Hillsborough River State Park
Opened in 1938 as one of Florida´s first state parks, this park is divided by the swiftly flowing Hillsborough River. Fort Foster, a replica of an 1837 fort from the Second Seminole War, is located on the park grounds, adjacent to the river. Fort tours are offered on weekends or with a reservation. The river provides opportunities for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking; a canoe/kayak launch is available on the river. Canoes can be rented at the park´s concession, which also provides food, beverages, picnic supplies, and souvenirs. Hikers can walk over seven miles along four nature trails. The Wetlands Restoration Trail accommodates bicyclists and hikers. When the weather calls for it, visitors can enjoy a refreshing swim in the park´s ADA accessible swimming pool. The park offers full-facility camping and a youth/group tent campground. A primitive campsite is available via foot trail; reservations are recommended. Located 12 miles north of Tampa and six miles south of Zephyrhills on U.S. 301. For Information about Hillsborough River State Park, please call 813-987-6771.
Dade Battlefield Historic State Park
The battle that started the Second Seminole War is commemorated in January each year under the oaks of Dade Battlefield. On December 28, 1835, Seminole Indian warriors ambushed 108 soldiers at this site-only three soldiers survived. The park protects not only a historic battlefield, but also the natural communities as they existed when the soldiers and Seminoles battled over 180 years ago. Strolling a half-mile nature trail through pine flatwoods, visitors might see gopher tortoises, woodpeckers, songbirds, hawks, and indigo snakes. The park has a playground, picnic area with covered shelters, and a recreation hall. The visitor center has information and displays about the battle and visitors can watch a twelve-minute video history, This Land, These Men. The center is open 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. daily. Located off I-75, exit 314, west of U.S. 301. For Information about Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, please call 352-793-4781.
Honeymoon Island State Park
The pioneers called it Hog Island, but it became Honeymoon Isle in 1939 when a New York developer built 50 palm – thatched bungalows for honeymooners. Today, visitors can drive across Dunedin Causeway to enjoy the sun – drenched Gulf beaches, mangrove swamps, and tidal flats. Nature lovers will find osprey nests, a wide variety of shorebirds, and one of the few remaining virgin slash pine forests in South Florida. The park boasts several nature trails and bird observation areas. Visitors can swim, fish, and snorkel in the warm waters of the Gulf or picnic while they enjoy the beautiful scenery. Shelling is particularly good here, as the Gulf currents deposit an incredible variety of seashells on the shore. Showers are available and the park´s concession has a gift shop and snack bar. Located at the extreme west end of State Road 586. For Information about Honeymoon Island State Park, please call 727-469-5942.
Don Pedro Island State Park
This beautiful little island is part of an extensive chain of barrier islands extending along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Between Knight Island and Little Gasparilla Island, Don Pedro is accessible only by private boat. Boaters can tie up at the dock on the bay side of the island, which is lined with mangroves. Access to the dock is through a 2.5 -foot – deep channel south of the Cape Haze power line crossing. Visitors might see endangered animals such as West Indian manatees, gopher tortoises, bald eagles, and American oystercatchers. With a mile of white sand beach, popular activities on the island´s Gulf side include sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and shelling. Boat and surf fishing are also favorite pastimes. For hiking and nature study, trails meander through the island´s 11 natural communities. Located off the coast of Cape Haze about nine miles south of Englewood. Boating location is Nautical Waterproof Chart #25. Intracoastal Waterway directional signs guide visitors to the park. For Information about Don Pedro Island State Park, please call 941- 964 – 0375.
Koreshan State Historic Site
Throughout its history, Florida has welcomed pioneers of all kinds. Cyrus Reed Teed was probably the most unusual, bringing followers to Estero in 1894 to build New Jerusalem for his new faith, Koreshanity. The colony, known as the Koreshan Unity, believed that the entire universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere. The colony began fading after Teed´s death in 1908, and in 1961 the last four members deeded the land to the state. Today, visitors can fish, picnic, boat, and hike where Teed´s visionaries once carried out survey experiments to prove the horizon on the beaches of Lee County curves upward. A boat ramp and canoe rentals are available. Visitors can take self-guided tours of the settlement or a ranger-guided tour. For overnight stays, the park has a full-facility campground. Campers can enjoy campfire programs every Saturday night from January through March. Located on U.S. 41 at Corkscrew Road. For Information about Koreshan State Historic Site, please call 239-992-0311.
Lake June in Winter Scrub State Park
This park protects one of the state’s most endangered natural communities-sand scrub-which is sometimes called “Florida’s desert.” Some of Florida’s rarest plants and animals, including the Florida scrub-jay, Florida scrub lizard, Florida mouse, deer, gopher tortoise, and bobcat are found in the scrub. Ospreys and bald eagles are frequently sighted along the three miles of lakefront. This relatively new park is still in development and best suited to those seeking a remote wilderness experience and nature study. Visitors can hike along the white sand firelanes, walk a half-mile nature trail, fish from the lakeshore, or launch a canoe or kayak onto the lake. A picnic area has tables and a shelter, but no grills. Located about 12 miles south of Sebring off U.S. 27. Travel U.S. 27 to County Road 621 and go west for four miles to Daffodil Road. Travel two miles south on Daffodil Road to the park entrance. For Information about Lake June in Winter Scrub State Park, please call 863-386-6099.
Lake Manatee State Park
This park extends along three miles of the south shore of Lake Manatee, which serves as a water reservoir for Manatee and Sarasota counties. The rest of the park is primarily pine flatwoods and sand pine scrub with some depression marshes and hardwood forests. A boat ramp provides easy access to the lake; boat motors must be less than 20 horsepower. Canoeing and kayaking are also popular activities. The lake offers excellent freshwater fishing, and anglers can fish from their boats or from the park’s fishing dock. Swimming is permitted in a designated area of Lake Manatee; a facility with showers is located nearby. A large picnic area is nestled in a sand pine scrub area near the lake. A picnic pavilion may be reserved for a fee. Campers can enjoy full-facility camping, just a short walk from the lake. Located 15 miles east of Bradenton on State Road 64.For Information about Lake Manatee State Park, please call 941-741-3028.
Little Manatee River State Park
The Little Manatee River begins in a swampy area near Fort Lonesome and flows almost 40 miles before emptying into Tampa Bay. The river has been designated an Outstanding Florida Water and is part of the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve. Visitors can fish along the banks of the river or rent canoes at the ranger station. Wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy hiking a six-and-a-half mile trail through the park’s northern wilderness area. For those who prefer their hikes on horseback, the park has 12 miles of equestrian trails and four equestrian campsites. Campers can spend the night in a full-facility campground or hike out to a primitive campsite along the trail. A youth/group campground accommodates up to 20 people. The scenic picnic area along the river has tables, grills, and pavilions. Pavilions can be reserved for a fee. Unreserved pavilions are available on a first-come-first-served basis. Located five miles south of Sun City, off U.S. 301 on Lightfoot Road. For Information about Little Manatee River State Park, please call 813-671-5005.
Caladesi Island State Park
One of the few completely natural islands along Florida´s Gulf Coast, Caladesi´s white sand shores have been rated as one of the nation´s best beaches. The park is accessible only by private boat or ferry from Honeymoon Island State Park. Beach lovers can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. Saltwater anglers can fish from their boats or throw a line out into the surf. Nature enthusiasts watch wildlife while hiking the three mile nature trail through the island´s interior or paddling a three mile kayak trail through the mangroves and bay. Picnic tables and shelters are located near the beach; picnic pavilions can be reserved for a fee. The park has a marina with electric and water hookups for boaters. The park also has a snack bar and gift shop. For ferry information call (727) 734-5263. Located one mile west of Dunedin off the Gulf Coast. For Information about Caladesi Island State Park, please call 727-469-5918.
Lovers Key State Park
For years, Lovers Key was accessible only by boat and it was said that only lovers traveled to the island to enjoy its remote and solitary beach. Today, it is one of four barrier islands that make up this state park. A haven for wildlife, the islands and their waters are home to West Indian manatees, bottlenose dolphins, roseate spoonbills, marsh rabbits, and bald eagles. The two mile long beach is accessible by boardwalk or tram and is popular for shelling, swimming, picnicking, and sunbathing. Black Island has over five miles of multiuse trails for hiking and bicycling. Anglers and boaters can launch their vessels from the park’s boat ramp. The park’s concession offers boat and fishing tours, as well as bicycle, canoe, and kayak rentals. For tour reservations, call (239) 314-0110. Located on County Road 865 between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach in Lee County. For Information about Lovers Key State Park, please call 239-463-4588.
Madira Bickel Mound State Archeological Site
This ancient Native American site was the first in Florida to be designated a State Archaeological Site. Karl and Madira Bickel donated the mound and surrounding property to the state in 1948. The flat-topped ceremonial mound-composed of sand, shell, and village debris-measures 100 by 170 feet at the base and is 20 feet in height. Archaeological excavations have disclosed at least three periods of Native American cultures, the earliest dating back 2,000 years. Picnic tables are available. Plans for the future include a nature trail and a kiosk with historical information. No additional amenities are available at this time. Located off U.S. 19 in Palmetto. The entrance road is approximately one mile south of I-275. The site is located on Bayshore Drive, approximately 1.5 miles after turning off U.S. 19. For Information about Madira Bickel Mound State Archeological Site, please call 941-723-4536.