Wildlife & Nature

Sometimes you just have to slow down and commune with nature, and in Central Florida a short 50-minute drive can take you to another world.

For those of us who live near Orlando, Lake Kissimmee State Park is the perfect launching off point. Its nearly 6,000 acres of wooded trails is bounded on three sides by pristine lakes brimming with bass and other freshwater fish. Plus, it is connected to the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, which grants access to wildlife viewing, camping, canoeing, kayaking and other boating activities.

For access to unspoiled beaches, both East and West Coast residents are in luck. Fort De Soto Park, covering five interconnected barrier islands just south of Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg, features beautiful white sand beaches that cover more than 1,000 acres of preserved land. It’s a great spot for observing wildlife or just kicking back and breathing in the fresh air.

On the East Coast, near Orlando, Canaveral National Seashore is a 24-mile stretch of undeveloped coast that is home to over 300 bird species and is a nesting ground for several species of endangered sea turtle.

Birding is a great pastime in our state, and travelers come from all over the world to catch rare and migrating species, including rare shore birds, the endangered Southeastern American kestrel and the recently reintroduced whooping crane.

And if you want to stay closer to home, many of our larger cities have urban parks and botanic gardens, so you can get your nature on and still be home for dinner. Explore the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, examine the unparalleled epiphyte collection at Selby Gardens in Sarasota, or literally stop to smell the roses at Hollis Garden in Lakeland.

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