In Broward County, Florida, you can explore what’s known as Fort Lauderdale’s “Central Park”, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, FL. Within the Miami Metropolitan Area, the state park is an urban oasis flanked by the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. It’s a delight for nature lovers, who leave behind the oft-rowdy local beaches and can enjoy time among tropical hammocks and mangroves with dozens of bird species flying above.
The state park’s location, so close to Fort Lauderdale and Miami, makes it a welcome escape for locals and travelers alike. Once there, you can explore the waterways, embark on hikes, or go for a bike ride. All the while, the white sands of Fort Lauderdale Beach and the craft beers at Park & Ocean await close by.
Not sure what to do in Hugh Taylor Birch State Park? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Get all you need to know with our complete Hugh Taylor Birch State Park guide.
What to see & do
Paddle the waterways
Visitors to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park will find the vast Atlantic Ocean on one side and the serene Intracoastal Waterway on the other. Because of this, there are so many on-water opportunities including paddling the waterways.
If you have your watercraft ready to go, then you can head to the park’s largest dune lake where you’ll have access to a canoe launch. But don’t stress if you haven’t got a canoe or kayak! You can rent either, along with stand-up paddleboards, and even pedal boats at Park and Ocean.
Park and Ocean is just north of the main entrance near Central Beach. Not only can you get your hands on all you need to explore the vibrant and unspoiled waterways, visitors can also join a tour. Every Friday there is a magical sunset kayak tour plus their monthly full moon paddle.
After exploring the dune lakes and endangered ecosystem, return to Park and Ocean to dine at their restaurant, set among a shady grove.
Hike or bike on the nature trails
The 180 acres of the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park offer a lovely balance between water-based and dry land activities. After exploring the waterways, next on the agenda is to trade the paddle for some hiking shoes or a bicycle and check out the interior of the park.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park’s main trail is called the Hardwood Hammock Trail. It’s a short and beautiful trail, taking you through a native habitat of tropical hardwood hammock. What you’ll discover is one of the last remaining examples of this kind of ecosystem in Broward County.
The trail features a series of interpretive signs helping you to understand the world around you, and, most importantly, the vital role the hammock plays in sustaining local wildlife.
An alternative hike is the Mid Trail, taking you past some of the best plant life in the park.
Next up, make your way back to Park and Ocean to get your hands on a set of wheels. With your helmet on, cycle down the 1.9-mile Park Drive that meanders through the park.
Relax on the golden sands
On the other side of North Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd is one of the most popular stretches of golden sand in southern Florida. After a morning of paddling, hiking, and biking, reward yourself with some blissful relaxation at Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Those traveling through the state park will be able to access the beach via Beach Gate. Like always, Park and Ocean comes through, renting out beach chairs and umbrellas for a comfortable day on the sand. Beach wheelchairs are also available from the park’s ranger station.
The beach opens from 8 am until sunset. There are lifeguards on duty along with designated swimming areas. This makes it a great place to enjoy a swim with younger kids. Snorkeling and sea kayaking are also popular activities if you wish to see more of the natural treasures along the coast.
During the summer months, Fort Lauderdale Beach is home to one of the largest nesting grounds for loggerhead sea turtles on earth. Travelers should steer clear of the marked nesting spots, but keep an eye out for the adorable animals.
Check out the wildlife
Speaking of wildlife, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park has no shortage of native and migrating animals within its boundaries. It’s well-known for the exceptional birding opportunities with the park being a part of the Great Florida Birding Trail.
The state park’s long list of birds comes to over 250 species. You’ll find an exciting concentration of birds from the Caribbean islands along with migratory species making their way north or south depending on the time of year.
Other wildlife within the park includes the endangered gopher tortoise and the common raccoon. Want a specialist look at the park? The best way to experience all the wildlife the park offers is to sign up for a naturalist tour which runs every Friday and Saturday.
These tours vary depending on the week but include walks along the Mid Trail, the mangrove habitat, and the Beach Hammock Trail. Guests can also head to the ranger station to get a free Mid Trail Audio Tour.
Enjoy a meal
Any time spent exploring Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is best rewarded by another visit to Park & Ocean. The beachside bar and restaurant offers a wonderful location to enjoy a midday meal or some craft beers after a day of adventures.
As you enjoy your Caribbean and Southern cuisine, you’ll have views out towards the Atlantic. This is a sight that grows even more enchanting when the sun gets low in the sky.
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Park & Ocean also brew their own beers on-site, called Shady Brewing, making use of the state’s best fruit to create signature beers.
This spot isn’t the only way to enjoy a meal in Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Travelers can make use of a number of shaded picnic areas, complete with picnic tables, and barbecue grills to cook up your own feast.
How to get there
The main entrance to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is along Sunrise Boulevard, ten minutes from downtown Fort Lauderdale. The easy access makes it a great way to spend a day, with the admission fee only being $6 per vehicle (for up to eight people).
The nearest major airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, services hundreds of domestic flights every day and is only 30 minutes away from the park.