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Best Florida State Parks to Visit in the Winter


Best Florida State Parks to Visit in the Winter

Aerial view of Honeymoon Island State Park - courtesy of Florida Division of Parks and Recreation

The Top Choices Feature Two Great Beaches and a Wildlife Park.

Bahia Honda State Park

(Big Pine Key, FL at Mile Marker 37 in the Florida Keys). A “recreational treasure” is how local “Conchs” refer to Bahia Honda State Park. And last year, nearly 500,000 visitors to the park apparently agreed, especially in the winter months. Bahia Honda has one of the best beaches in the Florida Keys, or anywhere, for that matter—in 1992, Dr. Stephen Leatherman, coastal geologist who prepares the widely-followed annual “best beaches” list, selected Bahia Honda as America’s Best Beach. With frontage on both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, Bahia Honda’s recreational choices are nearly endless: among them are snorkeling, kayaking (tours and kayak rentals available at the park), bicycling, swimming and fishing. And, of course, that perennial favorite, sunning—bicycles, fishing rods and beach chairs can also be rented through the park concession. The park’s campground and family vacation cabins are also very popular. For reservations/information, call (305) 872-2353.

Honeymoon Island State Park

(Dunedin, Florida near Clearwater). Part of a chain of barrier islands along Florida’s West Coast, Honeymoon Island features a beautiful 22-acre beach that makes it one of Florida’s showcase coastal recreational areas. Surf fishing is a popular pastime at the park, along with birding to observe a variety of shore birds, including several threatened and endangered species. Ferry service is available to Caladesi Island State Park, a beautiful island state park nearby. Caladesi Island’s beach is currently one of the top five beaches in the U.S., according to the latest Best Beaches survey. For information, call 727-469-5942.

Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park

(Homosassa, Florida) A visit to Homosassa Springs is an experience you won't soon forget. Florida’s only state wildlife park, the park is a rehabilitation center and refuge center for endangered West Indian Manatees injured or orphaned in the wild, and for Manatees born in captivity. In addition, a wide variety of birds and other animals living at Homosassa Springs could not survive in the wild, and the park provides them with as natural a habitat and diet as possible. Included are the Black Bear, Hippopotamus, Bobcat, various Reptiles, River Otter, Western Cougar and White-Tailed Deer. There are daily Manatee, Alligator and Animal encounter educational programs starting every 45 minutes. The Fishbowl Underwater Observatory allows up close and personal viewing of Manatees and many species of fish. The park has a Museum, Education Center and gift shop. Call 352-628-5343.

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