University of Florida

Outdoor Recreation

Enjoying the outdoors can be as simple as going for a walk in a neighborhood park or riding your bike down a local greenway. Florida’s diverse ecosystems provide a setting for exploration that enables us to learn more about our environment while also enjoying physical activity.

Both exercise and exposure to nature go hand in hand for increasing our mental and physical health. Families that participate in activities together can benefit in many ways, such as better communication and increased time together. Listed below are some ideas for everyone to engage with Florida’s natural environment.

Things to Do

Trail Hiking

Trails and parks offer access to caverns, wetlands, hardwood forests, undeveloped beaches, rivers, and more. These trails can range from grassy paths to wooden boardwalks to paved walkways. The varying levels of accessibility means there is something for everyone. You can venture out for an afternoon stroll or a weekend camping trip. (See our separate article on trail hiking.)


Florida’s rivers, wetlands, and coasts offer many chances for exploring fresh and saltwater areas by canoe or kayak. Some areas may have interconnected “paddle-trails” with camping platforms for longer trips. Being on the water can offer a change in perspective and a chance to get a closer view of the water world of plants and wildlife.

If you are going fishing, make sure you have the appropriate licenses and practice catch-and-release.


You can explore the outdoors by bike on trails or paved greenways. Check with local county and city governments or organizations to find out about trails in your area. Like the other activities listed here, bike trips can last a few hours or stretch out for several days. Make sure you are comfortable with bike repair tasks if opting for a longer trip.


Numerous springs and waterways, along with ample coastline, mean Florida is a premier swimming state. Many swimming areas are located on public land, making access simple. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing are other ways to enjoy water recreation. Take care not to disturb underwater environments, such as grasses and corals.

Places to Go

Being outdoors does not require extensive planning or experience—it can be just walking through a city greenway. However, if you want to adventure to wilderness areas or on more extensive trails, here are some areas and resources to explore:

Be sure to check with county or municipal environmental departments, as well as local outdoor organizations, as they are often good resources for local outdoor opportunities.

Things to Know

When preparing for and during your trip, make sure you do the following:

  • Become familiar with the area you are traveling to. Print out or buy maps of the trail or park and know how to read them. Bring GPS navigators and compasses if you will be traveling on unmarked trails or unfamiliar territory. Read guidebooks that cover the area you will be visiting.
  • Bring appropriate gear. This can mean snacks, water, and good footwear for hiking or personal flotation devices, swimsuits, and synthetic clothing for water outings. First-aid kits are always recommended, especially for longer trips or those in remote areas. If you do not own the gear you need, or do not want to buy larger items such as bikes or canoes, check with local outfitters for purchases and rentals.
  • Check the weather. Know how it will affect your outing—be it sun, heat, rain, or wind—and prepare accordingly. This may mean modifying your trip, such as making it shorter or rescheduling to a different date or location. Remember to always quit your activity and seek shelter if you encounter a thunderstorm during your trip.
  • Make sure you are aware of tides and currents you will encounter, if you will be on the water. Only enter areas where you will not be physically overpowered.
  • “Leave No Trace.” Discard trash in appropriate bins or bring special bags for carrying your trash until you can dispose of it properly. Look up the site regulations (park, municipal, state) for fire rings. If allowed to have a fire, only use dead, fallen wood, and keep the fire in the designated ring. Rather than collecting plants or shells, take pictures or draw them in a sketch book. Stick to designated trails and travel areas to prevent disturbing sensitive habitats.
  • Do not forget to enjoy being outdoors! Bring field guides and binoculars to help you discover the plants or wildlife you may see. Cameras are great for documenting memories and scenes from your trip. Check out Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s page on wildlife viewing for resources and opportunities.
Adapted and excerpted from:

J. Stolarz and K. Shelnutt, Raising Healthy Children: Active Families, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (06/2010).

Trail Hiking,” UF/IFAS Extension (04/2010).

Canoe on the shore

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