Florida is famous for its incredible natural scenery, from pristine beaches right through to wild backwaters and murky swampland. Book a holiday in Orlando and you’ll find that aside from theme parks, the area is also home to some stunning state parks, many of which are far enough off the tourist trail to warrant some serious exploration. Here are three of our favourite Florida state parks to visit on your next trip to Orlando.

A natural sinkhole reaching depths of more than 100 feet below the surface gives way to lush greenery, cooler temperatures and a dozen springs at Devil’s Millhopper State Park. The historic natural landmark is a local favourite, with plenty of opportunities for exploration via a manmade path with a whopping 236 steps to the bottom and a half-mile trail around the perimeter. Less than two hours away from Orlando by car, this Gainesville-area park is the ideal destination for a day trip.

From sinkholes to serenity, Hontoon Island State Park is a haven for water lovers who prefer not to share their surroundings with the masses. In fact, it’s only accessible by water, so if you don’t have your own boat, hop aboard the park’s ferry from as early as 8 a.m. until sunset. If you’re a history buff, a three mile hike gives a glimpse of age-old Native American shell mounds, and if a winter trip brings you to Hontoon, don’t be surprised to see boats of an unexpected variety, as the park’s main marina, Hontoon Landing, is home to rowing camps from all over of the country. Less than an hour from Central Florida’s attractions, it’s an easy side trip to take from Orlando.

Named an “Outstanding Florida Water Way” for a reason, Lake Louisa can be found just a few miles from Orlando’s city centre. The biggest and best lake in a chain of 13 others, Lake Louisa is the only one ripe for swimming. Its vastness might seem like an open invitation for dropping a motorboat in and fishing for dinner, but only vessels without engines are allowed, adding to the peaceful atmosphere here. State parks aren’t equipped with lifeguards, so leave small children behind or keep a very careful eye. 

Add to your state park adventures by checking out the camping options at each. Some, like Lake Louisa, offer full-facility camping and furnished cabins for rent, while others offer back-to-nature, no-frills options that are equally enjoyable. 


Written by Kim Taylor

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