Friday, April 10, 2009

Florida State Parks

Most people who love to travel suffer from The Grass Is Always Greener Syndrome, and I am no exception. I was born in Florida and have resided here most of my life – and spent much of that time struggling to understand why non-Floridians think it is so great.

Looking at this state, I usually see a flat, boring landscape sweltering in the kind of heat that kills people rather than nurtures them. While I daydream about soaring mountains, tall firs, and thundering surf, I find myself surrounded by sinkholes, stunted trees, and waves that are less than a foot tall when they break.

But despite this, I have always known that Florida’s state parks, more than 150 in all, comprise one of the best park systems in the world. Ranging from sprawling wilderness preserves to compact urban gardens, they literally have something for everyone. And since they are home to caves, islands, rolling hills, and steep ravines, they make me look like a fool for ever believing Florida’s landscape is uniform.

These parks provide access not only to bottle green seas, but also to massive freshwater springs, tea-colored rivers, and bass-rich lakes, so they are great for paddling and SCUBA diving and they obviously appeal to water lovers. At the same time, they are great for landlubbers because they contain thousands of miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, even mountain biking!

Many of these parks have impeccable campgrounds and many of them have rental cabins, so you can make one of them your actual vacation destination. Or, if you’re planning on visiting Florida anyway and staying in a specific city or town, you can work state parks into your vacation by visiting some while you’re here.

I have spent time in many of them through the years, camping in most of those, and over the next week or so I will post reviews of three of my favorites. The reviews are not necessarily meant to represent the top three, nor are they intended to be in first-second-third order amongst themselves. They are simply my reviews of places that are worth experiencing.

Right now is a good time to visit, before summer’s heat and humidity turn the parks into furnaces. Later, when fall arrives and temperatures cool, it will be the beginning of what I consider the best time to visit and stay. When that time approaches I will probably write a new series about Florida’s state parks, featuring a greater number of them and with a greater focus on camping. Until then, enjoy what spring has to offer outdoors in the Sunshine State!

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to reading all 3 reviews! ;-)