A new year inspires renewal and fresh starts. Exploring Florida can offer many “new beginnings” as we discover adventures along roads less traveled. There’s so much to discover and no better time to begin than right now. Begin checking off your Authentic Florida bucket list with these 14 ideas that will kickstart your 2016:
Paddle Juniper Springs Run
”Stunning” aptly describes the Juniper Springs Run, a slow moving, winding creek that will gently carry you through pristine and lush forested hammocks. Glide under fallen trees past fields of colorful wildflowers as shafts of sunlight shine through overhanging trees into crystal clear water and a shallow sandy bottom below. This Florida treasure is located in the Juniper Springs Wilderness area of Central Florida’s Ocala National Forest, halfway between Ocala and Daytona Beach. The park is an ideal base for exploring the rest of the National Forest that has so many recreational choices for hiking, biking, kayaking and swimming in Florida’s refreshing springs, lakes and rivers.
Flock to See White Pelicans
One of Florida’s most beloved events is the arrival of the white pelicans. From a distance, these birds could be mistaken for a flock of swans. Distinctive with snowy white feathers and pink-tangerine colored bills, they are shy in nature and congregate in isolated areas. From fall until spring they are found on secluded beaches, in estuaries, lakes, mangrove islands – often within protected areas. To ensure a sighting try using a local eco-tour operator who knows where to find them. Here are a few popular locations: St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge (St. Marks); Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (Titusville); Fort DeSoto Park (St. Petersburg); The Celery Fields (Sarasota); White Pelican Island (near Boca Grande).
Florida’s scallop season runs from late June to mid-September. Prime destinations include Hernando and Citrus Counties along Florida’s Nature Coast, the Big Bend/Steinhatchee River area, and the fertile bays of the Florida Panhandle. The little mollusks are found in shallow water and are fun to catch and delicious to eat. To gather the tasty morsels, snorkel on the surface scanning the grass beds and sandy spots below. You’ll begin to see scallops among the blades of seagrass. The shells are grayish in color and fit in your palm. Scoop them up and fill your buckets. On shore many local restaurants will cook your freshly caught cleaned scallops for you. Popular half-day group tours on pontoon boats charge around $75 per person.
Climb a Fort in St. Augustine
Whether planning a romantic getaway or a seaside vacation, there are many reasons to visit St. Augustine. Most people visit Florida’s oldest city for its rich and layered history, and no trip to St. Augustine is complete without a visit to the city’s Castillo de San Marcos. It is considered the most well-preserved and oldest masonry fort from the Spanish colonial period in the United States. Visitors enter the massive structure by crossing a moat and walking through a gate into living history. Volunteers dress in period costumes adding a touch of authenticity as they share historic stories and answer questions. It is easy to understand why the Spanish built this immense fortress on Matanzas Bay, with a commanding view of the harbor.
Bike the Withlacoochee Trail
Enjoy a carefree bike ride through natural Florida along Central Florida’s Withlacoochee Trail. Bikers, hikers and equestrian riders, from beginners to advanced, can trek along 46 miles of a continuously paved trail through three counties – Pasco, Hernando and Citrus, from Dade City to Citrus Springs. Orginally a railroad track, the scenic, shaded trail runs through canopied oak hammocks, cypress swamps and pine woods, past ranches and farms, and is convenient to charming restaurants. Inverness, with its historic downtown, is good starting point. Follow the trail to Floral City, and if you are ambitious, head further south to Nobleton. Be sure to stop at Ferris Groves for a fresh Florida strawberry shake.
Float Down the Ichetucknee River
Relax and enjoy total serenity immersed in the beauty of Florida’s nature while tubing down the Ichetucknee River. Located near Fort White, northwest of Gainesville, the Ichetucknee Springs and River has been a destination for tubers, families and college students seeking the bliss of drifting on one of Florida’s most scenic waterways. Admire the overhanging trees and blue skies; enjoy crystal clear slow moving water; listen to birds; glimpse deer and turtles along the banks; let go of all your cares and worries. This six-mile river will not disappoint as one of Florida’s most authentic pleasures. The park is open year around, but prime tubing season begins Memorial Day until Labor Day.
Source : http://www.authenticflorida.com/