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Live It Up at South Florida Parks & Recreation

For a quintessential south Florida experience, make your way down to Key West and visit Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. With quite possibly the best waters in Key West, spend a day, or two catching some sun, hiking, biking, fishing, and getting a dose of history all in one place. Pack your snorkel and scuba gear, as the coral reefs are impressive as the schools of fish that accompany you.

Over in Ft. Lauderdale, just a short walk from high-rises and shops, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park overs a respite for endless recreation. With four distinct natural communities between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, enjoy Florida's natural resources and rent a canoe, paddle along a freshwater lagoon or fish from the seawall. Nature lovers can hike short trails, while bicyclists and skaters glide along the paved park road.

Encompassing over 160 acres just outside of Miami, the Castellow Hammock Park is a nature lovers dream. With a tropical hardwood forest ideal for bird and butterfly watching, hike along the 2,000-mile Great Florida Birding Trail. 

Castellow Hammock Park

Encompassing over 160 acres, the Castellow Hammock Park is a nature lovers dream as it includes a tropical hardwood forest ideal for bird and butterfly watching. Bird watchers flock to south Florida region for Castellow Hammock Park, a destination along the 2,000-mile Great Florida Birding Trail.

The park, located just outside of Miami, inherited its name from snail collectors who knew the acreage as Castellow Hammock. Today, over 70 species of butterflies and 120 species of birds live in the hardwood forest, ideal for observers to identify and view. A butterfly and hummingbird garden greets guests.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

A U.S. National Historic Landmark, the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is a Florida State Park set in the southern Florida Keys near Key West. Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the site preserves the Civil War-era Fort Taylor.

Operated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Fort Zachary Taylor also features beaches, fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Dry activities like hiking, cycling, and picnicking. And for the hungry, try Cayo Hueso Café.

Shell Factory & Nature Park

A famous destination in southwest Florida, the Shell Factory & Nature Park is full of Fort Myers indoor and outdoor attractions. Start by browsing the Shell Factory retail store, which offers a huge selection of shells and coral, then continue to the Shell Factory Nature Park, where guests can view over 350 live animals and get up close and personal.

Kids can visit the Shell Factory Fun Park, which features mini golf courses, bumper boats, water wars, and paddle boats, while families with dogs can drop their pets off at the Doggy Heaven dog park. Round out your visit with a trip to Capt. Fishbones restaurant for lunch or dinner.

Mound House

Home of the oldest standing structure of Estero Island, the Mound House offers educational visits through one of the sacred sites of Fort Myers Beach and the southwestern Florida Gulf Coast.

Stories detailing over 2,000 years of island life are hidden in the mounds of this ancient Calusa Indian Mound, which sits among picnic and park grounds and beautiful views of Mantanzas Pass.

Collier-Seminole State Park

Located on the Tamiami Trail in Naples, Collier-Seminole State Park preserves the natural beauty of southwest Florida. Lying at over 7,000 acres, the park features mangrove swamps and strands of the rare royal palm.

Guests are free to explore the park in many ways, including through hiking, boating, bicycling, or canoeing. The park provides canoe rentals as well as a boat launch to the Blackwater River, perfect for anglers. The park is open from 8 a.m. to sundown, 365 days a year.

Gamble Plantation Historic State Park

Located on the banks of the Manatee River near Bradenton, the Gamble Plantation Historic State Park is a premiert destination in the heart of west-central Florida. The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park features a surviving antebellum mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the grounds of a former sugar plantation.

Guided tours throughout the house and grounds are held six times a day Thursday through Monday. The visitors center is open from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. Make the most of your next visit to Florida with some time spent in the west-central region.

Manatee Park

Open sunrise to sunset, Manatee Park is located in Fort Myers on the southwest Florida Gulf Coast. A Florida Manatee non-captive refuge, Manatee Park opened in 1996 on 17 acres, and features fishing, wildlife viewing, and water recreation.

Visitors to Manatee Park may actually view manatees from November to March, and enjoy pier fishing, canoeing, and kayaking on the Orange River. The park also features the Live Oak Amphitheater, Chickee Hut, and picnic spots.

Manatee Village Historical Park

A highlight of Bradenton in west-central Florida, the Manatee Village Historical Park enables visitors to step back into time. The park is comprised of restored settlement buildings and artifacts from the county's past before the advent of electricity and the automobile.

General admission is free, though a fee is required on certain special events. The park is generally open on Monday through Friday and on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. Make the most of your next stay in Bradenton with an afternoon at the Manatee Village Historical Park.

Nathan Benderson Park

Covering 600 acres, the Nathan Benderson Park is located along Interstate 75 in Sarasota on the west-central Florida coast. Benderson Park features 500-acres of water surface, including the 2,000-meter sprint course.

Nathan Benderson Park is ideal for rowing, canoeing, kayaking, and wake boarding. Park events include dragon boat races, 5-10K runs, kayak polo games, and competitions like Sarasota-Bradenton Triathlon, the Florida Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships, and more.

North Collier Regional Park Sports Complex

Located in the same complex as the Sun-N-Fun Lagoon Water Park, North Collier Regional Park offers Naples and Florida Gulf Coast visitors access to 8 tournament soccer fields, 5 tournament softball fields, the RecPlex Fitness Complex, and the Can U Dig It Playground.

Don't miss the Exhibit Hall, which includes educational programs and community discussions or the 6,000 square foot RecPlex, one of Naples' largest gymnasium and exercise facilities. Kids will love the interactive Can U Dig It Playground, which also features the Calusa fossil dig play area.

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Covering more than 3,400 acres, the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve protects a wetland ecosystem located on the southwest Florida Gulf Coast. Based out of Fort Myers, the preserve is open throughout the year, and features educational programs and outdoor recreation.

Bird watchers enjoy this Great Florida Birding Trail site, while other wildlife can be seen from five observation decks, a 1.2-mile boardwalk, and guided tours of the preserve.

Check out the "A Slough for All Seasons" film in the Interpretive Center, or enjoy lunch in one of the many picnic spots.