Florida is a beautiful place, with water everywhere you go, lots of lush plants, trees, and beautiful flowers, and wildlife. Oh, and let’s not forget the beautiful weather. Living in Florida, you are just drawn to the outdoors. One of my favorite things to do is go and explore different parks, conservation areas, beaches, and trails. Here is my top “5” for places I enjoy to go for walks/hikes (there are many more and trust me, it was hard to narrow down, so I’ll have a few honorable mentions at the end).
Little Talbot Island State Park, Jacksonville, FL
This state park is located on the northeast coast of Jacksonville. It is an undeveloped barrier island (one of just a handful) that includes five miles of beach and over three miles of bike trails. The four mile Dune Ridge Trail will take you on a path of beautiful trees then over the dunes and along the beach where you’ll spot interesting driftwood skeletons. What I love about walking here . . . It is very peaceful, you mainly just hear the sounds of the ocean and breeze. Walking through the thick woods, I enjoyed all the tall trees and the shade that they provided. You can also view wildlife in nature – we saw a Gopher Tortoise as we entered the trail. The trail is easy to access and there is plenty of parking as well as bathrooms. The entry to the park is only $4-5 per car. The thing I love most about this walk is all the cool driftwood structures along the beach. I pictured just a couple above. You really have to go check it out for yourself, you’ll be amazed at the beauty! For more information about this park, visit the Florida State Park Website.
Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (North), Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
This is one of only 29 Estuarine Reserves in our country! Located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida on Guana River Road, it is easily accessible from A1A coming from Jacksonville or St. Augustine. Located between the Guana River and the Tolomato River and surrounded by lots of trees, it is a beautiful place to hike and enjoy nature. There are six trails covering over 9 miles! Trail Map. You can also cross A1A and walk the beach. What I love about walking here . . . It is a conservation area, so it has been preserved to its natural beauty. This is natural Florida at it’s best. It is also very peaceful here, especially if you go during a weekday. You can also view wildlife. My boys and husband have seen snakes, raccoons, deer, a wild hog, and even a baby alligator. There are always a wide of variety of birds as well. My boys also like to go here to fish. It’s a little bit of a walk over to the river, but it’s pretty good fishing, so well worth the walk. The trails consist of a variety of habitats, including open freshwater savannas, scrub, live oak hammocks, salt marshes, and scrubby flatwoods. The parking fee is $3.00. There are restrooms as well as an educational facility. For more information: https://www.gtmnerr.org.
Washington Oaks Garden State Park, Palm Coast, FL
Located in Flagler County, just south of St. Augustine, this state park has it all … a unique coquina beach, access to the intracoastal waterway, formal gardens, huge oak trees, and more! Washington Oaks is just a short drive down A1A from St. Augustine, close to Marineland. There is a 1.8 mile loop for hiking and biking, the Bella Vista Trail, that explores a mature coastal maritime hammock and ventures into the edge of a dense canopied coastal scrub. While at the park, you can also walk around and view the intracoastal waterway and the formal gardens (including the beautiful roses!) Don’t forget to make a stop across A1A to view the massive coquina rock formations along the beach, it’s absolutely beautiful! Check out my blog post about Washington Oaks for even more info and photos. I love walking at this park because it is probably the most beautiful and serene place around. Everytime I walk here, I feel so relaxed and I always see something spectacular in nature there. I’ve seen many birds, dolphin, and one time I even saw an owl! In addition to hiking, this is also another place to fish and it is a very popular spot for photography. There are restrooms and ample parking, which costs $5. For more info, visit the Florida State Parks website.
Princess Place Preserve, Palm Coast, FL
Located in Flagler County, not too far from Washington Oaks, this park is located along Pellicer Creek/Matanzas River. There are 7 trails with over 6 miles to explore the park (most of the trails are equestrian trails as well). You’ll see marshes, swamps, a canopy of live oaks, a bay, estuaries, and so much more. You can certainly view a wide variety of wildlife here as well. What I like about this park … it’s beautiful! It’s serene! It’s historical too … It is the oldest homestead in Flagler and you will find the first ever in-ground swimming pool. I love the beautiful trees as well, which are perfect for photos! It’s also a great place to go kayaking and fishing. Admission is free and there are restrooms. For more information, visit Flagler County’s website.
Ravine Gardens State Park, Palatka, FL
Unlike the other parks, this park is not located along the coast. It is approximately 50 minutes west of St. Augustine. What makes this park unique are the ravines. The ravines are up to 120 feet deep! Back in 1933, the ravines were transformed into a beautiful garden. What makes this park famous are the beautiful azaleas that bloom between January and March … I highly recommend a visit during this time! This park offers a walk on the wild side, a 2 1/2 mile trail that winds through the park’s ravine systems or less-challenging causal walk along the 1.8 mile paved loop. Along the rustic and shady trail that goes through the ravines, you can cross suspension bridges, traverse stone staircases, hike on narrow and steep paths as well as muddy bottoms. It’s a little bit challenging, but totally doable and a worth the views. For those that need a paved path, this loop circles around the ravines and offers views from above. My favorite things about this park include, the view, the beautiful azaleas, and the challenging walk … great exercise! The parking fee is $5 and restrooms are available. Visit the Florida State Parks website for more information.
As I mentioned above, it was very hard to pick just 5 parks I enjoy to go to for walking/hiking. I feel so fortunate to have so many great places to enjoy! Here are a few honorable mentions:
Anastasia State Park – park trails and a beautiful beach to walk!
Jacksonville Arboretum – 120 acre urban woodland, several trails easy to difficult.
Be sure to follow my blog to read about more fun places to visit in St. Augustine and Florida! Also, like and follow my Facebook page to see more photos and posts about my Florida life! If you enjoyed this post, give me a like and share in the comments with me some of your favorite places to walk in Northeast Florida. ~Kristina~