Step Outside - Florida WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 http://stepoutside.org/ Step Outside - Florida 144 144 http://stepoutside.org/ https://cdn-step.americantowns.com/img/stepoutside_logo.gif Sun, 19 May 2024 03:07:36 -0500 5 Energizing Hikes in Florida While Florida may be better known for its beautiful beaches and ocean views, the state also offers an incredible hiking scene that shouldn’t be ignored. There’s nothing quite like the therapy of a walk in the woods to clear your mind and help you escape the sights and sounds of everyday life. Even better, a good hike is just as healthy for the body as it is for the mind. If you’re looking for a challenging yet enjoyable hike, these five energizing hiking trails in Florida are just what Mother Nature ordered.

Myakka River State Park features over 38 miles of looped trails with plenty of crossovers that help you make your hike as long or short as you like. The trail system offers a variety of terrain, everything from dry prairie to marshes to heavily-wooded areas. Late fall is the perfect opportunity to traverse the area as summer heat here can be extremely hot, especially in the prairie lands. For an invigorating hike, start at the trailhead just off North Road (on the left if you’re coming from the North Gate). Here you can embark on a hikers-only trail that can take you deep into the park. Beware the alligators!

Located in Lake Kissimmee State Park, this seven-mile trail takes you deep through some of Florida’s most beautiful wonders. Full of wet prairies, oak hammocks, and pine flatwoods, hikers will marvel at the variety of habitats and terrain along the way, including the abundance of deer in the area. The trail itself isn’t especially difficult, but its length signals you should be in decent shape if you want to make it from start to finish.

Just east of Tampa lies one of Florida’s most surprising, best kept secrets: whitewater. Take the Alderman’s Ford Nature Preserve Trail to see it for yourself. This trail winds over three miles through the 10,000-acre preserve, showing you glimpses of the Alafia River as it crashes over limestone boulders and shows you a side of the Sunshine State you may have thought you’d only find in the mountains.

Take your pick between the four-mile loop or its shorter 2.2-mile counterpart here—they’re both equally scenic and enjoyable. The trailhead begins in the midst of Babcock Ranch, so you’re likely to see cattle roaming free. In fact, these free-range cattle are what make this trail so interesting (in addition to other wildlife, such as deer and raccoon). You may even see real cowboys wrangling them as you traverse the area, giving you entertainment as you enjoy your fairly moderate hike. 

This hike could go on for over eight miles if you wanted it to, but it’s been divided into two separate trails because of a land dispute. If you prefer a shorter hike, the down-and-back trail provides a total of nearly six miles of Florida beauty. As one of the most scenic hikes in the northern part of the state, this trail parallels the glistening Withlacoochee River at certain points and takes you through the ghost town of Ellaville. If you’re looking for them, you’ll also see remnants of other historic structures along the way, including the Drew Mansion Ruins. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-florida Fri, 12 Apr 2024 00:00:00 -0500
5 Beautiful Scenic Hikes in Florida Without question, Florida offers some of the most stunning shoreline sights and scenic vistas in the entire country. With the following five beautiful, awe-inspiring hikes, it’s easy to see why they call it the Sunshine State! In Florida, there’s a gorgeous hike for all levels of skill. Here are five of our favorites. 

Alderman’s Ford Park in Lithia, Florida, is one of the most accessible parks in the state. The Alderman’s Ford Park has an easy loop through a heavily wooded area. Enjoy the cypresses, oaks, and sand-bottomed streams. The loop is only 0.3 miles, which isn’t much for the serious hiker, but is perfect for those with minimal experience. Keep in mind that there is a $2 entrance fee.

The largest national forest in Florida, Apalachicola covers more than 600,000 acres of land and is perfect for the journeyman backpack hiker. Gander at the blooming pitcher plants each spring and venture into the Bradwell Bay Wilderness. The fees are generally $3 per vehicle, with additional camping fees at sites along the various trails. 

Alligator Lake provides one of the nicest day hikes in the state. Hiking is the park’s primary focus, with picnic areas, playgrounds, canoe launchings, and hiking trails sprinkled throughout. Take the Montgomery Trail for the longest loop around the lake, which is about three miles in length. At around the mile and a half mark, you’ll likely start to see alligators in the lake. Follow the dike to avoid a face-to-face. Check the website for a mile-marker breakdown. 

Bear Lake Trail is part of Blackwater River State Forest near Munson, Florida, and offers the perfect dog-friendly hike. The trail is a four-mile loop around a reservoir. Many visitors bring their pets. You might see alligators along the trail, but it’s more common to see various types of birds and anglers trying their luck on the water.

One of the best, quick, four-mile-long nature trails is through the Carney Island Recreation and Conservation Area near Ocklawaha, Florida. If you follow the Fox Trot Loop to Lemon Point, you’ll find panoramic views of Lake Weir. Wildlife lovers will enjoy spotting deer, fox squirrels, birds, and more. Keep in mind that there is a $5 fee to enter the park. 

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5 Exhilarating Jet Skiing Spots in Florida There’s much to see and do in Florida, but to experience some of the state’s best features, you’ll need to leave your land legs behind and take your sightseeing seaward. Florida’s seemingly infinite coastline and plentiful lakes make it an ideal spot for jet skiers of all skill levels. There are dozens of watersport companies offering rentals, guided tours, and expert instruction to give every thrill seeker exactly what they’re looking for. Grab your watercraft and go for a spin at one of these five scenic places to jet ski in Florida.

Key West is a place of pure beauty, whether you’re seeing the sites by land or sea. You can rent a jet ski from several locations on the island, then set sail for adventure. You’re likely to catch a glimpse of some of the sea life Key West is known for, such as turtles, dolphins, and sea birds. Consider booking a guided tour that can show you some of Key West’s most attractive sites.

For your best chance of a dolphin sighting, take a spin around Honeymoon and Caladesi Islands, located just off the coast of Clearwater. You can book a formal tour that shows you where the dolphins roam, as well as spot other wildlife you might not notice without a guide leading the way. Through Fin’s Jet Ski Tours & Pontoon Boat Cruises, you can take a private jet ski tour of Caladesi Island. You can park on the islands’ sandy beaches and enjoy a swim, or make your way through the mangroves when the tide permits. 

If you’ve ever wanted to explore the natural wonders of the Florida Everglades, there might be no better way than via jet ski. The Marco Island jet ski tour takes you through the mangrove forests and around the many islands that make up part of the southwest side of the everglades. On your way, you might catch a glimpse of dolphins and other wildlife that will make your tour unforgettable.

If you prefer to ditch the guided tour and unleash the power of the ride, you can rent a jet ski at Buena Vista Watersports and enjoy the open water at your own pace. This majestic lake will make you feel like you’re in the middle of paradise. You can rent your ride for 30 or 60 minutes and enjoy plenty of natural scenery along the way. Bonus tip: this rental spot is just minutes from all the major theme parks, which makes it a fun addition to any family vacation! 

You can register for a partially guided jet ski tour that takes you from the shore to Shell Island, a beautiful scenic spot that’s perfect for shell collecting, swimming, snorkeling, or lounging in the sun. If you want to skip the tour, you can rent a jet ski and head through St. Andrew Bay to Shell Island on your own. Along the way, look for bottlenose dolphins that are known to frequent the area. 

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5 Cool Spots for ATV Off-Roading in Florida The further you travel south in the United States, the greater the passion goes for off-roading. In Florida, you’ll find recreation parks and mud bogs designed for the most thrilling off-roading experiences. Discover thousands of acres of land just waiting to be explored on the back of an ATV. Start up your ATV and check out these five awesome off-roading spots in the Sunshine State. 

With “lakes for fishin’, skiin’ and waverunnin’, mud pits for gettin’ dirty, trails for motocrossin’ and hills of dirt and rock to challenge the best off-road vehicles and drivers,” Lazy Springs is an off-roading haven. This spot is well-loved by locals, as it provides ATV areas to tear through the water and get a little muddy. Lazy Springs also has regularly scheduled events so be sure to keep up with their Facebook page!

Croom is an excellent place to find your footing in the world of off-roading. Sitting on 2,600 acres of land, with smooth, well-maintained riding trails, all levels of experience can enjoy this spot. Not only do they offer an excellent space to hone your skills, they’ll actually teach you how to do it, too! Participate in a one-hour, two-hour or three-hour dirt bike or ATV training class with a professional. 

What was once an old logging community is now a thrilling mud bog and ATV area. This 1,100-acre outdoor family fun park offers areas for ATVs and UTVs to blast through the mud or explore the nearby forests. On the premises, you’ll also find RV sites and cabins in case you’re planning to stay the night. You might want to pack a change of clothes, because things can get a little muddy! 

This adventure park is geared toward families. Of the outdoor excitement available at the ranch, you’ll find ATV trails, camping, horse trails, fishing, a swamp buggy area, dirt biking area, mudding, and a whole lot more. The best part about Florida Cracker Ranch is that their ATV area is exciting for both the novice and advanced rider. The area can be rugged, but still accessible to those with less experience. Don’t worry, the trails are marked to indicate the level of difficulty. 

Big Cypress offers big fun as far as off-roading goes. The area is very remote, and is mostly explored by airboat and swamp buggy. Visit the national park website to see a trail map, and make sure to stay within the designated areas during your visit. There are many miles of trails to explore at Big Cypress, which is characterized by vast swamp areas and abundant, diverse wildlife. 

*Note: Age restrictions, special licenses, and other requirements for off highway vehicles vary from state to state. Before heading out on your OHV, please consult your local regulations.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-cool-spots-for-atv-off-roading-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-cool-spots-for-atv-off-roading-in-florida Mon, 08 Apr 2024 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails in Florida! Are you looking for some of the best dog-friendly hiking trails in the Sunshine State of Florida? Look no further! With countless parks and trails all over the state, you and your pup are guaranteed to have an unforgettable experience. From boardwalks to fishing piers, Florida has something for everyone and every pup. Here are the top 10 dog-friendly hiking trails in Florida that you and your furry best friend won’t want to miss:

Embark on a nature walk beneath the majestic 400+ year old Fairchild oak tree. Here, you and your pup will have the chance to explore an ecologically diverse area, home to a variety of wildlife.

Take in breathtaking views of Turkey Creek from the boardwalk. Enjoy the fresh air and the peaceful atmosphere of this park. Soak in the sun with your pup and explore the abundance of wildlife.

Enjoy a leisurely stroll along a 3-mile trail system through the shaded oak hammock and a cabbage palm forest. Complete the short Mini-Adventure trail for a more wilderness experience with your four legged friend.

Bring your pup and explore the rare ecosystems of this 187-acre property. Enjoy activities such as hiking, canoeing, horseback riding and camping with your furry friend!

This 1,500-acre natural area is home to a wide variety of wildlife species. Explore the hydric hammock, floodplain forest and sandy terrain with your pup, and enjoy a day of nature at its best. Have a day all terrain expedition with your furry friend and see what you discover!

Take a break and have a picnic at one of the three tables in this small nature park. Enjoy the fresh air and the sights of the area with your pup. Take in the flora and fauna of Winter Springs.

This 240-acre property lies on the Seminole/Orange County line and boasts an array of activities such as hiking, canoeing and horseback riding. Find out more about this Oviedo oasis with your pup, it might just be your new favorite place to explore.

Explore this 1600-acre property with your pup and observe various species of wildlife, including the White-tailed deer and the Florida Black Bear. The floodplain of the St Johns River is breathtaking.

Enjoy some outdoor fun with your pup at this 8-acre nature preserve. Take a walk along the boardwalk and fishing pier, or explore the trails with your pup.

Featuring a mostly flat terrain, this trail offers a great opportunity for cycling, running, walking and skating with your pup. With multiple access points, you and your pup can explore this trail to your heart's content.

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5 Great Hiking Trails in Florida Freshwater springs perfect for swimming, swamplands full of wildlife and more are waiting to be explored in Florida. Featuring some of the most diverse terrain, these hiking trails are unlike those you might find anywhere else. Lace up your hiking boots and get ready for an adventure you’ll never forget at any of these breathtaking trails.

The Everglades are known as the most iconic natural feature in the Sunshine State for good reason. Teaming with wildlife that is unique to the area, the Shark Valley is one of the most popular for those hoping to get a glimpse of this infamous swampland.  Prepare to be amazed by the birds, gators, and other wildlife you might see as you walk or bike the trail. Going to the Observation Tower at the midway point is a must—the panoramic views you’ll see here are magnificent!

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Hoping to see Florida’s very own sea cow, also know as the manatee, in it’s natural habitat? Then head over to Blue Spring State Park and walk the 1.3-mile boardwalk trail. This short, easy trail is perfect to bring the kids along to, as there are many viewing platforms to use to view the majestic manatees as they swim and drift. Here you won’t run in to just one or two of these creatures, but rather a few hundred if you come on a good day!

Known as the only state park in Florida to offer cave tours to the public, the Florida Caverns State Park amazes hikers with its limestone stalagmites, flowstones, and draperies. The Caverns Trails System is actually a group of intersected trails that surround Tunnel Cave and the outer loop is approximately 1.5 miles. This is the only trail in the state where you hike through a cave! Pay the extra few dollars to do the cave tour (you won’t be sorry) and then begin at the Floodplain Trail. Don’t forget to pack a flashlight—cutting through Tunnel Cave can be a little eerie without one.

This 2.5-mile trail is a boardwalk, meaning it’s easy to navigate. At Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, you’ll trek through an old-growth cypress forest as you view trees that are up to 600 years-old! Make your way to the Observation Deck for some beautiful views and great opportunities to see the striking birds that are native to the area. Make sure to check out the “Recent Wildlife Sightings” board before you begin—you never know what you might see!

The Blackrock Trail on Big Talbot Island is a great outdoor adventure for those who love to be by the sea. Situated between Amelia Island and Little Talbot Island, this spot’s rare rocky shoreline is unlike any of the other beaches in the state. The dark rocks and large pieces of driftwood scattered around the shore will have you feeling as if you’re stepping onto a West Coast beach! This mile-long hike is very popular, so get here early to check out a more remote look at this unusual spot.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-hiking-trails-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-hiking-trails-in-florida Sat, 06 Apr 2024 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome Trail Running Spots in Florida Running has amazing physical benefits, but when you add trail running into the mix, your workouts become even more rewarding. Trail running ups your running game by injecting various terrain and challenges into every run, forcing you to get a little creative to keep your focus. As a result, you can expect to improve your surefootedness and balance while getting an effective workout surrounded by beautiful natural scenery. These five awesome trail running spots in Florida will forever change what you thought running could be! 

Nestled in Wekiwa Springs State Park, this moderate to difficult trail is excellent for trail runners. At 10.2 miles, trail traffic is typically light, giving you free and clear access. Throughout your run you’ll be encircled by some of Florida’s best natural scenery, with wildlife sightings a very high possibility. The trail travels over a variety of terrain, everything from palm scrub to boardwalks to pine tree terrain. 

This trail inside Shingle Creek is the perfect spot to glimpse the headwaters of the Everglades. Though short and sweet, this trail provides beautiful scenery and easy terrain for a refreshing run. Shingle Creek flows alongside the trail for the most part, which means you have a high chance of seeing some of Florida’s wildlife while you’re here. Best of all, the trail gives off a secluded, tucked-away feeling that can make your run as relaxing as it is energizing.

If you’ve ever wanted to travel through the Everglades, the Shark Valley Tram Road is your prime opportunity. In addition, the trail offers an excellent workout as you enjoy all the sights and sounds of the beautiful ecosystem here. The trail itself is easy enough, however, if you plan to enjoy the trail in its entirety, you should know you’re in for a good 15-mile trip. Along the first half of the loop, you’ll have ample opportunity to glimpse alligators and native birds as you’re rushing by. Many trail runners opt to turn around at the midway observation tower, as the second half of the loop isn’t nearly as scenic. 

Easy and simple is the beauty of the two miles of trails at Jacksonville Arboretum. Here you’ll pass by some of the most beautiful sights in the arboretum and gardens, including a lake and wooded areas. Known to locals as one of the most beautiful places to hike in the area, the various terrain is also a perfect opportunity for trail running. Some sections of the trails remain flat, while one quarter-mile stretch features 25 feet of elevation changes. It’s not a difficult or long run, which makes this an attractive spot for beginner trail runners.

You’ll want to use caution on this trail, as runners have reported numerous sightings of Pygmy rattlesnakes. Despite the potential wildlife dangers, this trail makes an awesome opportunity for runners to experience the Estuarine Research Reservation. The 9.2-mile loop is divided into various sections, so you can make your run as lengthy as you can handle. The trail itself is relatively flat throughout, and it takes you along boardwalks over marshes, alongside waterfronts, and through some of the state’s most beautiful nature scenes. This is one trail you’ll want to visit again and again.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-trail-running-spots-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-trail-running-spots-in-florida Thu, 04 Apr 2024 00:00:00 -0500
ATV Off-Roading Adventure at Lazy Springs Recreation Park Beaches, theme parks, swamplands, seafood—it seems like Florida’s got it all. Though the ATV off-roading scene isn’t quite as popular as its coastal splendor, it should be! Throughout the Sunshine State you’ll find a variety of fun off-roading spots filled with adventure. Of course, no day of off-road exploring is complete without soaking in the best spots of the local area. If you’re looking for an epic day of off-roading in Florida, your adventure begins here. 

Start your engines at Country Roads Cafe, one of the best breakfast spots in town. This homey little downtown diner has all your favorite morning fuel-ups, from eggs and bacon to country fried steak. It’s just like Grandma used to make, loaded with flavor and southern hospitality.

Don’t let the name fool you—you’ll be working plenty hard on your off-roading ride here. This sprawling park has a little something for everyone, including fishing, zip lines, mud pits, obstacle course, motocross, and rocky hills to challenge every rider. If you want to get your days’ worth, you can bring along the tent for an overnight camp. 

Located within the hotel that you will be staying the night in, 1st Street Deli is delicious and open 24 hours! Their hot deli sandwiches will be the perfect thing to quench your hunger after a long day on the trails. Try their Southern fried shrimp po’boy made with fried breaded shrimp on a French baguette with lettuce, tomato, garlic pickles, and remoulade sauce. 

Once you’ve satisfied your appetite, you can relax and unwind after a long day of off-roading. Enjoy a few cocktails in the casino, try your hand at Lady Luck, take a dip in the pool, or enjoy a live show to cap off your adventure. The accommodations here are clean and cozy so you can get a restful night’s sleep after a long day of riding.

Before heading home, be sure to enjoy the surrounding area just a little bit more. The Immokalee Pioneer Museum at Roberts Ranch is a truly fascinating historical site. Since it was first settled in 1872, the Immokalee community has been home to hunters, trappers, cowmen, missionaries, and many others. This former home of cattleman Robert Roberts is now a sprawling, 13-acre historic site—and is actually the longest-running ranch in South Florida. The exhibits are captivating and on the site, guests will find 15 wonderfully preserved original buildings, illustrating what the lives of cow hunters, ranchers, and pioneer families were like. 

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5 Excellent Places for Beginners to Kayak in Florida The diverse range of waterways throughout the Sunshine State make for a satisfying experience for any kayaker! But for those just starting out, it’s best to find an area with calmer waters, rentals, and potentially safety courses and lessons to learn the basics. From cool lagoons to large lakes, you’ll find something great for those picking up a paddle for the first time. Here are five great spots to find your footing in Florida! 

This is a prime spot to hone your kayaking skills. Kayaking, canoeing, and tubing are popular activities on Rainbow River. The waters are calm and easy to explore, so beginners will soon feel comfortable on their adventure. Rentals are available on site, too. Kayaks and canoes go for $8 an hour and double kayaks for $10 an hour.

HAVE LESS DO MORE #Kayaking #Adventurer #Florida #EasyRiver #eeuu🇺🇸

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This kayaking tour will be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Join A Day Away Kayak Tours for their Dino Bio Kayak Tour. On warm summer nights, A Day Away invites guests to witness a stunning phenomenon. Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon glow with single-cell microorganisms called dinoflagellates. Any movement in the water, with your boat or paddle, lights up the waters with bioluminescence. The sight is truly breathtaking. 

Take a trip with American Canoe Adventures for an easy and affordable exploration of the Suwannee River near White Springs, Florida. American Canoe Adventures offers day trips all year round, six days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Trips range in distance from three miles to 12, depending on how strenuous of a trek you can handle. 

Try out Lake Worth’s locally-owned Kayak Lake Worth for an easy and convenient kayaking adventure! Guests will mostly be exploring the Lake Worth Lagoon area in Palm Beach County. This lagoon is the largest estuary in the county. The waters are very easy to navigate, making for a relaxing trip that beginners will love. You’ll even get to spot some stunning wildlife, which may include the occasional manatee or dolphin! 

There may not be anything more stunning than exploring Key Largo on a kayak. Florida Bay Outfitters' location “is the perfect starting point to begin your tropical adventure,” according to its website. For rentals, the selection is huge. Choose from sit-in kayaks, sit-on-top kayaks, clear bottom kayaks, paddleboards, and much more. Their eco tour bring guests through the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park. Choose from three-hour tours or five-day backcountry tours. Florida Bay Outfitters has something for every level of skill. 

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Brocreative/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-excellent-places-for-beginners-to-kayak-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-excellent-places-for-beginners-to-kayak-in-florida Mon, 01 Apr 2024 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Bait and Tackle Shops in Florida If you’re looking for the best fishing in the country, there’s no better place to be than in sunny Florida. Tourists from all over the world flock to the state in droves each year for its fishing opportunities. Of course, to catch the best fish you need the right bait and gear, which can be found at one of these 10 best bait and tackle shops in Florida. 

With three locations (in Fort Pierce, Stuart, and Vero Beach), White’s Tackle happens to be one of the oldest tackle shops in Florida. Having opened in 1925, they’ve built their foundation on knowing what Florida fishermen need to get the best catch possible. As a result, you get the right bait and gear the first time from fellow fishermen who share your passion.

Specializing in both live and artificial bait, you’ll want to come here for firsthand knowledge of fishing in the area. They also carry all the extras you need for a successful day on the water, including beer, ice, sunglasses, sunscreen, snacks, and more. 

This no-frills shop is open bright and early to help you maximize your fishing time. Offering both live and frozen bait, ice, and tackle, you’ll get everything you need in one trip, no matter where you’re planning to fish.

This full-service fishing shop gives you much to look forward to. They offer rod and reel repairs, charters, and the largest inventory of fishing supplies and gear in the area. You’ll never need to make another trip elsewhere.

If your passion for fishing is deeper than your pockets, you can get good quality gear at great prices at Southeastern Fishing Tackle Liquidators. This discount warehouse offers name brands you’re familiar with, such as Shimano and Yeti, usually at lower-than-retail prices. You can also find a quality selection of used equipment to stretch your fishing fund further.

The fish don’t take a day off, so why should you? One of the biggest benefits of shopping here is that they’re open every day of the week, starting bright and early each day. Located in an area that’s prime for trout, redfish, and grouper, you’ll find everything you need to take home some of the best catches in the area.

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No matter what type of bait you’re looking for, Bitter’s has it. They don’t just sell bait—they hone and refine it until you get the perfect fish magnet to suit your needs. Each one is specially crafted for its unique application to give you the best chance of hooking what you came for.

Personalized service, extensive product knowledge, and a huge variety are just a few of the things that set Stuart Angler apart from other area shops. No matter what kind of fishing you plan to do, be it inshore, offshore, or fly fishing, they’ve got an unbeatable selection of tackle and bait to help you reach your fishing goals. They also offer fishing guide services for those who want a little extra expertise along for the ride.

Customers love the quick in-and-out service they get at Perk’s. They carry a wide variety of bait and tackle and some of the best service in the area to help you get on to your next fishing adventure as fast as possible.

They offer one of the largest saltwater fishing product lines in Florida, so there’s no doubt you’ll find what you need for an epic day of fishing. Located in the Florida Keys, this full-service tackle shop is just a stone’s throw from some of the best fishing in Florida.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-bait-and-tackle-shops-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-bait-and-tackle-shops-in-florida Thu, 28 Mar 2024 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Watersport Retailers in Florida Florida’s never-ending coastline gives you every opportunity to enjoy your favorite watersports. From jet skiing and boating to stand up paddleboards and everything in between, there’s plenty of ways you can love the water. Fuel your passions and grab your gear at one of these 10 best water sports retailers in Florida. 

Kiteboarding is in their name for a reason: they’re the experts when it comes to choosing your equipment and learning how to use it. This place is your one-stop shop for all things kiteboarding, stand up paddle boarding, and surfing. You can book private lessons with their amazing instructional team, get your kite repaired, or find the best gear and accessories to suit your skill level. You won’t find a more knowledgeable, high-quality place anywhere in Florida.

With two locations in Florida, you can stock up on everything you need for a day of water sports. Their main passion is kiteboarding, and they offer private lessons for you to experience it yourself. What sets them apart is that everyone on their team has a personal love for all things watersports, meaning you get honest, expert advice and recommendations every time you shop.

Dedicated to all things watersports, you can find your new paddleboard, surfboard, apparel, or accessories in a single trip. They’ve got everything you need to perfect your performance, including surf watches, wetsuits, fins, paddles, and other high-quality, brand name items. Need a lesson on how to get the most from your purchases? They offer free sessions every Saturday morning for all ages. 

For best-in-class brands, you’ll want to stop here. They’ve got all your favorites, from O’Neill and Rip Curl to Dakine, Hurley, and more. They’ve been one-on-one with the surfing industry for well over 35 years, ensuring you get the most from their in-depth knowledge and personal experience. 

New Boards ! Now All We Need Are Waves !!! #PrayForWaves

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Wakeboarding, kayaking, windsurfing, kiteboarding—Watersports West knows it all. They’ve got all the gear to help you get started on a new path or continue your existing passions. Their fans love them because they also offer rental equipment, giving them a chance to try out new things before they commit to buying.

Watersports is only their second specialty here—the first is their service to their customers. This team is truly dedicated to helping others enjoy the wonderful wild world of water sports. They offer retail sales, rentals, group trips, and demos to help you get the experience you’re craving. They’ve even been known to open up shop outside of normal business hours just to make sure you get what you need.

If you love wakeboarding, you’ll never want to shop anywhere else than right here. They’re fellow wakeboarders who know how to help you get the best experience possible. Their huge inventory includes, boards, bindings, ropes, and other gear for every stage and skill level. You can also find a nice selection of SUPs, kneeboards, skis, tubes, wakeskates, and other watersports equipment and accessories to make a full day of adventure on the water.

Whether you’re seeking windsurfing gear, or would rather try before you buy, you’ll find what you need at Calema. They offer windsurfing lessons and rental goods to let you experience the sport for yourself, in addition to kid’s camps and performance clinics. It’s also your source for filling your SUP, sailing, and kayaking needs.

Whether you’re new to watersports or having been enjoying them for years, you won’t find a better place to practice your skills than Aktion Parks. With two locations, the on-site pro shops can help you suit up before you hit the practice arena. They’re known for carrying all the basics and the little extras that stand between you and a good time. You can rent your gear to “try before you buy,” and if you purchase your rental setup that day your rental fee will be credited to your purchase.

Touted as Central Florida’s largest kayak showroom, there’s no way you won’t find a quality kayak here. This mega store specializes in all things kayaks and SUPs. You can request a demo by appointment to see how they work and make sure you’re getting the best one for your money. They’re also well known for building custom fishing kayaks so you can get the one-of-a-kind experience you want.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-watersport-retailers-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-watersport-retailers-in-florida Fri, 22 Mar 2024 00:00:00 -0500
5 Beautiful Backpack Camping Spots in Florida Despite the countless beach resorts and upscale hotels in Florida, camping throughout the state is still a favorite among locals and travelers alike. Even better? You don’t need much equipment to have an epic camping experience here. There are a multitude of primitive camping opportunities that take you far away from the city noise, showing you nature’s most amazing, untouched landscapes. Go see for yourself at these five beautiful backpack camping spots in Florida, and experience the outdoors just like nature intended. 

This new 7.1-mile loop is filled with a picturesque Florida you never knew existed. From dirt to boardwalks, you’ll wind your way through scenic wilderness chock full of wildlife, including cottonmouths and pygmy rattlers, and of course its namesake bears. There’s a modest, no-frills campsite along the trail enclosed in a palm hammock for an overnight stay. It’s a fairly moderate hike during dry weather, but backpacking ups the difficulty a bit. Make sure you don’t visit when the St. John’s River is flooded.

A favorite among backpackers in Central Florida, this lovely 6.9-mile loop in Lake Kissimmee State Park takes you through live oak hammocks and prairie land. There’s a campsite situated about four miles in right under the giant live oaks, giving a pleasant backdrop to an already enjoyable experience. The campsite is complete with picnic tables and fire rings, but make sure you bring enough water to extinguish a fire as there is none available at the site.

Ideal for long-distance backpackers, this 43-mile trail is the second-longest backpacking trail in Florida. The trail itself is wrought with terrain changes, from sandy hills to sinkholes to rocky paths and raised tree roots. There are several campsites along the main outer loop, which is also broken into shorter loops if you prefer less than a four-day trip. There are designated campsites, but you can also camp in areas marked with white bands, as there aren’t many designated sites.

This 8.4-mile section of the Florida Trail is also one of the most unique. You’ll arrive at Hidden Pond, an oasis in the middle of the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. Aside from this pond, the trail is mostly dry, so make sure you bring a hefty water supply. It’s at Hidden Pond where you’ll make camp. Coincidentally, it’s also one of the most beautiful spots along the entire Florida Trail. Throughout your trip, you’ll have a good chance of spotting white-tailed deer and other wildlife.

This 4.3-mile trail used to be part of the Florida Trail, but now exists as its own destination. Beautiful cabbage palms and hickory trees fill the area, along with a riverside campsite to make the trip even more appealing. Luckily, the trail is mostly a moderate trek, especially given the weight and bulk of your backpack. Camping along the trail is free, however, you will need to obtain a permit in advance. Throughout your journey, you’ll travel through wetlands and oak hammocks before you reach the campsite after 2.3 miles. If you want to travel further, there’s additional camping at the equestrian site at 4.3 miles from the trailhead. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-backpack-camping-spots-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-backpack-camping-spots-in-florida Wed, 20 Mar 2024 00:00:00 -0500
SPOTLIGHT: Things to Do in and Around Blue Spring State Park Florida vacations don’t usually come cheap, but they don’t always have to put a dent in your bank account, either. Spending some time in the great outdoors offers an inexpensive getaway every age can enjoy. While others are clamoring over theme parks and busy beaches, you can avoid the crowds (and the costs that come with them) with a trip to Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.

Spanning over 2,600 acres, Blue Spring State Park is home to the largest natural spring on the St Johns River. Tourists and locals alike love gathering here during manatee season (November-March) to watch these amazing animals. During the rest of the year, the park offers swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, boating, and river boat tours. There’s also no shortage of “dry” activities for kids and adults alike, especially since you can camp within the park and not have to leave until your vacation is over.

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Just a seven-minute drive from the park lies Family Fun Town, a high-energy indoor/outdoor fun center that offers activities for every age. Go-karts, mini golf, batting cages, and an arcade will keep you and your family entertained for hours. It’s the perfect spot to remedy “cabin fever” during your stay at Blue Spring State Park, especially on rainy days or during manatee season where watersports are off limits.

Eat in, or take it back to your cabin at Blue Spring State Park—either way, you’ll want to grab a meal from Lelo’s BBQ. This Puerto Rican barbecue joint is serving up authentic flavors you can’t find just anywhere. They feature daily specials as well as menu chock full of chicken, pork, ribs, seafood, soup, and plenty of fixings to complement your meal.

Roasted pork with red beans and yellow rice. Heaven!

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If barbecue isn’t your favorite fare, grab a seat at Fire on the Bayou. This Cajun-focused eatery is dishing out some of the best low country boil and other fiery favorites. They have a large variety of food to choose from, so you’re likely to suit even the pickiest eater in your party.

About a half-hour’s drive south from the state park is Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Visitors can expect to see a giraffe, cheetah, rhino, leopard, llama, tamarin, cougar, and fossa, among other mammals, as well as a host of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Admission to the zoo also grants you access to the lush botanical gardens. A train, carousel, ropes course, splash park, giraffe feeding, and rhino “petting” completes the experience—it’s more than worth the drive.

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Drive 15 minutes north of the state park and experience the Museum of Art in DeLand. This art museum features work from Florida artists and well-known artists, with both permanent and evolving exhibits. The museum now features two galleries in DeLand, each offering a unique experience—you’ll want to visit them both.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-things-to-do-in-and-around-blue-spring-state-park http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-things-to-do-in-and-around-blue-spring-state-park Sun, 10 Mar 2024 00:00:00 -0600
5 Wonderful Birdwatching Hikes in Florida If you’re big into birdwatching, there’s no better place to roost with your binoculars than in Florida. The Sunshine State’s abundance of state parks, islands, coastlines, and varied ecosystems make it an attractive spot for birds, which means you’ll find plenty of viewing spots to glimpse some of your favorite species. Florida is home to hundreds of native birds, along with plenty of migratory birds. You’ll have to be quick, though—the hunt is part of the fun, and you only get a few short seconds to spot and identify before they’re in flight once more. If you love birdwatching, you’ll love these five best birdwatching spots in Florida—make sure you bring your camera!

Originally created to protect migratory birds, this refuge plays home to much more than feathered friends. Hosting a diverse population of more than 350 bird species, visitors can expect to spot birds of prey, shore and wading birds, waterfowl, and migratory birds. Bald eagles have been known to make their appearance here, as well as hawks, herons, egrets, warblers, blue jays, and others. One of its mainstays is the threatened Florida scrub-jay. The refuge holds one of the state's three stronghold populations of this species, whose habitat is under constant threat.

#floridascrubjay #bird #florida #merrittislandnationalwildliferefuge

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Free and open to the public, this former wastewater property is now dedicated to fostering nesting and roosting. Visitors can enjoy the .75-mile boardwalk that winds over water and near islands that play home to over 175 bird species. This spot is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, and offers prime viewing of birds in their natural habitat. Wading birds are in abundance here, as well as plenty of birdsong to accompany you on your stroll around the park.

This particular park focuses on the treatment, rehabilitation, and needs of raptors. Here you can get up close and personal with bald eagles, owls, ospreys, kites, and falcons. The park offers a boardwalk that takes you to the nearby lake for more bird and wildlife spotting opportunities. The center here offers a chance for citizens to become part of a bald eagle monitoring program, where participants can find, monitor, and report on nests in the wild. Or, you can visit the Magic of Flight barn that gives you a first-hand look into the rehabilitation efforts of these magnificent birds.

Given the abundance of wildlife in this area and its system of trails and observation areas, it’s no wonder that Tree Tops Park has established itself as a must-visit for birdwatchers. There are three trails in the park, one of which leads to a 28-foot-high observation tower that offers magnificent birding views. In addition, the park’s varied marshes, lake, and wooded area make it attractive for many different bird species. Wading birds, waterfowl, raptors, and woodpeckers have all been known to frequent the area, especially in and around the Pine Island Ridge portion of the park.

Explored by none other than William Bartram himself, this magnificent park is one of Florida’s premiere sites for birdwatching. Combing marshes, wetlands, hardwood hammocks, flatlands, and swamps into a single experience, birdwatchers can count on seeing one of the most diverse bird populations in the state. Sandhill cranes are viewable year-round, but fall through spring bring the most variety: winter sparrow, waterfowl, hawks, warblers, and other species frequent the area during migration. In total, there are about 270 bird species throughout the year, along with other wildlife to keep you company.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-wonderful-birdwatching-hikes-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-wonderful-birdwatching-hikes-in-florida Sun, 03 Mar 2024 00:00:00 -0600
Making the Most out of Highlands Hammock State Park Florida is known for having some of the best vacation spots, best restaurants, best theme parks, and a never-ending list of places worth visiting. Add Highlands Hammock State Park to that list. This amazing state park is somewhat of a hidden gem, despite being one of the oldest official state parks in Florida. There’s no better way to get back to nature than a trip here.

Situated on 9,000 acres of cypress swamps and flatwoods, this park has been delighting visitors for over 86 years. If you’re looking for Florida wildlife, you’ll most likely see it here—visitors report seeing black bear, Florida panther, alligators, deer, turtles, and myriad birds throughout the year. The park features activities for all ages, including boardwalks, tram tour, picnic pavilion, hiking, camping, and recreational rental areas. There’s no park in Florida quite like it.

Eight out of nine of the park’s hiking trails are accessible via the loop drive, enabling trekkers to extend or shorten their walk as they wish via connecting and inter-looping pathways. Trails travel through multiple swamps and flatwoods areas that offer plenty of shade and solitude. However, don’t think you’re ever truly alone—wild eyes are often nearby, and hiking this trail gives you your best chance at spotting them in their natural habitats. 

Hop aboard the tram that takes you to places you’d never see on foot. Guided tours take you through the cypress swamps and into restricted areas, giving you all-around views of the park. Along the way, you’ll see some of the park’s residents, such as alligators, wading birds, and other wildlife. The tour lasts about an hour and 15 minutes, and costs just $5 for adults and $3 for children ages six to 12. 

Highlands Hammocks is a popular camping destination for good reason: They offer just about every type of camping for every type of camper. Choose between primitive campsites or equestrian camping, or bring the RV and avoid sacrificing your modern conveniences. The campground here is family friendly, and features restrooms, showers, dishwashing area, and free Wi-Fi.

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Whether you’re an artist yourself or simply appreciate the works of others, you’ll want to check out the Highlands Museum of the Arts. Exhibits change regularly, and have often included a variety of media, such as painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, and projection. You might even stumble upon a class or art show while you’re there.

Back at it again

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Cowpoke’s makes for a truly glorious spot to fill up your belly after a long day. You’ll love the food. You’ll love the décor. You’ll love the atmosphere. At Cowpoke’s, you’ll find a unique tiki bar, live music, and enough space for almost 300 people. The menu consists of lobster tails, mahi mahi, tuna, mussels, oysters, scallops, catfish, shrimp, and even frog legs! Their cuts of steak are absolutely to die for. 

#Frogs 🤐🤐🤐🤐

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A 1926 railroad depot plays home to this railroad museum. One of the top attractions of the museum is their beloved dining car, which is available for scheduled events and luncheons. The museum also features a variety of exhibits depicting all things railroad and the growth and prosperity of Avon Park. 

If you’re not planning to camp in Highlands Hammock State Park, consider resting your head at the Jacaranda, a true Florida original and charming piece of history. This once booming inn was built in Avon Park’s heyday, before the rise of interstate system rendered the town an off-the-beaten-path stop. However, the Jacaranda never lost its appeal, and its grandiose statement still inspires in small-town Avon Park. The hotel owners have preserved its rich history, offering a pleasant, unique experience to its guests.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/making-the-most-out-of-highlands-hammock-state-park http://stepoutside.org/article/making-the-most-out-of-highlands-hammock-state-park Fri, 01 Mar 2024 00:00:00 -0600