Park Hopping in Central Florida

Duette Preserve - Duette, FloridaSince I wasn’t able to hit all the parks I wanted to on my last trip a couple weeks ago due to lack of time, I got all caught up on them on Saturday. The first park on my three-and-a-half-hour trip back to the middle of the state was Duette Preserve in Duette. With over 25,000 acres of land, there was a lot to cover in this mammoth park. A combination of pine flatwoods, prairie, and rare scrub, this beautiful piece of land offers several miles of hiking and biking trails, of which I hiked about 5 miles of them. After a couple hours there, I headed east to Wauchula and Hardee Lakes Park. Four big lakes surround this scenic 1,200 acre park, with many hiking trails and great fishing spots. I thoroughly enjoyed just driving around the lakes and taking pictures.

The next stop wasn’t necessarily planned. I just happened to notice on the road map that another park was right up the road, and not sure if I had been here before, I headed over to Paynes Creek Historic State Park. This is the site of Fort Chokonikla, which was built in 1849 right after the Second Seminole War. Though the fort is no longer standing, the Visitor Center does a great job of describing life back then, including vivid displays and many artifacts and relics from that time. After checking out the fort site and hiking some of the trails, I made my way to Pioneer Park in Zolfo Springs, which I had visited a couple weeks ago too. Since I wasn’t able to get any good pictures of some of the historical buildings from last time because my camera ran out of battery, I stopped by (with my fully-charged camera) and finally got some good pictures of the cracker-style buildings.

Highlands Hammock Park - Sebring, FloridaHighlands Hammock Park in Sebring was my next stop, and one I had been anxiously looking forward to. I also got to some spend some quality time here last trip, but with a fading sun and a diposable camera. This time, I got there with plenty of daylight to spare, and I used up a couple hours of it hiking all over the park. I also checked out the nice museum dedicated to the Civilian Conservation Corps, and viewed a 1,000-year-old oak tree. But the highlight was the Cypress Swamp Trail, which is a narrow catwalk that winds just above a murky cypress swamp.

Check out the video below and see for yourself (but don’t fall in!):

When I was last at this park, I saw a quip about another state park in Lake Placid, which was just down the road. So I next headed to Lake June-in-Winter Scrub State Park. My expectations were very high for this park, as Lake Placid itself was such a beautiful area to drive through. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed by this small and boring park. The scenery was nice but only had one small hiking trail that didn’t seem to go anywhere, and it didn’t help that the bugs were out in full force.

I made my way back home, stopping in Jupiter at Jupiter Beach Park and Dubois Park, where I got some great sunset photos with the Jupiter Lighthouse and then took a nice long walk along Juno Beach hoping to see some nesting sea turtles. Even though I usually have great luck spotting them on this quiet stretch of beach, I didn’t have any luck this time. But it was still a great way to end a great day.

Click here for map.

Subset at Jupiter Beach Park

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