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GET OUT AND ENJOY THE REAL FLORIDA
 
(2014 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: DEBI LANDER



Late winter and early spring getaways to Florida rank as some of the best times to visit the Sunshine State.

Temperatures run mild to hot, depending on how far south you go. You’ll find real fun in a variety of activities at the 171 Florida State Parks: garden tours, birding trails, beach days, orienteering, photography, history and sports.

Peaceful and Enlightening

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is home to one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. See alligators, turtles, deer and birds. Daily guided riverboat tours provide a closer view of wildlife, and glass-bottom boat tours are offered when the water is clear. The Wakulla Springs Lodge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a National Natural Landmark, was built in 1937 by financier Edward Ball and is open year-round. A full-service dining room overlooks the spring and an overnight stay makes a peaceful retreat.

No author captured real Florida better than Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Visitors to her restored cracker-style homestead walk back in time to farm life in the 1930s. The park celebrates “The Year of The Yearling,” in honour of Marjorie’s publication in 1938, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. Even after 75 years, this story of a young boy and his pet fawn rings with authenticity. Log onto the park website for a list of related special events.

Orienteering combines navigational skills against the clock. Participants use a map and compass to reach each point on a course before their challengers. January 26 and 27 was the official kick-off to orienteering in the Suncoast area, held at beautiful Oscar Scherer State Park. Located on U.S. 41, three kilometres (two miles) south of Osprey, the park is also one of the best places to spot Florida scrub-jays, a threatened species. Try canoeing and kayaking along South Creek, a blackwater stream that flows to the Gulf of Mexico (rentals available). Freshwater and saltwater fishing is another option. The park maintains full-facility campsites.

Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park is the site of a battle re-enactment (February 14–16) and one that’s especially delightful for photographers. The park, located near Lake City and 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of Jacksonville, was the site of Florida’s largest Civil War battle on February 20, 1864. More than 10,000 cavalry, infantry and artillery troops fought a five-hour battle in the nearby pine forest. Olustee Battlefield features a visitor centre with historical information and artifacts.

Travel Planner

For more information on these and other Florida State Parks, visit floridastateparks.org.

 
 
 
 
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