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Take Advantage of Northern FL Parks & Recreation

Utilizing all that northern Florida has to offer, visit the multitude of magnificent state parks and recreational areas of the region. Spanning over 700 acres in Pensacola, Big Lagoon State Park is a nature lover’s paradise. Explore six different ecosystems and habitats from saltwater marshes to pine flatwoods, as well as beaches, shallow bays, nature trails, and open woodlands for nature viewing.

Known for having the largest whitewater rapids in Florida, Big Shoals State Park beckons kayakers, canoe enthusiasts, and river rafters from all walks. Situated along the Suwanee River in north Florida, Big Shoals is jam-packed with endless adventure and boasts 80-foot limestone bluffs, challenging hiking trails, and horseback riding, all in one destination.

Located in Gainesville, Florida visit Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park for an endless array of outdoor recreation. An outdoor enthusiast's dream, this National Natural Landmark park features over 20 biological communities where many species of wildlife calls home. Visit the 50-foot-high observation tower for panoramic views of the preserve. Visitors can fish, bike, hike, canoe, kayak, bird watch, horseback ride and picnic while touring Paynes Prairie.

Big Shoals State Park

Featuring class III whitewater rapids, Big Shoals State Park packs a punch of endless adventure.

Situated along the Suwanee River, just east of Madison, the state park boasting of 80-foot limestone bluffs is also home to excellent hiking trails, horseback riding, and biking.

In order to access the bluffs, visitors must hike the one-mile Yellow Blaze Trail before reaching an incredible the view of the rapids.

Big Shoals rapids are known for their difficulty to kayakers, canoe enthusiasts, and river rafters, as well as their stunning views of the northeastern region of Florida.

Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park

Spanning 67 acres, Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park is adjacent to San Felasco County Park and close to San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park northwest of the north-central Florida community of Gainesville. The park is popular with geologists for its limestone cutaway, which provides a geological chronology of the area.

Visitors can hike along a half-mile nature trail beneath a canopy of lush, green vegetation, and venture down into the Devil’s Millhopper sinkhole via a system of boardwalks. The steamy southern weather means mornings and late afternoons are the best times to experience the park.

Dudley Farm Historic State Park

Serving as a living history museum, Dudley Farm Historic State Park is an authentic working farm in the north-central Florida community of Newberry, near Gainesville. The farm is a demonstration of the chronology of Florida farming from the mid-1800s to the mid 1900s, depicting the lives of three generations of the Dudley family.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Dudley Farm Historic State Park is comprised of 18 buildings, including a farmhouse, a general store, a post office, and a working cane syrup complex. Park staff dress in period attire and tend to the farm, caring for livestock, raising crops, and doing chores.

Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park

Originally inhabited by Native Americans, Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park offers plentiful opportunities for wildlife viewing. The site is part of the original Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, featuring an interpretive exhibit of remnants of Florida’s Territorial Period before it gained statehood.

Lake Jackson Mounds is located in Tallahassee on Lake Jackson in the Florida Panhandle region. The archaeological state park is seen as one of the most important archaeological sites in the state, and is registered as a United States Historic Place.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park

Built on the former homestead of the legendary author, the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park is located in the north-central Florida community of Hawthorne, near Gainesville. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered a National Historic Landmark, the park offers tours of the homestead and the surrounding land Thursday through Sunday.

Two short hiking trails are popular with visitors. You can also get a sense of 1930s life in rural Florida through living history demonstrations, which feature staff in period dress regaling guests with stories from the time.

Morningside Nature Center

Operated by the City of Gainesville, the Morningside Nature Center is one of Gainesville's best nature parks, containing a 278-acre Longleaf Pine preserve. Visit the park to see the beautiful wildflowers and diverse wildlife, including skinks, deer, box turtles, wild turkey, gopher tortoises, and birds.

The center hosts curriculum based enrichment programs and camps for Gainesville students throughout the year. Adults enjoy the natural history seminars and Living History Farm events. Bring your hiking shoes for a pleasant walk along one of the park's seven miles of trails.

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

An outdoor enthusiast's dream, this National Natural Landmark park became the first state preserve in 1971. Located south of Gainesville in northern Florida, the variety of activities in the park include: fishing, bicycling, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, and picnicking.

There are over 20 biological communities in the park, providing a perfect home to the alligators, horses, bison and birds. Stop by the visitor center to view the exhibits and enjoy the audio-visual programs. Be sure to climb the 50-foot-high observation tower for a birds-eye view of this beautiful area.

San Felasco Hammock Preserve Park

Plan for an outdoor adventure in Florida. Head for the San Felasco Hammock Preserve Park, which is comprised of 7,000 acres and contains 18 biological communities. Visitors to the park, located northwest of Gainesville, will see the mesic hammocks, hydric hammock, upland pine and swampland.

Enjoy hiking on the park's hiking trails and keep a lookout for bobcats, gray foxes, turkeys, white-tailed deer and songbirds. Horseback riders and bicyclists also enjoy the park's trail system. This beautiful northern Florida park contains limestone outcrops, sinkholes, ponds, steephead springs and small lakes.

San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park

Located off Florida State Route 363 near Crawfordville, San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Explore this Florida Panhandle park, whose history dates back to 1528 with the arrival of the Spanish conquests.

Interpretative displays give guests in-depth details of the Spanish, English, American, and Confederate occupation periods while guided tours and interpretive trails allow for guests to explore the grounds. Given the park's historic nature, it's currently featured on the Florida Native American Heritage Trail.

Split Rock Conservation Area

Accessible only by foot or bicycle, Split Rock Conservation Area is listed as one of the many ‘Things To Do’ in Gainesville. Created to protect the 241 acres of forest and wetlands surrounding the Floridian aquifer, visitors may enjoy outdoor activities aplenty.

The beautiful scenery of the wetlands is well worth the effort to view; with a landscape that is composed of oak and hickory trees contrasted with exposed limestone and the occasional sinkhole. A hike around the three-mile loop trail surrounding the conservation area is an excellent way to experience the wetlands of the northeastern region of Florida.

Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park

Florida features a wealth of outdoor recreation chances. The Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park is just one – an exceptional one, at that.

Established in 1821, Bulow grew cotton, indigo, rice, and sugar cane. Today, its ruins are the centerpiece of this state park near Ormond Beach. Check out ruins of the plantation house, a sugar mill, wells, and the slave house.

A scenic walking trail takes you through these sites while exploring the scenic land around this east central Florida park. There are also picnic facilities, a boat ramp, and a state designated canoe trail.

Whether you visit for an afternoon or spend the entire day there, let the Bulow Plantation elevate your next visit to Florida.

Fort Mose Historic State Park

Built by the Spanish in 1738, Fort Mose Historic State Park in St. Augustine was the site of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in the U.S. Fort Mose was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994 and a precursor site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom in 2009.

Sadly, only remains of the earthen or wooden structures remain, but you can still tour the grounds, stroll the boardwalk, and learn more about Fort Mose through exhibits in the visitor center and museum on the northeast Florida coast.

Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park

Encompassing 15 acres, the Fountain of Youth Park offers guests an entertaining and informative look at the Original 1565 Site of St. Augustine. Moreover, the site tells the tales of Ponce de Leon's exploration of northeast Florida and St. Augustine.

Preserving the town's history, the Fountain of Youth Park features reconstructed sets and buildings of Colonial America's very first settlement. Explore the site's rebuilt church, the indigenous Timucuan Village, a Chalupa Shipyard, and archeological and historical weapons exhibits.

Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park

Take a break while traveling in the Florida Panhandle region of northern Florida, to revisit the past. Make your way to the southern edge of the Osceola National Forest, to spend time in the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park.

Located east of Lake City, this state park was established in 1970, as Florida's first state park. The park is located on the site of the largest Civil War Battle in Florida, that took place on February 20, 1864. Over 10,000 troops battled for five hours, ending with the Union troops retreating to Jacksonville. 2,807 troops lost their lives.

Visit the park to see the monument that was erected in 1912, from the efforts of the Florida Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Enjoy a short walk along the mile-long trail to view the interpretive signage and stop by the park's Visitor Center to view the historical artifacts. Take a few moments to read the center's interpretive panels, to learn more about the battle. If visiting in February, visit the park to see thousands of reenactors portray the Battle of Olustee.

Constitution Convention State Park & Museum

Located near the site where Florida’s constitution was ratified in 1838, the Constitution Convention State Park and Museum is a 12-acre state park in Port Saint Joe. The park houses a museum showcasing the Constitutional Convention and other elements of Florida life in the 19th century.

Visitors are provided the option to take the interpretive tour – a self-guided tour taking you through the exhibits and lifestyle of the 1830s. While onsite, traverse the 12-acre, beautiful landscape surrounding the museum. Located near Panama City, the museum is a year round destination for visitors of the Florida Panhandle.

Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Recreation Area

Boasting trees over the age of 300 years, the Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Recreation Area is named for Air Force Colonel Fred Gannon, an instrumental figure in the preservation of this state park.

The recreation area is set around the Rocky Bayou, an offshoot of the Choctawhatchee Bay, and is a popular destination for water sports like boating and fishing.

The Rocky Bayou is a beautiful backdrop, making it the perfect place to hold weddings and other events in the Florida Panhandle region. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the beauty of nature thanks to activities like hiking, biking, tubing, and much more within a short distance of Niceville and Fort Walton.

John Gorrie Museum State Park

Having moved to Apalachicola in the early 1800s, John Gorrie found the city to be a prominent port of trade, commerce, and shipping in the Florida Panhandle. The John Gorrie Museum State Parks serves as a memorial to him. As a young physician, his concern for his yellow fever patients inspired him to invent a method for cooling their rooms.

In doing so, he pioneered air conditioning and refrigeration by inventing a machine that made ice, and received the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851. A replica of his ice-making machine is on display at the museum, as well as exhibits chronicling the history of Apalachicola.

Orman House Historic State Park

This lovely antebellum home, owned by cotton merchant Thomas Orman, was constructed in 1838. Tours of the home are available, showing where the family lived as well as where business was conducted and major social gatherings took place.

The collection of original items from the home is impressive, as is the architecture which follows both Federal and Greek Revival styles. The grounds around the home feature beautiful flora, a part of the Chapman Botanical Garden, and a butterfly garden. You can also check out the Vietnam Memorial Statue while on the grounds. The park is located in Apalachicola on the Florida Panhandle.