Hillsborough River State Park

State Park in Tampa Bay

When Tampa residents need a woodsy escape, they head to this fantastic 3400-acre state park, just 20 miles (30 minutes) northeast of Tampa. For visiting families, it provides easy, kid-friendly encounters with Florida's wilderness, and you'll find the region's best (nonbeach) camping. The best thing to do is get out on the water (canoes two hours/full day $25/50; kayaks $15 per hour), gliding beneath Spanish moss on the look out for raptors, deer, foxes and alligators. Morning is best for spotting wildlife.

The flat, winding park roads also make for scenic cycling (bike rental $10/25 per hour/day), and there are more than 10 miles of equally easy hiking trails through pine flatwoods and cypress swamps. In summer the biggest draw is the giant half-acre swimming pool ($4 per person). On weekends arrive by 8:30am or it might already be full (then you can't enter till someone leaves).

The pretty 114-site campground (sites $27) has good facilities and solar-heated hot water, but not a lot of privacy. Spots along the river are prime, and camping is best (and busiest) during the October to March dry season (book up to a year in advance). Midweek is always less busy.

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