These 45-minute adventures let families get up-close and personal with stalactites, stalagmites, and other fascinating cave formations. In fact, it’s the only state park in Florida that offers guided tours of dry caverns. The tours aren’t as easy as a stroll along the boardwalk, which is part of the reason that we love them. You’ll be doing a bit of climbing and scrambling through some tight areas. So make sure to wear clothes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty.
The cave tours last about 45-minutes. You’ll have plenty of time to experience other things to do at Florida Caverns State Park such as enjoy the six miles of hiking trails, sinkholes, fishing, and even horseback riding. There are 35 campsites, all with electrical and water hookups. And it’s a popular spot for RV camping in Florida. You’ll also find a pretty fantastic kids’ playground at the park.
We couldn’t feature the best Florida State Parks for families without adding a little kitsch in the mix. And the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park definitely fits that bill. This popular underwater display has been a family favorite for almost 75 years. And families and couples alike regularly pack the 400-seat amphitheater to take in the mermaid spectacle and animal encounter show.
But it’s not all live theater at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, this park is also home to the deepest known freshwater cave system in the United States.
Families can kayak or canoe along the Weeki Wachee River, take guided riverboat tours, and even enjoy the gorgeous white sand beach lining clear turquoise water.
The park is also popular for its Buccaneer Bay waterpark which features a nice swimming area, lazy river, and four waterslides.
If we had to declare one park as the best State Park in Florida, my vote would swing towards Silver Springs State Park.
Florida is riddled with springs, and I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t say that there’s a bad one in the bunch. But Silver Springs stands out above the rest, not just for the scenery and activities, but for its history as well.
In fact, 140-years ago, Silver Springs was one of Florida’s original tourist attractions. Long before the mouse arrived and visitors flocked to the Florida Keys, it was the magical clear waters of Silver Springs that they came for. And it was here that the glass-bottom boat tours originated.
Featuring ultra-quiet electric glass-bottom boat boats that glide effortlessly across the calm waters, families will be introduced the underwater world of Florida’s freshwater springs in a way that offers unparalleled views of the underwater marine life.
Bring or rent a kayak and explore the Silver Springs waterways and you’ll be treated to wild monkeys, manatees, alligators, and otters. Not to mention countless colorful birds.
The one experience that Silver Springs lacks for family fun is swimming. So make sure that you don’t pack your swim trunks for this one.
Myakka River State Park is a beautiful and family-friendly Florida State Park where you could easily spend a few days to a week exploring.
Situated just an hour south of Tampa Bay, Myakka River is home to some of the largest alligators in southern Florida.
Kids will get a kick out of the thousands of birds roosting in the trees and along the shores including Roseate Spoonbills, Falcons, Cranes, Ibises, Storks, Pelicans, Owls, Gulls, and Terns.
Throughout the 58 square miles of wetlands, forests, and prairies you’ll find excellent wildlife attractions, some of the best kayaking in Florida, and one of the first canopy walks in the United States, which stretches for 100 ft and reaches up to 25 feet in height. There are also lake tours offered where guests can explore the waters on the world’s largest airboats.
Myakka River State Park has 90 campsites and cabins with electrical hookups and water available for RVs. Make sure you stop at the on-site cafe, which serves up great food for lunch.
You’ll have to leave the car behind for this family-friendly Florida State Park. But Caladesi Island State Park is worth the extra effort of getting there.
Located on Caladesi Island, just off the shores of Clearwater and a short drive from Tampa Bay, this barrier island offers unspoiled beauty. The fact that you either need to walk across a narrow causeway from Clearwater Beach or take a 20-minute ferry ride from Honeymoon Island State Park (or a private boat if you have access to one) to get here is a big factor in just how pristine this island paradise is.
Once you arrive you’ll find a white sand beach that is teeming with shells and sand dollars which my kids could spend hours collecting. You’ll also find a three-mile-long nature trail that wanders through the forests and 1880s Scharrer Homestead (there’s not much remaining of the buildings themselves).
Beware though, the island is home to Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes. They’re shy and cautious, so you’re unlikely to see them. But don’t go stomping through the rocks just in case.
You can rent kayaks, beach chairs and umbrella’s to enjoy a long day on the sand and sea. Beware though, that the area is known for heavy boat traffic (A big thank you to reader Chuck Briske for this tip). And you can either bring your own food for a picnic or visit the on-site restaurant, Cafe Caladesi, at the marina. There’s also a popular playground for young kids.
My family has a deep passion for SCUBA diving, snorkeling, and life beneath the waves. And while it’s not quite family snorkeling and SCUBA diving in the Caribbean, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park still packs a punch when it comes to the best State Parks in Florida for families.
Offering some of the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys, this is an incredible stop for those doing a road trip through the Florida keys.
Visitors can rent kayaks or canoes and paddle the mangrove-lined shores or even book a snorkel tour that will give you the chance to explore the first undersea park in the United States.
Under the waves, you’ll find a treasure trove of fish, coral reefs, and sunken statues that make up an underwater sculpture museum. One of the most popular is a bronze replica of Christ the Redeemer (the original of which towers above Rio de Janeiro in Brazil). The statue is slowly being reclaimed by the sea and is covered with gorgeous and colorful corals.
Families won’t want to miss the John Pennekamp Visitor Center either. It features a massive 30,000-gallon salt water aquarium. This is worth the visit alone, and is especially nice for those who might not feel comfortable snorkeling in the open waters themselves.
This Florida State Park features great swimming on Canon Beach, which hosts the remnants of an ancient Spanish shipwreck just 100 feet offshore.
The park is home to some beautiful and rather lazy hiking trails including the 4.5 mile Pine Island Trail. All of them are relatively flat, and many include boardwalks that skirt through the vine-strewn forests and hot water springs.
From mid-November to March, manatees flock here in droves from the cold ocean water to enjoy the cozy 72-degree crystal-clear springs.