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Florida National Parks: The 11 You Need To See


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Dolli Schiff



Welcome to the sunshine state of Florida, home to a magnificent array of natural wonders and national parks. From the pristine beaches of the Gulf of Mexico to the lush, subtropical forests of the Everglades, this state is a treasure trove of ecological diversity and outdoor adventure. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or simply seeking a rejuvenating getaway, Florida’s national parks offer something for everyone.


With a total of 11 national parks and monuments, Florida boasts an impressive collection of protected landscapes and cultural sites. Each park has its own unique charm and showcases the best of what the Sunshine State has to offer. From the wetlands of the Everglades to the historic forts of St. Augustine, these parks provide a gateway to Florida’s natural and cultural heritage.


Explore the untouched beauty of the Everglades National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Embark on an airboat tour to spot alligators, manatees, and a plethora of bird species. Or take a leisurely hike along one of the park’s many trails to immerse yourself in the vibrant biodiversity of this unique ecosystem.


For those seeking an underwater adventure, look no further than Biscayne National Park. Dive into the crystal clear waters and discover a breathtaking underwater world teeming with vibrant coral reefs and marine life. Snorkel, kayak, or simply relax on the white sandy beaches and enjoy the tranquility of this coastal oasis.


If you’re a history lover, make sure to visit the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Built in the late 17th century, this impressive fortress stands as a testament to Florida’s colonial past. Explore its ancient walls and learn about the battles and conquests that shaped the region’s history.


From archaeological sites to picturesque lighthouses, Florida’s national parks offer a glimpse into the state’s rich and diverse heritage. Whether you’re exploring the remnants of Spanish settlements at Fort Caroline National Memorial or climbing to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse for panoramic views, you’ll be transported to another time and place.


So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through Florida’s national parks. With breathtaking landscapes, fascinating history, and endless outdoor activities, these parks are a must-see for any traveler. Experience the beauty and wonder of Florida’s natural treasures and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park is a sprawling wilderness located in southern Florida and is one of the most unique and ecologically important places in the world. Covering over 1.5 million acres, this national park is home to the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, boasting a remarkable diversity of flora and fauna.


Explore the park’s iconic wetlands, mangrove forests, and sawgrass prairies on a thrilling airboat tour or a peaceful canoe ride. Keep an eye out for alligators gliding through the water and vibrant bird species soaring above. The park is also a haven for nature photographers, as the ever-changing landscape offers stunning opportunities to capture breathtaking shots.


2. Biscayne National Park


Just a short drive from downtown Miami lies the mesmerizing Biscayne National Park. This park protects a unique marine ecosystem that encompasses miles of vibrant coral reefs, crystal-clear waters, and lush mangrove forests. Snorkel or dive into the underwater paradise and discover colorful fish, thriving coral formations, and even shipwrecks.


For those who prefer to stay dry, take a kayak or paddleboard and explore the intricate maze of mangrove forests. Picnic on the scenic offshore islands or go birdwatching to spot beautiful and rare bird species that call the park home.


3. Dry Tortugas National Park


Located about 70 miles west of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park is a secluded and enchanting oasis in the middle of the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This remote park is home to Fort Jefferson, a historic 19th-century fortress that stands as a testament to the region’s maritime heritage.


Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park offers pristine beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and incredible opportunities for snorkeling, swimming, and fishing. Don’t forget to explore the fort’s captivating architecture and learn about its fascinating history as you wander through its sun-soaked hallways.


4. Big Cypress National Preserve


Adjacent to Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve is a vast expanse of wetlands, cypress swamps, and prairies that provides a crucial habitat for endangered species such as the Florida panther and the West Indian manatee.


Discover the preserve’s diverse ecosystems by hiking its scenic trails, paddling along its winding waterways, or embarking on an exhilarating airboat ride. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings, including alligators, snakes, and a variety of bird species.


5. Canaveral National Seashore


Situated on a barrier island along Florida’s Atlantic coast, Canaveral National Seashore is a pristine and undeveloped stretch of shoreline that offers a tranquil retreat away from the bustling tourist areas.


Walk along the park’s pristine beaches, swim in the refreshing waters, or enjoy a picnic while watching dolphins play in the surf. The park is also home to a significant nesting site for loggerhead, green, and leatherback sea turtles, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.


6. Gulf Islands National Seashore


Stretching across the coasts of Florida and Mississippi, Gulf Islands National Seashore is a paradise for beach lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. With its white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and picturesque coastal landscapes, this park offers endless opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, boating, and fishing.


Explore the park’s diverse ecosystems, including marshes, pine forests, and coastal dunes, and spot a wide range of wildlife, such as shorebirds, sea turtles, and dolphins. With miles of pristine shoreline to discover, Gulf Islands National Seashore is truly a coastal gem.


7. Castillo de San Marcos National Monument


Located in the charming city of St. Augustine, the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is a historic fort that dates back to the 17th century. Built by the Spanish to protect their interests in the region, this impressive structure is an important piece of Florida’s colonial history.


Take a guided tour of the fort and learn about the battles and sieges that took place within its walls. Marvel at the stunning architecture and enjoy panoramic views of the Matanzas Bay. The fort is also a popular venue for reenactments and cultural events, providing visitors with a unique glimpse into the past.


8. Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve


Located near Jacksonville, the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is a haven for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike. This preserve encompasses marshes, forests, and waterways, providing a sanctuary for a variety of plant and animal species.


Explore the park’s numerous hiking and biking trails to immerse yourself in nature’s beauty, or paddle along the St. Johns River to discover hidden coves and scenic vistas. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the historic sites within the preserve, such as the Kingsley Plantation, which offers insights into Florida’s plantation history.


9. De Soto National Memorial


Commemorating the 1539 expedition of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, De Soto National Memorial offers a window into the early European exploration of Florida. Walk along the nature trails and boardwalks that wind through the lush coastal habitats, and learn about the interactions between European explorers and indigenous peoples.


Tour the museum to view artifacts and exhibits that shed light on this significant chapter in Florida’s history. The park also hosts reenactments and interpretive programs that bring the past to life.


10. Fort Caroline National Memorial


Located in Jacksonville, Fort Caroline National Memorial commemorates the short-lived French presence in Florida in the 16th century. Explore the grounds of the reconstructed fort and learn about the French Huguenot settlers who established the colony of La Caroline.


Immerse yourself in the history and culture of this pivotal period through exhibits and interpretive displays. The park’s location along the banks of the St. Johns River also offers picturesque views and opportunities for leisurely walks and picnics.


11. St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum


For a unique and educational experience, visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. Climb the 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse for breathtaking views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean. Learn about the history of navigation and maritime exploration in the museum’s exhibits.


Immerse yourself in the stories of shipwrecks and explorers that have shaped Florida’s maritime history. The museum also offers hands-on exhibits for children and the chance to explore a replica of a Spanish shipwreck.



Florida’s national parks and monuments showcase the state’s incredible natural beauty, rich history, and diverse ecosystems. From the expansive wetlands of the Everglades to the stunning coral reefs of Biscayne and the remote island fortress of Dry Tortugas, each park offers a unique experience for visitors.


Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventure, cultural exploration, or simply a place to unwind in nature, Florida’s national parks have something for everyone. The Everglades National Park is a must-visit for its unmatched biodiversity and captivating wetlands, while Biscayne National Park beckons with its pristine waters and abundant marine life.


For history enthusiasts, the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, Fort Caroline National Memorial, and the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum offer glimpses into Florida’s colonial past and maritime heritage. These sites provide valuable insights into the region’s rich history and are sure to fascinate visitors of all ages.


Florida’s national parks also offer opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, birdwatching, snorkeling, and wildlife spotting. Whether you’re exploring the mangrove forests of Big Cypress National Preserve, enjoying the pristine beaches of Canaveral and Gulf Islands National Seashores, or discovering the natural wonders of Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, the options for outdoor adventures are endless.


As you visit these incredible natural and cultural treasures, remember to respect and preserve the delicate ecosystems and historical sites. Follow the park regulations, practice Leave No Trace principles, and be mindful of the impact you have on the environment.


Make the most of your time in Florida by planning your visits to these national parks strategically. Consider the best time of year to visit each park and check for any specific rules or regulations that may apply. Taking the time to research and plan ahead will ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience.


Whether you’re a Florida resident or a visitor from afar, exploring these national parks will leave you with lasting memories. From the awe-inspiring beauty of the Everglades to the rich history found in St. Augustine, each park offers a unique and captivating experience.


So, get ready to embark on an adventure through Florida’s national parks and discover the beauty and wonder of the Sunshine State. With its pristine beaches, lush forests, and captivating history, Florida is a true paradise waiting to be explored.