Florida State Parks

Florida State Parks
Consisting of 175 units of parks, trails, and historic sites, the Florida State Parks system offers something for every interest and within a reasonable travel distance. Whether you’re a history buff, a beach lover, or just want to camp in a natural setting, you’re sure to find a park unit that suits you.

History and Organization

The state parks are administered by the Florida Park Service within the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. But even before the Park Service was created, the state began to set aside historic sites for preservation. In 1909, the state acquired the Civil War Battlefield at Olustee, site of a Confederate victory on 20 February 1864. In 1921, the state legislature appropriated funds for Dade Battlefield in Bushnell, where the battle that started the Second Seminole War in 1835 took place. In 1934, Highlands Hammock was acquired from Margaret Roebling. When the Florida Park Service was created in 1935, Highlands Hammock became its first official park. Under a cooperative program with the National Parks Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps, seven state parks were developed.

The Florida Park Service is the first three-time winner of the Gold Medal honoring the nation's best state park system. Its mission is to “help create a sense of place by showing park visitors the best of Florida's diverse natural and cultural sites. Florida's state parks are managed and preserved for enjoyment by this and future generations through providing appropriate resource-based recreational opportunities, interpretation and education that help visitors connect to the real Florida.”

Recreation, Programs, Access, and Fees

Comprising nearly 800,000 acres and 100 miles of sandy white beach, Florida State Parks offer a multitude of recreational activities including wildlife viewing, fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and camping. Concessions at some of the parks rent out recreational equipment such as canoes, kayaks, and bicycles. There are more than 50 family campgrounds throughout the state. Some parks also have primitive or modern cabins for rent.

Many of the parks have visitor centers staffed by park personnel. They conduct educational programs or provide interpretive displays. Some of the historic sites present historic reenactments or living history exhibits.

The parks are open from 8a.m. until sunset every day of the year. Reasonable accommodations have been made for physically handicapped patrons. Pets are welcome in designated areas, but must be under the owner’s control. They are not permitted in beaches, playgrounds, bathing areas, cabins, park buildings, and concession facilities, except for service animals.

Many of the state parks require a fee to access their facilities. The fees vary by park. Annual passes, honored at most parks, are available for purchase. The fees collected help to maintain and protect park resources and provide visitor services.

Recently, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has waived fees for Hurricane Florence evacuees at some of the state parks in north and central Florida. This offer is limited to dry camping on a first-come, first-served basis.

You Should Also Read:
The Civilian Conservation Corps in Fllorida
Civil War Sites of North Florida
Highlands Hammock State Park

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