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://cdnstep-americantownscom.netdna-ssl.com/img/stepoutside_logo.gif Sat, 20 Oct 2018 03:56:18 -0500 Best Places to Fish in the East This Fall A smorgasbord of baitfish is served up to striped bass in the fall as they make their way south along the Atlantic coast from Maine to their wintering waters in the mid-Atlantic.

Hot Spots To Fish: Deservedly, Montauk, NY at the eastern end of Long Island is considered a storied mecca for striped bass fishermen. If you’re not going surf fishing on the beach or fishing from a jetty, Gone Fishing Marina (631-668-3232, gonefishingmarina78.com) can set up a charter trip for you. If it’s booked up, try Star Island Yacht Club (631-668-5052, starislandyc.com) or Montauk Marine Basin (631-668-5900, marinebasin.com).

Down south, talk to the folks at Captain Hogg’s Charter Service (757-876-1590, captainhoggscharters.com) about fishing around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Overdrawn Charters  (252-202-4623, overdrawncharters.com) in Manteo, N.C. can help as well.

Tackle You’ll Need: Stick with 30- to 50-pound braid or monofilament and a 60-pound-test shock leader of fluorocarbon, with saltwater-ready spinning tackle heavy enough to handle 10- to 14-foot rods. Penn, Quantum and Okuma specialize in fairly inexpensive surf-fishing rods, and reels to match. If you have a reel, but no rod yet, the new Black Inshore Rods from Lamiglas are up to the task. The five spinning and five casting models range from a 6-foot, 10-inch light finesse spinning rod to a 7 ½-foot casting rod rated for lures from 3 to 12 ounces in weight.

Quick tip: The most successful anglers are those who spot gulls or other wheeling seabirds feeding on baitfish driven to the top by stripers and who then cast into the melee without dispersing the bass. From a boat, the trick is to approach schools carefully and take advantage of wind or tide to drift to within casting range. The stripers will stay up as long as the baitfish are hemmed against the surface.

 

Best Lures/Baits: The 4 1/2-inch Acme Kastmater XL spoon, the 1 ½-ounce Odin Popper, and the 5-inch pencil popper from Tsunami are popular artificials up and down the Atlantic seaboard. Other popular options include the 6- or 7-inch Savage Gear Sandeel Swimbait, 9-inch Sassy Shad swimbait and the 6-inch Rapala X-Rap SubWalk.

For anglers who’d rather soak baits from a boat or in the surf, live or cut bait, such as Atlantic menhaden (peanut bunker), herring, porgies, eels, bloodworms, anchovies and mullet, can flip the switch on chaotic striper blitzes.

]]>
Photograph Courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism The classic approach to surf fishing is still a great way to take advantage of the striper run along the Atlantic coast. http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-east-this-fall http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-east-this-fall Thu, 11 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Best Places to Fish in the South This Fall Redfish are starting to move inshore and set up at the mouths of bays, inlets and deltas as their annual spawning run commences. The bottom line for fishermen is outstanding fishing from late September through November in the northern Gulf.

Likewise, bass fishing is starting to pick up again as the weather begins to cool. Huge schools of threadfin shad are starting to filter away from open-water ledges into bays and tributaries where feeding conditions and water temperatures are more optimum.

Bass follow the food, first setting up on ledges at the mouths of inlets and creeks to waylay shad, then migrating back toward shallower water to keep up with their quarry.

Fall Script for Southern Bass

Bass rule in Dixie and cooler weather brings out an army of anglers who go after them. Whether largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass, they’re available in most waters and sometimes all three varieties are present in a fishery, ready to aggravate or gratify those who seek them.

Hot Spots To Fish: When it comes to the South’s best lakes for fall fishing, the big TVA impoundments fit the bill. Because this is bass tournament country, dozens of YouTube videos and Facebook sites of pro anglers offer useful advice on where and how to catch autumn largemouths. Likewise, guide services are plentiful; just Google “fishing guides” for the lake you’re visiting or type in the town nearest the lake you wish to fish on the interactive map on this page.

Tackle You’ll Need: A 7-foot medium/heavy rod such as the St. Croix Premier Cranking, a baitcasting reel like the Abu Garcia Revo Winch and 10- to 14-pound-test monofilament makes a good combination to fish downsized lures.

Quick tip: This is strictly a match-the-hatch deal. Use lures that are about the same size as wandering shad. If young-of-the-year threadfins are on the bass menu, try small swim baits fished on drop-shot rigs.

 

Best Lures/Baits: Shad-colored, shallow- and medium-diving square-billed or coffin-billed crankbaits are autumn standouts. Popular lures include the Strike King 6XD, Bandit 100 or 200, Duo Realis M65, Livetarget Magnum Shad BaitBall Squarebill, Megabass S-Crank, Lucky Craft Squarebill 2.5, Storm Arashi and Rapala Shad Rap.

Fish them around shoreline cover and on the flats between creek drop-offs and the bank. Other fallback baits include spinnerbaits like the Booyah Super Shad, Stanley Vibrashaft and Nichols Pulsator. Good buzzbait options can be found from Lunker Lure, Damiki, Santone and Dirty Jigs.

Rendezvous With Redfish

Along the northern Gulf Coast from Carrabelle, FL, to Grand Isle, LA, the redfish season begins in late September and continues in stages through December. Some anglers fish in the surf with cut bait, while others station themselves on area piers or in boats on relatively shallow flats near channel cuts.

Hot Spots To Fish: For boating anglers, a couple of spots stick out. Pensacola Bay Pass is a must-fish for boaters. Anchor up on the broad flat between old Fort Pickens and the channel, set out lines as the tide changes to incoming, and hang on. Need more help? Redfish University Pensacola Fishing Charters (850-748-4368, redfishuniversity.com) specializes in the big drum.

At Grand Isle, LA, book a trip with Gotta Go Fishing Charters (225-921-3642, gottagofishingcharters.com). The marshes and inshore waters around Venice, LA, are primo redfish haunts as well. Captain Mike Frenette (504-782-0924, laredfish.com or (mike@venicefishing.net) is a top guide here.

Photograph Courtesy of Strike King Lure Company 
Louisiana’s coastal waters are ground zero for the hottest autumn redfish action along the northern Gulf Coast. A variety of natural baits and artificials get the job done.

Tackle You’ll Need: “Rat” reds of 3 pounds and up, or real bruisers weighing in excess of 20 pounds require a range of tackle options. Bass fishing tackle – whether spinning or baitcasting – is perfect for handling smaller fish and for casting jigs or swimbaits that weigh less than an ounce. A Shimano Stradic spinning reel and 7-foot medium-action Shimano Compre rod with 14-pound-test monofilament.

For bigger fish, consider a Penn Battle II BTLII5000 with 20-pound-test monofilament or 40-pound-test braid, and a 30-pound-test fluorocarbon leader. A 7-foot medium-heavy spinning rod (such as the Penn Battalion BATIN1220S70) should handle any bait rigs or lures and wear down a bull redfish in short order.

Quick Tip: Incoming tides in late evening or at night are primo times for reds as the fish free-spawn then in the mouths of coastal bays and estuaries. If you can’t fish any other time, make sure you fish the incoming tides.

 

Best Lures/Baits: Redfish aren’t particular about their dietary requirements and will eat anything from blue crabs to halved mullet. Swimming spoons such as the Johnson Sprite (johnsonfishing.com), swimbaits and jigs or even topwater poppers, such as the Heddon Saltwater Spook, will elicit strikes.

]]>
Photograph Courtesy of Strike King Lure Company Photo By Garrick Dixon Shallow- to medium-running crankbaits probably account for more bass than any other lure in the fall when the fish are on the prowl for shad in feeder creeks and coves. http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-south-this-fall http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-south-this-fall Thu, 11 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Outdoor Fall Activities in Florida Florida doesn’t get much of a season change when fall arrives, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate! Some activities in Florida are just better when summer’s over, when the heat slightly lessens its grip and you can feel good knowing that Halloween and pumpkin spice everything is on the horizon. If you’re craving some outdoor adventure this fall, make sure these 10 activities make it on your must-do list. 

Acres upon acres of trails beckon drivers of all skill levels to take a ride on the wild side. This off-roading destination features a variety of trails and obstacles to sate your cravings for adventure and give you plenty of reason to return. They’re open every first and third Saturday of the month until dark.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by The Swamp OffRoad Park (@theswampoffroadpark) on

Off roading works up an appetite, and there’s no better place in town to refuel than at Hog Pound BBQ. This cozy little barbecue nook is dishing out true southern flavors and all the fixins to calm your hangry stomach. Eat in or get it to go so you can get back to the trails.

This exquisite nature preserve has everything to offer the outdoor adventure. For starters, they offer a guided nature walk every Sunday morning starting at 11. They also have several hiking trails and nature exhibits, plus the best fall bird watching in the area (warblers, hawks, and falcons are frequent visitors).

Known for their shared passion of the great outdoors, the Adventure Club of Gainesville features several hiking trips throughout the year in Central Florida. Favorite areas include Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park, Newnan’s Lake, and O’Leno State Park, but they’ve been known venture as far as the Panhandle and host overnight trips. Whether you prefer short jaunts or miles-long day hikes, you’ll want to join this passionate group of hikers this fall.

If you plan on spending some time with the Adventure Club or anywhere on the hiking trails this fall, grab some new gear at Lloyd Clarke Sports. They have tons for the outdoorsman, including apparel, hammocks, poles, backpacks, and hiking boots. You won’t find a better local selection anywhere else.

Ever wanted to see a sea turtle? Coastal Wildlife Club uses volunteers in their Sea Turtle Patrol to walk sections of the beach searching for turtle activity and protect nests. You can become a volunteer with the club and record data on active nests to help protect these amazing creatures.

Another Gulf Coast wonder not to be missed is Stump Pass Beach State Park, where shells and shark teeth abound on the sandy shores. Swimming and sunbathing are year-round activities here, plus there are numerous hiking trails winding their way through natural areas. Stay on land or set off in a kayak to discover local wildlife like egrets, manatees, and gopher tortoises. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ro Thompson (@rothompson4482) on

Fall weather is great for kayaking and canoeing in Florida’s oldest nature preserves. Eco tours offer rare glimpses of Florida wildlife, including gators, ospreys, and bald eagles, along with native flora. Tours usually last two hours and give you a satisfying balance of history and scenery.

A day of exploring outdoors calls for a chance to explore other life’s wonders, too. Take a trip to Olga Mall, where you can fill up on a home-cooked meal and take a gander at a collection of unique oddities and handmade items throughout. It’s like being at Grandma’s house with treasures in every nook and cranny, along with downhome service that makes you feel like family.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by brittany (@britzstancel) on

Lake Okeechobee serves as the headwaters of the Everglades and remains one of the most popular fall birdwatching destinations in Florida. Sandpipers are popular denizens around this time, as are long-billed dowitchers, yellowlegs, and the elusive Everglades Snail Kite. The lake is home to an abundance of other wildlife, too.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Rich (@richard_harlow_photography) on

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-outdoor-fall-activities-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-outdoor-fall-activities-in-florida Wed, 10 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Camping Done Right: 7 Essential Outdoor Stores in Florida Whether you’re just stepping into the wonders of camping or you’re a seasoned camper who’d never be caught in a hotel, you know that having the right camping gear can make or break a camping trip. No worries— Florida is chock full of quality outdoor stores dedicated to campers’ needs. From primitive backcountry camping to tent sites within a camping resort, you never realize exactly how many things you use on a daily basis until you’re without them on a camping trip. Find everything you need to make your next trip enjoyable when you stop by these seven essential outdoor stores in Florida. 

From clothing to gear, your next camping trip will be fully loaded when you stop at Travel Country Outfitters first. They carry all the best names in camping, like Big Green Egg, Marmot, Patagonia, and Osprey. They’ve got something for every camper, from fishing coolers to Girl Scouts’ supplies to strollers and carrying packs for tiny campers.

When you think outdoors, there’s no greater name than REI. They understand what campers need, and can usually personally attest to the gear they sell to help you find the right stuff the first time. They cater to campers of all types, from family-friendly adventures to backpackers and even canine campers. Kelty and North Face are just a few of the famous faces you’ll find on its shelves.

The name says it all: you can survive anything if you’re well prepared. This store features brands like Streamlight, Coleman, and Surefire to ensure you get every piece of equipment you need for the best camping trip ever. Make sure you stock up on those easily-overlooked accessories, like first aid kits, spare batteries, and matches.

They’ve thought of everything, right down to the perfect socks to wear in the great outdoors. Between the obvious tents and sleeping bags to unique cooking gear, whistles, and tools, this place is a camper’s paradise. Inside you can expect brands like Kelty, Coleman, and Camelbak, along with all the little details that make the biggest difference in your home away from home. 

Nebo Old Red Lantern

A post shared by Go2 Outfitters (@go2_outfitters) on

Whatever you need for outdoor survival, Environeers has it. Check out their tents, sleeping bags, high-quality outerwear, lights, and more. Brands like Patagonia, the North Face, and Osprey can transform your next adventure into an unforgettable one. Shop online or in store—either way, you’ll never have to go without. 

There’s something for every camper in this store, including the smallest adventurers and man’s best friend. Their food supply section saves you an extra trip to the grocery store, plus they sell all the “extras” like bug spray and batteries. Solar showers and rain covers can be found alongside staples like tents and stoves. Osprey, Eureka! Tents, and JetBoil kitchenware provide high-quality, reliable equipment you’ll be able to use again and again.

If you want the best camping experience, no one knows better than the locals. The folks at Naples Outfitters have a natural affinity to the great outdoors and know the area well to help you get the most from your trip. Stop by to stock up gear like Big Agnes tents and PocketRocket stoves, both of which are lightweight to make for easier trekking.

Packs on packs on packs #Osprey #GetOutside #Backpacking

A post shared by Naples Outfitters (@naples_outfitters) on

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/camping-done-right-7-essential-outdoor-stores-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/camping-done-right-7-essential-outdoor-stores-in-florida Wed, 15 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Gorgeous Beach Campsites in Florida While Florida is known for its lush resorts, there’s just no substitute for a night under the stars, especially when those nights come complete with an ocean view. Florida’s hundreds of miles of coastline mean plenty of beachside campsites to choose from to make your camping experience unforgettable. Reserve your spot at one of these five beautiful beach campsites in Florida! 

This beautiful barrier island is the perfect locale for swimming, fishing, canoeing, and camping. The state park here offers 60 campsites for rent, in addition to two primitive campsites that get you up close to the beach and all the natural wildlife and scenery. To get to these campsites, however, you’ll need to be prepared to do a little extra work. You can hike the 2.5-mile trail or access the sites by kayak or canoe. The views and solitude are well worth the effort.

If you’re looking to enjoy Florida’s natural wildlife, there’s no better place than Henderson Beach State Park. A stay at one of their 60 campsites grants you access to their nature trail along the dune system that’s teeming with native flora and fauna. Their boardwalk leads you directly to their expanse of private beach, where you can enjoy swimming and fishing in the warm Gulf waters.

This state park offers nearly 140 campsites all within walking distance to nearly four miles of pristine beach. Visitors will love exploring the tidal marsh that’s brimming with natural Florida fauna, in addition to the nature trail that leads from the campsites along the sand dunes that play host to some of Florida’s protected wildlife. During your stay, you can rent paddleboards, kayaks, bicycles, and canoes that will let you experience the wonders throughout the park.

This remote island in the Florida Keys is renowned for its beautiful beaches, ocean views, and snorkeling opportunities. Campers can rent a site for their RV, tent, or hammock to enjoy all the park has to offer. Some of the campsites offer direct waterfront views, and are among the largest in the park. If you prefer, you can rent a cabin or book a slip for your boat for a unique experience. 

Grayton Beach is part of a nearly 2,000-acre state park and ranks as one of the country’s most beautiful beaches. It’s the perfect destination for those seeking an escape from the ordinary, offering up kayaking, fishing, and paddleboarding opportunities. During your stay, make your way through the salt marsh for an up-close look at the natural ecosystems. With just under 60 campsites available, you can count on a relaxing trip without feeling too overcrowded. 

]]>
NeagoneFo/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-gorgeous-beach-campsites-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-gorgeous-beach-campsites-in-florida Tue, 14 Aug 2018 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. 

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-backpack-camping-spots-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-backpack-camping-spots-in-florida Tue, 14 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome Campgrounds for Families in Florida Whether it’s tucked away in the forest or sprawled out under the stars on the beach, camping in Florida is among the best because of the state’s natural diversity. Across the Sunshine State, you’ll find a variety of family-oriented campgrounds catering to tent campers, RV campers, and those who prefer a cabin. With endless amenities and regularly-scheduled events, the whole family will love these five awesome campgrounds in Florida. 

Nova is situated on 20 acres of rustic land, providing the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. On the campground, you’ll find basic tent sites, full RV hookups, and fully-equipped cabins. Amenities include Wi-Fi, a heated pool and tanning deck, a lending library, laundry facilities, barbecue grills, and more! The best part? You’re less than five miles away from the shores of Daytona Beach. 

The glistening Ichetucknee River is the main attraction at this campground. If you’re there during May-early September, you can tube down the river with all the other guests for a relaxing experience. Picnicking, snorkeling, canoeing, swimming, hiking, and excellent wildlife viewing are all available here. You might even catch a glimpse of a white-tailed deer, wild turkey, or blue heron. The grounds offer primitive sites as well as RV sites, and each site includes a picnic table and fire ring. Be sure to call and make a reservation!

This 1,962-acre island park features 60 campsites with electricity, water hookups, and a dump station. St. George Island’s campgrounds are situated near historic dunes and pine flatwoods, just a quarter mile from the beach and the breathtaking Gulf. You’ll never want to leave once you see St. George Island.  

Paradise. Absolute paradise. That is the best way to describe this awe-inspiring state park. Located in Big Pine Key, Bahia Honda is an excellent escape. Retreat to the beauteous wonder of the beach and camp to the sounds of rolling waves. There are three camping areas available and a total of 80 sites. At Bahia Honda, you’ll find cabins, RV and tent areas, and tent-only sites.

paradise

A post shared by allie hawks (@hawks_allie) on

“A tranquil wonderland of natural beauty”—Frog Creek’s website said it best. This RV resort and campground offers a heated pool, a kayak and canoe launch, as well as full hookups. They also allow pets on-site, so bring along your four-legged friend. This area feels secluded but also convenient, so it’s ideal for families with young children. Keep up with Frog Creek’s events calendar to see what’s going on during your stay! 

]]>
Dean Drobo/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-campgrounds-for-families-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-campgrounds-for-families-in-florida Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome RV Campsites in Florida No matter what side of the compass you’re visiting, Florida’s many RV campsites are ready to be your home-on-the-go. Below you’ll find five of the most awesome RV campsites from every corner of the state. Read on for vacation bliss.

Camp Gulf in Destin, Florida, styles themselves as “the destination RV Park of Northwest Florida.” With beaches, fishing, boating, shopping, dining, and more available on-site or within walking distance we’re inclined to agree (joining TravelChannel.com in heaping on praise). The U.S. News & World Report named Camp Gulf one of the Top 11 Family Campgrounds in the U.S. Bring your RV, rent a luxury cabin, or stay on a beach home—the choice is yours, and you can’t make a wrong decision. For a full list of amenities and rates, check the website. 

North Beach Camp Resort is one of the most prominent RV Parks in Northern Florida. The park includes RV setup, tent campground, cabin rentals, swimming, surfing, surf fishing, and more. Rates differ between types of accommodation, with riverfront hook-ups going for slightly more than others. As a two-time TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, you know you’re in good hands at North Beach Camp Resort. 

While technically in Clermont, Florida, the Orlando RV Resort is close enough to Orlando that you won’t notice much of a difference. For a centrally located RV park with incredible amenities, you could hardly do better. Amenities include a clubhouse, shuffleboard, whirlpool, your choice of natural frontage, RV storage, mini golf, boat ramp, tennis court, fishing, biking trails, and much more. Stop by this TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner for a fun-filled family time.

Siesta Bay RV Resort in Fort Myers is part of the greater Sun Resorts corporation. Here, you can always expect high-quality customer service. You’ll enjoy the swimming pool, regularly planned activities, tennis, and more. Check their website for special rates and sales. 

For an all-around excellent RV camping experience, make sure to check out Carrabelle Beach RV Resort. Amenities include horseshoes, fitness equipment, playground, pool, convenience store, and camping in nature. Stop by the nearby attractions, including the St. George Island Lighthouse, Crooked River Lighthouse, Tate’s Hell State Park, St. George Island, and St. Vincent Island, among many more. 

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-rv-campsites-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-rv-campsites-in-florida Mon, 13 Aug 2018 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.

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-trail-running-spots-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-trail-running-spots-in-florida Fri, 10 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -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. 

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-florida Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
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

A post shared by Michael Stultz (@natcraz) on

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.

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/5-wonderful-birdwatching-hikes-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-wonderful-birdwatching-hikes-in-florida Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
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.

A post shared by austinlane333 (@austinlane333) on

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

A post shared by Kathryn Obidzinski (@kathrynoart) on

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 🀐🀐🀐🀐

A post shared by Kathy Ventocilla G. (@kaventocilla) on

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.

]]>
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 Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Start Your Trek: 7 Unbeatable Hiking Retailers in Florida When it comes to Mother Nature, Florida’s got it all: oceans, lakes, swamps, camping, wildlife, and plenty of hiking trails that take you to see it all. Prepare yourself in the best possible way with a trip to one of Florida’s dedicated hiking retailers. Visiting a specialty hiking shop means you’ll find all the fine details that can make a real difference in your hiking experience. It also means you get the added benefit of shopping with someone with real expertise and knowledge of the area to help you get the most from your purchases. Visit one of these seven awesome hiking stores in Florida, and set your sights on adventure. 

As the leaders in local adventure, the folks at Tampa Bay Outfitters know how to help hikers and adventurers of all sorts get the most from their experience. They carry all the clothing, footwear, sunglasses, and gear you need for a day on the trails, and can help you avoid making a second trip elsewhere. Choose from favorite brands like Patagonia, the North Face, Osprey, and dozens more.

Peter Glenn Ski & Sports features several locations throughout Florida in addition to an online store to help hikers get high-quality gear no matter where they roam. For hikers, they offer poles, boots, and clothing for the whole family, along with sunglasses, gloves, mittens, socks, and other accessories. Stock up on trusted brands like Camelbak, the North Face, and HotHands.

Looks like @peterglennsports is going to stay cozy and warm for the holidays! #winterfjord

A post shared by NILS (@nils.us) on

No one knows hikers’ needs like fellow outdoor enthusiasts. That’s why you’ll never want to go anywhere else for your apparel or gear than Trail & Ski. Locally owned and operated, the team here knows the area well and can direct you to the best trails and other outdoor hot spots. In addition, they back up their products with real experience to ensure you get the right stuff the first time. They’re proud to carry favorites like Marmot, Patagonia, and Mountain House for their fellow hikers. 

No matter where you roam, Intracoastal Outfitters can help you get there in the best possible way. You’ll find best in class brands like Keen hiking boots and Chaco wearables to help you get what you need in a single trip. They also specialize in comfort footwear, offering orthopedic inserts, custom fitting, shoe stretching, and other services to help you continue your passion for hiking.

New ENO daypacks. New style. Old school look. Digging these. #eno #outdoorgear #backtoschool #enohammock #pensacolavibes

A post shared by Wes Dannreuther (@intracoastaloutfitters) on

Just a stone’s throw from Destin, this local outfitter can meet your hiking needs every bit as much as a big-name store. With a special level of personalized service, you’ll find all your outdoor needs from backpacks, to clothing, to medical kits, to hydration. Brands like Saloman, Life is Good, and Hydro Flask are known to dominate the shelves, along with other top-quality labels for the best possible hiking experience.

Who says a walk in the woods means you have to sacrifice style? Columbia Sportswear knows how to outfit hikers from head to toe in the most fashion-forward way possible. Their stores are dedicated specifically to the Columbia Sportswear brand, offering essentials like jackets, accessories, and clothing for layering. 

When it comes to outdoor quests, no one knows your needs like the North Face. They make clothing and backpacks perfect for whatever weather Mother Nature throws at you, and can help you stay prepared. When you invest in a good jacket and backpack like these the first time, chances are they’ll last you for many years to come. 

Mai getting her new winter coat! #mai #japanesegirl #wintercoat

A post shared by Oladele Wilson (@wils6521) on

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/start-your-trek-7-unbeatable-hiking-retailers-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/start-your-trek-7-unbeatable-hiking-retailers-in-florida Thu, 09 Aug 2018 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.

πŸ’Ž

A post shared by You Got The Good Vibrations πŸ™ˆπŸŽ€ (@bri.l.singing_) on

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!

A post shared by @ carladte on

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.

Dinner was oh sooooo good tonight πŸ¦€πŸ¦πŸ¦‚πŸŒΆ #crawfish #seafoodboil

A post shared by Brandy (@brandacenoel) on

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.

I got to feed the giraffe πŸ€“

A post shared by Melissa Simser-Iovino (@melissa_simser) on

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.

]]>
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 Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
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!

Where ...

A post shared by •SANANAS• (@sananas2106) on

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.

]]>
IrinaK/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-hiking-trails-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-hiking-trails-in-florida Wed, 08 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500