Thursday, May 24, 2018
Outdoors

Terry Tomalin's Top 11 Florida state parks to visit in 2016

Whenever I get the wanderlust, I put on Johnny Cash's version of the ultimate road trip song, I've Been Everywhere.

Crossed the deserts bare, man … breathed the mountain air, man

Travel, I've had my share, man, I've been everywhere …

Being a traveling man, people often ask me about my favorite places to fish, paddle and camp. And while sometimes I do think that I've been everywhere in Florida, when I stop and break out a map, I realize how much of the Sunshine State I have left to see. So instead of writing about where I've been, how about a column about where I'll go in 2016?

Perdido Key State Park: This 247-acre barrier island near Pensacola has white sand beaches and rolling dunes covered with sea oats. Rumor has it there is great surf fishing, and I bet during the winter months, I could also catch a ride or two on my longboard. Can't wait to go. Click here for more .

Big Lagoon State Park: Another patch of Panhandle paradise, the park's 655-upland acres separate the mainland from Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico. It's got everything from saltwater marshes to pine flatwoods. It's a great place to look for birds during the spring and fall migrations. You can camp, swim, fish, boat, paddle and hike, all in one park. Click here for more .

Falling Waters State Park: The Sink Hole Trail leads to Florida's highest waterfall. Falling Waters Sink is a 100-foot deep, 20-foot wide cylindrical pit that catches a small stream that drops some 73 feet. Just a few miles south of Interstate 10, the park is must see for any trip to the Panhandle. Click here for more .

Grayton Beach State Park: Consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the United States, the nearly 2,000-acre park between Panama City Beach and Destin has both fresh and saltwater fishing. The nature trail winds through a coastal forest where scrub oaks and magnolias have been bent and twisted by the salt winds. You can camp or stay in one of the park's new cabins. Click here for more .

St. Andrews State Park: Another great coastal park, this former military reservation east of Panama City Beach has over 1 1/2 miles of beaches on the Gulf of Mexico and Grand Lagoon. Two fishing piers, a jetty, and a boat ramp make this park and ideal place for anglers. Click here for more .

Little Talbot Island State Park: With more than 5 miles of wild beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean, Little Talbot Island is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in Northeast Florida. The maritime forests and desert-like dunes are well worth the drive. While you are there check out Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park, Amelia Island State Park, Fort George Island Cultural State Park, Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park, Big Talbot Island State Park and George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park. Click here for more .

Jonathan Dickinson State Park: The Loxahatchee River, Florida's first federally designated Wild and Scenic River, runs through this park located just south of Stuart. There's hiking and both paved and off-road biking, but the big draw is the river, one of Florida's best paddles. Click here for more .

Oleta River State Park: Florida's largest urban park, located on Biscayne Bay in the busy Miami metropolitan area, this is the perfect place to camp and then paddle to South Beach for a mojito. There's a great mangrove forest at the north end of the park that probably hasn't changed much in 100 years. Click here for more .

Bahia Honda State Park: One of Florida's southernmost parks, Bahia Honda is a good stop on the way to Key West. This tropical paradise is a good base for fishing, diving and snorkeling. You can launch at the boat ramp or wade the flats from shore. Nature lovers will find it a great place to see wading birds and shorebirds. Click here for more .

Curry Hammock State Park: This gem, located on the largest uninhabited parcel of land between Key Largo and Big Pine Key, is an ideal place to kayak and paddleboard. Hikers will also enjoy a moderately difficult 1½-mile trail through the bayside hammock of the park. Click here for more .

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park: It has been called "The Amazon of North America." The "Strand" is a linear swamp forest in southwest Florida, 20 miles long and 5 miles wide, and the only place in the world where bald cypress trees and royal palms share the forest canopy. With 44 native orchids and 14 native bromeliad species, this park is a botanist's dream. But it is also as good a place as any to see Florida panther and black bear. Click here for more .

So there you have it. If I make it to even half of these places it will be a great year. Hope you make a list of your own and before you know it, you'll have been almost everywhere.

Terry Tomalin can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8808.

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