Home to some of the Sunshine’s State’s most iconic attractions, Florida’s Adventure Coast has been enticing visitors for decades. The region is teeming with natural wonders, from inviting freshwater springs to wildlife-rich woodlands to sun-soaked stretches of shoreline. The area also has a captivating history, and reminders of the past still dot the local landscape—especially in historic Brooksville.
From nature lovers to culture enthusiasts, there is something for everyone along Florida’s Adventure Coast. Here are just a few ways to have an unforgettable family vacation along the Sunshine State’s idyllic natural playground.
Dappled with parklands, swaths of native forest, and biodiversity-rich conservation areas, Florida’s Adventure Coast is loaded with wildlands. You’ll find an abundance of hiking trails, bike paths, and blueways that will suit every member of the family.
Covering more than 164,000 acres, the Withlacoochee State Forest is loaded with recreational opportunities, from hiking and biking trails to paddling routes to leafy campgrounds. Just north of Brooksville, the Croom Tract of the state forest is laced with family-friendly trails, and the Silver Lake Recreation Area is an easy jumping-off point. The recreation area includes short-but-sweet options like the 1.2-mile High Water Route, which offers a glimpse of the region’s sandhill habitat and provides access to longer treks. For an extended hike, try the 5.3-mile Croom River Trail that skirts the Withlacoochee River.
Rather ride instead? The Adventure Coast has options for cyclists of all skill levels—even riders still mastering training wheels. The 46-mile paved Withlacoochee State Trail meanders through six different native habitats, rolling through hardwood hammocks, sandhills, and cypress swamps. In Brooksville, Lake Towsen Regional Park offers easy access to the trail, along with family-friendly amenities like picnic shelters and restrooms.
Hikers and naturalists will also love the Cypress Lakes Preserve located in eastern Hernando County. Protected as part of the county’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands program, the 331-acre preserve is rich in biodiversity with a patchwork of live oak hammocks, cypress swamps, and native sandhill habitat. The protected area is renowned for seasonal wildflowers, and the diversity of habitats means the area is also a hotspot for both native and migratory birds. For hikers, birders, and photographers, a 1.5-mile portion of the statewide Florida Trail also weaves through the lake-studded preserve.
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We decided to do something different this year for Avery’s birthday. Instead of wallowing around at home, we’re on a mini-vacation a couple hours away. On our way, we stopped at the historic Richloam General Store, built in 1928. It was also a post office. I’ve always wanted to visit this little store and I absolutely loved it.
Layers of history unfold along Florida’s Adventure Coast. In 1539, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto roamed the region, and Hernando County still bears his name. The Seminole tribe also settled in the area, and many of the region’s natural features are still endowed with distinctive Seminole names. At Weeki Wachee Springs, Timucuan burial sites and artifacts dating from 1200 to 1700 A.D. have even been discovered.
There are eight locations on the National Register of Historic Places sprinkled throughout the Adventure Coast, including the May Stringer House Museum. Built in the middle of the 19th century, the seven-gabled, Victorian-era house is reported to be one of the most haunted locations in Florida. Docents offer daily historical tours and ghost tours on Friday and Saturday nights.
Visitors can also learn more about the region’s locomotive history at the 1885 Train Depot Museum in historic Brooksville. The location has been utilized for more than 130 years, and today it houses exhibits depicting the lives of early settlers and the history of the Florida Southern Railroad.
Itching to explore the Adventure Coast’s bucolic backroads? Head for the historic Richloam General Store, hidden away in the Withlacoochee State Forest. The artfully restored general store provides a glimpse of local life in the 1920s and is still stocked with goods resembling those from that era, including classic toys and penny candy.
From fresh seafood to frozen treats, there are plenty of memorable ways to savor the Adventure Coast’s best eats. Kids will love harvesting a haul of fruits, vegetables, and berries at one of the region’s ‘U-Pick’ farms. Find freshness on display at two weekly Farmers Markets, as well. Browse outdoors stands provisioned by weekly local growers, at Saturday’s Spring Hill Farmers Market and Sunday’s Brooksville Farmers Market.
For gastronomically-inclined visitors, Florida’s Adventure Coast offers one of the state’s most memorable experiences—diving for bay scallops in the Gulf of Mexico. The region’s extensive seagrass meadows provide prime habitat for bay scallops, and the seafood bounty gathered during a day spent underwater can be transformed into an epic family feast at a nearby “You Catch-We Cook” establishment.
There are also enduring local institutions to explore. In Brooksville, the Coney Island Drive-Inn has been slinging one-of-a-kind hot dogs since 196o, and Elvis Presley even visited the eatery in 1961. For the ice cream aficionados, there’s Boyett’s Citrus Grove. In addition to hand-dipped ice cream and spumoni, the longstanding roadside attraction also features an animal park, gift shop, and a miniature golf course.
From crystalline natural springs to winding rivers to the Gulf of Mexico, there are plenty of ways to hit the water along Florida’s Adventure Coast. Savor the combination of sea, sun, and sand at Pine Island Park in Spring Hill. The palm-studded swath of shoreline spread along the Gulf of Mexico offers a host of family-friendly amenities, including a playground, volleyball court, and umbrella-shaded picnic tables. There’s even a waterside snack bar.
Rather explore the Adventure Coast’s wildlife-rich coastal waterways? Keep an eye out for bald eagles, otters, and herons while cruising the 1.7-mile Bayport-Linda Pedersen Paddling Trail. The signposted blueway links Bayport Park and Linda Pedersen Park, taking paddlers through a vast coastal estuary adorned with islands of needlegrass, swaying cabbage palms, and mangroves teeming with marine life.
Of course, no trip to Florida’s Adventure Coast is complete without a visit to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. The attraction has been welcoming visitors since 1947, first gaining notoriety for its idyllic location and underwater mermaid shows. The park is still a favorite spot, and youngsters will love catching the live mermaid show and splashing around in Buccaneer Bay, the state’s only spring-fed waterpark.
Adventurous souls can also rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and explore the Weeki Wachee River on a self-guided paddling trip, or opt for the park’s River Boat Cruise. Lucky visitors may even catch sight one of the region’s endangered West Indian manatees in the crystalline water.
Home to an array of natural areas, parks, and preserves, Florida’s Adventure Coast is a hub for wildlife. The area includes 10 different stops along the statewide Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, like the 11,206-acre Weekiwachee Preserve. The trail-laced natural area is a hotspot for increasingly imperiled grassland birds, especially sparrows, and provides vital habitat for reclusive Florida black bears.
North of Brooksville, the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area is another excellent area for birding. Hike the Prairie to Pines Trail and keep your eyes peeled for red-headed woodpeckers, or participate in one of the year-round educational programs and workshops at the Chinsegut Conservation Center.
Of course, Florida’s Adventure Coast is also renowned for marine life. At the Linda Pedersen Park in Spring Hill, the 40-foot observation tower provides a panoramic view of the Gulf and adjacent marshlands, offering the chance to spy coastal dolphins and congregating manatees.
Whether you’re climbing a tower to peer at dolphins, splashing in a clear-water spring, or eating hand-dipped ice cream, you’ll feel like you’ve entered another world on Florida’s Adventure Coast. The cypress forests and old-timey stores will transport you back in time and allow your whole family to escape modern distractions. When your family discovers new things together and shares unique experiences, you’re guaranteed to have an unforgettable vacation.
Written by Malee Baker Oot for Matcha in partnership with Florida’s Adventure Coast and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image provided by Alan Cressler