BEACHES AND OUT­DOOR GEMS

Travel Guide to Florida - - CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA -

South of Stu­art, the Jonathan Dick­in­son State Park of­fers awe­some bik­ing and hik­ing trails, rang­ing from nor­mal to rugged ter­rain, man­groves and river swamps. Prim­i­tive camp­grounds and wa­ter sta­tions are avail­able through­out the park. Out­door en­thu­si­asts en­joy the kayak­ing and boat­ing ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing the win­ter months.

Have you ever dreamed of rid­ing horse­back on the beach? Your dream be­comes a re­al­ity on the beaches of Hutchin­son Is­land dur­ing the cooler months and is just one of many gems to be en­joyed in St. Lu­cie County.

Se­bas­tian In­let State Park, sit­u­ated di­rectly be­tween In­dian River County to the south and Bre­vard County to the north, is an ex­cel­lent choice for fam­ily camp­ing. Spread over more than 600 acres, the park is part of the Great Florida Bird­ing and Wildlife Trail and of­fers myr­iad ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing swim­ming, surf­ing, geo­caching and scuba div­ing.

Mer­ritt Is­land is one of only six places in the world where you can see bioluminescence in na­ture. Night tours are a must as you kayak along the Ba­nana or In­dian Rivers and get close to na­ture. Di­noflag­el­lates and comb jel­lies glow in the dark river wa­ters. Think neon and maybe a hint of Avatar. This could be a once-in-a-life­time ad­ven­ture.

Out­side of Del­tona, the St. Johns River Eco Tour in­vites pas­sen­gers to tour the St. Johns River by boat. Once a main high­way for trade and com­merce, this river has been des­ig­nated an Amer­i­can Her­itage River. It is home to Florida na­tive wildlife and trop­i­cal plants, mak­ing it per­fect for photo ops.

The sea­side com­mu­nity of New Smyrna Beach evokes an at­mos­phere of Old Florida in its side­walk cafes, bou­tiques and charm­ing B&Bs and boasts one of the finest beaches on the At­lantic coast. NSB pro­vides a per­fect venue for surf­ing, world-class fish­ing, boat­ing and kayak­ing. And like Day­tona Beach, cars are per­mit­ted to drive on 13 miles of hard-packed white-sand beaches found here.

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