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Nature Notes

Living in a Minto community gives you access to some of the most stunning places on earth. Throughout the state of Florida and along the South Carolina coastline, you’ll discover a wealth of natural wonders too beautiful not to explore. Here are some of the most noteworthy natural spectacles you’ll find close to home.

NEAR LATITUDE MARGARITAVILLE DAYTONA BEACH

Daytona Beach may be known primarily for beaches, entertainment and events like the Daytona 500 but this region is also rich with beautifully preserved parks and wildlife areas you have to see to believe!

The Atlantic’s Second Largest Coquina Rock Outcropping

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park (35 minutes away)

http://www.washingtonoaks.org

Via Washington Oaks

While the centerpiece of this state park is its picturesque formal gardens, its unique coastline also has a claim to fame. Among Florida’s smooth, white sand beaches, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park stands out with its awe-inspiring coquina rock formations and cinnamon-colored sand. As the seasons change, so do the shifting sands of this shoreline. Explore a variety of thriving ecosystems in and around the tide pools, including sea urchins, snails, sea anemones and algae.

Gentle Giants of the Sea

Blue Spring State Park (40 minutes away)

https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/blue-spring-state-park

Via Florida State Parks

With 72-degree water all year long, it’s no wonder hundreds of manatees come to Blue Spring State Park seeking a respite from the icy cold waters of the winter months. Each November-March, visitors can safely observe over 500 of these beautiful creatures from the boardwalk as they socialize and care for their young.

The World’s Largest Sand Pine Scrub Forest

Ocala National Forest (1 hour away)

https://www.fs.usda.gov/ocala

Via USDA Forest Service

This gem covers over 600 square miles with a rich and varied terrain where visitors can truly immerse themselves in endless adventures. Cool down in one of roughly 600 springs, lakes or ponds. Camp out for the night in the deep wilderness. Take a hike or ride along part of the Florida National Scenic Trail. Wonders await at every turn!

NEAR LATITUDE MARGARITAVILLE WATERSOUND

Watersound’s pristine natural landscape is like something out of a storybook. Situated on the Intracoastal Waterway, you’ll discover a world of incredible wonders unique to the Emerald Coast.

A Shipwrecked Sailor’s Dream

St. Andrews State Park (30 minutes away)

https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/st-andrews-state-park

Via Panama City News Herald

Sugar white sand. Emerald green waters. Could this be paradise? Apparently that’s what Norwegian sailor Theodore (Teddy) Tollofson thought in 1929 when he shipwrecked at this spot and decided to live in his boat for 25 years! Explore a mile-and-a-half of beautiful beaches, take a stroll along the dunes, scope out the many species of birds and butterflies and camp out to get the full “Teddy the Hermit” experience.

An Unearthly Landscape

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park (45 minutes away)

https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/topsail-hill-preserve-state-park

Via SoWal

Named for its majestic sand dunes towering as tall as 25 feet above sea level, Topsail Hill State Park offers 1,640 acres of land to explore. From beaches and coastal dune lakes to wetlands, sand pine scrub and pine forests, there are endless places to hike, swim, fish and more.

Stalactites and Stalagmites Galore

Florida Caverns State Park (1 hour away)

https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/florida-caverns-state-park

Via Florida State Parks

Opened in 1942 after members of the Civilian Conservation Corps spent years developing the park to make it fully accessible to the public, Florida Caverns State Park is an otherworldly experience. The unique geologic history of the caves goes back 38 million years and today provides a home for cave-dwelling species like blind cave crayfish, salamanders and bats.

NEAR LATITUDE MARGARITAVILLE HILTON HEAD

It’s no secret why Hilton Head is one of America’s most coveted vacation destinations. Featuring gorgeous beaches and many activities, like golf, biking and boating, Hilton Head Island features a variety of nature experiences.

Home of the Majestic Purple Gallinule

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge (20 minutes away)

https://www.fws.gov/refuge/savannah/

Via SC Picture Project

The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is a nationally owned, preserved land that’s home to alligators, bobcats and many kinds of birds, most notably the beautiful purple gallinule bird. Explore this beautiful sanctuary by car, boat or through walked hiking trails. How many cool creatures will you see?

An Isolated Haven

Turtle Island Wildlife Management Area (1 hour away)

https://www2.dnr.sc.gov/ManagedLands/ManagedLand/ManagedLand/191

Via South Carolina Lowcountry

Only reachable by boat, the Turtle Island Wildlife Management Area is a preserved island completely untouched by technology. If you make an appointment, you can be witness to 1700 acres of salt marsh, maritime forest, many different species of shorebirds, and of course plenty of sea turtles.

NEAR THE ISLES OF COLLIER PRESERVE

Naples is a place of unbeatable luxury and natural beauty. Miles of sugar-sand beaches and high-end shopping are an amazing combination for anyone who loves to relax and take in the scenery. However, Naples is home to more nature than meets the eye!

The Beauty of Curated Nature

Naples Botanical Garden (10 minutes away)

https://www.naplesgarden.org

Via US News Travel

The Naples Botanical Garden is a must-see! It’s home to 170 acres of tropical and sub-tropical plants. It features seven unique gardens, including the Florida garden, which celebrates the state’s native wildflowers and palm trees. The Naples Botanical Garden’s preserve also features hundreds of animal species. They also host events, like art exhibits and educational experiences!

Protecting and Learning More About the World

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (10 minutes away)

https://rookerybay.org

Via Naples Illustrated

In Naples, the Rookery Bay Reserve is basically in your backyard—it makes up 40% of the Collier County coastline! The Reserve is dedicated to researching and protecting the shoreline’s environment. They have protected close to 2,000 sea turtle nests and have tagged just as many sharks for environmental study! You can explore it by boat, kayak, nature trails and eco-tours.

One of the World’s Largest Swamps

Collier-Seminole State Park (20 minutes away)

https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/collier-seminole-state-park

Via Florida Rambler

You can never go wrong with a State Park, and the Collier-Seminole certainly doesn’t disappoint. Home to one of the largest mangrove swamps in the world, this is a great state park for a day trip or to camp in. There are multiple trails, with the longest being a little over 5 miles, and canoe rentals with guided tours.

Florida’s Untouched Barrier

Ten Thousand Islands (accessible by boat tour)

https://www.fws.gov/refuge/ten_thousand_islands/

Via Florida Rambler

The Ten Thousand Islands are a large stretch of small islands that dot the Southern Florida coast, just south of Naples. These islands are remote and home to many mangrove habitats. Enclaved in complete solitude, a visit to the Ten Thousand Islands can be pretty much anything you want it to be. Spend an afternoon boating around and exploring—returning home to the Isles of Collier Preserve will feel like a totally different world!

NEAR WESTLAKE

West Palm Beach is a city brimming with life. Known for its cultural touchstones like the Norton Museum of Art and the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, finding places to get away into nature is essential to a well-rounded West Palm Beach experience.

Observe Iconic Wetlands

Grassy Waters Nature Preserve (20 minutes away)

https://www.wpb.org/government/public-utilities/grassy-waters-preserve

Via City of West Palm Beach

The Grassy Waters Nature Preserve is a wetland ecosystem that serves as the freshwater supply for West Palm Beach and other surrounding cities. This is a rare peek into West Palm Beach’s heritage and an opportunity to learn about wetland ecosystems. Grassy Waters is also home to animals such as heron, deer, bobcats and even alligators!

A Rugged Beach Getaway

Jupiter Ridge Natural Area (45 minutes away)

https://discover.pbcgov.org/erm/NaturalAreas/Jupiter-Ridge.aspx

Via Palm Beach County

Jupiter Ridge Natural Area boasts lovely beach walks and manatee sightings alongside its preserved wetlands and marshes. As part of the Great Florida Bird and Wildlife Trail, Jupiter Ridge offers a fascinating variety of wildlife and ecosystems to observe. There’s also a raised observation platform and kayak access!

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