Although there are no seaside beaches in this region, there are plenty of ways to cool off by the water or to embark on a journey into nature. Central Florida is paradise for outdoor lovers thanks to an endless array of adventures.
For water enthusiasts, Highlands County is home to 95 beautiful, crystal-clear lakes. The Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park in Polk County covers more than 8,000 acres of scrub, sandhill and flatwoods land.In Osceola County, Lake Tohopekaliga, known as Lake Toho, covers 19,000 acres, spans 42 miles in diameter and is a hotbed for bass.
North of Orlando you’ll find great hiking trails, including Lake Apopka Loop Trail, offering 15 miles of family biking where the odds of seeing a ’gator are fantastic. A chillier activity can be found at local favorite Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park, which offers swimming, hiking trails, picnicking and concessions.
Nearby Wekiwa Springs State Park boasts a pristine spring-fed swimming hole. Rent a canoe or kayak to float down the river, where sightings of river otters or white-tail deer are possible.
In Blue Spring State Park, home to hundreds of manatees, the clear 73˚F water temperature welcomes swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. You can picnic on the beach or stay the night at the campground. In the Ocala National Forest, the southernmost forest in the United States, dozens of campgrounds and 600 lakes await.
Craving the beach but don’t have time for the drive? At Fantasy Surf in Kissimmee, indoor surfing and bodyboarding will make you feel like the ocean is right in front of you.
Several companies offer guided airboat, swamp-buggy and pontoon boat tours to view alligators, birds and wildlife in Central Florida’s wetlands and the Kissimmee River and Dead River swamps. Participants may spot ospreys, egrets, roseate spoonbills and endangered whooping cranes. The largest population of nesting bald eagles in the continental USA is in Kissimmee/Osceola County.
A short drive west of Orlando, Lake Louisa in Clermont is the largest in a chain of 13 lakes and designated an Outstanding Florida Water Way. Take a swim and admire the rolling hills of Lake County.
While in the area, don’t forget Central Florida’s water parks—there are several to choose from and many have their own beaches. From Walt Disney World to SeaWorld to LEGOLAND Florida, wet thrills are abundant.
Water ski or wakeboard at Orlando Watersports Complex, where beginners and experts alike can hit the waters via cableway or behind boats.If water isn’t your thing, feel free to dust off your golf clubs. With more than 150 golf courses in the area, hitting the links is a viable option as well. Courses for all levels and budgets, including many designed by some of the PGA’s legends, abound.
Early birds will appreciate the breathtaking views from a hot-air balloon taking flight a few miles from Walt Disney World Resort. Rising before the sun, these colorful balloons float into the morning sky for an hour-long ride over the Central Florida landscape before heading back to earth for a champagne breakfast.
Polk County, the Bass Capital of the World, has 554 lakes with numerous fish camps and fishing guides. Besides fishing, Polk County’s Lake Kissimmee State Park offers hiking, equestrian trails, canoeing and camping.
Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, which includes a bird show, insect zoo and aerial adventure course, is a full-day outing. Beautiful gardens, a nature preserve and a 60-bell carillon draw visitors to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales.
In Seminole County, you can paddle down the Wekiva River, one of only two national wild and scenic rivers in Florida.
In Marion County, Rainbow Springs State Park offers cool, clear waters of headsprings. The depth ranges from five to 18 feet, while the water temperature averages a soothing 72˚F year-round.
Central Florida is teeming with great beaches and other outdoor activities. Which ones will you visit?
Now it’s your turn! Which places have you been? Where do you want to go? Please share your thoughts and experiences with us all!