Harry P. Leu Gardens is a 50-acre oasis in Orlando.
Looking to dig into Florida’s past? Fragments from all manner of prehistoric creatures are commonly found all over the state. Mastodon teeth, shells from ancient turtles, fossilized bones of dinosaur-sized armadillos and other amazing finds are all potential discoveries – if you know how and where to look.
To collect most vertebrate fossils, you’ll first need to obtain a permit that’s issued by the Florida Museum of Natural History. It’s only $5, and you’ll need it for vertebrate fossil hunting on lands and waterways owned or leased by the state.
If you’re looking for fossilized plants or invertebrates, such as mollusks, sea urchins and crabs, you won’t need a permit. Collecting shark teeth, one of the most popular finds, also doesn’t require a permit – and they’re some of the easiest to find.
On the Peace River, flowing from Central Florida to the Charlotte Harbor area, you are almost guaranteed to find shark teeth. Start your search during periods of low water and sift around exposed sandbars. Often, they’ll be right on top.
Venice Beach is known as the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World” for its abundant finds. Search along the beach or snorkel close to the shoreline, and you are sure to turn up a treasure.
Ready to dig in? Go on your own, or go with a group – there are lots of clubs and guided fossil hunting tours. The Florida Museum of Natural History website (flmnh.ufl.edu) offers resources such as permits, fossil hunting rules, photo galleries and information on Florida fossil clubs.
A fishing charter isn’t the only way to get offshore and enjoy Florida’s aquamarine waters. Whether you’re soaring sky high, discovering underwater creatures, gliding across the marsh or taking
in the views from a yacht or sunset sail, there’s an onboard excursion for everyone.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to get a bird’s-eye view of Florida’s crystal-clear waters, sugar-sand shoreline and barrier islands? On a parasailing adventure, you’ll float up to 1,400 feet above the water, suspended in the air, but safely tethered to a boat below. With Marco Island Water Sports, you’ll see the Ten Thousand Islands in their expansive glory, a truly stunning sight, especially from the sky. Daytona Beach Parasailing will have you flying so high over “the world’s most famous beach” that you might catch a glimpse of Daytona International Speedway. In Destin, flying with the seasonal Just Chute Me is one of the best ways to see the Emerald Coast.
The Florida Keys is home to the third largest barrier reef in the world, spanning 2,800 square nautical miles of protected waters. Set sail aboard a spacious vessel with Fury Water Adventures in Key West for a snorkeling excursion to the reef seven miles offshore. Swimming among one of Florida’s greatest natural treasures, you’ll marvel at the coral canyons, purple sea fans and schools of tropical fish.
Not ready for a face-to-face fish encounter? In Key Largo, discover the wonders of the reef aboard a glass-bottom boat at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Or head to Ocala’s Silver Springs – where the first glass-bottom boat was created – for unparalleled views of the famed freshwater springs.
Explore a truly one-of-a-kind wilderness and the realm of Florida’s alligators and crocodiles on an airboat ride through the Everglades. Sawgrass Recreation Park in Weston offers airboat rides and a tour through its exotic wildlife exhibit. Near Orlando, you’ll spy bald eagles, blue herons and, of course, gators in the St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge when you ride along with Airboat Rides at Midway.
Want to feel like a millionaire for the day? Charter your own yacht, captain and all. Golden Yacht Charters in Miami Beach will have you cruising in style through Biscayne Bay aboard a powerboat, yacht or even a mega-yacht. Embark on a dinner cruise with Yacht StarShip in Tampa, and marvel at the downtown skyline while indulging in cuisine from America’s first dining cruise to boast the AAA three-diamond distinction.
Return to the age of exploration aboard a historic schooner, and relax as the motor switches off and the sails fill with wind. These double-masted tall ships offer peaceful and romantic sunset voyages. The Schooner Western Union, first launched in 1939, is Key West’s flagship at 130 feet long. St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest continuously occupied city, is home to the Schooner Freedom, modeled after a cargo schooner from the American Revolution.
There’s something magical about walking along a boardwalk – over waterways and swamps, through mangroves and cypress stumps. From ghost orchids to alligators, you never know what you’ll see along these walkways.
Get a taste of the rustic side of the Florida Keys along this 1.5-mile trail and boardwalk. The mild temperatures of fall and winter are ideal for exploring these hardwood hammocks, but the water views are mesmerizing anytime. Watch for diving pelicans and golden orb spiders.
This winding boardwalk rewards you at the end with a covered lookout point and scenic views. Keep an eye out for raccoons, crabs and egrets along the way.
Walk past cypress stumps, as you spy the museum’s resident eagles, Florida panther, bears and other creatures, eventually making your way to the Old Florida village. Make sure to stop by the café
for a barbecue sandwich.
A true glimpse into the Florida of yesteryear, with 500-year-old cypress towering over the 2.25-mile boardwalk, this Audubon center is a birding paradise where you’ll spy anhinga, hawks and wood storks. After about a mile, keep an eye out for the trail that leads to a platform with panoramic marshland views.
This boardwalk isn’t long, but it will keep your interest. You’ll see hawks, owls and other birds along the way, but the real treat awaits at the end, where ibis, herons and egrets gather and always enjoy
a free handout.