminoles battled over 170 years ago. So even when the park is not featuring the battle re-enactment you can stroll along its nature trail through pine woods, and hopefully see gopher tortoises, woodpeckers, hawks, and maybe even indigo snakes which are thankfully non-venomous! The park also has a playground and picnic area. The park is located off I-75 and S. R. 48, west of Highway 301, near Bushnell.

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