Go Wild With 4 Amazing Orlando Nature Adventures 

Last updated 1st May 2019

Orlando is justly famous for its spectacular theme parks, but this part of the Sunshine State also offers a boat-load of outdoor adventures when you feel like going wild and exploring Florida’s natural side.

Boat Off to Bird Island

Get out on the water at The Black Hammock, in Oviedo, for an exhilarating, blow-your-hat-off, airboat ride to Lake Jesup’s Bird Island. You might see white pelicans, great blue herons, purple gallinules, bald eagles, or a rainbow of other native bird species taking flight. There are usually alligators lounging somewhere on the water’s edge, and back at the base camp you might even have a chance to meet a baby gator. Check out their night airboat rides for an extra thrill.

Hit the Water Sports at Wekiva Island

Wekiva Island is an eco-friendly recreation complex in Longwood, with a welcoming river-front setting — including a funky café, tented cabanas with sofas and rocking chairs, a fire pit, picnic tables, cornhole and sand volleyball—as well as kayak, canoe, and SUP rentals. It’s the perfect place to play the day away—grab a paddle and head out on the Wekiva River to Wekiwa Springs State Park, where you can meander along the nature trails or jump in for a swim. The spring water is a pleasant 72 degrees all year-round.

Feed Giraffes at Brevard Zoo

Melbourne’s Brevard Zoo is the world’s largest community-built zoo, lovingly constructed by more than 16,000 volunteers, and opened in 1994. Today, the zoo hosts a busy schedule of summer camps, daily keeper chats, and an on-site “zoo school.” Kids can hand-feed giraffes, ride the Cape to Cairo Express past camels and ostriches, and hang out among the ring-tailed lemurs. The kid-centric Paws On zone includes a marine touch tank, miniature beach and climb-aboard shrimping boat, goat and alpaca petting area, splashy Indian River Play Lagoon, and Wildlife Detective Training Academy. The zoo’s Treetop Trek offers 14 ziplines and a canopy walk, and you can even float past rhinos and giraffes on a kayak tour.

Discover Manatees at Blue Spring State Park

Blue Spring State Park, in Orange City, is a designated refuge for West Indian Manatees, which are especially plentiful during the winter months (November through March), when hundreds gather here. The park’s 1/3-mile riverside boardwalk is a perfect vantage point for watching the “sea cows” as they swim in the clear, warm, spring water. Visitors here can camp, hike, picnic, bird-watch, or fish. Scuba diving, snorkeling, tubing, and swimming are also allowed, though they are not permitted among the manatees. St. John’s River Cruises offers daily boat and Segway tours as well as canoes and kayaks for rent.

By Laura Beausire