Central Florida is home to some of the most spectacular state parks in the United States. From the stunning beaches of Brevard County to the picturesque forests of Hillsborough County, this region is filled with incredible outdoor recreational opportunities and wildlife. Take a tour with us as we explore Central Florida state parks that are a short drive from our communities. So, pack your kayak, camping gear, or just a good pair of sneakers, and get ready for the fun outdoor adventures that Florida offers its residents.
Brevard County: Canaveral National Seashore
Canaveral National Seashore is located on the east coast of central Florida and stretches across a whopping 57,000 acres, including 24 miles of pristine beaches. This park is located a little over an hour away from our Melbourne, FL Harvard Apartments, but it is well worth the trip! With the Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean on either side, it is a picturesque spot to explore the great outdoors.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Florida tourists and residents alike enjoy the pastime of canoeing and kayaking. It affords the opportunity to see nature from a unique perspective in a calming setting. Visitors to Canaveral National Seashore can kayak at Mosquito Lagoon. Canoe and kayak rentals are available from the Playalinda Beach Ranger Station as well as guided tours of the area with knowledgeable local guides.
Wildlife- Fishing, Birdwatching, and Beyond
The wildlife that can be spotted within the Canaveral National Seashore is an extensive list, and the opportunities to find it are many. From fishing, to shelling, to hiking, and other special events like astronomy nights and turtle walks where visitors can learn about Florida’s unique environmental landscape, there is truly something for every outdoor enthusiast.
Brevard County- Sebastian Inlet Park
Located on Florida’s beautiful Atlantic Coast, Sebastian Inlet State Park is an outdoor paradise rich with history. It is also in close proximity to Harvard Apartments where the drive to this beautiful locale is less than an hour! This park is said to be one of the best spots for surfing, fishing, and beach-going, making it one of the most popular destinations in Brevard County.
Surfers from far and wide come to Sebastian Inlet’s 3 miles of beach to experience one of Florida’s most consistent surfing spots. The park’s first peak by the North Jetty and “Monster Hole” to the South boasts great waves great for long rides.
With its 51 campsites that offer many modern amenities like electrical hook-ups, grills, fire rings, and wi-fi access, this park is perfect for all kinds of camping in case the craving for nature hits. Whether staying in a tent, parking your RV, or trying primitive camping (most sites are walk-in only with little to no amenities), the parks’ camp sites are very close to the inlet and the beach.
Pet owners can also bring their well-behaved and leashed furry friends on their camping adventure!
Within the lush grounds of Sebastian Inlet Park is a 40-mile multi-use paved path where cyclists will enjoy views of the Indian River Lagoon as they take a leisurely ride. The path also has multiple beach access points for those who may want to pull off and enjoy the sun and sand.
For more of a challenge, The State Park Bayside Marina also contains the entrance to three mountain biking trails which are a hybrid of off-road and paved trails.
Hillsborough County- Alafia River State Park
Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Alafia River State Park is a hidden gem of Hillsborough County. Spanning over 6,000 acres, and only an hour from both of our Tampa communities, The Landings at Cypress Meadows, and Compton Place, this park is home to the Alafia River, offering wonderful fishing opportunities, among other outdoor activities.
Due to its more drastic elevation changes (this park was formerly a phosphate mine), this park is perfect for mountain biking enthusiasts looking for great trails with a challenge. The International Mountain Biking Association rated these trails with their “Epic designation.” Simply put, riders from around the world plan trips around coming to this park to ride the more advanced trails.
This park also provides beautiful hilly trails for horseback riding. Equestrians can take a leisurely ride through the parks’ 20 miles of horse trails, stopping to admire the parks’ many lakes.
There are also equestrian campsites where horse owners can bring their horses to camp with them. Each of the 12 equestrian campsites are located near a barn that provides first-come-first-served stables as well as providing tie-offs for horses.
Hillsborough County- Little Manatee River State Park
Little Manatee River State Park is located just south of Tampa, FL and offers the opportunity to explore one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the Sunshine State. It is a mere hour’s drive from both of our Tampa communities. The park covers nearly 8,000 acres along the Little Manatee River and is home to a variety of rare plants and wildlife.
Truly a destination for the animal and nature lover, this park protects over 2,400 acres of land that hundreds of species, including rare species, call home. Possibly the most popular reason people flock to this park is to see manatees in their natural environment. In the late spring and summer months visitors can see manatees in the river by canoe or kayak before they make their way back to the Gulf of Mexico for the colder winter months.
The park recommends packing binoculars, a camera, and a trail map to track what you can find.
Walking and Running
Needing a little cardio? Wanting some time in nature? The trails in Little Manatee River State Park are perfect for walkers or runners of every speed and endurance level. The paved main park drive is a 2.5-mile trail one way which is perfect for brisk walkers and runners.
For a slower pace set in nature, walkers can enjoy numerous walks on trails to the Point (also great for fishing), Dude Lake, or Sandpine Trail which connects all visitors centers together!