It’s not only Californians and Pacific Northwesterners who can engage in an active, outdoorsy lifestyle. Those of us in Central and Southwestern Florida can also enjoy a variety of outdoor activities that extend well beyond our spectacular beaches.
Each year more than 25 million park visitors hike, cycle, paddle, paddle board, camp, jet ski, horseback ride and even tour our local waterways on pontoon boats. And for ambitious cyclists, we have the Coast-to-Coast Connector, a paved bike path that nearly crosses the state, extending from St. Petersburg to Titusville. Although there’s no need to traverse the entire thing in one go. Take your time and explore.
Freshwater recreation is abundant, too. One of many fantastic options is the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes, which is less than an hour from both Orlando and Tampa Bay. The chain features 28 lakes interconnected by canals, which means we never have to leave the water. Here we can come solo or bring our families to enjoy boating, stand-up paddle boarding, wakeboarding, jet skiing, or even the latest craze of flyboarding, which rockets riders over the water like spring-loaded action figures.
Many operators offer airboat rides in lakes connected to the Florida Everglades, as well as in nature preserves such as the Kissimmee River State Park, for adventurous journeys in our region’s swampland. And for those of us inclined to more inland activities, Bone Valley ATV Park in Polk County boasts 200 acres of ATV and motocross trails plus picnic tables and easy parking.
Whether you like to play in the water or prefer to take to the woods, there is ample opportunity for year-round outdoor fun near your home. And, best of all, we Floridians get to enjoy the outdoors in the highest ranked parks and recreation system in the nation. That’s right—Florida state parks are the nation’s only three-time winner of the National Gold Medal Award for excellence in park management. No other state in the country has ever won two medals, let alone three. Florida is an outdoor paradise, and our residents and visitors cherish and care deeply for these natural treasures.