Orlando Nature and Wildlife

Of course you know Orlando’s theme parks, but did you know that they are only a part of what makes an Orlando vacation so magical and appealing? “The City Beautiful” is chock full of entertainment, and there truly is something for everyone here. Regardless of your vacation goals, age, or interests, Central Florida is a dazzling place where unparalleled memories and experiences are just waiting to be discovered. We’ve developed a series of sample itineraries, categorized by interests and travel motivators, to serve as an original guide to the Central Florida area. There will be no theme park recommendations in this series, because chances are that you already have these destinations in your sights. If you’re looking to change it up a bit and try something new, these suggestions will be a perfect fit. See our area from a unique perspective when you take some time to explore, and leave your social media audiences in envy of your shared vacation experiences. You’re already staying like a local in your Contempo vacation home. You may as well have fun like a local, too!

There’s something so unique about natural Florida. From gardens to groves – from springs and diverse waterways to a vast array of wildlife and eco-preserves… Here are a few of our top suggestions for natural exploration and outdoor fun throughout Central Florida!

Bok Tower Gardens

1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, FL 33853
(863) 676-1408
https://boktowergardens.org

Bok Tower Gardens has offered some of Florida’s most remarkable experiences to more than 23 million visitors since 1929. Through its historic landscape gardens, unique Singing Tower carillon and magnificent 1930s Mediterranean-style mansion, the Gardens offer unparalleled opportunities for artistic, cultural, personal and spiritual enrichment.

Al-Marah Arabians Horse Farm

11105 Autumn Lane, Clermont Fl, 34711
(407) 301-0800
http://www.al-marah.com

Horses are magical. They have long been the ultimate symbol of beauty and freedom. Al-Marah Arabians have dedicated themselves to making the dreams of horse lovers become a reality for 73 years. The farm’s Interactive Horse Experience is an invitation to your family or small group to enjoy an intimate, hands-on encounter with some of the most storied, pedigreed horses in the world in one of the prettiest settings in Central Florida. The 80-acre farm blankets rollings green pastures that are book-ended by two lakes, Lake Nellie and Little Lake Nellie, in Clermont. No two tours are exactly alike. Your guide will shape your experience according to the interests of your party. Each tour is built from the same components such as touring the farm, painting a pony, washing and grooming, meet and greet all of the horses, a riding lesson, and a chance to watch the magic between a trainer and a horse as they perform some spectacular tricks just for you. Al-Marah Arabian Horse Farm is not just a horse farm. It’s a story. Be part of it.

Juniper Springs

Ocala National Forest, 26701 FL-40, Silver Springs, FL 34488
(352) 625-3147
www.juniper-springs.com

Showcasing sparkling springs in a subtropical setting, Juniper Springs is one of the oldest and best known recreation areas on the East Coast. Located between Ocala and Ormond Beach along SR 40, this complex of swimming and picnic area, campground, and trails was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The setting is unlike any other found in the United States, with hundreds of tiny bubbling springs and massive springs gushing out of crevices in the earth beneath a dense canopy of palms and oaks, an oasis within the heart of the desert-like Big Scrub.

Forever Florida

4755 North Kenansville Road, St Cloud, FL 34773
(407) 957-9794
https://www.foreverflorida.com

Ride the first zipline roller coaster in the USA, pedal through the treetops over forested wetlands, conquer Central Florida’s biggest zipline adventures or explore 4700 acres of pristine conservation lands on a Horseback or Wild Coach adventure! Forever Florida, an Eco-Attraction with a cause: a significant portion of all Safari revenues go to support the Allen Broussard Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the fragile ecosystems of Florida’s native wilderness.

Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park

4732 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville, FL 32653
(352) 955-2008
http://devilsmillhopper.com

Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is located in Gainesville, Florida. The park’s main feature is the 120 feet deep limestone sinkhole known as “Devil’s Millhopper.” There is a wooden boardwalk with 212 steps going down to the bottom of the sinkhole. The park also features a half mile nature trail going around the top of the sinkhole as well as a small visitor center and picnic area. There are many fun activities and things to do at the park. The visitor center has informative exhibits, and the picnic area is a popular lunchtime getaway for locals. Many people enjoy biking along Millhopper Road with its great bike lanes, and bikers often stop by the park to take a look at the famous sinkhole.

Leu Gardens

1920 N Forest Ave, Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 246-2620
www.leugardens.org

Explore an amazing 50-acre botanical oasis minutes from Downtown Orlando. Each garden is designed specifically to further our mission: inspire visitors to appreciate and understand plants. The Leu House Museum located in the heart of the gardens reveals turn-of-the century living for the families who once called this home. The gardens and historical home were donated to the City of Orlando in 1961 by Mr. Harry P. Leu and his wife, Mary Jane.

Giraffe Ranch

38650 Mickler Rd, Dade City, FL 33523
(813) 482-3400
girafferanch.com

At Giraffe Ranch in Dade City, Florida you’ll experience first hand, the lives of giraffe and other species from around the world living under huge live oaks and open grasslands in a setting that is right out of Africa. Giraffe Ranch is a licensed working ranch that specializes in exotic species as well as domestic cattle and horses. Learn about exotic animals from an expert guide from the comfort of specially designed 4-wheel drive vehicles, by camel-backed safari, or even by Segway. We now offer a Llama trek as well. We’ll show you our conservation efforts and how we are helping to preserve species that are endangered or extinct in the wild. Visit us for the ultimate eco-adventure.

Wekiwa Springs State Park

1800 Wekiwa Cir, Apopka, FL 32712
(407) 884-2009
http://www.canoewekiva.com

Located at the headwaters of the Wekiva River, the beautiful vistas within this park offer a glimpse of what Central Florida looked like when Timucuan Indians fished and hunted these lands. Just one hour from most central Florida attractions, Wekiwa Springs offers visitors the opportunity to relax in a natural setting, enjoy a picnic, or take a swim in the cool spring. Thirteen miles of trails provide opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle along the Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run. Canoe and kayak rentals are available from the park’s concessionaire.

Ridge Island Groves

6000 Old Polk City Road, Haines City, FL 33844
(863) 422-0333
https://www.ridgeislandgroves.com

Ridge Island Groves is a family-owned and operated business located in the heart of Central Florida. We provide the “Freshest Florida Citrus” to anyone in the United States (excluding Alaska, California, and Hawaii). Our fruit is hand-picked, packed, and shipped directly from our groves to you or your family and friends. For our local customers we provide fresh citrus, fresh produce, marmalade’s, honey, jelly, and don’t forget about our fresh squeezed orange juice. We squeeze 3 different types of juice: regular orange juice, tangerine juice, and grapefruit juice. Come on out to our Haines City location and we will show you around the Groves. Each person can pick an orange right off the tree. On our grove tour you’ll not only see the groves but you will get to see a little bit of everything we do.

Bioluminescent Kayak Tour

VARIOUS LOCATIONS
http://www.visitspacecoast.com/bioluminescent-tours

During the summer months the waters of the Indian River, Banana River and Mosquito Lagoon come alive after sunset with Bioluminescence. A speeding school of mullet swimming under your kayak looks like hundreds of green bottle rockets going off underwater. A manatee or stingray moves much slower underwater, giving a ghostly glow to the illumination. Swirl your kayak paddle or drop your hand into the water to create wild patterns of light. Any movement causes tiny dinoflagellates to emit light. Little is known about these under-appreciated creatures, but they are essential to the existence of most marine life. Tours are 90 minutes and are suitable for beginners. Several outfitters guide tours on the Rivers or into the Lagoon. The best time to go is at the darkest hours of the night, five days before or after a new moon.

Westgate River Ranch

Avon Park Air Force Range, 3200 River Ranch Blvd, River Ranch, FL 33867
(863) 692-1321
https://www.westgateresorts.com/hotels/florida/river-ranch/westgate-river-ranch-resort/activities/rodeo/

Be mesmerized by the excitement and unpredictable danger of the Saturday Night Rodeo at Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo for an evening of family fun at the 1,200-seat rodeo arena. This fun-filled weekly rodeo draws rodeo athletes from all over to compete in trick riding, barrel racing and, of course, bull riding. Also enjoy a patriotic tribute to our armed forces. In addition to enjoying the rodeo spectacle, little cowpokes can participate in a real “calf scramble” where boys and girls try to remove a ribbon from a calf’s tail. The first one to get the ribbon receives the prize! The fun doesn’t stop once the Florida rodeo ends! If you feel bull riding isn’t that tough, take a spin on our Mechanical Bull. Or get your feet moving to the lively Dance Party just outside the River Ranch Saloon where you’ll hear music and games from a lively DJ to end a perfect day.

Wild Florida

Kissimmee Chain Of Lakes, 3301 Lake Cypress Rd, Kenansville, FL 34739
(407) 957-3135
https://wildfloridairboats.com

Experience Florida in all its natural glory at Orlando’s one and only Airboat & Gator Park Experience! Travel deep into the protected swamps, marshes and rivers of the Florida Everglades aboard state-of-the-art airboats with US Coast Guard approved captains. On your journey, get an in depth look at gators, birds, eagles, cows, trees and plants as you glide through 100,000 acres of federally protected wetlands. After your airboat tour, explore the amazing wildlife park where you’ll find hundreds of native and exotic animals you can get up close and personal with, Hawk Swamp boardwalk, and Chomp House Grill before climbing aboard for a Ranch Buggy Tour. Boldly go back in time to see the ‘real’ Florida while exploring one of Florida’s oldest working cattle ranches on an all-terrain Ranch Buggy with five-foot tall tires, twelve-feet of elevation and more than 60 minutes of happy trails!

Safari Wilderness Ranch

10850 Moore Rd, Lakeland, FL 33809
(813) 382-2120
safariwilderness.com

A rare and unique experience, Safari Wilderness Ranch is a world away from the hustle and bustle of civilization. Here you feel the silence, enveloped by an open vista of grazing animals surrounded by cypress domes and bay trees. Safari Wilderness Ranch is not a zoo or theme park. There are no crowds and no lines. Here you will enjoy a natural adventure. Our knowledgeable and experienced guides will tour you through large herds of exotic game over 260 acres of pristine wilderness. There are a variety of ways to experience Safari Wilderness Ranch: Customized Vehicle Safari, Camel Expedition, Kayak Safari, Horseback Safari, and Llama Trek. Optional Extras Include: ring-tailed lemur feeding, budgie feeding, and guinea pig colony feeding. Tours are offered daily at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and are BY RESERVATION ONLY.

Gatorland

14501 S Orange Blossom Tr, Orlando, FL 32837
407-855-5496
www.gatorland.com

Gatorland provides affordable family fun while showcasing thousands of alligators and crocodiles including four extremely rare leucistic “white” alligators. The free-flight aviary, petting zoo, one of a kind animal shows, natural alligator breeding marsh, and the “thrilling” Screamin’ Gator Zip Line will ensure your day will be filled with Fun, Smiles and Special Memories!

For information on these and other area attractions, or to purchase tickets, please contact our friends at Visit Central Florida or Kissimmee Guest Services!