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Florida Outdoor Pursuits

Visitors to Florida come not only for the sun, beaches and theme parks but for the great natural areas of wilderness there are to explore. Perhaps most well known of these are the Everglades, a vast area of subtropical marshlandto the south of the region. The Everglades National Park is best visited in the winter when it is cooler and wildlife abundant - you are also less likely to be bothered by mosquitoes at this time of year. The Main Visitor Centre is the best place to start with information on tours, maps and displays. The half-mile long Anhinga trail, part track part boardwalk across sawgrass marsh is an excellent place for spotting birds and alligators. Canoeing is another fabulous way to explore the creeks and mangrove swamps of the Everglades.
 
Undoubtedly Florida’s best inland river canoeing is on the Blackwater River in the Penascola area in the north. Canoes can be rented for between $20-30 a day. You will need a canoeing map and don’t forget to check the river’s water level before setting out.  
 
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary run by the National Audubon Society on the south west coast near Fort Myers is a true haven for birds and boasts the country’s largest population of wood storks. A boardwalk traverses just over 2 miles of changing habitat from wet prairie, pine flatlands to bald cypress forest.
 
Avid beachcombers and shell seekers head for Sanibel Island or Captiva Island off Fort Myers.  Each tide brings a fresh batch but please don’t take live shells away. Biscayne National Park south of Miamiwith its crystal clear waters and coral reef is a perfect place for diving and snorkelling. Apart from the abundant sea life on the reef there are also old shipwrecks to explore – (See Coasts for other beach related outdoor pursuits.)
 
Probably the best time of year to see sea turtles is during June and July when they come ashore to lay their eggs – The Sea Turtle Preservation Society organise turtle walks on Brevard County beaches on the east coast. Another good place for viewing sea turtles is around Crystal River in the northeast where you can also see manatees.
 
 If you like hiking in forest then head for the Apalachicola National Forest. There are many short and clearly marked nature walks to follow while for the really keen there is the thirty mile Apalachicola Trail. There are two further National Forests in Florida Ocala and Osceola and both offer varied outdoor recreational activities.
 
Finally for golfers Florida offers almost 1,500 courses to choose from with Pine Barrens at Brookville on the east coast and Calusa Pines at Naples being two of the finest.