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The State Parks of Northern Florida
Mention ‘parks’ and ‘America’ to the average traveller and their first instinct will probably be to think of either the well known US National Parks, such as Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite or the famous Theme Parks – Disney, Universal, and maybe Six Flags, etc. And while Florida has some lesser known National Parks; Biscayne, Dry Tortugas and Big Cypress plus of course the world famous theme parks it also has a vast number and variety of State Parks.
In fact Florida has one of America’s largest network of State Parks and has approximately 160 parks covering a staggering 700, 000 acres plus over a hundred miles of sandy beaches. To put this in perspective it means that the Florida State Parks are, in total, twice the size of the Peak District National Park in England.
In the North West of the State is Big Lagoon State Park, which marks the start of the Panhandle section of The Great Florida Birding Trail. The park even has supplies of bird watching binoculars and spotting scopes available to borrow for the day.
It is situated on the northern shoreline of its namesake, Big Lagoon, and its beaches, shallow bays, open woodland and nature trails offer splendid opportunities for all nature lovers especially during the spring and fall migration seasons.
Just across the bay from Big Lagoon is Perdido Key State Park. This park is situated on a 247-acre barrier island near Pensacola on the Gulf of Mexico, and its white sandy beaches are a favourite destination for sunbathers and swimmers alike. Covered picnic tables overlooking the beach provide superb views and are a great place for family outings.
Over in the North Central area is the Crystal River Preserve State Park. Situated between the two cities of Yankeetown and Homosassa the park borders 20 miles of the northern Gulf Coast between Yankeetown and Homosassa. Not only is the area one of exceptional natural beauty, with forests, undisturbed islands, inlets and backwaters, which are especially loved by nature lovers and photographers, but also there are several pre-Columbian archaeological sites within the park.
In the North East of the state, just a short drive from Jacksonville, is Amelia Island State Park, which extends over 200 acres of unspoiled wilderness along the southern tip of the island. 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.
Most parks make only a small entry charge $2 -$5 per car, so next time you fancy a change from the theme parks why not visit one of Florida’s State Parks and get closer to nature?
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