Excited to see Florida’s diverse natural beauty? Make plenty of room on your itinerary to experience the best state parks in Florida. Ranging from mesmerizing hot springs to coastal forests, the Sunshine State puts its natural world on a silver platter for all to see.
In Florida’s tropical rainforest climate, you’ll find a fantastic mix of land and water activities, whether it’s kayaking along its Wild and Scenic Rivers or hiking through historic prairies. As a bonus, a pristine beach is almost always a few steps away.
Ready to embark on the ultimate Sunshine State adventure? Take in the vast beauty at one of these Florida State Parks.
Most beautiful Florida state parks
Bahia Honda State Park
Located in the iconic Florida Keys, Bahia Honda State Park is one of the top state parks in Florida for beach camping. Despite this, many travelers venture to the more popular beaches in Key West and Key Largo. If you’re planning an adventure to the Sunshine State, don’t make the same mistake.
Enjoy the quintessential Florida experience at Bahia Honda State Park with endless white-sand beaches lined by palm trees. Lapping the shores are crystal clear waters home to some of the best snorkeling in the state.
With the balmy breeze hovering over the surface, dive to seagrass beds below to spot lobster and queen conch. At night, stargaze at one of the several beachfront campgrounds.
Myakka River State Park
Just 30 minutes inland from the coastal city of Sarasota, Myakka River State Park features one of only two “Wild and Scenic Rivers” in Florida. Over an enormous 37,000 acres, the enthralling Myakka River carves its way through landscapes comprising prairies, wetlands, and forests.
Kayaking and fishing along the river are popular activities in the state park. Venturing along the river opens up a world of possibilities with white-tailed deer roaming in the foreground and alligators gliding beneath the surface.
There are many great hikes within the Myakka River State Park, including the Canopy Walkway. Head into the treetops for wildlife viewing as osprey, limpkins, and vultures sit patiently. Later camp out or spend the night in a palm tree log cabin.
Grayton Beach State Park
Along Florida’s Emerald Coast are a series of enchanting beaches, each worthy of their own article. But what places Grayton Beach State Park upon this list is the variety of recreational activities on offer, complemented by a beautiful beach.
Covering almost 2,000 acres, the park comes with a long white sand shoreline backed by several miles of hiking trails through coastal forest. After completing the adventurous trails, take it up a notch by paddling through the park’s three lakes. The coastal lakes are some of the best in the United States, with excellent fishing.
For staying overnight, Grayton Beach State Park offers 60 camping sites and 30 modern cabins with the sandy beach just steps away. The park is located almost equal distance between Panama City Beach and Destin.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
State parks can be more renowned for hiking and above-ground action. That’s all the more reason to flip the script by heading to America’s first undersea park on one of the most popular Florida Keys state parks. Located in Key Largo, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park will grant you access to 70 nautical miles of dramatic coral reef.
A variety of activities and tour options are available to make the most of the epic scenery. Two popular options—snorkeling and scuba diving—allow you to get up close to the magnificent world beneath the surface. The shallow reefs are easy to get to, but, if you wish to stay dry, jump on a glass-bottom boat.
After a day on the reef, kick back on your beach chairs, alongside the 17th-century cannons at the scenic Cannon Beach, one of the finest beaches in Key Largo.
Caladesi Island State Park
On a barrier island just east of Tampa, Caladesi Island State Park is an excellent place to check out from regular life and enjoy swimming, hiking, and kayaking. You can only access the island by charter or private boat, but the extra effort goes a long way.
In the pristine, natural setting, visitors can spend their days on the powder sand beach watching the electric blue water come in and out without a hint of passing traffic.
Comb Caladesi Island State Park for shells before embarking on its three-mile nature trail and enjoy lunch among the mangrove forests. To get out on the water, jump in a kayak and round the beach before paddling through the local swamps.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Twenty minutes from downtown Miami and on the famous Key Biscayne, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park comes with a storied past to match its natural beauty. A popular alternative to South Beach, visitors come to the historic park to bask under the Florida sun alongside the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County.
Cape Florida Lighthouse was built in 1825 and has survived war and nasty storms to help guide ships around the local reefs. Today, you can venture to the top with amazing views, not only of Biscayne Bay but pods of dolphins hanging out just off the beach.
You can explore the park further on the hiking and biking trails, with the option to rent kayaks.
Weeki Wachee Spring State Park
A state park unlike any other in Florida, Weeki Wachee Spring State Park offers entertainment and nature in equal measure. An hour north of Tampa, Weeki Wachee comprises a series of natural springs and is a great place to watch mythical mermaids.
Since 1947, pro divers/performers have brought a mystical aura to the park by dressing up as mermaids and swimming through the springs. The entertaining show is much-loved among the community and the kids are sure to get a kick out of it.
After the show, get out on the water yourself, with ample swimming, diving, and kayaking on offer. But as a friend group or family, you can’t beat rafting up and tubing down the river. In the winter, keep an eye out for migrating manatees.
Cayo Costa State Park
On Captiva Island, along Florida’s Gulf Coast, Cayo Costa State Park comes with old-growth forests, mangrove swamps, and oak-palm hammocks. This part of the Gulf Islands is inaccessible by car; you’ll have to kayak to the park, or jump on a boat.
If you’ve spent any time on the beaches of Captiva and Sanibel Islands, you’ll be well versed in what to expect. The dazzling beaches here are perfect for shelling, while the calm turquoise waters offer relaxing swimming and great visibility for snorkeling.
To get the lay of the land at the Cayo Costa State Park’s amphitheater for educational programs. Afterward, enjoy the several nature trails on offer, with the chance to see rare birds.
Anastasia State Park
One hour south of Jacksonville near St. Augustine, Anastasia State Park is one of the best Florida state parks on the east coast. After crossing Matanzas Bay, explore the barrier island which comprises over 1,600 acres and four miles of beach with barely another soul in sight.
The park is teeming with opportunities to explore. Don’t stress if you brought zero gear: Anastasia State Park rents out bikes, SUPs, kayaks, and even sailboats for those who really want some adventure. Jump on the bike and ride along the paved trails. Keep your eyes and ears ready to spot a variety of birds from bald eagles to herons.
There’s a campground with almost 140 sites for those who want to stay overnight. Bring your tent or RV and enjoy an evening campfire.
Blue Spring State Park
When tracking manatees who were migrating to the warm waters along the St. Johns River, researchers stumbled upon the dramatic Blue Springs. Fast forward 24 months: Blue Spring State Park was born. Located just 50 minutes north of Orlando in Central Florida, the beautiful park features balmy waters that hover around 72 degrees all year long.
You can start your adventures along the river before swimming upstream to the spring. The river gets increasingly warm thanks to the limestone beneath, which essentially boils the water.
Along the river and the Blue Springs, are a series of pavilions offering beautiful views of the clear spring. You’ll also find BBQs and room to sunbathe. Beyond swimming, try out kayaking, or snorkeling, while the entire group can raft up and go tubing down the stream.
Hillsborough River State Park
One of the oldest state parks in the Sunshine State, Hillsborough River State Park opened in 1938. It’s a great place for hiking and boating alike—and there’s no shortage of outdoor adventures to take part in.
The Hillsborough River is an inviting place for anglers who can load up the bait and tackle box and enjoy a calm yet busy day on the water. Fishermen and women can hope to catch bream, catfish, and bass.
On dry land, hikers can explore almost ten miles of trails with paved sections for cyclists. To stave off the heat, head to the state park’s swimming pool before checking into the expansive campground.
Big Talbot Island State Park
Located 40 minutes north of Jacksonville and along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, Big Talbot Island State Park is most famous for Boneyard Beach. The beach is packed with driftwood that’s been washed clean by the ocean’s salt.
An intimidating sight, the old cedar, and oak trees appear like a natural graveyard along the shore. Leave nothing but footprints and take only photos before exploring the rest of the tidal marshes and forests on the Blackrock Trail.
Big Talbot is great for bird watchers. Herons, wood stork, and egrets call the island home. Later, head to the boat ramp to further explore the salt marsh.
Paynes Prairie State Preserve
Florida’s first-ever state preserve and a National Natural Landmark is only 90 minutes southwest of Jacksonville. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park offers abundant wildlife and unique nature compared to many of the parks on this list. An amazing region for naturalists and lovers of all things outdoors, spot anything from alligators to birds and bison.
The landscape at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is geologically diverse and historically unique. You can see it all thanks to the eight park trails that combine to offer 30 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Pass elevated observation platforms with panoramic views of the prairie, none better than the 50-foot tower alongside the park’s visitor center.
It’s easy to spend the night here thanks to a combination of serviced sites and backcountry camping.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Fed by nine springs, Ichetucknee Springs State Park draws in tubers and kayakers to paddle along the Ichetucknee River. Fun on the water is what this beautiful Florida state park is all about. With just a 90 minute drive between the park, it’s a perfect day trip from Jacksonville.
Pack your chosen watercraft, whether it’s a canoe, kayak, inflatable raft, or scuba gear. (Yes, scuba divers with a cave certification can dive in the park’s renowned Blue Hole between October and March.)
For the rest of us, the rapids of the Ichetucknee River will provide ample adventure as you fly under the mossy trees through the vibrant wetlands.
Honeymoon Island State Park
On the Gulf Coast, just west of Tampa, you can find the aptly named Honeymoon Island State Park. In the calm, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, you can enjoy over four miles of beaches away from the crowds that flock to Clearwater Beach.
Beyond the sand, explore the hiking trails through the park with the chance to spot eagles, owls, and osprey perched high in the canopies. Not just a remote, romantic escape, there are great facilities for the entire family, including picnic tables and playgrounds.
Other highlights of Honeymoon Island State Park include a dog beach for your furry friend and the ranger programs, which are always a hit with the young ones.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park
Featuring Florida’s other “Scenic and Wild River,” Jonathan Dickinson State Park is a haven for kayakers. 20 minutes from North Palm Beach, the park is a welcome change from the urban environments in Southeast Florida. It’s easy to see why the park is so popular with locals.
Along the Loxahatchee River, you can make use of the kayak rentals or join a guided tour along the river. For hours of fun, explore the surrounding woods passing historic early settlements and the home of Camp Murphy, a top-secret WWII training base.
Back on land, head into the woods on the miles of trails for hiking, with extra paths just for mountain bikers.
Curry Hammock State Park
Situated in the Florida Keys, Curry Hammock State Park helps to protect a fragile and prominent part of the local ecosystem. Complete with sweeping mangroves, seagrass beds, and Rockland hammocks, outdoor enthusiasts are spoiled for choice.
Like many major parks in the state, the best way to get around is on the water. Whatever your poison of choice, from kayaks to SUPs, explore the gentle waters with no motorboats in sight. On Little Crawl Key, paddle through a narrow mangrove tunnel to vast lagoons, sandbars, and, eventually, the open ocean.
There are almost 30 camping sites to choose from, some with electric hookups and space for RVs.