Whether planning a vacation or a staycation, Florida has a state park for you. Below is a list of five of the best state parks to visit in west central Florida. As you will read, there is something for everyone.
Skyway Fishing Pier State Park
If fishing is what you enjoy then you need to visit the world’s longest fishing pier. Conveniently located on the north and south end of the Skyway Bridge on I-275 in St. Petersburg, the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park is made up of two different piers. On any given day anglers can expect to catch many different species of fish found in the Gulf of Mexico including grouper, mackerel, pompano, sea trout, snook, and shark. The Skyway fishing piers are open 24 hours a day year around. Also if you need bait, tackle, drinks, or snacks each of the piers has a small tackle shop that will meet your pier fishing needs. The cost of admission to the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park is $4.00 dollars per vehicle ($12.00 dollars for oversized vehicles and campers) plus $4.00 per person over the age of 12, and $2.00 dollars per person over the age of six.
Caladesi Island State Park
If a relaxing day basking in the sun is more your style, Caladesi Island State Park is the place to be. Located off of Causeway Boulevard in Dunedin, Caladesi Island is one of the most beautiful barrier islands on the Gulf Coast. Only accessible by ferry or boat, Caladesi Island offers gorgeous white sand beaches, fishing, shelling, and a 3.25 mile nature trail. To get to Caladesi Island stop by Caladesi Island Adventure, a private ferry service to the island. The cost for the ferry service is $12.00 dollars for adults and $6.00 dollars for children. The ferry ride takes about 30 minutes with ferries leaving every hour. Visitors are allowed to stay on Caladesi Island for up to four hours. In addition you will also need to pay admission fees for Caladesi Island at Honeymoon Island State Park for a price of $8.00 per vehicle. While the fees make this park one of the more expensive to visit, Caladesi Island is a beautiful place and well worth the trip.
Rainbow Springs State Park
Located on highway U.S. 41 in Dunnellon, Rainbow Springs State Parks is home of the fourth largest natural spring in the state. The key attraction at this park is swimming in the crystal clear 72 degree water coming from the deep Floridan aquifer. The swimming area is located at the spring head, which ranges from 5 to 18 feet deep. For those that prefer not to swim, this park also has a well maintained nature trail that meanders through butterfly gardens and the ruins of a 1930s Florida attraction. After a day of swimming and exploring, visitors can browse the gift shop for a souvenir, or enjoy a refreshing ice cream sandwich from the snack bar. Admission to Rainbow River State Park is $2.00 per person over the age of six.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
A popular Florida tourist attraction since 1947, Weeki Wachee Springs Show Park is one of the most recent additions to the Florida state park system. For more than 60 years, the mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs have dazzled and amazed visitors to this popular vacation destination. Falling on hard times, the state purchased this iconic park in 2008. Today, Weeki Wachee still retains its “old” Florida charm by continuing to offer many of the original attractions. Visitors can take a river boat cruise down the Weeki Wachee River, take in an entertaining and informative animal show, and of course, watch the graceful mermaids perform in the underwater theater.
After watching the mermaids, if you feel like a dip, head on over to the Buccaneer Bay Water Park where you can have some fun taking the Pirate’s Plunge, if you dare. For the little buccaneers, the water park also has Lil’ Mates Caribbean Cove. Admission to Buccaneer Bay cost $26.00 dollars per person over the age of 12, and $12.00 dollars per person over the age of 6. Admission to Buccaneer Bay also includes admission to the Weeki Wachee Springs Show Park. Admission to just Weeki Wachee Springs Show Park is $13.00 dollars per person over the age of 12 and $5.00 for children over six.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Do you want to see a wilder-side of the Florida state park system? Then you need to visit Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park where you will get to view many of the critters that call Florida home. While walking along the park’s boardwalk, you will have the opportunity to view bears, cougars, otters, bobcats, and many other animals. You will also get to visit with the park’s resident movie star, Lu the hippopotamus. OK, I know that hippopotamus are not native to Florida, but you will get to hear Lu’s story when you visit. As you walk along the boardwalk make sure you stop at each of the educational programs offered by the knowledgeable staff and volunteers.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located off of U.S. 19 in the town of Homosassa Springs. Admission to the park cost $9.00 per person 13 years and older, and $5.00 dollars for children 3-12. The park is open seven day a week and closes at 5:30pm. The ticket counter closes at 4:00 pm.
Florida’s State Parks: Something for Everyone
As you can see Florida’s state parks offer many exciting activities that the whole family can enjoy. So if you are planning a vacation to the Sunshine State, or are a resident planning a staycation be sure to add a state park or two to your list of things to do.