In a state whose very name means “full of flowers,” the proverbial Great Outdoors is way more than a euphemism. It’s the very essence of how we live in Florida, with the city of Orlando incarnating that boundless outdoor energy in special ways. From natural springs to wildlife trails and nationally acclaimed birding areas, there are plenty of gentle, accessible ways to connect with Orlando’s lush ecosystems and thriving state parks.
Birding and Wildlife Trails
As winter snaps and cracks its way through vast portions of America in the colder months, the wise little avian members of society spread their wings and head south to the Sunshine State. Orlando’s moderate climate creates the perfect habitat for migrating and nesting birds (as well as for winter residents who seek them out.)
The undeveloped shoreline circling Lake Apopka, particularly in the North Shore area, is a bird-lover’s dreamscape and a so-called “hotspot” for both migratory and native dwellers throughout the seasons. Up to 370 species of birds have been sighted around the lake, which tops even the number recorded in the Everglades.
The Lake Apopka North Shore holds a slew of cultural designations, including an American Bird Conservancy Globally Important Bird Area and at least two distinctions from the National Audubon Society. Astute birding enthusiasts can spot everything from bald eagles and snowy egrets to limpkins, anhingas, purple gallinules and Florida scrub-jays. Other hotspots in and near Orlando include the Gatorland Bird Rookery (which is popular with photographers) and the 17 wildlife viewing areas on the Great Florida Bird and Wildlife Trail.
Natural Springs and Manatees
A wealth of cool and clear natural springs beckon from state parks within an hour’s drive of Orlando. Many spots offer canoe or kayak rentals for a surreal float over free-flowing waters surrounded by diverse wild ecosystems. Snorkeling, swimming, fishing and even airboat rides get you as close as possible to nature’s glory, far from city streets and theme-park crowds.
A drive of about 30 minutes outside downtown Orlando plops you in the heart of Wekiwa Springs State Park near Apopka for canoeing and kayaking on emerald-green waters fringed by dense tropical hammocks and upland sandhills. Waters are about 72 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year, making it perfect for a relaxing swim followed by easy trekking on 25 miles of wildlife trails.
Yearning to connect with nature’s gentle-giant manatee population? Blue Spring State Park is your destination for that, about 45 minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown. With devoted conservation efforts and the inviting habitat of Blue Spring along St. Johns River, hundreds of manatees populate the “spring run” area. You’ll have plenty of company in the colder months, not only from the manatees but also from wader birds, eagles, ospreys and kingfishers.
Making your home in Orlando puts you at the cross-section of Florida culture and nature. Call today for information about our Orlando apartment communities and to schedule a private tour.