Unplug from the everyday with paddling, fishing, biking and wildlife watching on Florida’s Adventure Coast.
Florida’s attraction lies not just in its dazzling theme parks and palm tree-lined shopping meccas, but also in its unabashed natural beauty – crystal-clear springs, nature trails winding through lush forests and warm coastal waters that offer both respite and recreation alike. Less than an hour north of Tampa, Florida’s Adventure Coast, including the towns of Brooksville and Weeki Wachee, offers all of this and more. Check out these six options for outdoor adventure in a place aptly nicknamed “Nature’s Place to Play”.
Urban and Trail Cycling
Start by pedaling Brooksville’s Good Neighbor Trail, which starts in the city’s historic downtown and winds through woodlands and meadows until it connects to the Withlacoochee State Trail in the Withlacoochee State Forest. Want a longer outing? Set aside a day to ride the 74-kilometer Withlacoochee State Trail or the 68-kilometer Suncoast Trail. Both feature a mix of urban surroundings and natural scenery. Mountain biking is a little flatter in Florida, but even experienced mountain bikers will be wowed by the 80.4-kilometer Croom section trails in Withlacoochee State Forest, considered by many to be the best in the state.
Mountain biking in the Croom tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest
Many Ways to Paddle
The Bayport-Linda Pedersen Coastal Paddling Trail connects Bayport and Linda Pedersen parks via a scenic coastal estuary that is perfect for all experience levels. Lined with cypress stands and replete with wildlife, the southern portion of the Withlacoochee River is pure Florida beauty. Kayak rentals are readily available for exploring this designated Outstanding Florida Waterway. Weekiwachee Preserve, Jenkins Creek Park and Lake Townsen Regional Park are three more paddling spots to explore.
A peaceful paddling trip along coastal waterways
Deep-sea, Flats and Freshwater Fishing
Charter a boat to hook grouper, cobia, snapper and other sport fish populating the Gulf of Mexico. Troll seagrass beds for tarpon, trout and redfish hiding inshore. There’s freshwater fishing, too, on lakes and rivers rich in bass, bream and crappie. Experienced guides can help you plan the ultimate fishing adventure. For a taste of Old Florida, Mary’s Fish Camp has fishing, cabins and campsites right on the Mud River – perfect for kicking back with a cold drink and your favorite fishing buddies.
Showing off a pair of crevalle jack caught on Florida’s Adventure Coast
Thrilling ATV Riding
Explore 1,000-plus hectares of off-road trails on an ATV at Croom Motorcycle Area, located in Withlacoochee State Forest. In addition to off-road trails through hammock and scrubland, the park has pits and jumps from abandoned historic mining areas, a training area and a portion specially reserved for young riders. There are a variety of ATV rental options available as well as overnight campsites.
Hitting the off-road trails at Croom Motorcycle Area, home to 1,000-plus hectares of purpose-built off-road vehicle trails
Snorkeling & Diving Excursions
From July to mid-September, you can pull on snorkeling gear and hunt for bay scallops in the warm Gulf waters. Guided scalloping trips provide you with all the equipment you need for a family-friendly adventure. A little farther out, divers can discover an exciting site at Bendickson Reef where 10 retired M60 Patton tanks have created a home for grouper, Spanish mackerel, cobia and kingfish. This unique site was recently expanded, creating even more nooks and crannies to explore.
A green sea turtle, one of a number of marine creatures you might spot while snorkeling and diving in the Gulf of Mexico
Wildlife Watching from Birds to Bears
With several stops on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, the region is a bird-watchers’ paradise. Fickett Hammock Preserve and Cypress Lake Preserve boast undisturbed wilderness that is positively singing with native bird life, while the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area is home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Manatees are a beloved local resident of the tidal estuaries and freshwater springs common in the area. Head to Linda Pedersen Park at Jenkins Creek for a chance to see them. In addition to dozens of bird species, Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area is home to snakes, gopher tortoises and a small population of black bears.
A manatee mother and calf, another favorite local wildlife sighting
Tampa International Airport (TPA) is located less than an hour south of Florida’s Adventure Coast cities. Ground transportation options include rental cars, taxis, ride share service, bus service and shared shuttle vans.