While America's southeastern peninsula offers year-round fun, spring casts an even greater light on this already sunny state—hence the "Sunshine State" nickname.
No matter your preferred activity, spring is the time to get outside to do the things you enjoy most. And when it comes to playing in the sun and sleeping under the stars, these 10 Florida state parks won't disappoint.
Big Lagoon State Park1 of 11
Nestled near Pensacola on the southwest corner of Florida's Panhandle, the convenient boardwalks at Big Lagoon State Park grant easy access to the beautiful marshes that pervade the park. But the scenery is only half the fun.
Kayaking, Canoeing and Stand-Up Paddleboarding
The Big Lagoon State Park kayak trail weaves its way through salt marshes, where you can enjoy fishing and witness the panhandle's extraordinary wildlife. The park provides an area to hand launch your vessel, as well as opportunities to enjoy canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding.
Like its name suggests, Big Lagoon has some beautiful beaches. Small, quiet and pristine seashores offer the perfect sandy space for visitors to relax and play on the quiet waters of the Intracoastal Waterway. Don't forget to bring your swim gear!
Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park2 of 11
This park, which carries the name of a U.S. Air Force Colonel who helped preserve the gorgeous site, sits on the Choctawhatchee Bay. It includes a colossal collection of old longleaf pine trees, fishing, boating and much more.
If you're visiting Rocky Bayou State Park, be sure to double knot some comfy hiking boots, as strolling through the enormous trail system is one of the Sunshine State's biggest delights. Whether you're trekking the Red Cedar Trail, Sand Pine Trail or Rocky Bayou trail, you can spot some of the most impressive flora, fauna, streams and landscapes Florida has to offer.
Get out your spectacles, binoculars or whatever you may need to get a better view. With dolphins, migrant fowl and other rare birds, Rocky Bayou State Park is full of plentiful wildlife, making it a favorite among bird watchers.
Three Rivers State Park3 of 11
Another Panhandle gem, this park takes its name from the three rivers that converge to make the majestic Lake Seminole, which lies on the border of Georgia and Florida. Whether you're strolling through the park to spot gray foxes and white-tailed deer, or camping beneath the stars, Three Rivers has plenty of activities to keep you occupied.
Right on the banks of Lake Seminole lies the park's campground, where overnight adventurers can take in the lake's extraordinary scenery and wildlife without sacrificing convenience. The 30 shaded campsites include water, electricity, a picnic table and grill. Showers and restrooms are within a stone's throw.
Be sure to bring your fishing pole and lures because you don't want to miss out on your chance for a big catch. With largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish, bluegill, speckled perch and bream, you're sure to reel in a fish or two. A Florida fishing license may be required.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park4 of 11
Paynes Prairie has the distinction of being Florida's first natural preserve and is now a National Natural Landmark. With massive biological habitats and diverse, sprawling landscapes, this prairie is nature at its most glorious.
Eight distinct trails with varying degrees of difficulty offer hikers awe-inspiring views of the preserve from different perspectives. Whether you're wearing hiking boots and carrying trekking poles, or wearing converse sneakers and carrying a coffee mug, there's a trail for you.
Alligators, bison, wild horses and over 270 species of birds call Paynes Prairie Preserve home. While this might seem too much to take in at once, a 50-foot-high observation tower will get you pretty close. Just remember to pack your binoculars.
Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park5 of 11
Located amid rolling sand hills in the heart of Florida's central ridge, Gold Head Branch is one of the state's first state parks. Clad with moss-covered trees, wildlife and rushing springs, this park is one of the Southeast's natural treasures.
If you love the outdoors but hate to leave behind the amenities of home, 16 scenic cabins reside on the state park's property. While only some cabins provide kitchens and fireplaces, they all have air-conditioning, heat and ceiling fans.
Gold Head Branch offers some of the state's greatest birding opportunities. During the spring and fall migrations, park visitors can see countless birds. No matter the season, you're bound to have some joyful run-ins with our feathered friends.
Tomoka State Park6 of 11
Where the Tomoka and Halifax rivers meet the Atlantic Ocean lies 1,800 acres of scenic marshes and live oak hammocks. The combination of history, scenic natural beauty and an active and diverse wildlife is at the heart of this majestic land.
Historic Site Nocoroco
Tomoka is the site of the Timucuan village, Nocoroco. This Native American tribe inhabited the region 1,000 years ago and was once the most powerful inhabitants of the region. While nothing remains of the village today, a giant sculpture dedicated to the early dwellers stands at the park's center.
On a very manageable half-mile trail, you'll traverse along the banks of the Tomoka River and pass through the ancient Timucuan village of Nocoroco—all while in the company of the region's gorgeous wildlife.
Little Manatee River State Park7 of 11
Little Manatee River brings hikers, campers, horseback riders and wildlife enthusiasts together to enjoy one of Florida's best-kept secrets. Located just 30 miles south of Tampa, the park is easily accessible to anyone living in or visiting the area.
Over 15 miles of scenic trails gives visitors plenty to explore. For a short walk, try the 0.8-mile Oxbow Nature Trail. If you prefer a full-fledged hike, a challenging 6.5-mile trail takes adventurers through the park's many natural communities.
The park consists of over 2,400 acres of habitat for hundreds of diverse and rare species. Turtles, alligators, bobcats, otters, and manatees —as the park's name suggests—make it a wildlife sanctuary.
If your preferred method of exploring is on the back of a horse, Little Manatee offers an extensive network of equestrian trails for those who trailer their mounts. Dude Lake Trail, Mustang Trail, Blue Trail and Yellow Trail all offer beautiful views of the park.
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park8 of 11
A massive 54,000 acres of dry prairie, the stunning and remote Kissimmee Prairie Preserve is home to an amazing assortment of endangered plants and animals.
The night sky appears gigantic at this park, as it sits in one of the most isolated parts of the state. Kissimmee Prairie Preserve was recently designated an official Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association, proving its value as one of the best places for visitors to stargaze. You'll have the chance to see some of the most brilliant celestial bodies the night sky has to offer, telescope optional.
Hiking and Biking
The preserve features expansive trails and incredible off-road biking. Over 100 miles of scenic trails and service roads, which cyclists share with hikers and horseback riders, weave and wind through the park's woods and prairies. And, in case you left your two-wheeled steed at home, the park also offers bikes rentals.
Whether you're an everyday admirer of our feathered friends or a birding enthusiast, Kissimmee Prairie's varied habitats offer amazing opportunities to see many different species of birds, including six that are federally threatened or endangered.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park9 of 11
Swamps, pine flatwoods, mangroves and sand dunes—Jonathan Dickinson State Park has it all. Located at the halfway mark between Miami and Palm Bay, the easily accessible park is right off of the famous U.S. 1.
The park features the Camp Murphy Off-Road Bicycle Trail System, a nine-mile network of trails that includes routes for beginners and experts alike. If this isn't your first go-around, or you're taking your kids out for their first mountain biking experience, Jonathan Dickinson State Park is a perfect place for two-wheel fun.
Equestrian and Wagon Tours
The park offers guided horseback trail rides and wagon tours, which are pulled by two Percheron draft horses. Guided tours are a great way to learn about the history and ecology of the area. Either tour makes the experience memorable for the whole family.
Lake Louisa State Park10 of 11
Just a hop, skip and a jump from Orlando, Lake Louisa's gorgeous 4,500 acres include extraordinary ecology, diverse wildlife, and, of course, heaps of fun.
Lake Louisa offers 20 cabins that ensure maximum comfort with maximum outdoor beauty. The cabins, which overlook picturesque Dixie Lake, accommodate up to six people and include two bedrooms, two baths and a full kitchen. The screen porch with rocking chairs and a swing make it perfect spot to relax after a day of exploring.
Whether canoeing or kayaking the waterways, Lake Louisa offers great places to launch your vessel along with affordable rentals. With five lakes—Louisa, Dixie, Hammond, Bear and Smokehouse—you'll find calm, inviting water perfect for exploring.
At Lake Louisa, you have your pick of fishing holes to cast your bait. You just might end up with largemouth bass, crappie or catfish at the end of your line.