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On the road in Florida

Once you arrive in Orlando, it can be tempting to stay put – this city has more entertainments on tap than almost anywhere else in America. But if you’ve got an extra day or two to add to your itinerary, you won’t regret driving beyond the city limits to discover more of what Central Florida has to offer. From white sand beaches to wild swimming spots, nature reserves to the oldest city in the US, it’s all within driving range – just keep an eye out for those gators.

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Florida State Parks

With its sinkhole lakes and its pretty beaches, its atmospheric lagoons and its bayou ecosystems, Florida is like nowhere else on Earth. Discover the state’s stunning natural beauty on a road trip to its state parks. From Hontoon Island State Park, where visitors can glimpse age-old Native American shell mounds, to Lake Louisa, which offers the perfect conditions for swimming and water sports, you’re bound to make some thrilling discoveries.

Three great Florida state parks

Wild swimming spots

Given Orlando’s tropical heat and brilliant sun, the occasional cool-down is a necessity – and few things are more reviving than a dunk in a wild swimming spot. In nearby state parks, Orlando visitors will discover a bounty of cooling natural springs, where it’s possible to paddle, rent a canoe, and even spot wild manatees.

Wild swimming in Orlando: The best natural springs in Florida

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Orlando nature reserves

You might’ve seen alligators at your local zoo or aquarium – but have you ever encountered a toothy gator in the wild? If not, you’re in for an exciting day out when you visit the nature reserves within reach of Orlando. Whether on a nighttime everglades mission or a daytime airboat swamp tour, it’s the perfect way to get up close – but not too personal – with Florida wildlife.

Gator baiting: Wild Orlando nature reserves

St. Augustine

What’s the oldest city in the United States: Jamestown, Virginia? Plymouth, Massachusetts? Nope: it’s beautiful St. Augustine, which was first founded by Spanish conquistadors in the early 16th century. Not even two hours from Orlando, this coastal city is the ideal day trip destination thanks to its famous landmarks (like the centuries-old Castillo de San Marcos fort), its wonderful museums (the Lightner Museum is a particular stand-out), and of course, its beaches.

Beaches near Orlando

When travellers think “Florida,” they think “beaches.” And while Orlando is located inland, visitors who want nothing more than to sprawl on the sand and soak up the sun are lucky to have some of the state’s best beaches within driving distance. From Canaveral National Seashore, a protected barrier island where sea turtles hatch, to the quintessential seaside town of Cocoa Beach, it takes under two hours to reach tropical paradise.

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Image credits:

Alligator in lily pad swamp, Everglades National Park © iStock: YinYang

Everglades swamp motorboat © iStock: Juanmonino

Florida beaches © iStock: Douglas Craig

Florida beaches © iStock: Paulbr

Fort in St. Augustine © iStock: Sean Pavone

Spring time in Orlando © Visit Orlando