With its year round sunshine and warm climate, Florida is the perfect spot for outdoor sports.
If the ocean is your thing, then you can enjoy any number of water sports including swimming, surfing, diving, kayaking, wind surfing, sailing and fishing.
Swimming & Surfing
With so many beaches, places to swim are never far away. For surfing, the best area is around Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic Coast.
Florida has over 8,000 miles of coastline and 4,500 square miles of inland waters which makes it a paradise for boaters. The Intracoastal Waterway runs 500 miles down the East coast of Florida to the Keys and provides sheltered cruising for a good part of its length.
The Okeechobee Waterway runs across the State from Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast to Stuart on the Atlantic Coast.
If you prefer your sports from the comfort of a chair, then Florida has plenty of spectator sports on offer
With so much inland water, there are plenty of places to go canoeing or kayaking. The Florida Canoe Trail has 36 planned routes covering almost 1,000 miles of waterways and many of the State Parks have access to water.
Diving & Snorkelling
Florida has over 4,000 dive sites and hosts the United States only living coral reef along the Florida Keys. Thousands of ships have sunk over the years from Spanish treasure galleons to more modern wrecks like the dock landing ship, the USS Spiegel Grove that was scuttled off Key Largo in 2002 to create a new artificial reef. This makes Florida a great location for wreck diving.
Some of the best dive sites in the world in the Florida Keys and now you can also deep dive to 200 feet in the Gulf of Mexico off Pensacola Beach to the wreck of the Oriskany aircraft carrier, also deliberately sunk in 2006 to create an artificial reef.
Florida is dotted with thousands of lakes and rivers as well as all that coastline so it is easy to find somewhere to fish. You will need a licence though.
Florida also has a fantastic range of over 1,250 golf courses including a number of championship quality courses designed by the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio. About two thirds of Florida’s golf courses are open to the public.
Palm Beach it is known at the Golf Capital of the World with over 150 courses in the local area.
Walking & Hiking
For those of you who like the countryside, Florida has over 150 State Parks, State Recreational Areas and State Preserves as well as 3 National Parks including the Everglades National Park.
In many of the State parks, you can hike, bicycle, canoe/kayak, fish, camp, swim, surf or even take your boat out.
Timothy O’Keefe has written a series of three books specifically on hiking in Florida (see sidebar), covering the whole State.
There is a plan to create a nearly 1,300 mile walking trail from Pensacola in the North to the Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida. So far 1,000 miles has been completed.
With Florida being relatively flat, cycling is pretty easy along the miles and miles of bike trails throughout the State. There are some places where trails have been laid down along former railroad tracks; known as “rail trails”.
If you are staying in one of Florida’s resort hotels, many have their own tennis courts, gyms, jogging tracks and access to local golf courses. You can usually hire equipment if you don’t want to bring your own.
Ocala bills itself at the Horse Capital of the World as it breeds many thoroughbred horses and there is plenty of opportunity to go horse riding; either in one of the State Parks or in the Ocala National Forest. Check out the Makin’ Tracks Trail Rides website.
Florida also offers game for hunters including waterfowl, Spring Turkeys, white-tail deer, alligators subject to strict licencing regulations.
There are special private reserves where just about anything is available at the right price.