Take It Outside Planner: Tubing on the Ichetucknee (w/video), camping and snorkeling in the state parks

Published August 5 2015

COOL OFF: TUBING THE ICHETUCKNEE

When the temperature is heading for triple digits and the humidity is on the rise, there's no better way to cool off than going north to the chilly waters of the Ichetucknee River and springs in north-central Florida. Just walk down the path to this waterway and the air suddenly feels 10 degrees cooler. Nine springs pump 233-million gallons of crystal clear water into the Ichetucknee River, which then flows south into the Sante Fe and Suwannee rivers. Right off the main parking lot at the north entrance to the state park, you'll find Ichetucknee Spring, also called the Head Spring. The spring has a bluish hue that makes it particularly appealing, especially on a warm summer day. During peak season (Memorial Day through Labor Day), tubers who want to complete the entire trip of three-and-a-half hours must arrive early. Rangers limit the number of people on the river. A tram is available at the south end to bring you back to your car. After Labor Day, things quiet down a bit. To keep the Ichetucknee wild and clean, tubers may not bring food, drink, tobacco or any other disposable items on the river.

GONE FISHING: HOT SPOTS FOR SNOOK

With more than 7,700 lakes, 10,550 miles of rivers and 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline, Florida has no shortage of places to fish. So, it is no wonder that the state has produced more than 900 world records, more than any other state or country for that matter. What are you waiting for? Get your rod, reel and hit the water. Species of the month: snook. These fish are highly sensitive to changes in water temperature and typically found in the state's warmer waters. A strong, voracious predator, the species will rip a fishing line to shreds. Great sport on light tackle, snook are a cagey prey, but well worth the time it takes to catch them. Hot Spots: Tampa Bay, 10,000 Islands, Charlotte Harbor, Jupiter Inlet. To learn more, go to myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/snook.

STATE PARK DESTINATIONS: CAMP AT ANASTASIA

Summer is the time to camp on or near the beach. St. Augustine's Anastasia State Park, with its 4 miles of unspoiled beach, is one of the state's best. Anastasia hasn't changed much since Spanish explorers made landfall here nearly 500 years ago. Besides great surfing, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, the park offers visitors a bit of history through an archaeological site where builders of the nearby Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the oldest Spanish fortress in America, mined coquina rock from a quarry. Explore the dunes and stunted oak hammocks via the nature trail or paddle Salt Run, a tidal salt marsh, in a canoe or kayak. The well-shaded campground is one of the best in the state system. Go to floridastateparks.org/anastasia.

Underwater: SNORKEL AT PENNEKAMP

People thought Floridians were a little crazy back in 1960 when the state opened its first underwater preserve. But John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the only park in the country to showcase a living coral reef, is still bringing in the crowds. If you have never snorkeled a coral reef, this is the place to do it. Just stop by mile marker 102.5 on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway in Key Largo and sign up for a glass-bottom-boat tours, or rent a canoe or kayak. Be sure to check out the visitor center with a refurbished 30,000-gallon aquarium, as well as the nature trails, picnic pavilions and two pristine beaches. And, of course, don't forget the diving and snorkeling, some of the best in the Florida Keys. pennekamppark.com.

 
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