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Movie star hippopotamus

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

What is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park?

Florida manateeHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is home to a variety of animals native to the state of Florida. The park is home to a many rescued animals, along with its other exhibits. The animals are displayed in open areas which make viewing easy. The park walkways wind among tall trees, providing plenty of shade for Gulf Coast’s warmer days. A bayou extends into the park which is frequented by manatees, one of the park’s main attractions. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park emphasizes natural Florida Manatee at Homosassa Springsand the preservation of native species. It is a worthy stopover on a Gulf Coast vacation, especially for those who want to see manatees, alligators, or other native Florida species. The Homosassa Springs is a great place to spend the afternoon and makes great entertainment for kids.

Where is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park?

Homosassa Springs boat rideHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located seventy miles north of Clearwater Beach. It is south of Crystal River Preserve State Park and north of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Crystal River, Homosassa Springs, and Chassahowitzka are all located on the coastline known as the Nature Coast of Florida. The park is situated on a bayou branching off from the Halls River. You will find the park in the community of Homosassa Springs off of Hwy 19 (Suncoast Blvd), or by taking the alternate route on Fishbowl Drive, which is a very scenic back road. An old sugar mill is nearby on the Fishbowl Drive route, for those interested in history. Homosassa Springs FloridaBoth parking areas leads to the same entrance but the large parking area off of Hwy 19 includes an informative and beautiful boat ride over to the parking area on Fishbowl Dr. We recommend the boat ride, because it starts at an interesting info center and gift shop. Plus, on your ferry to the park entrance, you can see the natural Florida environment and a good number of native animals living in the wild. The address of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is 4150 South Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL 34446.

What to See at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Springs hippoOur first recommendation for things to do at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is the boat ride to the park entrance. If you miss this ride, you’ve cut out a vital part of the complete experience. You will hear plenty of interesting tidbits from the boat captain as you wind down the slow moving water channel. You might also learn some history, such as the names of famous movies filmed in the area, and about the only non-native animal in the park, Lu the hippopotamus, granted official state citizenship so that he could stay in the park after the end of his Hollywood movie career. You will find gift shops at either end of the boat tour.

Homosassa Springs manateeOnce you enter the park, where you go is up to you. The walkways wind in different directions throughout the park, displaying both native plants and animals. Any walk along the waterway should be done with your eyes alert. You will undoubtedly see manatees swimming in the bayou. Even better is the underwater viewing room where you can see schools of fish and any nearby manatees. Your chances of seeing the large marine mammals is very good, because park rangers feed them at regular intervals from above. You might also find a number of manatees inside of pens on the others side of the waterway, recovering from illness or injury suffered in the wild.

Florida pantherThe park is essentially a zoo, displaying Florida’s native species. You will see just about any bird you can imagine, plus some others. A few of the larger species are egrets, bald eagles, owls, and even turkeys. You can also view of deer, black bears, wolves, cougars, bobcats, alligators, and otters.

While the park has a concession stand, it is also a great place for a picnic. You also won’t want to miss the ice cream stand just past Lu the hippo’s pool. Alligator at Homosassa SpringsThe park makes for a great afternoon on a Florida Gulf Coast vacation and is just over an hour from Clearwater Beach, making it a great outing for the day. If you are going to strike out from the beautiful beaches of the Central Gulf Coast, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is one of the best attractions out there.

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Fort Desoto Park Florida

Fort Desoto Beaches, Boating, and History

Visit Fort Desoto for the History

Fort Desoto cannonThe history of Fort Desoto Park in Florida is still present in its large cannons, and rooms buried under sand dunes that you can tour. Visitors can get up close and personal with the fort, touching the cannons and entering the old store rooms. Fort Desoto was built and named at the turn of the century in 1900 during the Spanish-American war. Henry B Plant, a railroad tycoon who brought the railroad to Tampa Bay, helped to urge the government to build the fort. Real history buffs might also want to visit the Henry B Plant museum in Tampa. The large Fort Desoto cannons were set to shoot ships trying to enter Tampa Bay, with help from a lookout on nearby Egmont Key, which also has ruins. The remains of Fort Desoto are fun to tour and are very close to the beach and the visitor center at the park.

 

Visit Fort Desoto for the Boating

Boating and kayaking at Fort Desoto FloridaOne of the best features of Fort Desoto Park is the waterways that surround the barrier islands there. Fort Desoto is a barrier island with several other small islands nearby. A good number of them are mangrove islands but you will also find locations where you can land your boat on a tiny, sandy beach. The type of boat you choose will determine where you can go. With a power boat you will be able to cover more ground but you will also need to be aware of the vast shallows surrounding Fort Desoto. On a kayak you will be able to navigate in even the shallowest waters but you will be limited by how far you can paddle. Plenty of other boat types are possible but power boats and kayaks are the most readily available. Naturally, your finances and personal preferences will have something to do with the boat you choose. One of the perks of boating in the area is finding a private strip of beach which is virtually your own for an hour or two. You also might find beautiful areas of wildlife, or coves with lots of shells to beachcomb. Boating is a great addition to a beach day at Fort Desoto Park.

 

Visit Fort Desoto for the Beaches

Fort Desoto beachThe best beaches in America are found along the Florida Gulf Coast, and Fort Desoto is definitely one of them. The beaches there, as well as several others along our coastline, win awards for the beast beaches in America repeatedly. Once you visit Fort Desoto, you will see why. The coastline is covered in fine, white sand, and the waters are blue, with a bright turquois color where the sun strikes the sand in the shallows. It is a long beach which can support quite a lot of visitors. This is a good thing, because on busy days like holidays or Spring Break, the beach fills up. Fortunately, the parking lot is built to accommodate very large crowds. The park also has a picnic area under shade trees right next to the beach. Last year the beach won an award for Best Family Beach. With wide swaths of sand, picnic areas, and plenty of sights to see, it is easy to see why Fort Desoto won the award.

 

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Moccasin Lake Nature Park

Gulf Coast Local Secret #10

Secret Nature Park

Mocasin Lake Park

Because this is an official park, it might seem that it doesn’t belong on a list of secrets. However, visitors might never find Moccasin Lake Nature Park on their own, causing it to land on the local secrets list. Nearby Kapok Park is large and covers a number of open acres, while Moccasin Lake Nature Park is small in comparison. The entry to Moccasin Lake is unassuming. In addition to the small building at the front, it provides some features that both kids and adults enjoy.

 

Moccasin Lake Nature Park Attractions

Florida nature trailMoccasin Lake Nature Park has a trail through the forest that runs by the lake. While the Florida Gulf Coast has number of parks with similar trails, this park has some additional attractions that other parks do not. Inside the building you will find displays describing Florida’s wildlife and wilderness. The main draw of Moccasin Lake is the animal rescue program. Behind the building at the front, you will find a series of enclosures with animals, much like a mini-zoo.

 

Mocasin Lake ParkRescued Wildlife

Visitors will find animals that have been rescued due to injury or other mishap. Because of their condition, these animals would do poorly if released back into the wild. Visitors will find birds of prey, song birds, aquatic life and reptiles. Along with a native plant display, a butterfly garden waits to teach children the life cycle of butterflies.

 

Moccasin Lake Nature Park

Kapok Park (3)Animals are not on display at all hours to be sure to check the Moccasin Lake Nature Park schedule before heading out. Stop by the park to entertain the kids or to take a walk along the woodland trail. Nearby Kapok Park has some great trails too, where lucky visitors might catch glimpses of Great Horned Owls.

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