If you’re raising a tree-hugging child who adores being outside, then you’ve got to find an adventurous place to travel to as a family. Florida is the perfect state for nature loving families. The whole state is a mecca when it comes to strikingly beautiful nature. While ocean escapes are the usual go-to for visitors, the Sunshine State has a whole lot more to offer that your family can add to your “must-do” bucket list. I’ve rounded up the BEST outdoor things to do in Florida that your kids are guaranteed to love.
Florida is most known for the beaches and theme parks. Of course they’re great, but get to know the state beyond its surface. There’s an endless array of natural wonders in Florida waiting to be discovered. From remote islands to enjoy in complete solitude to natural sinkholes containing an actual rainforest, these are the most astonishing destinations in Florida to experience nature in its truest form.
Kids will enjoy the exploring that comes along with visiting these destinations, but it’s also a great opportunity to add an educational aspect to your travel. They can study the typography of the land, how these natural wonders came to be and the animals that inhabit their environments. The possibilities for learning are endless!
6 Outdoor Things To Do In Florida For Nature Loving Families
What’s awesome about traveling in Florida is that you can go across the state in only a few hours. So you can essentially go from coast-to-coast in one day to explore both sides. The easy commuting makes it more assessable for families on a tighter budget or have less time to travel. So many of these bucket list outdoor things to do in Florida can be paired together for day trip itineraries.
Swim In A Turquoise Spring
Did you know that Florida is home to over 700 natural freshwater springs? The state has the largest collection of them in the world. Kids can spend the day swimming in shimmering shades of emerald greens and aqua blues and learning how the springs came to be – plus what makes the water so clear.
Florida’s springs feature interweaving systems of underwater caves and a fascinating array of wildlife, making them a true spectacle unlike any other place in the world. If you’re lucky enough, you might be able to spot a manatee. Swimming, diving, and snorkeling are the main thing to do at the springs, but many offer kayak and canoe rentals so you can explore the lush setting from different perspectives.
There are hundreds of springs to pick from, but a few are more family-friendly than the others. Check out Blue Spring State Park, where manatees seek refuge from the cold ocean waters during the winter months. You just want to check the calendar to find out when water activities are allowed since manatees are protected animals. Boat tours are available all year round and still a great way to see the manatees, even if you can’t swim near them.
For a mix of history and nature, check out Rainbow Springs State Park, where you’ll find a 10,000-year old spring. Sign up for a tour, with a park ranger, to learn about the native people who lived off the land and the history of this beautiful Florida spring.
If you’re looking for more adventure – then you want to check out the tubing and swimming at Ichetucknee Springs is your go-to. The blue hole water remains 72-degrees all year round for perfect swimming conditions. It’s also a wildlife haven where beaver, otter, gar, softshell turtle, wild turkey, wood duck and limpkin all find a home.
Waterfalls: Most Photogenic Way To Explore Outdoor Things To Do In Florida
Far more rare than the white sand beaches, Florida waterfalls take a bit more effort to find. They’re actually somewhat hidden if you don’t know about them! An absolute must-see waterfall in Florida is a 73-foot fall cascading down into an impressive sinkhole at Falling Waters State Parks in Chipley.
For more bucket list-worthy falls, head to Falling Creek Falls, where you’ll find a 10-foot waterfall draping over layers of limestone, or check out the Steinhatchee Falls in Taylor County, which are the widest ones in the entire state!
Each of these waterfalls have a short hike to get to them. Some of these Florida waterfalls have opportunities for swimming, or wading in the water. If you are bringing young kids, know that some of the Florida trails don’t allow strollers. Check about the trail rules before you go.
Explore a Remote National Park in the Middle of the Ocean
I hate when I hear about family’s that explore the state of Florida but missed the opportunity to explore in one of the National Parks. Some of my favorite Florida National Parks to visit with kids have amazing bucket list outdoor things to do in Florida.
Dry Tortugas National Park is a prime example of this, and visiting is a must on any traveler’s bucket list, especially if you’re into off-the-beaten-path experiences and epic underwater adventures. Park Rangers take private groups out for snorkeling tours which is a great way to explore as a family.
Dry Tortugas is so remote even most Floridians haven’t heard about it. Because it’s set mostly underwater (at least 99% of it is!), accessing it is only possible via boat or seaplane. Once you get there, though, the journey is worth every second, as you’ll get to explore the absolute best Florida’s waters have to offer. Your family would practically get 7 tropical islands all to yourself. Kids love going in search of colorful coral and fantastic marine life – they’ll never be bored.
Visit a Mini Rainforest Deep in The Ground
You hear about sinkholes all of the time in the Florida news because they’re relatively common. Devil’s Millhopper is the most unique sinkhole of them all. The reason? In the heart of a pine forest, a striking 120-feet deep cavity leads down into a miniature rainforest. It’s so deep that the climate actually changes when you’re down there! It takes 132-steps to reach the bottom of the sink hole.
Lush vegetation thrives on the walls, creating a landscape that will make you feel as though you’ve been transported into the Jurassic Period. Devil’s Millhopper has provided tons of insight into Florida’s natural history. They’ve discovered fossilized remains of extinct species in the sink hole.
This area is an amazing place to teach your kids about the curiosities of nature, the science behind sink holes and they’ll love the departure from the busyness. It’s so quiet at the bottom of the hole! It’s one of the most mysterious outdoor things to do in Florida.
Outdoor Things To Do In Florida Includes Underwater Barrier Reefs
When you think of outdoor things to do in Florida – don’t forget about all of the wildlife that’s under water. Florida is home to the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world and the only one in the United States, making it a must-see in order to truly get to know the life living under its waves.
In order to see this underwater wonder with your own eyes, head to either Biscayne National Park or John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. That’s where you can glide through the water with a pair of goggles in search of striking colorful formations and the colorful marine life that thrives around it.
Pro Tip: If you’re snorkeling with young kids, let them float with a life jacket and noodle over the water. They don’t need to swim to appreciate the beauty. Just let them look under the water.
Get Lost Inside a Cave
Florida isn’t exactly known for its caves, but if you’re on the mission to find one during your visit, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience at Florida Caverns State Park.
This incredibly unique national park features a labyrinth of cavern systems and is the only place in Florida that offers guided tours of dry caves in the entire state. It’s also a great way to escape the Florida heat and humidity.
While here, you’ll get to dive deep into Florida’s nature (quite literally) by touring the dramatic stalagmites and stalactites rising and trickling from the ceilings, as well as see flowstones and draperies that look fascinating. Outside, you can opt to hit a few of the hiking trails around the cave, or choose from an array of outdoor adventures like boating, geo-seeking, or camping.
There’s a plethora of outdoor things to do in Florida, but this is our bucket list and favorites. There are so many striking destinations to visit in Florida, that you’ll have a seriously unique experience in nature. Stay away from the tourist traps and find the areas that existed long before people inhabited the state.