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The geographical location and warm subtropical climate of Florida make for unique ecological phenomena, including the Everglades and estuaries that are home to thousands of species of plants and animals. There are hundreds of miles of coastline bordering both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as thousands of acres covered in vast swamps and forest. To help narrow down your choice, here is a guide to which of Florida’s stunning national parks you simply have to visit.
Having covered the three main geographical areas that encompass Florida’s National Parks, we though we’d mention a few smaller, yet equally beautiful, state parks.
A good place to start is Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park (we know, what a tongue twister). Encompassing a 21,000-acre (8,500ha) savannah in Micanopy, Florida (south of Gainesville), Paynes Prairie Preserve is a U.S. National Natural Landmark. Come here to see wild horses, alligators, numerous species of birds and, if you’re extremely lucky, wild bison!
Another state park that should be on your radar is Blue Spring State Park. This park covers more than 2,600 acres (1,052ha), including the largest spring on St. John’s River. Blue Spring presents a unique opportunity to see the winter home to a growing population of West Indian Manatees. The spring’s crystal-clear, 73F (23C) water can be enjoyed by swimmers, snorkelers and certified scuba divers. Fishing, canoeing and boating can also be enjoyed along St. John’s River.
Lastly, we suggest a trip to the Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park in Gainesville. It is home to a 100ft (30m) limestone sinkhole that displays geological strata going back millions of years, along with the ecosystem that formed around it. Devil’s Millhopper is a National Natural Landmark that has been visited by curious travelers since the early 1880s and is a great place to enjoy a nice cold swim, if you’re brave enough.