Visit the great outdoors as an alternative to Florida’s theme parks, beaches and cities.
Here in Nature’s Place to Play, a vibrant array of spaces await your discovery. Step outdoors and into landscapes you’ll want to explore again and again.
Excluded from commercial development, public lands are for human recreation and often nature’s protection. From habitats for sensitive species of flora and fauna to community parks, a third of Florida’s Adventure Coast lands are public.
Escape the crowds and explore 107,000 acres of park and conservation lands that surround us. Here are some nearby places not to be missed.
This large coastal preserve features many different landscapes; protected space for wildlife – including the shy Florida black bear – and many opportunities for recreation. Laced with walking and cycling trails, there are also lakes for fishing and kayaking.
Learn more about the Weekiwachee Preserve.
County parks along our natural Gulf of Mexico coastline showcase scenery and invite recreation.
Across Shoal Line Boulevard from one another, Linda Pedersen Park and Jenkins Creek are popular spots. Enjoy a panoramic view from atop the 40 foot tall observation tower, fishing from the Jenkins Creek Pier and launching small boats from the boat ramp. With ample parking, picnic tables, a playground, pavilion, grills, a community building and an accessible boat ramp, it’s a good spot for group get-togethers.
Nearby is beautiful Bayport Park. With a wide open Gulf of Mexico vista, this park features a fishing pier and boat ramp as well as picnic tables and other amenities. It’s a favorite for sunset viewing.
Alfred McKethan/Pine Island Park
Florida’s Adventure Coast’s only coastal beach, this tidy three acre park welcomes visitors to play in the calm, shallow surf and watch for occasional dolphin sightings. Relax; bring your beach bag and spend the day.
Spanning over 34,000 acres in northwest Hernando County, this wild and rugged space also contains the coastal Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, a sprawling habitat of saltmarsh, scrub islands, springs and creeks.
Camping is prohibited but the WMA is open year-round, 24/7. It is accessible by car via a few limerock roadways and the best times of year to hike and bike the area are on non-hunting days in the fall, winter and spring. Plan your visit around various hunting seasons that occur from September through April.
From the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website, “This land, excluding the National Wildlife Refuge, was acquired under the Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) program. The purpose of CARL is to conserve and protect unique and irreplaceable lands, restore areas to their original condition as much as possible and allow controlled multiple recreational and educational uses consistent with this purpose.”
Hike tranquil trails among long leaf pines and other unique ecosystems seven miles north of Brooksville in Chinsegut Conservation Center and Wildlife and Environmental Area. Check out the full calendar of Saturday events such as Backyard Birding, Nature Photography, Geo Caching, Archery and much more. Be sure to attend occasional guided night time adventures as well.
Flanking the east side of Nature’s Place to Play are two tracts of Florida’s third largest forest service property, the Withlacoochee State Forest. Bisecting both and forming Hernando County’s eastern border is the Withlacoochee River, one of only two Florida rivers to flow north. A Designated Paddling Trail, it is fully mapped with access and waypoints marked.
The Croom Tract and the Richloam Tract represent a combined 78,000 acres brimming with wildlife and diverse landscapes. There are many marked trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding as well as day use and camping areas from which to enjoy the great outdoors.
Motorized off-road enthusiasts will not want to miss the Croom Motorcycle Area. This 2,600 acre course features miles of unique trails built and maintained exclusively for Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs), ATVs and dirt bikes.
In addition to Linda Pedersen, Jenkins Creek and Bayport Park, Cypress Lakes Preserve, Fickett Hammock Preserve, Peck Sink and Lake Townsen Regional Park are designated Environmentally Sensitive Lands. These special properties are owned and managed by Hernando County to protect their unique environments and habitats. Except for Peck Sink, each is open to the public and offers a range of amenities and recreational opportunities such as hiking, cycling and boating.
National Public Lands Day is Saturday September 30th. On that day, around the nation, thousands volunteer to help improve and enhance our shared public lands.
As expressed by filmmaker Ken Burns in his documentary series called, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” public lands are precious. Whatever their size or shape, these natural spaces are unique. By protecting and enjoying them, we enrich our lives and the lives of future generations beyond measure.