There’s so much more to the Sunshine State, beyond the beach, if you know where to look. The southern state is filled with amazing destinations for families to visit and one of my favorite family travel spots. Since it’s bursting with fun destinations, I’ve picked these top 7 Bucket List Florida Places To Visit With Kids to help narrow down the best. These mesmerizing locations will truly widen your perspective and get you thinking beyond beaches or theme parks.
Bucket List Florida Destinations For Family Travel
One of the best things about Florida? Its mesmerizing natural wonders that range from deep caverns to labyrinths of mangroves and crystal-clear springs set in the middle of verdant forests. If you’re on the lookout for fantastic places to visit in Florida, with the kiddos, here are the top seven destinations that should be on your bucket list!
Need more information for your family’s vacation planning? Purchase the Florida Bucket List Adventure Guide which will help you sort through specific planning details, after you’ve picked the destination you’re visiting!
Blue Spring State Park
Located about 40 minutes north of Orlando, Blue Springs State Park is the largest natural spring on the St. Johns River and one of the best places to see Florida’s famous manatees. They’re gentle giants (that are protected) and kids love watching them glide through the water.
Swimming, kayaking, and canoeing are the most popular activities here, but make sure you also explore on foot by walking the 1.3-mile boardwalk, which takes you from the spring’s source all the way into St. John’s River and provides some of the most scenic views in the park.
The best chance to see manatees is during the winter months. The park is one of their favorite spots to take shelter from the cold ocean waters. Besides manatees, the spring also attracts a variety of wading birds, ospreys, kingfishers, and eagles, making it a mecca for insanely good bird-watching opportunities.
If you’re looking for more of a tame experience, that’s better for younger kids, check out the boat tours. A park ranger will be your tour guide and the kids can learn about all of the nature they’re seeing – and ask questions!
Florida Caverns State Park
Do you have kids who are interested in the science of rocks – geology? Florida Caverns State Park lets you go underground and weave into a maze of cave systems and hidden rooms, where you’ll get to see mysterious stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, and flowstones that look almost other-worldly.
As the tour concludes, visitors ascend a 15-degree walkway to emerge into a hardwood forest and enjoy a self-paced walk back to the visitor center. Kids can even take home a bit of rock from the caverns (purchased from the gift shop) to commemorate their tour.
Florida isn’t exactly famed for these types of sights, making this state park a truly unique experience in the state. In fact, it’s one of the few places in Florida with dry caves, and the only state park to offer cave tours to the public!
Ocala National Forest
Home to the world’s largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest, Ocala National Forest is a haven for all things nature. From crystal-clear freshwater springs where you can swim or even snorkel in search of marine life, to marvelous hiking and equestrian trails, Ocala is a little gem in northern Florida and the perfect place to escape the bustle and hustle of nearby theme parks for a day or two.
I love this area as an easy day trip from Walt Disney World, Universal Studios or SeaWorld Orlando. You can take a ride over for the day and come back to your resort “bubble” to continue a theme park stay.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Set in Key Largo (or rather, right underneath it), John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is America’s first underwater state park and the third largest barrier reef in the world. Thousands of visitors flock to this park every week – for good reason. It’s an amazing destination for older kids who are strong swimmers.
If your kids are dazzled by marine life, exploring this gem of a park is sure to please. From wading into the water to snorkeling in search of colorful coral to exploring aboard a glass-bottom boat (the best way to experience the park with younger kids), there are an endless number of ways to explore Florida’s underwater world at John Pennekamp.
Everglades National Park
Home to over 15 million acres of Floridian wilderness, Everglades National Park is so much more than the hot swamp it’s often depicted as! It is made up of a number of different ecosystems, making it an absolute treat to explore if you’re up for a few days threading through some of South Florida’s most varied landscapes.
While here, you’ll get to kayak through mangroves, hike through hardwood hammocks, or go in search of marine life living under the sea. It’s one of the only ares where the American Alligator and Salt Water Crocodiles live together.
I highly recommend the Everglades as a day trip from family-friendly Fort Lauderdale. We love staying at B Ocean Resort in Fort Lauderdale, which gives us access to the national park and the beach!
Dry Tortugas National Park
If you want to feel like the family has a little piece of Florida to yourselves, there’s no better place to find yourself a quiet little spot than Dry Tortugas National Park. Made up of 99% water, this gem of a national park is one of the most remote locations in the entire United States, making it a paradise for those looking to experience the best Florida has to offer without the hoards of crowds around.
Dry Tortugas is only accessible via boat or seaplane, which pretty much means most people can’t be bothered to visit. Yes- that makes it more challenging to access with kids – but this is a bucket list Florida spot!
While a day spent at the beach at Dry Tortugas is the epitome of paradise, there’s no better way to explore it than by going underwater. While visiting, you can snorkel in search of untouched coral reefs, try to find as many marine species as you can, or hit a few hiking trails on the 7 islands that make up the remaining 1% of the park.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
Do you have dinosaur obsessed kids? Devil’s Millhopper, which is a sink hole, is unique because it’s one of the few places in the state where more than 100 feet of rock layers are exposed. It’s an incredible place to witness the way ecosystems develop as a result of geological features!
To break it down, Devil’s Millhopper is a 120 feet-deep cavity that leads down into a mini rainforest, creating a landscape that will make you feel like you’re walking inside a Jurassic Park movie (tons of fossilized remains of extinct species have been found here).
As you’re walking down the sink hole, it’s eery how everything changes and you realize how deep into the earth you’re going. Kids love to learn about Florida’s sink holes and how it changed this piece of land forever.
When you’ve only got 18 summers to spend with the kids, why not make some unforgettable memories? These destinations are the perfect way to explore the lesser known side of Florida. They’re also great educational spots to visit with kids. So grab a pen and get your family’s bucket list started!