Florida State Parks You Must Visit with the Kids cover

Florida State Parks You Must Visit with the Kids

Did you know Florida’s 175 state parks, museums, and trails cover 8000,000 square miles and span 100 miles of sandy beach shorelines? We have 25+ state parks in the Tampa Bay area alone including Weeki Wachee Springs State Park featuring the world-famous mermaids in a one-of-kind underwater theater!

A trip to a state park is easily one of our favorite affordable things to do with kids, so let’s dive into some of our team’s favorite Florida State Parks to add to your family’s bucket list!

NOTE: The governor just announced entry fees to all of Florida’s state parks will be waived on Memorial Day Weekend, May 25-28, 2024. He also announced Freedom Month, a sales tax holiday on the purchase of qualifying outdoor items, state park entry, movie tickets, and more.

The Best Florida State Parks to Visit with Kids:


Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin

  • Location: Offshore island Dunedin
  • Hours: 8 am- Sunset
  • Fee: $8 per vehicle to enter Honeymoon Island State Park and then a roundtrip ride on the Caladesi Connection Fery is $18 per adult and $9 for kids ages 6-12. (Tickets are only available at the ticket office at Honeymoon Island State Park.) $6 per private boat.
Caladesi Island State Park chair rental
We rented beach chairs and an umbrella during our last visit to Caladesi Island State Park. Photo by Laura Byrne.

Caladesi Island State Park ranks as a top favorite because it’s not only a gorgeous beach, but a bit more secluded since it takes some effort to get there. While it is possible to walk from north Clearwater Beach, it’s a long walk and not the easiest, in our opinion. We MUCH prefer the ferry ride to Caladesi Island from Honeymoon Island State Park.

We also love that they have beach chairs and umbrellas that you can rent there for a fee. You can also find all of the modern amenities like showers, restrooms, a cafe, concessions, and more.

Honeymoon Island State Park

  • Location: #1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin
  • Hours: Open 8 am-sundown
  • Fee: $8 per vehicle
sunset at Honeymoon Island
A behind-the-scenes relatable moment of our family photoshoot at Honeymoon Island State Park. The sunsets here are gorgeous and it’s not overly crowded most days for the perfect photo! Photo provided by Laura Byrne.

We’re mentioning this one next because you can’t get to Caladesi Island State Park unless you first visit Honeymoon Island State Park, but you don’t have to leave here to enjoy one of our favorite beaches to experience with the kids!

We’ve taken gorgeous family photos here during the so-called ‘golden hour’. This is another beach that doesn’t get as packed as other well-known beaches like Clearwater Beach. The bird-watching is pretty phenomenal too. We spotted a flamingo during our photoshoot–it was visiting after a hurricane hit further south, but seemed pretty comfortable here!

We do want to mention that the northern part of the Honeymoon Island State Park was split from the main island due to sand erosion and migration which is a natural process. Use extra caution if you visit this area with the kids since the currents can get strong here. It’s best to avoid going in the water in this area of the park.

Bicycling, fishing, paddling, and hiking are among the other activities the park is beloved for. You can rent multi-passenger surreys, beach cruisers, kayaks, and more, so no need to bring your own!

Egmont Key State Park

  • Location: 4905 34th St. South, #5000, St. Pete (Accessible only by boat.)
  • Hours: 8 am-sunset
  • Fee: No fee. The roundtrip ferry from Fort De Soto Bay Pier to Egmont Key is $45 per adult and $25 per child ages 3-11.
Lighthouse at Egmont Key State Park by Lauren Gay, Outdoorsy Diva
Lighthouse at Egmont Key State Park by Lauren Gay, outdoorsydiva.com

Here’s what Tampa Bay Parenting contributor Marisa Langford (@TampaMama) and mom of four shared about her experience at Egmont Key State Park:

“The beaches here are pristine because it’s primarily a wildlife refuge. You can collect shells on secluded beaches or snorkel in the clear blue water. When you’re done with the beach, check out the lighthouse that’s been there since 1858.

Egmont Key is rich in history, and reading about it with the kids before visiting will give them a history lesson they can’t get in the classroom.

When exploring the island’s trails, you’ll also see gopher tortoises and other wildlife. Egmont Key is located at the mouth of Tampa Bay, southwest of Fort De Soto Beach. You can only get there by ferry or private boat.

Both the Egmont Key Ferry and the Dolphin Snorkeling Cruise depart from Fort De Soto Park. Keep in mind this is an island and there are no stores. So make sure to pack the kids’ bottled water, food, sunscreen, and bug repellent.

There are picnic tables to enjoy your lunch with the kiddos. So take a day this spring break to enjoy one of the best beaches you’ll find in Tampa Bay and get some true quality time with the kids.”

A visit to Egmont Key State Park is one of Lauren Gay of the Outdoorsy Diva’s top picks of outdoor activities in Tampa Bay!

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

  • Location: 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee
  • Hours: 9 am-5:30 pm
  • Fee: $13 for adults, $8 for kids ages 6-12
Weeki Wachee Springs Buccaneer Bay
Buccaneer Bay at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park features water slides, a water park, and even tubing. Photo by Laura Byrne.

Let’s move on to another way to cool off in the Tampa Bay Area! Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is home to the world-famous mermaids, but also a pretty awesome natural springs water park and even a spot to go kayaking along the Weeki Wachee River!

We recommend getting there early because the park will shut its doors once they reach capacity and that happens pretty often on weekends and even some summer weekdays. You’ll also want to line up early for one of the mermaid shows and even make some time to take a picture with one of the mermaids. The mermaids are a big part of Florida’s tourism history, performing since 1947!

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park

  • Location: 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd, Homosassa
  • Hours: 9 am-5:30 pm
  • Fee: $13 for ages 13 and older and $5 for ages 6-12
Homosassa Springs State Park
My kiddo and me at Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park. The spring water is the prettiest color!

We visited Homosassa Springs State Park after a morning at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park since it wasn’t too far away and we had the time. You’ll notice that the name includes wildlife–that’s because it’s essentially a zoo!

You can walk the boardwalk and see some of Florida’s wildlife up close like the endangered Florida panther, manatee, black bear, and even the oldest hippopotamus in captivity. His name is Lu and he’s a former Hollywood star who is enjoying his retirement at the state park. We didn’t get a full view of him since he was cooling off in the water and honestly, we couldn’t blame him.

There is also a cool Underwater Fish Bowl where you can get a view under the springs and possibly spot some of its inhabitants like a variety of fish and maybe even a manatee!

The park also offers boat tours for an additional fee and daily tours if you want to experience even more of the park.

Hillsborough River State Park

  • Location: 15402 US 301 N, Thonotosassa
  • Hours: 8 am- sundown
  • Fee: $6 per vehicle
Hillsborough River State Park suspension bridge
The suspension bridge at Hillsborough River State Park. Photo by Laura Byrne.

We love hiking the trails at Hillsborough River State Park with the kids! There are seven miles of nature trails here, but you don’t have to hike them all!

We recommend the Baynard Trail (1.2 miles) where you and the kids can cross the suspension bridge over the river. it also connects to the Rpaids Trail (1.2 miles) you can see the Class II rapids. There are areas where you can sit and relax and a playground near the trail entrance which our kids loved. They don’t pass up a chance to paly on a playground when they see one.

Camping, kayaking, and even glamping are other popular activities here!

Myakka River State Park

  • Location: 13208 SR 72, Sarasota
  • Hours: 8 am- Sunset
  • Fee: $6 per vehicle
Canopy Walk at Myakka River State Park
Canopy Walk at Myakka River State Park. Photo by Zoe Joiner.

Zoe Joiner on our team recently spent the day at Myakka River State Park with her young girls and had the best experience!

This park also features a cool canopy walkway along its hiking trails. It’s one of Florida’s oldest and largest parks, so you know it’s something special.

Here’s what she said about the Canopy Walk:

“The trail to and from the Canopy Walk is called The William Boylston Nature Trail, which is a quick loop known for birdwatching. You’ll see the Canopy towers after just a 2-minute walk from your car if you park on the southwestern side of the trail, so there’s no guessing when you’re there. Either way, the loop to and from the Canopy Walk is only 0.8 miles.

INSIDER TIP: There’s a scavenger hunt you can print out HERE, to make the trail more fun for kiddos!

Although a bit underwhelming compared to Instagram, the Canopy Walk was still totally magical for our girls who thought it was way cool being so “up high” in the trees.

My favorite part was the attached lookout tower. At 74’ high and over 100 steps to climb, be ready for a hike. Getting to the top is worth it, though; the views of the surrounding wetlands and prairie are impressive. I was surprised at how high we were! Those scared of heights need not apply.

INSIDER TIP: The Canopy Walk is a quick, one-way walk on a suspension bridge and allows for only 4 people to cross at a time. There is a tree branch crossing the walkway as well, meaning you’ll have to duck significantly in order to cross. Another fun obstacle for my husband carrying our 2-year-old on his back!

Canoeing, hiking the birdwalking trail, and camping are other popular acivities here.

More Florida State Parks that are worth the drive from Tampa:

Wekiwa Springs State Park

  • Location: 1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka
  • Hours: 8 am- Sunset
  • Fee: $6 per vehicle
Swimming Area at Wekiwa Springs State Park – image by Maria DiCicco
Swimming Area at Wekiwa Springs State Park – image by Maria DiCicco

Wekiwa Springs State Park is a favorite among team members with Orlando Parenting and Orlando Date Night Guide because it’s a great escape to nature just 20 minutes from the hustle of downtown Orlando.

You can go hiking, canoeing, and swimming in the natural springs here.

De Leon Springs State Park

  • Location: 601 Ponce De Leon Blvd, De Leon Springs
  • Hours: 8 am- Sunset
  • Fee: $6 per vehicle
old sugar mill pancake house at de leon springs
Pancakes at the Old Sugar Mill Pancake House. Photo by Dani Meyering.

De Leon Springs State Park is a staff favorite because of the Old Sugar Mill Pancake House where you can make your own pancakes, but it’s also a pretty cool state park to visit.

It features 6,000 years of cultural history from the cool water of the springs that the Myaca Indians who once inhabited the area called “Healing Water” to the old sugar cane mill that was turned into a corn flour mill during the Civil War.