Whether you're a local or you're just visiting Florida in search of a much-needed vacation, you probably already know there are tons of places to see and things to do, I mean, if you need proof you can just go down my list of blog posts. But the point is that if saving money is one of your top priorities it may seem as though your options are limited. The good news is that doesn't have to be the case! So, save your money and forego the expensive destinations, I have rounded up a list of cheap nature parks in Florida that will absolutely blow you away.
1. Kelly Park Rock Springs
What's better than a day at a beach? A day at one of Florida's natural blue springs, of course!
Kelly Park Rock Spring is easily one of the best nature parks near Orlando, offering visitors a chance to not only swim, but also float down their natural lazy-river for no additional cost (you have to bring your own tube). What's perhaps the most shocking aspect of this blue water oasis is that admission is only $3 per vehicle for 1-2 people; $5 per vehicle for 3-8 people; and $1 for additional person/walk-ins/motorcycles/bikes. Talk about fun for the whole family--on a family-friendly budget!
If you want to learn more about this almost-hidden gem and it's many amenities, you can check out my previous blog post here!
2. Kissimmee Prairie Preserve
Have you ever wanted to go to a place and really become one with nature? Well, Kissimmee Prairie Preserve located near Okeechobee is one of Florida's few dark-sky parks--and it's a great starting point.
A measly $4 will get you into the preserve for a promising day of exploration along miles of untouched land, but if you want to see the real show, consider the $12 upcharge to stay for a night. Once the sun goes down the stars will offer an epic display of dim twinkles from above--and of course, shooting stars are nothing short of plentiful too. As long as the night sky is clear, you will be granted an unforgettable gaze into the heavens, or rather, the Milky Way.
If you want to learn more about this park, you can click here!
3. Fort De Soto
Do oceans almost as blue as the Caribbean sound of interest to you? If so, you don't have to book expensive cruise tickets yet! Instead, make your way off the coast of St. Petersburg to Fort De Soto.
While the park itself is free to enter, there is a $5 parking fee (and perhaps a toll depending on which way you are driving in from). All in all, getting there shouldn't cost you more than $10 and I'd say it's well worth it for a day of fun exploring an old fort, pristine beachline, off-leash dog park, and miles of trails. The water at this beach was some of the bluest I've witnessed on the Gulf Coast, as evidenced by the photo above taken atop the fort's overlook.
If you want to learn more about Fort De Soto, you should click here.
4. Rainbow River State Park
Like the name suggests, when the sun is shining just right little rainbows of light shimmer through the clear blue water of the headspring at Rainbow River State Park, located in Central Florida.
This enchantingly gorgeous swimmer's paradise fills up fast during the summer, especially so since admission is only $2, but rest assured that it's worth visiting even on cooler and rainy days. In fact, those are some of the best times to visit if you value a quiet, relaxing day at the park. Additionally, with miles of nature trails and a couple of waterfalls to gawk at, plus kayak rentals on site, swimming is far from being the only activity to enjoy.
You can learn more about Rainbow River State Park and its many features here and here.
5. Key Vista Nature Park
While it may appear as though the photo above was taken at at some African safari oasis far, far away, that couldn't be farther from the truth.
Key Vista Park, located near Tarpon Springs, is a must-visit for anyone looking for a secret getaway to an uncrowded coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. While the beach here isn't ideal for swimming, it's shoreline is nothing short of a wonderful place to spend a few hours reading a book, sunbathing or dolphin spotting. Parking and visiting the park is totally free, allowing visitors a budget-friendly opportunity to uncover Florida's coastal wilderness via miles of easy trails.
If you want to find out more about Key Vista, you can click here.
6. Payne's Prairie Preserve
It's not too often that you hear of wild horse and buffalo herds along the east coast, but Payne's Prairie Preserve has 'em.
This state park located near Gainesville is $4 to enter in a solo-occupied vehicle or $6 for 2-8 people in a vehicle. While there are no shortage of hiking trails and outdoor activities to be had here, what makes the preserve truly unusual is that it's the only nature park in the state with herds of wild horses and buffalo, so naturally, that's its main attraction.
If you want to learn more about the park, click here!