A World of Natural Wonders – Florida

Established in 1862, Live Oak Point was one of the first communities on Charlotte Harbor. It’s now commemorated by Live Oak Point Park at the base of the US 41 bridge in Port Charlotte. For summer fun on the harbor, the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves offers snorkeling eco-ventures and nature tours that depart Gasparilla Marina in Placida.

Deeply canopied Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park is a favorite escape for mountain bikers, where the Myakkahatchee Area Mountain Bike Association keeps several miles of trails cleared for the enjoyment of visitors. A primitive campsite can be reserved through the City of North Port.

Encompassing 960 acres of backcountry in eastern Manatee County, Moody Branch Preserve is the newest natural area to open for public exploration. Expect to see gopher tortoises and Florida scrub jays along the hiking trail system; designated riding trails for equestrians are also part of this expansive day-use preserve.

CENTRAL EAST

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Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park

In Martin County, rent a kayak at Halpatiokee Regional Park in Stuart to explore the wild and scenic South Fork of the St. Lucie River, or wander by foot down the River Trail to discover a quiet campsite along the river’s edge. This 65-acre county park, which sits across the river from the 4,886-acre Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park, also features 7.5 miles of mountain-bike trails, numerous picnic pavilions and a sports complex. In Jensen Beach, families will enjoy the outdoor amenities of Indian River Side Park along the Indian River Lagoon, which includes an interactive play fountain, picnic areas, beach and a boardwalk through the mangroves.

A zip line with views of the Atlantic Ocean that’s what makes Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures a compelling new destination for thrill-seekers, with several levels of canopy walks leading up to the spectacular ocean panorama.

As the Coast-to-Coast Connector Trail, or C2C, continues its expansion eastward to provide a 250-mile dedicated paved bike path across Florida, it is now sweeping through northern Brevard County into Titusville, crossing an exclusive bike-pedestrian bridge over Garden Street into downtown, where bistros and a brewpub await cyclists.

One of the largest preserves in Volusia County, spanning more than 1,600 acres, Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve now offers five entrance points for differing trail experiences, including paddling, off-road biking, equestrian use and hiking. At Rose Bay off US 1, the easily accessed boardwalk and observation tower provide fine vantage points for a panorama of the coastal estuary. For a more intimate paddling experience, launch at Riverbend Nature Park in Ormond Beach for a paddle along the sometimes narrow and often canopied Tomoka River Paddling Trail, a state-designated water trail that stretches 13 miles along the north-flowing river, opening up into the estuary near a landing at Tomoka State Park.

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Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve

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