Places to visit on the wild side of Florida

Florida is famous for being the theme park capital of the world, but for many tourists and locals alike, the real attraction is its vast, varied and beautiful wildlife. If you're planning your Florida holidays, but don't want to spend every day with Mickey and friends, you'll find this state has plenty of natural delights on offer. Teeming with exotic wildlife, dramatic landscapes, vibrant culture and a cuisine all its own, Florida feels like a place of endless natural discovery.

The state is home to the Ocala National Forest, an enormous state park. The Ocala section of the Florida National Scenic Trail goes north to south through the forest for about 67 miles and covers all sorts of landscape, from rolling hills, prairies and swamps to thick woods and pine forests. Alongside the Scenic Trail are lots of shorter loops and walks, with cycling and horse-riding offering a great alternative to hiking. For camping, you can choose your comfort level. Some camping areas are fully equipped with log cabins, toilet and shower facilities, but in other parts of the forest it really is 'back to nature'. It's all worth it when you wake up to the sound, smell and feel of a wild Florida morning.

The Floridian spirit is full of danger and adventure, and never more so when it comes to its most ferocious resident – the alligator. Intrepid travellers shouldn’t miss out on the chance to see these magnificent beasts up close and personal, and there are plenty of tour operators to choose from.

Orchid hunting is now banned in Florida because of thieves wiping out indigenous populations. But staff at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park still lead swamp walks from November through to April, taking groups to spot the famous Ghost Orchid and the 47 other varieties of wild orchid that still grow there.

Like so much else about Florida, its cuisine is far from the standard American fare. Bright and juicy Florida oranges, delicious fresh fish and seafood, and even deep-fried and battered alligator tail make it onto the menu. The state is deservedly famous for its fine wines and lush vineyards, where you can learn the subtle art of wine tasting or just enjoy the breath taking views.
Florida is a great place to visit all year round, but it’s worth checking out the festival calendar before you arrive. Arts and crafts, food and drink, music, sports and nature are all celebrated in festivals throughout the year, so there really is something for everyone.

Carly Bryce is a freelance writer who loves to travel. She has family in North America so has spent a lot of time exploring Canada and the east coast of the USA.

Images by www.flickr.com/photos/kpaulus/5282810985 | Kristine Paulus and www.flickr.com/photos/vlopresti1964/7433592888 | Vince LoPresti made available via Creative Commons.

NOTE: This is a post from one of our contributors. Any views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views on www.pinoyadventurista.com.


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