Go into the wild at Blackwater State Park in Milton, Florida, an extraordinary park in so many ways. The park was certified in 1980 as a Registered State Nature Feature as an example of Florida’s natural history. It is also known as having one of the oldest and largest collections of Atlantic white cedar stands lining the river, and in 1982 it was recognized as a Florida Champion Tree. Today visitors will encounter more than 600 acres of virgin wilderness, complete with a 65-mile kayak trail. Blackwater River is also one of the purest sand-bottom rivers in the United States, making it ideal for swimming. Grab a paddle, a fishing pole, an inner tube, or catch some air ziplining through the trees. Forgot your kayak or canoe? No worries as rentals are available from local outfitters. Bagdad Park is all the rage with families as the area is equipped with benches and picnic tables. Blackwater State Park is famous for its diverse hiking trails, so if you want to spot a white tail deer, hit the trails in the early morning. It’s also prime time to observe wading birds like Herons and Egrets fishing for their breakfast. The Park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, so keep your binoculars handy as you may be lucky enough to spot the Federally Endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Shaded campsites are a big draw and a favorite option for families
3. Local Eats
You may find yourself longing to bump into some other vacationers, so head on over to Navarre Beach Boulevard and stop in at Sailors Grill, which sits right on the beach and often with volleyball tournaments in full swing. The food is American fare and the atmosphere is great for kids. Don’t miss the sunsets! One not-to-miss is Windjammer’s on the Navarre Fishing Pier, where succulent seafood is the catch of the day. The spiny lobster melts in your mouth while the Mahi-Mahi tacos are equally tasty. Of course, visitors will find standard fare for kid’s burgers and grilled cheese. Looking for an upmarket dining experience? Try East Bay Crab House, which offers an array of seafood dishes from stuffed founder to grilled cobia and New Orleans-inspired dishes like Tuna Orleans and Grouper Etouffee, to name a few. The restaurant easily accommodates large families, and TripAdvisor gives it a 4-star rating. Pro Tip: IC Station, Navarre’s newest ice cream shops brings a slice of New York to its shores. Manager, Steven Zheng trained in the art of stir fry ice cream in New York, yet the art of stir fry ice cream began in Thailand. Strawberry and brownie is a top pick!
4. Stay in a Treehouse?
Remember the days when treehouses were a summer escape, a place to get away from it all even though it was in your own backyard? Feel like a kid again, with your kids and plan to overnight in a luxury tree house nestled amongst a dense magnolia canopy with two queen beds, kitchen and bath at Coldwater Gardens. The Gardens is an intimate retreat and a quick 18-mile drive from Blackwater State Park offering posh cottages and luxe camping outposts. Guests will be transformed as lush foliage gives way to hands-on activities — feed the animals, arts and crafts, kids’ tours and more create a wonderful back-to-nature stay. Additionally, the area offers a plethora of overnight accommodations from the expected chain hotels: Hampton Inn & Suites, Regency Inn & Suites, Spring Hill Suite by Marriott, and others. For those who prefer home-away-from-home stays, condo and home rentals are prevalent.
With so much to do in Navarre Beach you will to come back again and again. Just a few fun facts to leave you with: much of the 1978 film Jaws 2 was filmed at Navarre Beach; historic Milton is the “Canoe Capital of Florida;” and the 50-acre Gulf Breeze Zoo features hundreds of animals from around the world. Learn more visit here: https://www.getrelaxing.com/
The article was written by Nina Zapala, a travel and lifestyle writer, based in the South. The article first appeared in the Naples Daily News, Naples Florida, part of USA Today Network Florida, in August 2018. The article was updated and revised for Speaking of Travel. Find Nina on Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn @ninazapala for more travel shenanigans!