Vacationing in Florida brings you endless possibilities. Some of the very first things that might come to mind are Disney World and the beaches and if you’re feeling touristy and ambitious you might even be able to knock them both off your list in one trip as they are only about 90 minutes apart.
However as a Floridian I’d like to encourage you to take the path less traveled, after all, aren’t the best vacation destinations often the least likely to show up on the first page of google?
First I’d recommend hiking, camping, canoeing and swimming at Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest.
Our family makes our annual trek each year to Juniper Springs located in the heart of the Ocala National Forest. This lush ancient forest habitat provides gorgeous camp sites, trails for running, hiking and bird watching, crystal clear springs for swimming and snorkeling and the best family friendly canoe or kayak run I’ve ever experienced.
On our last camping trip there we were lucky enough to get to see an alligator, black bear and bobcat on our canoe run. Canoes and kayaks are available for rental or you can bring your own. This 8-mile canoe run is safe enough for families with children virtually of all ages, believe me, we’ve paddled with twin toddlers in our boat and made it through just fine.
If you’re an active family interested in a multitude of adventurous activities then I highly recommend Juniper Springs. Whether you’re a runner, hiker, swimmer, diver, survivalist, geo-cacher, bird watcher or kayaker-Juniper Springs Recreational Area has got it all!
TIP: Love to camp when there are less people? Book your stay Sunday night through Monday or Tuesday and we promise you’ll have the whole place to yourself. Looking for the prettiest camp site? We love Hammock Loop!
My second favorite place to visit in Florida is St. Augustine. Sure, it’s a little more mainstream and lot more of a tourist destination than the middle of the Ocala National Forest but it’s a definite must-see if you’re looking for amazing Florida vacation destinations.
St. Augustine, founded in 1565 and located just south of Jacksonville is also known as, “The nation’s oldest city”. You’ll love the trolley rides which take you on a guided tour of the city, the cobblestone streets, spooky cemeteries, artisan shops and rich historic landmarks. In St. Augustine you truly feel like you’ve taken a step back in time.
One of the city’s most famous and visited attractions is the historic Castillo De San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the United States. This government owned national monument is open year round and managed by the National Park Service. You can’t miss it!
TIP: A lesser known monument, Fort Matanzas, also located in St. Augustine, is just a few short miles from Castillo De San Marcos. Fort Matanzas is free to the public and features a short boat ride (also free) and proves to be much less crowded. One of our family’s best kept secrets!
Well that’s the scoop from our active and adventurous family to yours! We hope you’ll try one of our suggestions next time you’re visiting the Sunshine State!