St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park
This site preserves open grassy forests of longleaf pine that were once commonplace throughout Florida. The pine flatwoods form a backdrop for other biological communities, including cypress domes, scrubby flatwoods, sandhills, and a beautiful strand swamp. These habitats are home to many native plants and animals, including over 50 protected species. Photographers, bird-watchers, and nature enthusiasts can explore miles of trails on foot, bicycle, or horseback. Canoeing, boating, and fishing on the St. Sebastian River are popular activities. Launching facilities are available outside the preserve at Dale Wimbrow Park and several private ramps along the St. Sebastian River, and a canoe launch north of County Road 512. The visitor center is open Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. The north entrance for the visitor center and Manatee Vista is off Babcock Street (County Road 507) just north of the C-54 Canal. Exit I-95 at County Road 514 to reach County Road 507. The south entrance is off Fellsmere Road (County Road 512) 1.8 miles east of I-95. For Information about St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, please call 321-953-5004.
Tomoka State Park
Native Americans once dwelled here, living off fish-filled lagoons. Today, these waters are popular for canoeing, boating, and fishing. The park protects a variety of wildlife habitats and endangered species, such as the West Indian manatee. Tomoka is a bird-watcher’s paradise, with over 160 species sighted, especially during the spring and fall migrations. Visitors can stroll a one-half mile nature trail through a hardwood hammock that was once an indigo field for an 18th century British landowner. A museum houses artworks by artist Fred Dana Marsh, wildlife displays, Native American artifacts, and exhibits about Florida’s history. A boat ramp gives boaters and canoeists access to the river. The Park Store offers snacks, camping supplies, and canoe rentals. Contact 386-673-0022 for more information. For overnight stays, the park has full-facility campsites and youth camping. Located three miles north of Ormond Beach on North Beach Street. For Information about Tomoka State Park, please call 386-676-4050.
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
Although the formal gardens are the centerpiece of this park, Washington Oaks is also famous for the unique shoreline of coquina rock formations that line its Atlantic beach. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas River, this property was once owned by a distant relative of President George Washington. The gardens were established by Louise and Owen Young who purchased the land in 1936 and built a winter retirement home. They named it Washington Oaks and, in 1965, donated most of the property to the State. The gardens make remarkable use of native and exotic species, from azaleas and camellias to the exquisite bird of paradise, sheltered within a picturesque oak hammock. Visitors can picnic and fish from either the beach or the seawall along the Matanzas River. A number of short trails provide opportunities for hiking and bicycling. Visitors can learn about the park’s natural and cultural resources in the visitor center. Located two miles south of Marineland on State Road A1A. For Information about Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, please call 386-446-6780.
Wekiwa Springs State Park
Located at the headwaters of the Wekiva River, the beautiful vistas within this park offer a glimpse of what Central Florida looked like when Timucuan Indians fished and hunted these lands. Just one hour from most central Florida attractions, Wekiwa Springs offers visitors the opportunity to relax in a natural setting, enjoy a picnic, or take a swim in the cool spring. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle along the Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run. Thirteen miles of trails provide opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. Options for camping include a full facility campground and primitive camping areas. Canoe and kayak rentals are available. For information about rentals, call (407) 884 4311. For Information about Wekiwa Springs State Park, please call (407) 884 2008.
NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA
Amelia Island State Park
An easy drive from Jacksonville, the park protects over 200 acres of unspoiled wilderness along the southern tip of Amelia Island. Beautiful beaches, salt marshes, and coastal maritime forests provide visitors a glimpse of the original Florida. Amelia Island State Park is the only state park in Florida to offer horseback riding on the beach; a 45-minute riding tour through the forest and along the Atlantic Coast beach. Although the view from the park is breath-taking in itself, most of our visitors come for the fantastic fishing opportunities. Fishermen can surf fish along the shoreline or they can wet their line from the mile-long George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier which spans Nassau Sound. Visitors can also stroll along the beach looking for seashells or relax and watch the numerous bird species that feed in the area. For horseback tour reservations, contact Kelly Seahorse Ranch at (904) 491-5166. Tours are given four times daily. Amelia Island State Park is located seven miles north of Little Talbot Island State Park on State Road A1A, or eight miles south of Fernandina Beach. For Information about Amelia Island State Park, please call the Talbot Islands Ranger Station at 904-251-2320.
Big Shoals State Park
This park features the largest whitewater rapids in Florida. Limestone bluffs, towering 80 feet above the banks of the Suwannee River, afford outstanding vistas not found anywhere else in Florida. When the water level on the Suwannee River is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level, the Big Shoals rapids earn a Class III Whitewater classification, attracting thrill-seeking canoe and kayak enthusiasts. A smaller set of rapids downstream is called Little Shoals. Over 28 miles of wooded trails provide opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing. The Woodpecker Trail, a 3.4 mile long multipurpose paved trail, connects the Little Shoals and Big Shoals entrances to the park. The river offers excellent opportunities for freshwater fishing. A picnic pavilion that seats up to 40 people is available at the Little Shoals entrance. Located on County Road 135, one mile northeast of U.S. 41 in White Springs. For Information about Big Shoals State Park, please call 386-397-4331.
Big Talbot Island State Park
Located on one of Northeast Florida’s unique sea islands, Big Talbot Island State Park is primarily a natural preserve; a premier location for nature study, bird-watching, and photography. Big Talbot’s shoreline is unlike any other in Florida. Centuries of wind and water have eroded the exposed coast, creating a 20-foot bluff along the shore. The park’s famous boneyard beach is covered with the skeletons of live oak and cedar trees that once grew near the ocean. On the estuarine side of the island a boat ramp provides access for fishing and touring the salt marshes. Visitors can picnic at the Bluffs access overlooking the water, then take a stroll down the Shoreline Trail to the walk the beach or sunbathe.
Hikers can walk along Black Rock Trail or Big Pine Trail to experience the diverse habitats preserved here. Kayak Amelia offers canoe and kayak rentals as well as guided creek tours. Advance reservations for guided paddle tours are required. Call (904) 251-0016.
Big Talbot Island State Park is just one of the seven state parks referred to as the Talbot Islands State Parks. For Information about Big Talbot Island State Park, please call (904) 251-2320.
Cedar Key Museum State Park
Picturesque Cedar Key, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, was a thriving port city and railroad connection during the 19th century. The museum contains exhibits that depict its colorful history during that era. Part of the collection has sea shells and Indian artifacts collected by Saint Clair Whitman, the founder of the first museum in Cedar Key. Whitman’s house is located at the park and has been restored to reflect life in the 1920s. A short nature trail gives visitors the opportunity to see wildlife and birds, as well as native vegetation. Small gray squirrels, doves, mockingbirds, blue jays, woodpeckers, and green tree frogs can be seen on the museum grounds and along the walking trail. The museum is open Thursday-Monday from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and is closed on Christmas. Located off State Road 24 on Museum Drive. For Information about Cedar Key Museum State Park, please call 352-543-5350.
Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve
Salt marshes on the Gulf of Mexico give way to a succession of swamps, hardwood forests, pine flatwoods, and scrub, providing splendid opportunities for nature study and wildlife observation. The scrub is dominated by species such as sand live oak, myrtle oak, and Chapman’s oak, along with rusty lyonia, and saw palmetto. Hikers and off-road bicyclists who want to experience a mosaic of Florida habitats will find it on the miles of trails that wind through the park. The shallow waters and numerous creeks near the salt marshes are ideal for canoeing and kayaking. Rental canoes and kayaks are available in the city of Cedar Key. The park is located on State Road 24, six miles east of Cedar Key, and has a picnic shelter, tables, and grills. For Information about Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve, please call 352-543-5567.
Crystal River Archaeological State Park
A National Historic Landmark, this 61-acre, pre-Columbian, Native American site has burial mounds, temple/platform mounds, a plaza area, and a substantial midden. The six-mound complex is one of the longest continuously occupied sites in Florida. For 1,600 years the site served as an imposing ceremonial center for Native Americans. People traveled to the complex from great distances to bury their dead and conduct trade. It is estimated that as many as 7,500 Native Americans may have visited the complex every year. Although primarily an archaeological site, the park sits on the edge of an expansive coastal marsh. Anglers may catch saltwater and freshwater fish. As part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, the park offers bird-watchers the chance to observe a variety of birds. The park has a boat tour of the river every Friday, weather permitting. Located on Museum Pointe in Crystal River. For Information about Crystal River Archaeological State Park, please call 352-795-3817.