You may know Florida for its thrilling theme parks, luxurious resorts, and amazing pinkish sunsets. But these are not the only things to get excited about when visiting the sunshine state. In recent times, life has been challenging with respect to getting out as well as traveling for all of us. There is no better time than the present to start now and spending time outdoors! So I compiled some of the best beaches in Florida’s gulf coast along with a few really nice parks.

Beachfront state parks Florida.
Sunset near St. Pete, Florida

Let us begin our outside journey with a few incredible gulf coast parks. The central gulf coast of Florida is premier territory for some of the most incredible natural habitats and marshlands, rivers and lakes. I find these environments fascinating, unique, and of course; they are the perfect opportunity for all types of outdoor activity and exploration.

Robinson Preserve Hiking Trails

Located in northwest Bradenton, Robinson Preserve offers a vast array of trails, wildlife, and foilage! You can enjoy all the beautiful smooth trails perfect for hiking and biking. Don’t forget to bring the kayak and enjoy a scenic nature tour around the preserve.

The preserve is home to numerous birds and wildlife, therefore providing the best opportunity for nature photography. After a recent expansion project, it is now made up of about 682 acres consisting of a mix of preserved mangrove, tidal marsh, and former agricultural lands.

Enjoy all the nearly 10 miles of hiking trails throughout Robinson Preserve. Plan your adventure and explore all of them.

  • Exploring Eagle Trail: Consisting of a 2.5 mile loop trail offering wonderful perspective smack in the middle of the preserve.   
  • Wandering through Tern Trail: Taking you approximately 1.4 mile round trip by the side of the northern edge of the preserve to Mead Point.
  • Osprey Loop: A 3.1 mile loop trail leads you across the wooden boardwalk, allowing you to view mangrove forests, and the sea birds milling around yonder.
  • Perico Boardwalk: Short and peaceful 0.3 mile boardwalk trail offering tranquility and access to views of mangrove forests and observing wildlife.
  • Nest at Robinson Preserve is a 0.3 mile loop trail. Indulge yourself in this elevated walkway that features a new innovative educational experience.
Virtual Tour of Robinson Preserve

Robinson Preserve History

There is an old historic property built in the 1800s known as the ‘Valentine House‘ that serves as the Visitor Center Robinson Preserve! In 2009, this beautiful home was relocated here to the preserve due to possible development near its former location.

Best Parks | Beaches to Visit on Florida’s Gulf Coast During Covid
Valentine House at Robinson Preserve

Nathan Benderson Park Hike & Kayak

Home to the Club Crew Championship competitions! Located adjacent to the new University Town Mall in Sarasota, this park is beautiful as much as convenient. You will enjoy the 600 acre park offering paved pathways for hikers and bikers as the loop takes you about 3.5 miles around the 400 acre lake. Bring your kayak and and fishing rod for incredibly peaceful moments. Rentals are available at this park facility.

Myakka River State Park

This adventurer’s playground is known as Myakka River State Park. The nature landscape here is quite extraordinary. It consists of wildflower prairies, wild wetlands, and pinelands. The park offers plenty of activity such as biking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, boating, fishing and more! Rentals are available this park facility as well. If you love wildlife including alligators, then a hike out to Deep Hole will definitely satisfy your wild side. This trail is about a 2.2 mile hike one way to reach Deep Hole Myakka River State Park.

Myakka River State Park. Florida. 
Deep hole Myakka River state park
Deep Hole Myakka River State Park

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Take a walk through this mystical landscape full of cypress, palmetto plants, otters, birds, turtles, and alligators living here year round. Located in the Fort Myers area, the park includes over 3,500 acres of wetland ecosystem, a beautiful boardwalk, and interpretive center. There is also a butterfly garden, but some of these areas remain closed due to Covid.

The cypress slough here acts as a filter while it catches rainwater that is making its way towards Estero Bay. As I walk through this park, I feel an eerie sensation like I’m in a scene from a Harry Potter movie. Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is an overall wonderful park and I highly recommend it!

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. Fort Myers, Florida.
Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Rye Preserve in Manatee County

Enjoy this historical place that is home to a little pioneer history. You can visit the Rye Family cemetery which is the only thing remaining as a reminder of this historic Rye river community. Rye Preserve contains another incredible ecosystem and wildlife residents. Some sightings include the rare gopher tortoise and Florida scrub-jay.

Rye Preserve. Parrish, Florida.

The hiking trail system consists of short paths with the longest being .81 miles. The connecting paths are named by colors. There is Red, Blue, Orange, and Yellow Trails; as well as The Cemetery Trail and the Canoe Launch Trail.

Camping is permitted in the park and activities such as kayaking and canoeing are fantastic here!

Fish Hawk Creek Nature Preserve

Hiking the Red Trail here in this preserve is quite easy. The distance is about 2.67 miles, but parts of the trail are heavily covered in plant growth. It is recommended that you take extra caution and look out for snakes. You might consider this trail more of a local neighborhood nature path. The preserve is full of trees and nature galore. It is a very peaceful and quiet place to explore and is located near Fish Hawk region in the Lithia, Florida area.

Best Parks | Beaches to Visit on Florida’s Central Gulf Coast
Fish Hawk Creek Nature Preserve

Crystal River Preserve State Park

Home to the gentle giant, the manatee; Crystal River is loaded with outdoor fun! Another feature of this amazing preserve is Florida’s most diverse ecosystem where fresh water from the spring fed rivers merges into the saltwater leading into the Gulf of Mexico. Here you will find numerous fresh water springs that are clear as can be. You may encounter the gentle giants while visiting Crystal River!

Best Florida state park beaches.
Crystal River Preserve State Park Florida

We explored Hunter Springs Park with the kayak during a holiday weekend. It was pretty crowded in the water, but we had no problem navigating around. On this trip, we didn’t see manatees, but hoping to return and explore more of the springs! The nature coast is where awesome happens!

Kayaking at Crystal River, Florida.
Crystal River Kayaking Florida

Lake Manatee State Park

State park beaches in Florida.
Lake Manatee State Park, Florida

Don’t be fooled by its small size and crowds, Lake Manatee State Park can hold its own when it comes to outdoor fun and activities! Although the name contains Manatee, you will not find Manatees here in this lake. Together with its mature canopy oak trees shading the recreation area where you can enjoy a picnic lunch. First, however, you may wish to rent a canoe and glide down the lake and take in this incredible nature setting.

Recreation picnic area Lake Manatee State Park, Florida.
Recreation picnic area Lake Manatee State Park

You will certainly enjoy the full facility camping here just walking distance to the lake! You can rent canoes and kayaks for a day full of adventure! The park’s natural habitats will remind you of the real old Florida look. The area consists primarily of pine flatwoods and sand pine scrub with some depression marshes and hardwood forest. The hiking trails are easy and short mostly, but offer endless nature and beauty!

You can find Lake Manatee State Park here at 20007 State Road 64 East, Bradenton FL 34212. The entry fee is $5 per vehicle. Directions.

Most Beautiful Beaches in Central Florida

Florida is indeed known for its stunning beaches, beautiful seashells, and sparkling waters! On the best seashell beaches in Florida, you will find some of the most pretty seashells and sea treasures. Some of the common shells found here are the cockle shells, conch, and scallop seashells. But the shells are not the only cool feature of Florida beaches. The sand is like powdered sugar with its pure white qualities and soft feel, you might think you are walking on a pillow! You may want to take notes here and start planning your visit today!

Manatee Public Beach

This lovely beach consists of seven acres of sunshine and fun! You will find other amenities here including benches, café, gift shop, picnic tables, playground and more! You may be sharing the beach with tern sea birds as they use some areas as their breeding grounds.

Siesta Key Beach

Home to the purest white sand that is made up of 99% quartz and sparkling beauty! Named the number one beach in the United States numerous times, Siesta Key will dazzle you in its total luxury!

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, Florida.  Sarasota
Siesta Key Beach

The sand is cool to the touch so you don’t need to worry about burning your feet when walking barefoot on this beach. The perfect place to enjoy the day full of sunshine and relaxation!

Siesta Beach, Florida.
Siesta Key Beach Florida

Fort De Soto State Park and Beach

Named the Best Beach For Families by USA Today in 2014, Fort De Soto will definitely leave you with unforgettable memories. Besides the kid’s attractions of the Pirate’s Ship playground, you can indulge yourself in history and venture throughout the parks 1,136 acres and five islands.

Best beaches in Florida for families.
Fort De Soto Beach

Here is your chance to browse through the historic artillery and firing galleries. Take a journey back in time. Get up close with the mortar cannons as they are situated over the top of the fort. They are purposely pointed towards Tampa Bay to defend against possible threats during those times. You will also find historical photos, military documents, and artifacts from the Spanish-American war.

Swimming and Shelling at Fort De Soto

Now it’s time to take a dip in the clear warm waters and search for sea shells and manatees!  Fort De Soto will certainly not disappoint! Keep in mind, when driving to Fort De Soto there are a couple toll road fees you will encounter. The fee to enter to the park is $5 per vehicle. If you have a kayak you can launch from an area prior to the gate that collects the fee. You can also rent a kayak located in different spots along the coastline.

Bean Point Beach

If you are looking for a discreet unique and pristine place that only few people know about, then this spot will have you saying Wow! Anna Maria Island is one a most luxurious charming beach destinations you can find. Anna Maria Island is a barrier island on the Coast of Manatee County with the Gulf of Mexico surrounding its borders.  

This beach is considered a hidden gem and is not real obvious to find. Bean Point is an area located at the very northern tip of the island and holds as much beauty as it does history. Don’t be alarmed when you see dozens of pelicans and sea birds falling from the sky diving for fish here! On a side note; the rip currents and waves can be quite rough. So many people primarily come here just to see the beautiful beach or simply sit and watch a sunset versus going into the water.

Bean Point History

In 1892, George Emerson Bean founded Anna Maria Island and began the plans of development with his son. He would make his home on the most northern area tip comprised of 160 acres.

Bean Point, Anna Maria Island, Florida. Sunset. Beach.
Bean Point at Anna Maria Island Florida


When you come to Florida searching for adventure, you do not have to look far. The quest for blissful paradise, intimate connections with nature, and pink skies blending with sparkling coastal waters is right at your fingertips. The Gulf Coast of Florida will certainly leave an impression on you. There is no better way to maintain good health both physically and mentally than to indulge yourself into that zest for life that lies within you!  


Thank you for being here. Welcome! FitLifeTravel is a lifestyle brand and shares travel inspiration and life's adventures. Sharing ideas for travel excursions and hiking adventures! Helping you adventure better, no matter where you are. Hoping to inspire an active lifestyle through adventure!

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  1. The Parks look beautiful and quiet too! I always think beach when I think about Florida. It was great to learn about other outdoor options

    1. The best beaches in the world are here; however,.. the parks are quite amazing as well! Thanks for reading!

  2. I can’t believe I spent 2 weeks in Florida few years ago but I only stayed in Miami and I have missed so many natural reserves! Thanks for sharing, I am adding these to my list for my next trip there!

    1. If you love the outdoors, then you will love these parks! Especially the Six Mile Cypress Slough, absolutely amazing walking through here! Hope you can make a trip back again and do more exploring in Florida! Thanks so much reading!

  3. Great inspiration for my next trip there! The only one I’ve been to is Siesta Key but I’m dying to see the manatees!

    1. Oh my, you have so much exploration to do when you come back! My hubby actually saw a Manatee pass by him while in the water at Fort De Soto beach this summer; the water is so clear too. Amazing! Look forward to having you come back! Thanks for reading!

  4. There’s so much to see and do. Valentines House is beautiful and I’d definitely visit Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. It sounds amazing and would love to see a manatee at Crystal River Preserve State Park.

    1. At the time of our visit to Robinson Preserve, the Valentine House was closed, but hopefully when I go back I’ll take a few shots from the inside. The Cypress Preserve is definitely pretty awesome!!

  5. These Florida parks look beautiful and I love the diversity of the wildlife you can find in them. How close did you get to those alligators while you were hiking in Myakka River State Park? I’m not sure I’d want to encounter one along the trail!

    1. It truly is a nature paradise here in Florida. Well, we got fairly close to the gators, but not enough to disturb them. We have a Zoom lens on the camera to help take photos so we don’t spook them. We enjoyed all these parks and beaches over the past 8 months! Thank you for reading Becky!

      1. Florida is truly a gem.

  6. What an absolute wide variety of places to visit on florida’s coasts! i love that there are nature preserves and beaches, but also historical sites! fabulous list!

    1. Yes! Me too, Together with the nature parks, (and beaches); it is equally fulfilling to experience the historical sites as well. Which makes it more interesting too! Thanks Alana!

  7. I haven’t spent much time on the Gulf coast of Florida and your post has me asking why? So beautiful…especially love that cypress slough…and I’m always fascinated with old cemeteries.

    1. Oh yes, that Cypress Slough is so cool, is very quiet, and you hear rain drops and birds throughout. That historic cemetery area at Rye Preserve also had a spot where a home was and things like really hold household goods..cans of food(just the can), and other containers. Very interesting.

  8. It’s definitely a year for local creativity. I love how exotic these are, there’s no chance of seeing manatees or tortoises In our local beaches and parks.

    1. Exotic is a great way to describe some of these parks for sure! That’s what we love about Florida, so much nature everywhere. Manatees are so neat, we hope to see more on our upcoming kayak adventures! 🙂

  9. […] parks. And this past year gave us opportunity to wander throughout several local preserves and parks nearby! Here is a brief description of these amazing Florida […]

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