5 Family Favorite Florida State Parks
Tales of a Mountain Mama is not only a place for families who live up north, but also for those of us who live in the south (and rarely, if ever, see the snow)!
Having grown up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, I have a deep love for the mountains as my playground and happy place. Now that I call Florida “home,” my family and I have learned to find new terrain for adventure and enjoying the beauty of the outdoors.
Florida’s award-winning state parks are some of our favorite destinations for camping, exploring, day trips, staycations, longer vactions and overall fun. Believe it or not, there is much more to enjoy throughout Florida than its beautiful beaches. However, if you’re doing beaches, be sure to check out Anna Maria island!
The 175 state parks include many unique and educational sites such as the Civil War era fort inside Fort Clinch State Park, the caves of Florida Caverns State Park, and the Matanzas River’s tide pools of Washington Oaks Gardens State Park.
Check out the following 5 favorites for our family:
Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine, Florida
Anastasia State Park sits very close to the famous Historic District of St. Augustine, Florida. This impressive location is a unique draw of its own. Anastasia is beautiful year-round and we enjoy each season for different reasons.
Camping is most comfortable late October through April but is still a fun time in the summer. The Atlantic Ocean stays cool enough during the summer months and helps make camping bearable. The campground is very well-maintained with plenty of shade over most of the sites and clean bathrooms (which is always so refreshing when we have all 5 kids!).
The layout of the park is very family friendly with several playgrounds throughout the campground areas, walking trails, biking paths, beautiful beach access, and small boat rentals in the estuarine tidal marsh. We love to wake up in time to walk or bike to the beach to see the sunrise.
There are plenty of activities at the beach and within the park, and the location within such close proximity to the city of St. Augustine offers endless opportunities for fun and learning as well. St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is a really fascinating zoo to visit and is located right outside the State Park entrance. We like to take an outing to the alligator zoo when we’re taking break from the direct sun.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Of the many natural springs throughout the state of Florida Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a family favorite. If you’ve ever visited Florida, you’re likely aware that fresh water involves the danger of alligators.
The 72 degree spring fed river of Ichetucknee Springs is too cold for alligators! The water temperature is constant year-round and provides a cool swim in the summer and a comfortable warm swim during the winter.
The spring water is mostly clear; we’re always amazed to swim down to the see where the water flows from underground. Activities vary from the experienced and certified scuba diver to the family with little ones who enjoy swimming or slowly floating down the river.
Float times vary, we usually navigate the 45 min stretch of river with our kids but there are options for up the 3 hours of floating. The park provides a shuttle service (with a fee) which makes experience simple to navigate, especially for families.
From our home, Ichetucknee Springs is a fun day trip, but there are camping options both inside the State Park and nearby.
Little Talbot Island State Park
Little Talbot Island is located in Northeast Florida and is one of only a few barrier islands that is protected from development. This gem is our family favorite for its beauty throughout the year (yes, some parts of Florida really do experience all 4 seasons!), as well as the variety of adventures this one little island offers.
Within the Park we enjoy camping, hiking, beach play, surfing, kayaking, fishing, and the younger kids’ favorite adventure is the nature trail scavenger hunt. There is a convenient boat launch within the campground where you can drop in kayak to go fishing, or simply observe nature in the backwater.
Live Oak trees canopy the campsites and hiking trails, and provide a nice break from the sun. At sunset, we like to watch the bats (our good friends!) emerge from their sleep to eat the mosquitos.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Naples, Florida
South Florida is home to numerous and gorgeous beaches. Delnor-Wiggins Pass is located on the gulf and is a place I hold dear with memories of dipping my first three babies’ toes in the ocean for the first time.
The gulf doesn’t have the same surf as the Atlantic coast of Florida, and for that reason the west-coast provides a more peaceful beach adventure for families of little ones. This State Park stands out in the area because the small forest along the beach provide shaded areas for beach chairs and picnic tables.
The warm Gulf water does not offer any relief during the hot and humid summer; the best months to visit are October through April unless you enjoy the hot and humid days of a South Florida Summer!
T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Penninsula State Park, Port St. Joe, Florida
The 2018 Hurricane Michael nearly demolished T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in 2018. Its very unique location makes this state park very popular for it’s amazing water access to the clear blue water of Gulf and the shallows of St. Joseph’s Bay, unfortunately, however, the peninsula leaves itself vulnerable to storm damage.
The campground and cabins are closed for the time being but the park is re-opened for day-use. We really look forward to camping for a long-stretch when these facilities re-open, but I include this unique location on the list of favorites as a place-marker for the future.
This tiny peninsula holds so much beauty! The popular Maritime Hammock Nature Trail is now open and worthwhile to check-out if you end up in this region of North Florida.
Explore Florida’s State Parks
Let us know if you have any favorite state parks in Florida! What parks do you visit in your state?
- Best Northeast State Parks
- Best Family Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains
- Visit Glacier National Park With Kids
- National Public Lands Day
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