We have spent more time in northern Florida than anywhere else, and our highlights in this region are related to our interests in carnivorous plants, reptiles and amphibians, and similar poorly appreciated aspects of natural Florida.
Perhaps the best place to see natural aspects of northern Florida is by slowly driving – and stopping along – the roads of the Apalachicola National Forest southwest of Tallahassee. This forest stretches approximately 40 miles east-west and when taken together with the Tate’s Hell State Forest to its south represents one of the largest pieces of lightly-developed land in the southeastern US. There are three recreation areas within the forest with campgrounds and trails extending from them, and small motels on the fringes of the forest. Except in deer-hunting season, most of the forest dirt roads are very lightly traveled – a few vehicles a day. Small creeks and water bodies exist throughout the forest and in places there are moist prairies that host many carnivorous plants.
Most Florida State Parks have trails with informative plaques, and because much of Florida is wet, there are boardwalks as well. Many state parks are beach-related – though these can be the best places to see natural seashores. Similarly, many of the freshwater springs in central and northern Florida are now State Parks. There are many private springs as well – but those tend to be oriented towards scuba divers (and cave divers) or are swimming holes on hot summer weekends. We tend to avoid all of these commercial springs since they can become very crowded and are not as well protected as the State Park managed springs.
A kmz file (display in Google Earth) shows some of what we think are the best natural areas in northern Florida.