The parks are a national treasure that so many of us never get a chance to appreciate. In fact, I didn’t visit my first national park site until I was 28 years old when I visited Fort Matanzas with my son on a spring break trip to St. Augustine, Florida at the recommendation of a friend. Since then, it’s been an adventure goal for me to visit all of the National Parks in Florida.
We have all heard of the famous Big 62 National Parks like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Yosemite, etc. But how many of the National Parks can you name in the state you live in? How many of those have you visited in your own state of residence?
Probably not many, and I’m sure it’s not really that you don’t want to. Perhaps you just didn’t know where they were located or all of the activities that were offered. Moon USA National Parks Guide is a great resource to help you learn about the National Parks near you, how to get there, and other nearby attractions.
I partnered with Moon Travel Guides on the launch of their updated USA National Parks guide to create this comprehensive list of all the National Parks in Florida, including the traditional National Parks, preserves, memorials, and monuments in Florida that are in the National Park System.
How many National Parks in Florida?
There are 11 officially recognized national park service units in Florida consisting of preserves, monuments, memorials, and seashores. One of Florida’s national parks is actually recognized as a World Heritage Site. Any guesses which one?
Yep, you guessed it. Everglades National Park is the national park in Florida that is designated as a World Heritage Site. It’s no wonder since it is home to the second-largest mangrove forest in the world!
Florida National Parks List
Big Cypress National Preserve
Things to Do: Hiking, RV and tent camping, backcountry camping, art exhibits, wildlife viewing, scenic drives, guided canoe trips, night sky & astronomy programs. There are also commercial operators that provide swamp buggies, kayaking, and hunting.
Big Cypress National Preserve is home to the famous Clyde Butcher Gallery and definitely worth planning a stop to visit. I had the amazing opportunity to meet Mr. Butcher and his family and participate in a guided swamp walk to some of the same locations where he has taken some of his most famous pictures.
Biscayne National Park
Miami, Key Biscayne & Homestead, FL
Things to do: boating, camping, guided canoe/kayak trips, scuba, snorkeling, marine life museum, wildlife viewing, lighthouse
Biscayne is mostly popular for water-based activities, however, if you visit the Dante Fascell Visitor’s Center there is a trail along the water that leads to a footbridge over to the jetty to Convoy Point. It’s a short walk but very scenic with a shaded path and water on both sides.
You may even spot a green iguana!
Canaveral National Seashore
Titusville and New Smyrna Beach, FL
Things to do: beach, nature trails, wildlife viewing, manatee observation area, boating, backcountry island camping
Canaveral is 24 miles of beach on a barrier island on the east coast of Florida. You won’t find a beach with a view quite like this. From the southern end of the park on Playalinda Beach, you can see the NASA launch pads.
Nearby is the Merritt National Wildlife Refuge, home to a great spot for manatee watching.
Castillo De San Marcos National Monument
St. Augustine, FL
Things to do: explore the fort, attend ranger programs, live weapons demonstrations on certain days
Castillo De San Marcos is the oldest masonry fortification in the continental United States. When you visit you can download the park app to go on a self-guided tour of the fort. There are also volunteers and rangers that walk around dressed in period dress to answer your questions about life back then and the history of the fort.
De Soto National Memorial
Things to do: free ranger-led kayak tour, ranger-guided hike, educational film, historical reenactment program
This national memorial is free to enter and explore. Our adventure group took the ranger led hike along the trail that meanders along the coastline of mangroves. I also love that unlike many other national parks, this park is pet friendly.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Key West, FL
Things to do: explore Fort Jefferson, snorkel, beach, diving, camping, paddlesports
Dry Tortugas National Park is about 70 miles from Key West and only accessible by boat or seaplane. There is a daily ferry that runs from Key West to take you to the island.
Camping spots are limited so it’s recommended that you reserve your spot on the boat well in advance. It’s a great place for stargazing since the remote location will provide for little to no light pollution.
This is also a dream location for snorkel and diving enthusiast with pristine clear waters.
Everglades National Park
Miami, Naples, and Homestead, FL
Things to do: airboat tours, hiking, wildlife viewing, camping, boat tours, slough slogging, fishing, kayaking, boating, biking
Everglades National Park is the largest of the national parks in Florida. There are three park gates and several visitors centers.
Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center – Entrance is located in Homestead, FL. Home to numerous hiking trails, boat tours, kayaking, Flamingo campground, saltwater crocodiles, manatees, and many bird species
Shark Valley Visitor Center – Entrance located just off U.S. 41. Home to tram tours, bicycle paths, an observation tower, and boardwalks.
Gulf Coast Visitor Center – Entrance is located in Everglades City, FL. There is a pier on the water that is great for bird watching. You can take a boat tour through the famed Ten Thousand Islands.
Each of the entrances leads to different areas and different activities in the park so you’ll want to use the guide to research and plan your visits.
One of the great ways to see the wildlife in the Everglades is to take a boat tour into the backwaters from the Flamingo Visitors Center or catch a boat through the Ten Thousand Islands from the Gulf Coast Visitor’s Center.
There are many hiking trails throughout the park and the views of this vast oasis are unforgettable.
If you’re lucky, the highlight of your trip may be seeing American crocodiles near Flamingo Visitor’s Center or a panther sighting.
Fort Matanzas National Memorial
St. Augustine, FL
Things to do: Explore the fort, ferry boat, nature trails, kayaking, fishing, beach
Visit the preserved fortified coquina watchtower from the 1700s. They also do weapons demonstrations.
There’s a shaded nature trail boardwalk and a natural sandy trail along the water. Fort Matanzas is one of my favorite national parks in Florida to visit.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Gulf Breeze, FL
Things to do: Guided tour, beaches, snorkeling, hiking, fishing, camping, wildlife viewing
Home to Fort Pickens and other historical sites, this park has a lot to offer. These are some of the most beautiful and pristine beaches in Florida, especially Perdido.
Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor
Things to do: Historical sites, cultural tours, festivals
The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor extends from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and into Northern Florida. Gullah Geechee culture originated from Africans from West Africa who were enslaved on the rice, indigo and Sea Island cotton plantations of the lower Atlantic coast. Because of the isolated nature of those plantations, they were able to cultivate a distinctive culture of their own language, food, and music.
Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve and Fort Caroline National Memorial
Things to do: backwater kayaking, hiking, camping, Kingsley Plantation, educational programs
Fort Caroline on Amelia Island is home to American Beach, a place of cultural significance for Black Americans because it was a vacation destination where Black families were able to safely vacation in a beach town during the time of segregation in the south.
Timucuan has beautiful nature opportunities to explore by land along nature trails, kayaking, and beaches.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: Is there an entrance fee for the national parks in Florida?
A: Some of the parks are free like Desoto and Biscayne are free but others may have a fee. You can pay in advance online and show your receipt on your cell phone.
- Q: Are the parks national parks in Florida open during the pandemic?
A: Most of the parks are open in some capacity, however some of the amenities and tours may be affected. Go to NPS.gov to check the status of the individual parks.
- Q: What wildlife will I see in the national parks in Florida?
A: Florida has a wide variety of wildlife depending on the region. You may see deer, gopher tortoises, black bears, alligators, crocodiles, manatees, dolphins, snakes, and many species of birds and lizards.