Adventures in Central Florida: 15 Crazy Fun Things To Do At Least Once!

May 10, 2022

adventures in central florida

Boasting a near-perfect year-round climate, Florida is our #1 favorite state for outdoor adventures.  Every time we visit, without exception, we find new and exciting things to do. On our most recent trip, we found a plethora of fun adventures in Central Florida that were new to us.

Different sources give their own definitions for the region designated as “central” Florida. For our purposes, we are defining Central Florida to describe anything south from Alachua County, Sarasota County to the west, and straight east to Martin County.

Here are our favorite adventures in Central Florida!

15 Devil’s Millhopper

devils millhopper

Attracting visitors since the 1880s, the 120-foot bowl-shaped crater with a tiny forest at the bottom is one of Central Florida’s most unique natural wonders.

A trail, 232-step wooden staircase, and multiple boardwalks led us down to the massive 500-foot wide sinkhole. Twelve streams trickle down into the sinkhole creating the beautiful blue pond in the center. Thick green vegetation, such as moss, fungus, and ferns line the walls around the pond.

Scientists believe that the Devil’s Millhopper limestone base is over 10 thousand years old, weakened by acid rain until the ceiling of the cavern could no longer support the earth on top, creating the sinkhole. Fossil shark teeth, marine shells, and the fossilized remains of extinct land animals tell a lot about Florida’s history.

14 Vibrational Bowls

adventures in central florida

If you encounter a rainy day or sunburn during your stay in Martin County, or just want something different to do, try the Sound Vibrational Healing Session located in the Elliott Museum on Hutchinson Island conducted by Deena Rahill.

The “sound bath” has been used in ancient cultures for thousands of years around the world to ease anxiety, stress, and depression, and to promote balance and a sense of well-being. Crystal “singing” bowls are used to create pulsating sounds to induce brain waves into a focused, relaxed state.

I was a bit skeptical at first, but truth be told, not only was as relaxed as a noodle after my session, but my week-long headache ceased!

If you have additional time, the museum offers a variety of collections, including vintage cars, baseball artifacts, artwork, Americana, rotating exhibits, a theater, an art studio with classes, and more.

13 Myakka Park

adventures in central florida

Overlooking a tree-mendous vista, the tower view provides a panoramic window to a world of bromeliads and lichens, birds, and wildlife. The canopy walk was my favorite part, leading directly up to the viewing tower.

Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s largest, oldest, and most scenic parks. It is named after the Myakka River and covers an expanse of 37,000 acres of vast unspoiled wetlands, Spanish moss-covered trees, prairies, lush pine forests, 39 miles of hiking trails, hammocks, and a treetop canopy suspension bridge with panoramic views of nature and wildlife below. Visitors may spot rare birds such as the “roseate spoonbill” (which you can only see in Florida), wood storks, and black-necked stilts. Oh, and did I mention gators roam freely?

Other park activities include horseback riding, nature trails for hiking, biking, boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and pontoon boat ride.

And don’t miss an airboat ride on the Myakka State River to spot alligators, the real “stars” of Myakka.

12 Parasailing

adventures in central florida

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s you gliding high over Florida’s East Coast.

If you think soaring through the air from 600 feet to 1,200 feet sounds like fun, head to Daytona Beach for an unforgettable flight.

Parasailing is an exhilarating ride that can offer you a breathtaking view of Daytona Beach and the adventure of a lifetime.

This high-flying escapade can be enjoyed by the entire family or solo. Outfitters include several options such as single, double, and triple-seat parachutes.

And the fun doesn’t stop there! Check out the best Instagram spots in Daytona Beach!

11 Paynes Prairie

paynes prairie

Encompassing a 21,000-acre savanna in Alachua County, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is the top attraction in Gainesville and unique in so many ways. Naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts, this is the only place in Florida where you can see wild bison and horses. There are also opportunities to see other wildlife such as alligators and deer.

The park’s eight trails, including the 16-mile paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, allow visitors to explore the park’s interior and observe wildlife.  We climbed a 50-foot high observation tower for panoramic views of the savannah and its wildlife.

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, a registered National Landmark, became Florida’s first state preserve in 1971.  It’s easy to see why Seminole Indians once chose to occupy a village along this vast savannah.

Exploring the park again was particularly poignant for Kary; he spent time here as a Park Ranger as a young man.

10 Waterbike

adventures in central florida

This was our favorite outdoor activity in Martin County! We were treated to a private tour of the Manatee Pocket intercostal waterway in Port Salerno by WATER BIKE (provided by Treasure Coast Water Bikes). The contraption is a bicycle hoisted up on two floating pontoons. The bike peddles are attached to underwater propellers that activate the mechanisms. We loved it! It’s easy to do and a fun way to take in the outdoors.

Our guide, Danny Robitaille of Liquid Aloha Paddle Sports led us in and out of the canals, passing stunning scenery in the harbor, ecosystems, and beautiful private homes.

Read more fun things to do in Martin County.

9 Surfing

adventures in central florida

Often called the East Coast surf capital, Cocoa Beach is the gateway to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and is known for its beach and surf breaks. The Cocoa Beach Pier has eateries and shops. Founded in 1925, Cocoa Beach is located on a barrier island just an hour’s drive east of Orlando on the Sunshine State’s stunning Space Coast.

While the quintessential beach town doesn’t have the biggest or best waves, beginner and expert surfers enjoy waves that are easy to ride as well as enjoy the world-famous 800-foot Cocoa Beach Pier with its many restaurants, bars, hotels, and surf-inspired local art.

8 Psychic Reading

 

cassadaga

Experience “Weird Florida” at a fascinating psychic haven in Volusia County, Florida.

Cassadaga is one of the most unusual places in Florida. The small unincorporated town of Volusia has earned fame as the “Psychic Capital of the World.” The “Spiritualist Camp” was founded in the mid-1890s by George P. Colby who claimed that the Native American spirit guide, Seneca, led him to the site.

Nowadays, people come here for a reading, healing, or plain old curiosity. . The community welcomes guests as long as they are respectful of its members. Some say the place is a spiritual energy vortex, similar to Sedona or Stonehenge where they felt a deep feeling of calm while visiting.

Small and unassuming, the 57-acre community hosts a 55-home neighborhood of small, charming bungalows, and Colby Memorial Temple. It is a fun destination with a lot of history, a beautiful lake, a gazebo overlooking a meditation pond, and a bookstore Tours, workshops, and seminars are available. The Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp was designated in 1991 as a Historic District and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I loved hiking the whimsical Fairy Trail on the northern side of the park under a canopy of dense trees. It’s alleged that this 0.2-mile looping trail is where psychic energy mingles with peaceful places. I won’t lie, part of my motivation for visiting Cassadaga was to get my pixie Instagram moment with the “Fairy Wings” located on a lovely trail strewn with fairy houses, gnomes, and wildflowers.

But the pièce de résistance is of course getting a psychic reading from one of the spirit mediums, psychics, or spiritual healers at the camp!

Whether you are a believer or not, it’s an interesting town to explore with a fascinating history and quirky, but friendly, residents.

7 Airboat Ride

adventures in central florida

While airboat rides are mostly associated with the Everglades, that’s not the only place you can experience this fun adventure in Florida.

My first airboat ride with Airboat and Gator Charters was quite eventful! The very windy conditions played a big role in our scouting for gators. When we found a mama with several babies, we stopped the motor of the boat to just observe. Suddenly, a huge gust of wind blew our boat towards her. She did not like that at all, and bit our boat!

Next, the wind blew us into the scrub and it took both Kary and Captain Josh to get the boat loose.

Lastly, we found ourselves in a group of manatees. They were hard to see in the tannic water, but our captain pointed out the mud swirls and occasionally a snout would pop over the water.

What a day and another bucket list adventure realized!

Read more about all the adventures in West Volusia.

6 Kayak Mangrove Tunnels

adventures in central florida

For a unique kayak experience, head to the mangrove tunnels on Lido Key. From a launch site in South Lido Park, kayakers can paddle trail through a labyrinth of narrow waterways of shady mangrove canopies which create an ethereal vibe.

The mangrove ecosystem is both important and picturesque. Exposed roots anchor the trees in shallow water and along shorelines and provide a protected habitat for wildlife.

Be sure to be alert – dodging the low mangrove branches is required in some sections. If you get lucky you may even spot a few dolphins (we did!) and manatees along the way.

Big shout out to Bo, our terrific guide from Kayaking SRQ Tours who was a treasure trove of knowledge about the mangroves, wildlife, and the history of Sarasota.

Read more about the outdoor activities in Sarasota.

5 Devil’s Den

devils den

Located in the small, unassuming town of Williston, a prehistoric spring called Devil’s Den beckons the curious who are willing to don snorkel or dive gear and venture into the chilly 72-degree portal into the underworld cave.

Devil’s Den was formed 10,000 years ago from a geomorphic event called a karst window. At one point, the carbonate bedrock that formed the roof over the Devil’s Den dissolved into a sinkhole and revealed the subterranean river.

Caves, ancient rock formations with stalactites, and fossil beds (some fossils date as far back as 2 million years ago!) fill the crystal blue sinkhole. A steep flight of stairs leads to the water which ranges in depth from 8 – 200 feet, and free-swimming without snorkel gear is not permitted.

There is an opening at the top of the cave that lets in a natural beam of light, illuminating most of the cave.

4 Swim with Manatees

swim with manatees

There’s only one place in North America where you can legally swim with manatees, and that’s in the Crystal River area.  Located about 90 minutes north of Tampa, on the west coast of Florida, the water temperature is a consistent 72 degrees year-round. During the winter months, more than 400 1000-lb. manatees migrate here to escape the cold waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

These docile, slow-moving swimmers were placed on the endangered species list in 1966 and have since been under close watch to ensure the survival of the species.

Swimming with these docile creatures is an unforgettable experience.  After getting a briefing on all of the do’s and don’ts of interacting with the animals, swimmers get into a boat to find the gentle giants. Manatees are very curious by nature and often initiate interaction with humans.  Such was the case with us.

Our captain spotted two manatees and stopped the boat so our small group could slip into the water to observe. On the bottom, about ten feet down, a large mama manatee was resting while her baby played nearby. Suddenly the baby spotted us and made a beeline for us.

As I watched with my head in the water, hanging onto the side of the boat, the baby came up underneath me and flipped me onto my back! I won’t lie, it scared me. Eyes as big as silver dollars, I may or may not have screamed through my snorkel.

I looked at the captain and said, “I didn’t touch her!” because we’d been strictly told NOT to touch the sea cows. He just laughed and said, “The babies are playful, and there’s nothing you can do when they initiate an encounter but be still and enjoy it!”

Getting upfront and personal with the baby manatee was a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience!

3 Rollercoasters

adventures in central florida

Ask most theme park fans “what’s the best rollercoaster in Orlando?” and you’ll likely be given a different answer every time. That’s because there are so many excellent rides and attractions here, and it really depends on what type of experience you want.

Orlando has some of the most extreme coasters in the United States with rides that go for outright speed and heart-pounding G-forces, others want to leave you suspended in mid-air, and others go for an immersive experience with a whole storyline along the incredible ride. My favorite are the ones with the adrenaline-raising extreme free-fall drops!

hulk rollercoaster

I’m a self-proclaimed coaster aficionado, so in my opinion, here are the top five must-do roller coasters in Orlando:

  1. Dueling Dragons (Islands of Adventure)
  2. The Incredible Hulk (Islands of Adventure)
  3. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (Universal Studios)
  4. Jurassic World (Islands of Adventure)
  5. Rockin’ Rollercoaster (MGM)

2 Tubing

ginnie springs

Floating lazily down a crystal cool river in an inner tube is one of the best pastimes during the hot Florida summer.

Ginnie Springs is a privately owned park on the south side of the Santa Fe River. The water is clear and a constant 72 degrees cold (brrr!) and there are accessible caverns with sand and limestone bottom.

We launched our tube into the water at the Beaver’s Landing river access point.  We drifted with the current for about an hour.

adventures in central florida

I also tried snorkeling in the springs, accessible by a pontoon deck with a wooden staircase. I descended the steps to where the water was immediately over my head. It was so cold! I’m not a strong swimmer, and the frigid water made me a bit nervous, so I did not stay in very long.

Where to Stay: Magnolia Plantation

1 Skydive

skydive deland

Why yes, we did the granddaddy of all adventures – skydiving in DeLand! Surprised? So were we. Amazingly, tandem skydiving was conceived and developed right here in charming DeLand. So, of course, we had to do it!

Tandem skydiving is the best way to experience a jump because with an experienced pilot, you can dive higher. It was my second skydive (the last one ten years ago in Hawaii), but Kary’s first.

I’ve been an adrenaline junkie since I was a small child, and if there’s something more exhilarating than jumping out of a plane 13,500 feet in the air, I haven’t found it yet.

Established in 1982, Skydive DeLand is one of the busiest drop zones in the world. It’s a mecca for skydivers and one of the most sought-after facilities in America.

I love how they do the video and stills at Skydive DeLand because a separate videographer actually jumps alongside you to take the action.

Once the canopy is open, you have an approximate 5-minute parachute ride before landing.

The unique perspective of seeing with your own eyes our beautiful Earth beneath you can only be experienced via skydiving.

Conclusion

Whether you choose some of the escapades above or come up with your own set, you can go wrong finding an amazing array of adventures in Central Florida!

All photos ©Kary Kern unless otherwise indicated.

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About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the new few months.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal.  She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.

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