With beautiful beaches, wetlands, waterways and nature reserves, Florida’s natural wonders make it the perfect place for an eco-friendly adventure.
Grab a map and follow the Footprints in the Sand Eco-Trail, an 8.5-mile trail highlighting the unique aspects of the Pensacola Beach’s island ecology. You can walk, bike, drive, run and even swim to the 29 stops scattered across Pensacola Beach, each one telling a different story about the fascinating flora, fauna and wildlife of the region, including dolphins and sea turtles.
Greater Fort Lauderdale
Flamingo Gardens is a 60-acre Botanical Garden and Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary that’s home to over 90 species of native birds and animals, most of them permanently injured or non-releasable. It’s got the largest collection of Florida native wildlife – alligators, bobcats, eagles, otters, panthers, peacock, and of course, flamingos – all in the stunning gardens.
Florida’s Historic Coast
With eight stops on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, Florida’s Historic Coast is a bird watcher’s paradise. At the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park thousands of coastal birds make their homes from March to June under the protection of the big alligators while other coastal birds are attracted to the area because of the abundance of fish.
Take an ecotour of the Everglades National Park, designated as a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance. You can go by boat or kayak or join a guided fishing charter to explore the park’s Ten Thousand Islands saltwater wilderness region, while nearby are several other world-class parks, including the Big Cypress National Preserve.
Panama City Beach
There’s not just one but 12 loop eco-trails at Panama City Beach Conservation Park, made for on and off-road biking or for a leisurely nature walk. This 2,900 acre tract of West Bay Ecosystem is being restored using reclaimed water to return a natural water balance to the wetlands.
Fort Myers & Sanibel
Kayak, paddle-board or canoe amongst the local wildlife, including manatees, fish and birds, at the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This ecosystem on Sanibel Island is one of the largest in Florida covering 7,600 acres. It’s home to 51 types of reptiles, 32 mammal species and over 270 different types of birds. Nearby is Cayo Costa, a secluded island that’s a state park containing unique vegetation that’s gone unspoiled for almost 500 years.
Visit the Lyonia Environmental Center, which educates and encourages the exploration of Volusia County’s diverse and fragile ecosystems and the challenges they face. Programmes focusing on conservation and the environment are run here in association with the Deltona Regional Library, which has a 1,000-seat outdoor amphitheater to host community activities, educational programmes, and entertainment.
Known for its rich biodiversity, including more than 90 species of butterflies, white heron, lizards, snakes, box turtles and gopher tortoise, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is a favourite among trail runners and hikers. Paddlers, meanwhile, should head to Weedon Island Preserve to meander through four miles of mangrove islands and see fish and seabirds.
New Smyrna Beach
The Indian River Lagoon, which runs through New Smyrna Beach, is the most biologically diverse estuary in the Northern Hemisphere. Nearly one-third of the US’s manatee population lives there or migrates there seasonally, and over 1,000 Bottlenose Dolphins live in the lagoon. New Smyrna Beach’s Marine Discovery Center runs several guided ecotours, by boat, kayak or walking.
Take a stroll down Bradenton’s Pine Avenue on Anna Maria Island, known as the ‘Greenest Little Main Street in America’. Its candy-coloured buildings are all platinum LEED-certified and solar powered and also boast native Florida plants, community gardens, and crushed shell sidewalk, making it a true modern marvel when it comes to sustainability.
Go green when touring the Sunshine State with a Hertz cost effective Green Collection car. Designed specifically to keep running costs low and all emitting under 110g of CO2/km, take your pick from a range of highly fuel-efficient, electric and hybrid cars. Join the free Hertz Gold Plus Rewards programme to beat the queue, and simply pick up your eco car hire from any of the 300+ locations across the State, and take advantage of daily rates from £27 per day on Florida bookings.