Dade Battlefield Historic State Park designated a National Historic Landmark located at 7200 County Road 603 in Bushnell. An eighty-acre park surrounded by Sabal Palms, Southern Red Cedars, and Live Oak Trees. Enjoy a picnic under a pavilion or relax in a gazebo. A replica of a six-pounder cannon on display. A monument dedicated to J.C.B. Koonce who was instrumental in establishing the Dade Battlefield Memorial.
Stop by the visitor center and see a film about the Dade Battle that occurred on December 28, 1835. Major Dade, Captain Gardiner of the U.S. Army fought the Seminoles led by Chiefs Micanopy, Jumper and Alligator. Every year a reenactment of the battle occurs during the time of the battle. A historical timeline of events inside the visitor center about the Seminoles from 1800 to the Seminole War of 1835 and the aftermath.
Walk a section of the Fort King Military Trail stopping to read the plagues along the way or walk the Pine Flatwoods Trail. Display cabinets filled with Seminole crafts. Palmetto Palm Weaving, books, and t-shirts for sale. Admission and hours of operation on the website.
Wekiwa Springs State Park a 7,000-acre park located at 1800 Wekiwa Circle in Apopka. Have a picnic on one of the tables or rent a pavilion. Walk along the wooden boardwalk to the concession store where canoes and kayaks are for rent. Bring a bathing suit and swim in the springs or sunbathe on the shore.
Stop at the interpretive exhibit and read about The Red-Eared Slider a semiaquatic turtle, Hydrilla an aquatic plant and The Sailfin Catfish all alien invaders. Pollution a serious threat to the springs at another interpretive exhibit. A 3-legged tortoise lost his leg in a fight with a dog explained by a volunteer at the nature center. View the mounted Florida Black Bear, Barred Owl, Sherman Fox Squirrel and Great Blue Heron encased in glass. All of these animals reside throughout the park.
Bring a bicycle and ride the 7.75-mile trail. Pick up a trail map and walk the Sand Lake and East-West trails both under 2 miles. Bring along a hat and bug spray. Admission and hours of operation located on the website.
Dudley Farm Historic State Park at 18730 W. Newberry Road in Newberry. Watch a film about 3 generations of the Dudley Family inside the Visitor Center. The cracker house formerly the home of the Hodge Family related to the Dudley family by marriage.
Photographs of the Dudley family, exhibits depicting early life on the farm, the second and third generations, reconstruction after the civil war and the next fifty years. Myrtle the youngest of the twelve children and the last remaining sibling donated twenty-four acres, family heirlooms and the eighteen buildings to the Park Service in 1983.
We started our self-guided tour walking along the pathway stopping to watch the cows grazing in the pasture. The kitchen a separate building roped off but you can look in. The farmhouse set up as if people still lived in the house. An ironing board set up ready for clothes to be ironed. Canning jars, dishes, cups and saucers and vases on the shelves and a table set up for family meals. A parlor with a fireplace and family photographs on the mantel. Lace curtains and doilies on a rocking chair.
A park staff employee drove up in a golf cart and offered to take us around the farm. She pointed out the general store that served as a post office. She gave us a detailed history of each building and told us that volunteers run the farm as a working farm. She pointed out the old Gainesville Road and the different fruit trees that include Fig, Peach, Orange, Walnut and Pecan. A sugar cane festival that demonstrates boiling and crushing of the cane held the first Saturday in December, Vendors invited to show their wares that include cooking and rope making.
The staff is very knowledgeable. I recommend visiting the Dudley Farm, go back in time and see how life was for the people on a 19th century farm. Admission and hours of operation on the website.
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park listed on the National Register of Historic Places located at 6400 N. Oceanshore Boulevard in Palm Coast. Sit underneath a huge oak and have a picnic or sit on a bench while watching your children play on the playground. Hike or ride a bicycle along .5-mile Mala Compra Trail or the 2.1 mile Bella Vista Trail System. Relax on a bench and watch the boaters on the Matanzas River that is part of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Enter the main garden through the wrought iron gates and walk the sandy path to the visitor center originally the home of the Young Family who bought the home as a winter retreat. Watch a film about early Florida. Storyboards illustrate the life of the Timucuans an early Indian tribe, the European Invaders to the Indian Raids and Life at Bella Vista.
Stroll along the sandy walkway to the Formal Gardens. Walk underneath a trestle and admire an abundance of Roses, Azaleas, Camellias and Pentas that attract butterflies. An abundance of butterflies in this garden more than any garden that I’ve visited. Walk across one of the wooden bridges, stop and admire the garden statue or relax in the gazebo.
Drive across the highway directly across from the park, walk on the boardwalk to the beach and take photographs of the many coquina rocks formations. Turtle tracks and nests observed from May through October. I recommend the park and formal gardens. The reflection ponds emptied for maintenance. Check the website for the latest updates.
Hontoon Island State Park located at 2309 River Ridge Road in Deland. Board the pontoon boat that ferries people to Hontoon Island. The last boat leaves one hour before sunset. Walk along the water’s edge, a good spot to take photographs. Have a picnic, relax and watch the boats and sometimes a yacht docking and leaving the pier.
The park encompasses 1,658 acres but only 700 to 800 acres are accessible. Pick up a trail map before hiking or bicycling the 7 miles of trails. Rent a canoe, kayak or bicycle.
A movie inside the visitor center narrates a story about the park. Inside the museum a timeline of events from the Paleoindians the original inhabitants from 12,000 to 9,000 years ago to Barbara Purdy an archaeologist who in the early 1980s excavated Hontoon sites. Dugout canoes a way of travel for the Native Americans. Some of the shells and stones used by the Timucuans on display. Various exhibits in the museum detailing Life in the Floodplain Forest to Water Resources – traveling the St. Johns River in the late 1820s.
Read about the Owl and Otter Totems found on the island belonging to the Timucuans. A replica of the Owl Totem found in the mid-1950s.
Hontoon Island State Park the only state park that doesn’t charge an entrance fee. Hours of operation on the website.
Silver Springs State Park located in Ocala. Silver Run Museum & Environmental Education Center open to the public on weekends owned by the Marion County School System. Articles placed inside the time capsule in 1991 next to the museum. The time capsule won’t be opened until 2091.
Swings and a jungle gym for children to play on. Bring a picnic lunch or barbecue in one of the pavilions. Whether you’re walking or hiking along a trail, biking the 4.5-mile trail, camping or driving Be Bear Aware.
Giant Short-Faced Bear
Many prehistoric animals from the Columbian Mam-moth, Giant Short-Faced Bear to the Archaeocete Whale, Pleistocene and Miocene Fossils.
Many exhibits throughout the museum and educational center. Steamboats a popular way of travel in the 19th century. People would take a journey on the Marion Sternwheel Riverboat on the Ocklawaha River from Palatka to Silver Springs. Henry A. Gray captain from 1871 until 1880. Tarzan movies and “Cross Creek” a movie about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings made on location.
Take a self-tour of a replica of a Cracker Homestead. Entrance fees and hours of operation found on the website.
Highlands Hammock State Park located at 5931 Hammock Road in Sebring. The tram tour sold out by the time we arrived. The park ranger told us that people were in line before the park opened at 8 a.m.
Surrounded by people having picnics and barbecues throughout the park. The laughter of children playing on the playground. Numerous trails within the park. Sign up for a nature walk with one of the trail guides.
Many different animals on display in the Exploration Station. The shell of a 10,000-year old Giant Tortoise, Green Tree Frog, different species of snakes and footprints of animals. Take a pamphlet on the Panther an animal near extinction. Books on mammals, birds, reptiles, waterbirds and amphibians for sale in the museum.
The museum dedicated to the men in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) who were injured, disabled and died performing their duties. Artifacts that the men used donated by family members. Posters of the original 8 parks that became the Florida State Park System. A 15-minute video presentation of the development of the state parks in the 1930s. Some of the men slept in tents; some in barracks. A tent that the officer slept in is on display.
Sit on a picnic table and enjoy Music in the Park performed in the bandstand in March and April. Admission prices and hours of operation on the website.
Blue Spring State Park at 2100 W. French Avenue in Orange City. Take a cruise on the St. Johns River in Blue Spring State Park where the Manatees are plentiful as early as October. Florida Nature Tours offered daily at 10:00 am, 1:00 pm and seasonally at 3:30 pm. Cabins, canoes and kayaks for rent. Walk along a four ½-mile nature trail. We stood on the pier, felt the breeze and watched people paddling in canoes down the river.
The Thursby family, The Golden Age, Manatees and different fish species featured in the many kiosks along the one-third mile boardwalk that chronicles the history of the Blue Spring Park. Louis Thursby built a home in the mid-1850s. The Golden Age referred to steamboats that ferried people on steamships from the Jacksonville Wharf to Blue Springs Landing. Before the expansion of the railroad, the steamship was the only mode of transportation.
Many items for sale at the gift shop that include snacks, coffee mugs, books on the Manatees and postcards. Barbecue on the grill while your children play on the playground.
On-going renovations to the Thursby House; the park ranger doesn’t know when the house will reopen. Check the website for hours and fees.
DeLeon Springs State Park located in the town of DeLeon Springs. Before DeLeon Springs became a state park archeologists uncovered mounds dating as far back 6,000 BC. Many Native American tribes inhabited the area.
Rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboat and travel along 22,000 acres of lakes, creeks and marshes. Great Herons, Great Egrets and an Anhinga along the water’s edge. Lake Woodruff National Refuge next to DeLeon Springs State Park named after Joseph Woodruff who bought Spring Garden Plantation in the 1820s. Swim in the springs or rent an inner tube.
Ospreys, alligators, otters can be seen on a Fountain of Youth ECO/History boat tour through Lake Woodruff National Refuge. Have a picnic in one of the four pavilions for rent. Walk along a 4-mile Persimmon Trail. You might encounter deer, turkeys, wild hogs or a black bear. A 600-year-old cypress tree, hardwoods and other plants found along a half-mile paved nature trail.
Construction of the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House built around the turn of the century. Make your own pancakes, eggs and meats on the grill. Spring Garden Plantation Ruins located next to the restaurant. After several owners, all that remains of the spring-run sugar mill is the sugar train, sugar mill machinery and Mill Wheel constructed in the early 1830s. Hours of operation and fees are on the website.
Paynes Creek Historic State Park located in Bowling Green. In the late 1970s, the Fort Chokonikla site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Inside the Visitor Center a museum, chronicles the lives of the Seminole Indians and the soldiers. Watch a film about the Seminole Indians and the 102 soldiers who lived at the fort during the three wars performing guard and work detail. Scenic paintings, a replica of Fort Chokonikla and waxed figures of the Seminole Indians and soldiers in uniform on display.
The cannon the artillery used in the 1800s by the U.S. Army exhibited. All artifacts found at the archaeological fort displayed in the glass case. A trail behind the Visitor Center leads to the site of the fort where it once stood.
Three pavilions available for rent. A children’s playground, several nature trails, canoeing, kayaking and fishing available on the Paynes Creek and Peace River. Fees and hours of operation on the website.
Visit Lake Alfred, Winter Haven and Fort Meade, all have historic districts. Small towns that we drove through along the way.