11 National Parks In Florida

- This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure.

Florida is a popular vacation destination best known for its amusement parks and beach resorts, but the state also has diverse and unique national parks. If you want to experience the beauty and diversity of nature, the national parks in Florida are where you should go.

There’s plenty to do in Florida’s national parks, from exploring the fort in Dry Tortugas National Park to discovering the secrets of the ecosystem of Everglades National Park. The three main national parks in Florida are Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park and Biscayne National Park. In addition to these Florida national parks, there are also national seashores, national preserves and national monuments to tick off your list.

11 National Parks In Florida

National Parks In Florida

1- Biscayne National Park

national parks in florida camping Biscayne National Park bay
Biscayne National Park in Florida at sunset.

At 172,971 acres (69,700 ha), Biscayne National Park in Homestead is the largest marine sanctuary in the United States.

The park is unique in that it is almost entirely submerged, providing unparalleled aquatic experiences.

Biscayne National Park supports a diverse range of wildlife, including endangered species such as the Schaus swallowtail butterfly, smalltooth sawfish, manatees, green and hawksbill sea turtles, and the American crocodile.

More than 100 bird species, including pelagic birds, 200 fish species, soft and hard coral, and even whales, can be found in the park.

Things To Do
  • Snorkelling

Because the park is mainly underwater, go snorkelling to admire coral reefs and shipwrecks.

  • Paddlesports

Paddleboarding, canoeing and kayaking are excellent ways to explore the park’s stunning mangrove shorelines and shallow bay. In addition, you can see more of the islands by taking guided boat tours.

  • Camping

The park has two campgrounds, which are only accessible by boat, on Boca Chita and Elliott Keys islands.

How To Get To The Park

The closest city to the park, Homestead, has a free trolley that runs into the park’s Dante Fascell Visitor Center and the Homestead Bayfront Marina.

2- Dry Tortugas National Park

national parks in florida internal view of Fort Jefferson
Fort Jefferson is a massive but unfinished coastal fortress consisting of over 16 million bricks and almost occupying the whole of Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park. It’s one of the interesting sites to see in the national parks in Florida.

Dry Tortugas National Park consists of seven small islands off the coast of Key West and is a hidden gem that you can only reach by boat or seaplane.

The 64,701-acre (26,183-ha) park consists mainly of open water, with seven islands rising above the sea. 

The park was established in 1935 to protect the island and marine ecosystems of the Dry Tortugas, and it is home to the picturesque Garden Key Lighthouse and the magnificent 19th-century Fort Jefferson.

Things To Do
  • Visit Fort Jefferson

Fort Jefferson is on Garden Key, the second largest island in the Dry Tortugas. The fort was built with over 16 million bricks and offers beautiful views of the calm waters.

  • Birdwatching

One of the best nature activities is to go bird watching and due to the diversity of bird species.

There are over 300 bird species that hang out on the islands and they also serve as a stopover for migrating birds.

  • Snorkelling

The park’s crystal clear waters offer some of the best snorkelling experiences in the country, as it is home to some of the most vibrant coral reefs and marine life.

How To Get To The Park

You can reach the remote Dry Tortugas National Park by seaplane, charter boats, private boats or ferry. The ferry journey is about three hours each way.

3- Everglades National Park

what is florida national parks three alligators in the water
One of the sights to see in Everglades National Park in Florida are the alligators.

Everglades National Park is about 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Miami, making it one of the most accessible national parks in Florida.

The national park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, at 1.5 million acres (610,660 ha), and is an International Biosphere Reserve.

Created in 1934 to protect an unspoilt landscape of swamps, marshes, tall grass plains and mangroves, the park has been recognised as a Wetland of International Importance and a World Heritage Site.

Everglades National Park has one of the most diverse ecosystems globally, and it is home to rare and endangered species like the American crocodile, Florida panther and West Indian manatee.

Things to Do
  • Bicycling
how many national parks are in florida Roseate Spoonbill
A Roseate Spoonbill in Everglades National Park, Florida.

Bike trails wind through tropical hardwood forests, coastal prairie, and pine forests, providing excellent wildlife viewing and birdwatching opportunities.

  • Boating
florida national parks itinerary two kayakers seen through the mangroves
Kayaking in the mangroves in Everglades National Park in Florida is one of the ways to get close to nature.

Boating is another excellent way to explore the wetlands of the Everglades. Several companies provide boat tours through the water trails, and you may even see some alligators. Other ways of exploring the waters are kayaking and canoeing.

  • Camping

You can go camping at two developed campgrounds, Long Pine Key or Flamingo, and there are also primitive and beach campgrounds available in the park.

Other activities in the park include fishing, slough slogging, hiking, birdwatching and wildlife viewing.

How To Get To The Park
florida national parks camping timber deck through the forest
Some national parks in Florida have facilities like timber decks over the Everglades swamp to make it easier for visitors to enjoy nature.

The park’s main headquarters is the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. Take the Florida Turnpike (Route 821) to U.S. 1 in Florida City, then to Palm Drive (State Road 9336/SW 344th St.) and follow the signs to the park.

National Preserves and National Seashores

4- Big Cypress National Preserve

national parks in florida airboat big cypress
For a fun adventure, ride an airboat in Big Cypress national park in Florida.

Big Cypress National Preserve is a national park in southern Florida, west of Miami, spread over 720,000 acres (291,374 ha).

This national park in Florida was established in 1974 as the country’s first national preserve to protect the vast Big Cypress Swamp.

About a million visitors a year head here to see the preserve’s natural landscapes and habitats, such as cypress swamps, grasslands, pinelands, hardwood hammocks and a mangrove estuary.

The preserve protects various plants and wildlife, including endangered species such as Florida panthers, wood storks, and red-cockaded woodpeckers.

Rare orchids, ferns, and bromeliads can also be found here.

Things to Do
national parks in florida list everglades forest
A typical cypress forest in Everglades National Park in Florida.
  • Stargazing

Big Cypress National Preserve is an International Dark Sky Site, where the night’s sky is filled with thousands of stars you can see with your naked eye.

  • Explore the swamp

Take ranger-led swamp hikes or canoe and kayak trips to discover the swamp’s secrets from the water.

Licenced commercial service providers also conduct swamp buggy, airboat and flatboat tours.

  • Camping

There are eight campgrounds in the park, with over 100 campsites to choose from and backcountry camping options.

  • Birdwatching

The park also has hundreds of different bird species, making it an excellent location for birdwatching.

How To Get To The Park

You can get to the Big Cypress from Miami or Naples. The park is near Tamiami Trail East and I-75 in southern Florida. The two visitor centres of the park are located along Tamiami Trail East.

5- Canaveral National Seashore

south florida national parks beach and waves
The pristine shoreline at Canaveral National Seashore makes it one of the national parks in Florida you will love to escape to.

Canaveral National Seashore is a 58,000-acre (23,472-ha) national park along Florida’s east coast, located between New Smyrna Beach and Titusville.

It has nearly 24 miles (39 km) of undeveloped coastline, making it one of the longest in the United States.

The park has a variety of habitats – including barrier islands, open lagoons, pine flatwoods and coastal hammocks – that are home to a diversity of plants and animals.

Among the threatened and endangered species found here are the manatee, southern bald eagle, wood stork, peregrine falcon, right whale, and various sea turtle species.

Mosquito Lagoon is a biodiverse area that is a breeding and nesting ground for numerous aquatic species.

Things to Do
  • Castle Windy Trail

This easy trail winds its way through a coastal hammock forest. At the end of the trail, there is a secluded beach with a Timucuan shell midden.

  • Rocket Launch Viewing

Canaveral National Seashore is one of the best places to watch rocket launches, as it is close to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS).

Other popular activities at the seashore include canoeing, kayaking, surfing, sunbathing, fishing, hunting, swimming, birdwatching, and camping.

How To Get To The Park

The Canaveral National Seashore is accessible from the northern Apollo and New Smyrna beaches and the southern Playalinda Beach.

6- Gulf Islands National Seashore
florida national parks Rodman Smooth Bore Cannon
The Rodman Smooth Bore Cannon at Fort Pickens in Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Gulf Islands National Seashore is on the Gulf Coast, straddling Florida and southern Mississippi.

This 135,457-acre (55,000-ha) national park protects barrier islands, beautiful white beaches, lush coastal wetlands and historical landscapes.

Millions of visitors come to the nation’s most extensive national seashore to relax on the white sand next to the ocean or to enjoy the many recreational opportunities.

The wetlands are a treasure trove of plants and animals, such as bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles and jellyfish.

Things to Do
  • Birdwatching

The diverse ecosystems of the national seashore attract a wide variety of birdlife, with over 200 bird species identified within the park.

Skimmers, pelicans, great blue herons, and snowy plovers are just a few common species.

  • Hiking

Hiking by the beach and exploring the islands is another great way to enjoy the park.

Several developed hiking trails take you through coastal forests, wooded areas and past historic forts.

  • Swimming

In summer, go swimming and snorkelling in the clear water along the shoreline of the Gulf.

There are four lifeguard swimming areas with picnic tables, showers, restrooms, and changing rooms.

Other recreational activities available at the seashore include camping, fishing, hunting, snorkelling, wildlife viewing, biking, and boating.

How To Get To The Park

Reach the Gulf Islands National Seashore by taking U.S. Route 98 or Florida State Road 281.

7- Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve protects one of the few undeveloped coastal wetlands on the Atlantic Coast.

The 46,000-acre (18,615 ha) is home to a diverse range of plants and wildlife.

The Timucuan Preserve includes the estuary that runs along the rivers and creeks feeding the St. John’s River basin.

Also protected here is a range of historic and cultural sites which has exhibits that whisk you through the centuries from the time of the Timucuans to the present day.

Things to Do
  • Fort Caroline

Tour Fort Caroline and learn about the relationship between the Timucuans, French explorers and Spanish colonists.

  • Kingsley Plantation

The Kingsley Plantation, built in 1798, depicts the daily life of the enslaved people of African descent who worked for the plantation’s owner, Zephaniah Kingsley, as he sought to build his fortune.

  • Theodore Roosevelt Area

This is a 600-acre (243-ha) natural gem that contains ecosystems of pine flatwoods, hardwood hammocks, and marshy wetlands.

This area has a rich cultural heritage to discover and excellent hiking trails with spectacular views.

How To Get To The Park

You can get to the park from major roads and highways in Jacksonville, FL, and from the St. Johns River on a ferry.

National Monuments and Memorials

8- Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

national parks florida Aerial view of Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in Saint Augustine, Florida.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in Saint Augustine is one of the impressive Florida national parks sites to tick off your list.

The historic Castillo de San Marcos fort is housed in the 20-acre (8-ha) Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in downtown St. Augustine.

The Spanish built the fort between 1672 and 1695 to protect Florida and the Atlantic trade route from the British and pirates.

It was later passed down to the British and then to the Americans, and it was essential during the Civil and Spanish–American wars.

The fort is the country’s oldest masonry fort and the only surviving 17th-century fort.

Castillo de San Marcos is one of two forts in the world made of coquina, a naturally occurring limestone composed of shell fragments that have proven to be resistant to cannon fire.

Things to Do
  • Explore the Fort

Explore the unique masonry of the fort while viewing the exhibits. Brochures, maps, and even a park app are available on site for a self-guided tour.

  • Engage with Park Rangers

Park Rangers give interpretive talks about the lives and experiences of the Europeans who lived here.

Regular historical reenactments in period dress and historical weapon displays take you back into history.

How To Get To The Park

Castillo of San Marcos is easily accessible from Interstate 95, about a 5-mile (8-km) drive.

9- De Soto National Memorial

De Soto National Memorial is a 26-acre (10-ha) park near Bradenton on Florida’s western coast.

The memorial commemorates the landing of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, who led the first organised European expedition to what is now southern USA.

In May 1539, Hernando de Soto and his army landed in Tampa Bay, following King Charles V’s orders to find gold and conquer new territories in La Florida.

This Florida national park site tells the story of the expedition and the resistance of the indigenous people, as well as its significance in American history.

Things to Do
  • Visitor Center

The Visitor Centre exhibits historical armour, 16th-century weapons, and historical items.

It also has a park store and a theatre where you can watch the short film called ‘Hernando de Soto in America.’

  • Camp Uzita

In winter, you can attend a living history programme at Camp Uzita, where rangers in period dress re-enact De Soto’s historic arrival on the beaches and perform weapon demonstrations.

  • Birdwatching

Birdwatchers flock to the park in the fall and early spring to see a variety of species such as gulls, great egrets, bald eagles, herons and American white pelicans.

  • Other Activities

There are several small beaches along the Manatee River to choose from.

There are also interpretive and nature trails that tell the story of the De Soto Expedition and the area’s natural history.

Other park activities include ranger-led kayak excursions, camping, boating, fishing, and picnics.

How To Get To The Park

Many roads lead to State Road 64, from which you can take 75th Street West and the De Soto Memorial Highway into the park. Boaters can also access the park from the Manatee River.

10- Fort Caroline National Memorial

national parks florida fort caroline national memorial arch
Exploring Fort Caroline is one of the things to tick off your Florida national parks list.

Fort Caroline National Memorial, located on the St. Johns River’s southern bank, commemorates the short French colonial presence in 16th-century Florida.

The Spanish conquered and demolished the original Fort Caroline, replacing it with their own.

The French later burned it down, but it was rebuilt by the Spanish and abandoned permanently within a year.

The fort’s exact location is unknown, and the memorial is now managed as part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve as a single unit by the National Park Service.

Things to Do
  • Ribault Monument

The Ribault Monument is a monument marker located on a high bank above the St. Johns River that marks the location where the French disembarked their ships in 1562 to claim Florida for France.

  • Spanish Pond

The battle between the French and the Spaniards took place around the Spanish Pond.

It is even possible that Spanish soldiers camped here the night before storming Fort de la Caroline in 1565.

  • Visitor Center

Brush up on history by viewing the exhibits from the time of the indigenous Timucuans and periods of French, Spanish and British dominance.

  • Nature Trail

A nearby nature trail provides a close look at the surrounding ecosystem of saltmarsh and hardwood forest, as it might have been when the first Europeans arrived.

How To Get To The Park

The park is near the intersection of Monument Road and Fort Caroline Road, about 14 miles (23 km) east of Downtown Jacksonville. You can also access it through the St. John’s River Ferry.

11- Fort Matanzas National Monument

national parks in florida Fort Matanzas with flag
Fort Matanzas is a national monument managed by Florida national parks and is a fascinating historical relic to explore.

The 228 acres (92 ha) Fort Matanzas National Monument protects a coastal ecosystem of dunes, marshes and maritime forest 15 miles (24 km) south of St. Augustine.

The park’s main attraction, Fort Matanzas, is a masonry fort built by the Spanish between 1740 and 1742 to protect the Matanzas Inlet from British and other enemy attacks.

The fort was only used once, in 1742, when British ships attempted to enter the inlet but were forced into retreat because of the cannon-resistant walls of the fort, made of coquina stone.

These days, the fort is a monument of the early Spanish empire in the south of the USA. 

Things to Do
  • Tour the Fort

Rangers at the fort hold reenactments and living history displays regularly to help you learn about the fort’s history and the park’s nature and culture.

  • Explore the Park

Relax and enjoy a picnic on the park’s unspoilt beach or walk around the park to explore the Matanzas Inlet.

  • Nature Trail

Fort Matanzas has a lovely half-mile boardwalk trail that winds through a maritime coastal forest.

How To Get To The Park

Fort Matanzas is located about 14 miles (22.5 km) south of Saint Augustine on State Route A1A. 

Previous article17 Colorado National Parks
Next article6 Idaho National Parks
Christina Pfeiffer is a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia. She has lived in three continents and her career as a travel journalist has taken her to all seven continents. Since 2003, she has contributed travel stories and photographs to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. She has won many travel writing awards and is a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.