Natural wonders of Florida

Bike Riding FloridaWant to experience Florida naturally and get away from the daily grind in Naples Florida? The natural wonders of Florida are areas accessible to the avid cyclist or hiking enthusiast and just miles away from Naples. Whether you are a weekend athlete or a fitness guru, you’re sure to find a great getaway that is just what you are looking for. Fun and fitness guaranteed!

Babcock Wilderness Adventures
Man and nature live in harmony at Babcock’s 90,000-acre Crescent B Ranch in historic Punta Gorda on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Panthers, cougars, American bison and wild alligators live in the unspoiled pinewoods, fresh water marshes and famous Telegraph Cypress Swamp. Take a guided nine-mile tour through the swamp on a specialized 21-speed off-road bike. Toll free (800) 500-5583 or visit their website at www.babcockwilderness.com.

St. Joseph Peninsula
Nature trails abound at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in Florida’s Northwest Region. Surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and St. Joseph Bay, the northern part of the park is a 1,650-acre wilderness preserve where you can hike through a coastal hammock, maritime oak community and a salt marsh. (850) 227-1327.

Sebastian Inlet
Hike on three miles of sandy beach at the Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area at Melbourne Beach in Brevard County. The park is situated on the tips of two barrier islands, with the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the Indian River Lagoon to the west and the Sebastian Inlet flowing in between. You can watch of some of the best surfing on the East Coast of Florida. (321) 984-4852.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Bird watch while you hike on 19 new birding trails developed in Citrus County as part of the Great Florida Birding Trail’s West Section. The Pepper Creek Trail at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park has monthly bird walks. Call for information (352) 628-5343.

Best Running Trail
The best running trail in South Florida can be found in Hollywood right on the waterfront. A 2.5-mile 27-foot-wide walkway includes a bicycle, rollerblading and running path. The pedestrian-friendly beach-area running trail and bike path stretches more than five miles through a beautiful wildlife preserve and nature park. Toll free (800) 231-5562.

St. Petersburg/Clearwater
In addition to 35 miles of picturesque beaches, the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area features an award-winning park system with hiking and biking trails.

The Pinellas Trail, a 47-mile long, 15-foot wide trail runs from the sponge docks of Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg. (727) 549-6099.

At Honeymoon Island located in the Gulf of Mexico on the Dunedin Causeway visitors can observe wild osprey in one of the few remaining virgin slash pine stands along the island’s northern loop trail. (727) 469-5942.

From Honeymoon Island there is an hourly ferry to Caladesi Island, one of the state’s few remaining undisturbed barrier islands. A three-mile nature trail winds through the interior or just walk along the beach. (727) 469-5918.

It’s Our Nature, an eco-tour adventure guide service, offers six guided nature walks through Caladesi Island. Romantics will love the Full Moon Walk with T’ai Chi! (727) 441-2599 or www.itsournature.com.

Weedon Island is a 1,500 acre nature preserve near St. Petersburg, featuring a 45-foot observation tower, nine-mile hiking trail and Native American Cultural Center. (727) 217-7208.

On Saturdays the Brooker Creek Preserve, an 8,000-acre site near Tarpon Springs offers free, three-mile guided nature hikes. (727) 943-4000.

Hikes and night walks can be experienced at the Moccasin Lake Nature Park in Clearwater. The 50-acre park features a lake, upland forest, wetlands and many native plants and animals. (727) 462-6024.

There are six trails to choose from at the Boyd Hill Nature Trail in St. Petersburg and 216 acres of natural beauty. (727) 893-7326.

Accessible by Pinellas Bayway off I-275, Fort De Soto Park has a historic fort built during the Spanish-American War. Located on Mullet Key, the park’s attractions include 900 unspoiled acres, seven miles of beaches and a 2,000-foot barrier-free nature trail for visitors with disabilities. (727) 582-2267.

A mile of elevated boardwalk winds through a maple swamp at Sawgrass Lake Park, a 360-acre park in St. Petersburg, featuring an observation tower. Visit the Environmental Education Center for a self-guide booklet for the trails. (727) 217-7256.

Navarre Beach
Visitors to Navarre Beach can bike on the new off-road bike path extending from the Navarre Beach area west to Pensacola, a 30-mile trek that runs through the pristine shoreline that comprises the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Recognized by the Florida Trail Association, this trail also includes the largest state forest, Blackwater River. (800) 480-7263 or www.beaches-rivers.com

St. George Island
A 25-mile barrier island, St. George Island is popular with families because they can rent bicycles and pedal powered carriages. The State Park on the East End of the island is the longest beachfront State Park in Florida. It has hiking trails, dune walkovers and miles of paved winding bike trails. (850) 927-2111.

Greater Fort Lauderdale
Greater Fort Lauderdale offers almost 300 parks, nature preserves and wilderness areas perfect for hiking and biking. The Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area is the former site of an oceanfront estate, containing the last significant remnant of maritime hammock forest in Broward County. (954) 564-4521.

A free boat shuttle transports visitors to the 56-acre Deerfield Island Park, which features the picturesque Coquina and Mangrove Trails as well as the Fern Forest Nature Center. (954) 360-1320.

Markham Park is considered one of the best areas for mountain biking in South Florida. (954) 389-2000.

Alachua County
Alachua County in North Florida is where you will find the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail State Park which stretches for 16 miles. The recreational trail passes through 17 distinct natural communities with hawks, alligators, snakes, turtles and deer. (352) 466-3397.

The Florida Trail
Just an hour’s drive west of Miami, the Florida Trail starts its northern journey in the Big Cypress Preserve, a semi-tropical ecosystem featuring cypress trees draped with orchids. The 1,000 miles of trail is bordered by rivers and lakes and surrounded by forests of palms, pine, cypress and moss-draped live oaks. Wildlife abounds. (352) 378-8823 or www.floridatrail.org.

Indian River County
The marshes of the St. Johns River Basin are part of a 62-mile levee system. Playful otters and sunning alligators, egrets and eagles, wild deer and bobcat are among the inhabitants. (407) 984-4940.