Home to more than 170 state parks, Florida is a nature lover’s dream. Whether you’re a beach bum on the hunt for that perfect stretch of sand, or you’re a history buff who adores old lighthouses, here are 15 of the best parks for you to visit in the Sunshine State.
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Hands down the best beach in the Florida Keys and maybe even in the country (depending on whom you ask), Bahia Honda State Park is a destination you’ll never want to leave. Snorkel under old portions of Henry Flagler’s railroad and stick around for a magnificent show at sunset. Park admission is $8 per vehicle (plus a 50 cent per person Monroe County surcharge); 36850 Overseas Hwy, Big Pine Key, 305-872-2353.
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It’s not uncommon to walk for miles on St. George Island without seeing a single soul. Not only will you find gorgeous crowd-free beaches here, but nearby Apalachicola Bay is home to some of the best oysters in the world. Park admission is $6 per vehicle; 1900 E. Gulf Beach Dr., St. George Island, 850-927-2111.
Nestled next to idyllic Perdido Key on the Gulf of Mexico, tidal salt marshes spill into the pine flat woods at Big Lagoon State Park. Explore the shallow bays and nature trails or take a boat over to Perdido Key’s picture-perfect beaches. Park admission is $6 per vehicle; 12301 Gulf Beach Hwy., Pensacola, 850-492-1595.
Peer through the wind-whipped sea oats at Henderson Beach State Park and you’ll discover a sugar sand beach that barely looks real. Set up your umbrella and chairs for the day and soak up pure paradise on Florida’s Emerald Coast. Park admission is $6 per vehicle; 17000 Emerald Coast Pkwy., Destin, 850-837-7550.
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Explore four miles of unspoiled shoreline at Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine. More than 300 years ago, workers dug out coquina rock inside the park to build the historic Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Park admission is $8 per vehicle; 300 Anastasia Park Rd, St. Augustine, 904-461-2033.
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It’s no wonder travelers marvel at the beaches along Florida’s Gulf Coast and Grayton Beach State Park does not disappoint. Soft white sand, aquamarine water and plenty of space to spread out for a lazy day in the sun. Park admission is $5 per vehicle; 357 Main Park Rd, Santa Rosa Beach, 850-267-8300.
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You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a faraway land when you visit Honeymoon Island State Park. The heavenly beaches on this barrier island just north of Clearwater Beach are great for shelling. Park admission is $8 per vehicle; #1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin, 727-469-5942.
A secluded island located at the mouth of Tampa Bay, Egmont Key is only accessible by boat. Tour the historic lighthouse grounds that date all the way back to 1858. There isn’t an admission fee to enter the park, but you’ll either need to rent a boat or book a ferry ride to get there; 4905 34th Street South #5000, St. Petersburg, 727-893-2627.
Famous for its tarpon fishing, Boca Grande Pass and historic Gasparilla Island have been attracting avid fisherman for years—including the Calusa tribe and later, Spanish explorers. Be sure to also visit the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, built in 1890. Park admission is $3 per vehicle; 880 Belcher Rd., Boca Grande, 941-964-0375.
Grab the hand of that someone special and jaunt over to Lovers Key State Park near Fort Myers. This remote beach is the perfect place for a romantic picnic for two and it’s also a haven for dolphins, manatees, and bald eagles. Park admission is $8 per vehicle; 8700 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, 239-463-4588.
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Nestled on a barrier island just north of Vero Beach on Florida’s east coast, Sebastian Inlet State Park features a great spot to kayak and SUP on the Indian River Lagoon side. Or grab a surfboard and hit the waves on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island. Park admission is $8 per vehicle; 9700 South Highway A1A, Melbourne Beach, 321-984-4852.
From the top of the historic lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, the views of Key Biscayne, South Beach and Biscayne Bay are second to none. Built in 1825, the lighthouse is the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. Park admission is $8 per vehicle; 1200 South Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne, 305-361-5811.
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Located in the heart of Fort Lauderdale, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is a protected beachfront oasis nestled in a popular tourist destination. One minute you can be shopping on bustling A1A or Las Olas Boulevard and the next moment, working on your tan. Park admission is $6 per vehicle; 3109 E Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-564-4521.
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Scuba divers flock to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, a system of protected undersea coral reefs that offer ample opportunities to explore the ocean floor. The infamous Christ of the Abyss statute and sunken USS Spiegel Grove shipwreck are two popular areas to dive. Park admission is $8 per vehicle (plus a 50 cent per person Monroe County surcharge); 102601 Overseas Highway (MM 102.5), Key Largo, 305-451-6300.
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Located on picturesque Amelia Island, the northernmost part of Florida’s east coast, Fort Clinch State Park dates back to 1864. On the first weekend of every month soldiers reenact life during the Civil War at the fort. It’s also a great spot to hunt for shark teeth. Park admission is $6 per vehicle; 2601 Atlantic Ave., Fernandina Beach, 904-277-7274.