Being blessed with year-round sunshine and some of the most unique and spectacular scenery in the US, Florida is a fantastic place to get some air in your lungs and head into the great outdoors. Terrain here ranges from stunning tropical beaches to dense jungle and wetland, so there are loads of opportunities for adventure that don’t involve queuing for hours and then sitting on a theme park ride.
So, if you’re looking to escape Florida’s famous man-made attractions and reconnect with nature on your next holiday to the Sunshine State, then you’ll find plenty to do once you get out of Orlando. And while many people seem to think that straying outside of the theme park zone is more hassle than it’s worth, the truth is that it’s incredibly simple to spread your wings while visiting Florida. The state is the rental car capital of the world, and also has one of the simplest highway networks in the US, so there’s really no excuse not to hire a car at Orlando airport and head out of the city to discover the real Florida. For more information about renting a vehicle, click here.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the natural attractions to explore in the state.
Most holidaymakers tend to overlook northern Florida and head south to places like Miami or Fort Lauderdale when leaving Miami, although if you fancy a spot of scuba diving then Pensacola Bay is a great place to head to. Located on the Gulf Coast, the spot is home to one of the most spectacular shipwrecks in the US, with eleven vessels having sunk here in a storm in the early 16th century.
Exploring the eerie boats is certainly a thrill, and you’ll find a similar wreck at St Augustine, which lies in the north-west of Florida, close to Jacksonville. A French vessel met its end here in 1565 while the armed forces on board prepared to attack the Spanish settlers, and these days the site makes for some truly stunning scuba diving. Reaching St Augustine from Orlando is easy, with Interstate 95 running all the way up the Atlantic coast.
People tend to associate central Florida with nothing more than theme parks, although what many tourists fail to realise is that the area around Orlando is actually brimming with natural attractions, so anyone who doesn’t fancy long drive will still have plenty of opportunity to explore the great outdoors. This is also perfect for those who don’t want to have to move to a new location elsewhere in Florida, as many of these attractions can be visited on day trips, meaning you can remain at your Orlando accommodation.
There are a total of 37 national parks in the central region of the state, and Lake Kissimmee is a fantastic place to begin your exploration of the area. Activities like kayaking, canoeing and hiking are all on offer here, while you’ll also have the chance to go fishing for largemouth bass, redear sunfish and many other species. On top of this, Lake Kissimmee is one of Florida’s premier bird-watching locations, being home to the likes of the bald eagle and more.
Other great national parks include the Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area, which is set in 120 acres of woodland and is also home to the beautiful Pace River. All sorts of outdoor pursuits can be enjoyed here, including cycling, camping and swimming.
The Everglades National Park, located in south-west Florida, is the largest subtropical wilderness in the US, and is home to a huge number of species such as the manatee and the iconic Florida panther. There are a huge number of activities on offer here, with hiking and cycling trails, designated bird-watching spots, canoes for hire and much more.
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