Florida’s unique geography allows for some of the most diverse ecosystems anywhere in the world. And the state’s wildlife is just as unique and diverse. Viewing wildlife here can be some of the best in the world. In fact, many places in Florida offer one of a kind plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet. So get your safari hat on and explore one of these top destinations to view wildlife in Florida.
Considered by some to be the “Amazon of North America”, this twenty mile by five mile wide strand of bald cypress swamp holds some of the rarest plants and animals in the world. It is home to the elusive and endangered Florida Panther, Florida black bear and the Everglades mink. It’s also the only place in the world where native royal palms and bald cypress trees share the same space, due to its unique place in the Everglades ecosystem.
Visitors can expect to see a wide variety of plant life as well. This area is home to more native species of orchids and bromeliads than anywhere on the entire North American continent. But don’t worry about trekking through the swamp to see it all. A boardwalk at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park allows visitors to see a wide variety of wildlife without getting their feet wet. This park is located off of I-75 in South Florida. Visit the website here for directions and details on this wildlife viewing adventure.
This central Florida preserve was the first in the state and is well known for its diverse community of plants and animals. William Bartram the great American explorer and naturalist called Paynes Prairie “The great Alachua Savannah” when he first wrote about it in 1774. With over 20 distinct biological communities, over 270 bird species and home to wild bison and Spanish horse and cattle, Paynes Prairie is certainly one of the top places to view wildlife in Florida.
Located just south of Gainesville, Florida, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park has some of the best wildlife and ways to view them. Eight hiking and biking trails allow visitors to access the highlands and lowlands of the preserve to view up close and personal wild bison, Spanish horse and scrub cattle on this amazing grazing land and open prairie. A 50 foot high observation tower at the visitor’s center gives you the perfect vantage point to see the many bird species that frequent the area. Visit the website here for more information on trailhead locations and directions.
The West Indian Manatee can be viewed here in the river or at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. This gentle giant is endangered due to the many boating collisions that occur to this surface floating vegetarian. Several injured or permanently disabled manatees reside in the state park year round and can be viewed in the “underwater fishbowl” located in the spring. But you won’t just see manatee in the fishbowl. Jacks, drum, mullet and tons of other fish species share these crystal clear waters with the manatee.
But this park isn’t just about the underwater wildlife, it’s also a zoo. Florida black bear, Florida panther, red and grey fox, native snakes, hundreds of birds and one hippo named “Lucifer” all reside here as well. Just remember to stand clear of the “splatter zone” when Lucifer’s out and about, or you might find out why it’s called a “splatter zone”! Visit the website here for more details on the best place to see wildlife in the state.