Ah, summertime! A time for adventure. A time to break free from the stresses and strains of our school-year commitments and get outdoors for some good, old-fashioned, family fun. The weather is warm and this is an excellent time to disconnect from the electronic devices and social media sites that seemed necessary to make it through the hibernation of winter. In my humble opinion, this is the best season to explore the great outdoors with your family and splash in the water at some of the beautiful Florida State Parks.
There is just one catch though. I must admit, my family and I aren’t big campers. I guess you could say we prefer the comfy, amenity-filled life — ha, ha! Just in case you can relate, I’ve also listed the most convenient Hilton hotels, where you and your family can grab a refreshing shower, some cool air conditioning, a good meal and a comfy bed (among other perks)…because that’s what I call the “complete picture” for a HAPPY outdoor adventure at the Florida State Parks.
ANASTASIA STATE PARK, ST. AUGUSTINE, FL
Located in the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine, this state park offers a wonderful way to beat the heat and enjoy some of the finest Florida outdoor life. With more than 1,600 acres, including four miles of pristine beach, a tidal salt marsh and an archaeological site where coquina rock was mined to create the fortress known as Castillo de San Marcos National Moment, Anastasia State Park has plenty to offer the entire family.
From beach combing, swimming and fishing to windsurfing, hiking and paddling, the possibilities for summer adventure are practically endless. There is also an area to rent canoes, kayaks and paddle boards as well as restrooms and a full concession stand to grab some food and drink.
Most convenient Hilton hotel: Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront
WEKIWA SPRINGS STATE PARK, APOPKA, FL
Just a hop, skip and a jump (or about an hour in real-world time) from all of the major central Florida theme parks, Wekiwa Springs State Park offers a glimpse of how Florida actually looked when the Timucuan Indians lived here. This park offers visitors a spectacular natural setting with 13 miles of trails designed for hiking, biking and horseback riding and a crystal-clear spring that’s just perfect for swimming and cooling off.
Canoes and kayaks (both available to rent) can be used to paddle along the Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run. There is also plenty of shade, a children’s playground, a full concession stand and clean, convenient restrooms.
Most convenient Hilton hotel: Hilton Orlando/Altamonte Springs
SILVER SPRINGS STATE PARK, OCALA, FL
If you aren’t up on all things Florida, you may not know that a significant part of Silver Springs State Park used to be a theme park! Yes, that’s right, in October 2013 the State of Florida acquired what used to be Silver Springs theme park and has combined it with the previous Silver River State Park to make it even bigger.
Although the Silver Springs side (the old theme park side) is still very much under “natural renovation,” the glass bottom boat tours give a great view into the crisp, clear spring and really shouldn’t be missed. This side of the park also offers a concession stand, paved walking trails, restrooms and canoe or kayak rentals.
On the Silver River side of the park, which includes over 5,000 acres, you will find plenty of wildlife (including monkeys, alligators, turtles, birds and even manatee), a pioneer cracker village, the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center, a playground and hiking trails. All in all, a fun day outdoors!
Most convenient Hilton hotel: Hilton Ocala
WEEKI WACHEE SPRINGS STATE PARK, SPRING HILL, FL
If you find yourself vacationing on the beautiful white sand beaches of Clearwater, you really should consider making the just over one-hour journey to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Here you and your family can actually watch a LIVE, underwater mermaid show, and who, may I ask, wouldn’t enjoy that?
In addition to the magical mermaid show in a submerged theater, the 538-acre park also offers opportunities for canoeing, kayaking and a river boat cruise where you might see birds, manatee, river otters and more. There is also a sandy beach area, Weeki Wachee Springs swimming/snorkeling area, concession stand, covered picnic pavilions, animal shows, and even a small water park at Buccaneer Bay. Yes, this is actually a state park. Promise!
BILL BAGGS CAPE FLORIDA STATE PARK, KEY BISCAYNE, FL
The Miami area is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, but sometimes families need just a little bit more adventure and the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and No Name Harbor offer just that. Home to a historic lighthouse, that also happens to be the oldest standing structure in the county, this state park invites visitors to sun, swim, fish and picnic on the just-over-one-mile sandy Atlantic beachfront ranked #10 on “The Top 10 Beaches In the United States,” by Dr. Beach.
There are also free guided tours of the lighthouse and the keeper’s cottage, fishing piers, nature trails, bike rentals, restrooms and two restaurants known for serving up some deliciously authentic Cuban cuisine. Summer also happens to be sea turtle season, when the females come ashore to lay their eggs. This state park promises a fun day at the beach and then some!
Well, what are you waiting for? Grab the family and get outdoors at the beautiful Florida State Parks!
This article was originally published by Hilton Mom Voyage.