Travel Guide to Florida - - CENTRAL FLORIDA -

Whether na­ture-made or artificial, the Cen­tral Florida re­gion is home to plenty of op­tions for the fam­ily to cool off or ex­plore.

Se­bring is home to 95 crys­tal-clear lakes and the High­lands Ham­mock State Park, one of Florida’s old­est parks and a gem you must not miss. The park is renowned for its beau­ti­ful old-growth ham­mock and thou­sand-year-old oaks. You may catch a glimpse of a black bear and the Florida pan­ther. An el­e­vated board­walk tra­verses cy­press swamp where you may ob­serve al­li­ga­tors, birds and other wildlife. Cy­cle the scenic three-mile loop drive or hike the park’s nine na­ture trails. Pic­nick­ing, bird­watch­ing, catch-and-re­lease fish­ing and ranger-guided tours are other pop­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties and a fully ac­ces­si­ble tram tour al­lows vis­i­tors to view wildlife rel­a­tively up close. Cam­pers should check out the full-fa­cil­ity and the youth/group camp­grounds.

In Polk County, the Allen David Brous­sard Cat­fish Creek Pre­serve State Park cov­ers more than 8,000 acres of scrub, sand­hill and flat­woods land.

Like fish­ing? In Osce­ola County, Lake To­hopekaliga, known as Lake Toho, cov­ers 22,700 acres, spans 42 miles in cir­cum­fer­ence, and is a hot­bed for bass.

Take the fam­ily wa­ter­ski­ing, wake­board­ing, wakeskat­ing, wakesurf­ing and knee­board­ing at the Or­lando Water­sports Com­plex. A short drive west, Lake Louisa in Cler­mont is the largest in a chain of 13 lakes and des­ig­nated an Out­stand­ing Florida Wa­ter Way. Grab a pole or ca­noe and rel­ish in the beauty of Lake County.

Ex­cel­lent out­door ac­tiv­i­ties await north of Or­lando, in­clud­ing the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, of­fer­ing 15 miles of fam­ily bik­ing where the odds of see­ing a ‘ga­tor are fan­tas­tic. Want to tube down a crys­tal-clear river fed by nat­u­ral springs? Lo­cated in Apopka, lo­cal fa­vorite Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park of­fers swim­ming, hik­ing trails, pic­nick­ing and con­ces­sions.

Visit Blue Spring State Park, home to hun­dreds of man­a­tees, where the clear, 73-de­gree wa­ters wel­come swim­mers, snorkel­ers and scuba divers. Pic­nic on the beach or stay the night at the camp­ground.

In the Ocala Na­tional For­est, the south­ern­most for­est in the United States, dozens of camp­grounds and 600 lakes, rivers and springs wel­come vis­i­tors year-round.

ABOVE: Ex­plor­ing with Wild Florida. BELOW: An­i­mal en­coun­ters in Kis­sim­mee.

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