Exploring the Natural Side of Central Florida – Vacation Planning Tips to Consider
By Chris A. Harmen
By Chris A. Harmen
Florida often conveys imagery of man-made pleasures such as theme parks, fine dining, upscale shopping malls and outlet bargain hunting. However, Central Florida’s Polk County also has a more organic side for travelers to enjoy. The region’s warm temperatures, beautiful scenery and exotic wildlife all make a Central Florida vacation an ideal destination for tourists wishing to experience the natural side of the Sunshine State.
Land Activities To Consider On A Central Florida Vacation
Visiting some of the breathtaking and gorgeous state parks is just one of the many things to do in Central Florida. The region boasts 37 state, county and community parks for tourists looking to soak in some natural southern scenery and sightsee some of the area’s indigenous wildlife.
Circle B-Bar Reserve, with its freshwater marshes and swamps, provides homes for waterfowl, ospreys, eagles and alligators. Polk’s Nature Discovery Center features indoor and outdoor exhibits. Colt Creek, the state’s newest park, has over 5,600 acres of stunning landscape for an outdoor family expedition. The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve can satisfy the itch of naturalists who just can’t resist seeing a little piece of the Magic Kingdom. With 12,000 acres of wildlife and on-site staff scientists and other resources, the preserve provides a perfect hybrid of spectacle and education.
Tourists wishing to participate specifically in bird-watching activities will certainly find plenty of opportunity on their trip as well. Home to over 250 different species, Polk County draws bird-watching aficionados from all over the world. The Great Florida Birding Trail provides an excellent resource for visitors looking to get up close and personal with the local feathered fowl.
Additionally, families with children enjoy taking part in the exciting Summer Discovery Days at the beautiful Bok Tower Gardens. Through the hour and a half long sessions, children enjoy exploring the scenic gardens and igniting their imaginations while discovering forests, castles, butterflies and fairies.
Water Activities Abound in Polk County
Known as the “Bass Capital of the World”, Polk County has more than 550 lakes — putting fishing at the top of the list of things to do in Central Florida. Lake Weohyakapka holds a national reputation for novice and avid anglers alike looking to catch a trophy-sized bass. Besides the masses of largemouth found in the vicinity, a fisherman on a Central Florida vacation can also reel in crappie, bluegill and catfish. Visitors should contact Florida Fish and Wildlife offices to ensure understanding and adherence to proper license and catch limits before arriving.
Airboat nature cruises can also be a great way to enjoy the natural elements on a Central Florida vacation. Scenic tours are available throughout Polk County. These expeditions can bring participants up close and personal with all the wildlife (including alligators) the region has to offer.
Other Details To Consider
Weather and time of year can both play a critical role when planning a vacation. Luckily, Polk County has an average annual temperature of just over 72 degrees with mild winters and warm summers. It’s also important to note that the state’s peak season runs from December 1st through April 30th, although it is a beautiful destination to visit year round. Armed with just a few tips and pointers, seeing the natural side of the Sunshine State can be easily achieved. With just a little plan-ahead foresight, an entire trip itinerary can be completely filled without including a single theme-park excursion.
Chris Harmen writes for the Central Florida Visitors and Convention Bureau, your source for information about things to do in Central Florida when planning a natural Central Florida vacation.
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