The Most Underrated State Parks In Florida, According To Reviews

Close your eyes and picture a Florida vacation. Did you envision tall palm trees and white sandy beaches? Extra points if Universal Studios, Walt Disney World, or the alligator-strewn Everglades National Park came to mind. While tourists and locals love these timeless Florida attractions, the Sunshine State offers many natural wonderlands to explore during your getaway. Often, the most resplendent places you can visit are Florida's most underrated state parks, many of which you'll find off the beaten path.


To ensure we're giving you the best information, we consulted the experts – other travelers who've been there, done that, and reviewed it on sites like Tripadvisor and Google. Then, we used their top picks to create our list of must-visit spots for your next trip in the Sunshine State. Like Florida's other under-the-radar spots for a relaxing vacation, the parks on this list are ideal for enjoying a crowd-free day filled with bliss and captivating scenery. Slap on sunblock, pack a water bottle and lace up your walking shoes. It's time to embark on a new adventure you and the whole family will enjoy.

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park

While Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park may be a bit of a tongue-twister, this underrated park is a must-visit day trip destination from Orlando. Set 111 miles south of the theme park hub, Kissimmee acts as a haven for those searching for a tranquil destination to see some of the area's most famous wildlife. Spread across 54,000 acres of prairie land (hence the name), visitors can spot impressive residents like deer, alligators, burrowing owls, and turkeys. According to Florida State Parks (pdf), visitors have encountered more than 150 species of birds there. With over 100 miles of trails to explore on foot, bike, or horseback, you'll have plenty of opportunities to spy at least a few animals.


Visit during spring or fall to be wowed by Insta-worthy wildflowers. Their iridescent blooms captivate from every angle. Better yet, stay the night to immerse yourself in the area's beauty. Travelers have four campgrounds to choose from, including an equestrian option with paddocks and an astronomy campground devoid of lights and campfires to ensure visitors have unobstructed views of the starry sky. Reviewers on Google commend the park's remote location, expansive trail system, and phenomenal star-watching. A Tripadvisor contributor wrote, "If you like solitude and nature, this is the park for you."

Florida Caverns State Park

If seeing stalactites and stalagmites up close gets your heart pumping, it's time to visit Florida Caverns State Park in the northwestern part of the state. Touring the underground passages with a guide is one of the best things to do in this underrated state park, so arrive early on the day of your visit to ensure a spot, as these can fill up quickly. Visitors to this ethereal locale will find dry caves to explore and plenty of other things to do, like checking out a sinkhole, hiking or biking multi-use trails, and renting a canoe to paddle along the Chipola River.


Want to stay longer? Florida Caverns State Park has 38 campsites, including six that allow visitors to bring a horse. Travelers have granted this park a 4.8-star rating on Google, raving about the knowledgeable and fun tour guides, family-friendly vibe, and overall beauty. One reviewer wrote, "I've toured a ton of caves and this cave was amazing." Expect to pay $5 per vehicle and $15 per person for a cave tour (kids under 12 cost $8 each).

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

If you have your heart set on camping, head to Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park. One of the most underrated, lesser-known Florida State Parks, this gem (about an hour southwest of Jacksonville) has received praise from travelers for its reasonable rates, trails, and peaceful environment. Known locally as Gold Head Branch, the park was developed in 1935 as a camp for the Civilian Conservation Corps, providing work for unemployed individuals during the Depression. Today, you'll find historic relics, like original cabins dating to the 1930s. Don't worry, they've been updated.


Speaking of cabins, visitors love the accommodations at Gold Head Branch, with one reviewer taking to Tripadvisor to describe Cabin 115 as "Clean. Large. Peaceful ... Can't beat the views out the back and of the pond." It even has an indoor fireplace. Outside, the park boasts 3 miles of paved road for biking, multiple hiking trails, a lake primed for fishing, paddling, and swimming, plus three campgrounds for those who want to stay overnight.

Cayo Costa State Park

Are you looking for a romantic way to spend a day? Head to the underrated and truly passion-inspiring Cayo Costa State Park. An idyllic Gulf Coast locale on an island northwest of Fort Myers, this rugged spot is only reachable by boat and offers 9 miles of unspoiled land. Dig your toes into the clean sand and search for shells while exploring this pristine park. While you may only have eyes for each other, keep watch near the crystalline water as manatees roam nearby. If swimming with these animals tops your list of things to do, steer your boat towards Crystal River, about 80 miles north of Tampa. This hidden gem spot in Florida is ideal for skipping tourist traps and swimming with sea creatures.


If you decide to stay put, you won't be disappointed. Cayo Costa State Park lies on the Charlotte Harbor Estuary, which is also home to myriad bird species, turtles, and dolphins. Rated 4.7 stars by Google reviewers, Cayo Costa State Park is a must-visit destination for vacationers who enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, fishing, and kayaking. As one individual wrote on Google, "We love this island. Secluded, beautiful, tons of shells. What's not to love?" Pack a picnic and plenty of water so you won't be tempted to leave early; you'll want as much time as possible to enjoy this alluring, island-based park.

Koreshan State Park

Step back in time during a visit to Koreshan State Park, a historic region about half an hour south of Fort Myers. In the 1890s, a religious sect settled in this picturesque section abutting the Estero River. Today, visitors can explore their homes on tours offered year-round by volunteer guides and rangers. No matter when you visit, you'll receive insider knowledge about this distinctive settlement. Known as Koreshan Unity members' houses, these homes were among 11 buildings added to the National Register of Historic Places.


Travelers took to Google to praise Koreshan State Park's exciting mix of history and nature paths and commend the kind and knowledgeable guides. When you aren't participating in a tour or ogling the old architecture, wander the bamboo trails and examine a Fairbanks-Morse Engine that dates to 1929. Then, try your luck at fishing, hike the River trail, or take to the water in a canoe. There are enough fun things to do that you might want to prolong your visit. Luckily, 60 campsites reside on the grounds, making spending a night or two easy.

O'Leno State Park

Pack your camping gear and prepare for endless activities like hiking, swimming, kayaking, and fishing on the Santa Fe River at O'Leno State Park. Located just over 30 miles northwest of Gainesville and 6 miles north of High Springs, this picturesque park is a haven for outdoor lovers primed for exploring. Whether you're on foot or you plan to bike the 13 miles of pathways, you'll be happily challenged in this park. Those craving more activity can hop on the neighboring River Rise Preserve State Park Trail to add another 35 miles of adventure. Have a horse? Bring it along to explore the trail system. However, be wary after a storm, as parts of this extensive trail can become dangerous due to flooding.


O'Leno State Park is also located on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, which means you're bound to spy some impressive fowl. Watch your footing! A few of Mother Nature's most spectacular offerings, like sinkholes and swamps, reside there. You'll also want to pack a good set of binoculars and a camera. Book a stay in one of the onsite campgrounds for a more immersive visit. Reviewers on Google liked the hiking trails and clean camping facilities but were frustrated by the suspension bridge's closure.

Dudley Farm Historic State Park

You won't need to wear a swimsuit when visiting Dudley Farm Historic State Park, but you should opt for comfortable shoes. A homestead that originated in the latter half of the 19th century, this National Historic Landmark still operates as a farm, so bring the kids for a day filled with family-friendly adventures. Guests can explore the 18 buildings, follow a nature trail, or picnic on the 325-acre grounds. Fun activities like the Annual Cane Festival make this an ideal place to visit when staying in nearby Gainsville, which lies just 14 miles away.


Travelers give this park a 4.7-star rating on Google primarily for its historic gems, informative staff, and adorable animals. The kid-centric nature of this palatably sized park also pleased reviewers. One wrote, "So cool. It's a short walk to homestead but it's so worth it. The whole property is beautiful." A word of advice: don't try to visit on Monday or Tuesday as the park remains closed on those days.

Bulow Creek State Park

You'll find Bulow Creek State Park on Florida's Atlantic Coast, just over an hour southeast of Jacksonville. The best thing to do in this underrated state park is go for a hike, and travelers on both Tripadvisor and Google rate this area highly (4.5 and 4.6 stars) for its fantastic trails and wildlife sightings. Visitors could spot possums, deer, and raccoons, among other animals. Serious hikers may enjoy the Bulow Woods Trail, which traverses 6.8 miles of the park and ends at the Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park.


According to Florida State Parks, Bulow Creek is home to "one of the largest remaining stands of southern live oak forest along Florida's east coast." The park's largest celebrity lives on the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail. Called Fairchild Oak, this giant tree dates back over 400 years. Travelers wax lyrical about this majestic tourist attraction. On Tripadvisor, one user gushed, "The Fairchild Oak is impressive and awe-inspiring. The images online don't really do the tree justice! It is huge!." The best part? The park has no entry fee, so making the trek to this mysterious wonder is affordable and fun.

Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park

Travelers will find many things to do in Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park. Shortly after you arrive, you may wish you had more time to explore this off-the-beaten-path locale. Set on a top-rated island in Florida, this Gulf Coast jewel offers activities like swimming, hiking, and kayaking. Travelers on Tripadvisor rave about the lack of crowds, quiet conditions, and fantastic shelling opportunities, so bring a bucket to collect treasures if you hope to partake in a bit of beachcombing.


Other possibilities at Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park include biking along 4 miles of paved roads, hiking on 3.5 miles of trails, fishing, and birding. When describing their experience at this park, a Tripadvisor reviewer wrote, "The ocean was wild and woolly, the shells were beautiful, and wish I could've stayed longer." Those intent on camping may want to search elsewhere in 2025. According to the park's website, the campground will close "starting March 1, 2025, for several months" for an enlargement.

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park

Despite its status as Florida's largest state park, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park remains an underrated place you should consider adding to your itinerary. Set just 16 miles north of its more famous counterpart, Everglades National Park, Fakahatchee houses a slew of animals, a 2,500-foot-long boardwalk (a.k.a. Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk), a lake, and multiple trails. If you hope to see a gator in real life, this park should help you satisfy that dream.


Reviewers on Tripadvisor were mainly thrilled about their experiences in this state park, praising the plentiful wildlife, clear water, and trails. One user wrote, "The real draw for this park is the chance to see panthers, it's not easy, but when you do see them it's exhilarating." Travelers did not enjoy the bumpy road and warned visitors to be wary of large potholes. Wear insect repellant, as the trails can get buggy.

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

It's easy to think you're in the Midwest when visiting Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The first state preserve, this captivating spot features vast prairie lands dotted with wildlife you might not expect to see while visiting the Sunshine State. Wild bison, horses, and deer frequent the area, as do the state's better-known residents like alligators. Pack a good camera to capture these beauties in their natural habitat.


Travelers on Tripadvisor give the park 4.5 stars for its well-groomed trails, observation towers, and pretty creatures. While there, hit the water and paddle at least some of Lake Wauburg's serene 300 acres. You'll have to bring a canoe, as the park doesn't offer rentals. Visitors can hike, bike, fish, and ride their own horses through the park. The campsite provides another plus for those looking to ogle the stars. Before your visit, pack insect repellant. Reviewers mention that the park can fill with bugs. Also, wear sunscreen and a hat as you'll find little shade.

Cedar Key Museum State Park

Cedar Key Museum State Park is an underrated spot set serenely on the Gulf Coast. This 18-acre beauty lies in the park's namesake, a charming small town in Florida with tasty restaurants and fantastic views. Reviewers on Google gave this unique spot 4.2 stars for its friendly volunteers, well-manicured grounds, and small nature trail. This is an ideal place to enjoy an hour or two, especially if the thought of a day spent hiking through tropical forests or paddling by mangroves doesn't thrill you. "The fresh air and quietness of this location is rejuvenating," a user wrote on Google.


You'll also find St. Clair Whitman's restored house on the property, and you can marvel at the owner's extensive collection of seashells and Native American relics. The park's limited hours disappointed some visitors. It welcomes guests between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday. Take note so you don't arrive to discover closed doors early or mid-week.

Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park

You may think you've teleported to the tropics when visiting Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park. A small rainforest and a sinkhole, neither of which screams, "I'm in Florida," serve as the highlights of this unique and alluring National Natural Landmark. As you make your way down to the park's main tourist attraction (a.k.a. the sinkhole), stop to appreciate the soothing sounds of trickling streams and oxygen-rich air. More geologically plentiful than some of the other entries on our list of underrated state parks in Florida, past visitors suggest this wonder spot is so captivating that you'll likely remember it for years.


The cavity of the limestone sinkhole is 120 feet deep and stands out for its diverse ecosystems and unique finds (fossils line the walls and creeks). According to Florida State Parks, visitors will also glimpse over 100 feet of layers of rocks called "geologic strata." If you're a closet geologist, you're in for a treat. Its proximity to Gainesville, just over 7 miles away, makes this an easy place to visit for a day trip. Reviewers on Tripadvisor appreciated the area's history and enjoyed searching for fossilized shark teeth. They also warned visitors about the many stairs.

Falling Waters State Park

Falling Waters State Park sits just over half an hour west of Florida Caverns State Park in Florida's northwest. Named for its main attraction, a 73-foot waterfall, this underrated state spot is best visited after rainfall; that's when the water truly cascades. According to Florida State Parks, this is the state's highest waterfall, dropping to a 100-foot-deep sinkhole. If waterfalls aren't your thing, there are plenty of other places to explore, like 12 limestone sinkholes, a butterfly garden, and a lake.


Pack hiking shoes, a swimsuit, and a towel to easily participate in the myriad of activities available. Falling Waters State Park also boasts a campsite for those who'd like to pitch a tent. Rated 4 stars on Tripadvisor, travelers recommend swimming at the onsite beach and exploring the walking trails. They also mention the park's small size (173 acres), which makes it quick and easy to visit, and the friendly park rangers who host informative  "fireside chats" throughout the year.

How we chose Florida's most underrated state parks

While we would love to travel to every state park in Florida, time won't allow us the opportunity for so much adventure. That's why we turned to other travelers to determine which of Florida's natural havens are the most underrated. We consulted detailed reviews left on sites like Tripadvisor and Google to choose the best, most off-the-beaten-path parks that are more than worthy of a visit.


Each park on this list is highly rated, receiving a minimum of 4-star ratings on both review sites. When putting together our ranking, we placed the most beloved and highly-reviewed parks at the top. Regardless of its position, these underrated gems boast natural beauty, animals, amenities, and enough family-friendly attributes to make everyone happy.