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Explore the great outdoors in South Florida

When it comes to activities in Florida, many visitors head straight for the theme parks. But southern Florida has a host of exciting outdoor adventures whose thrills go way beyond rollercoaster rides.


Famous for its alligators and manatees, the Great Outdoors of South Florida also has fantastic camping and hiking, ziplines and skydiving, and plenty of other activities too.

There's nowhere greater than the Everglades, over 700 square miles of wetland.

An hour's drive from Miami and you're in the Everglades National Park (www.nps.gov/ever). Here you could be kayaking in total peace, the silence broken only by the occasional splash of a paddle and birds calling in the trees. There’s plenty of hiking, biking and fishing too, with activities organized either by park rangers and approved private companies.

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From any of the main South Florida cities like Miami or Fort Myers, you can easily book a few days or a few hours of outdoor adrenalin, or opt for some wildlife watching. There's one fascinating creature that should be on everyone's list: the manatee. Sure you can see them in captivity, but nothing beats seeing them in the wild.

Just 20 minutes from downtown Fort Myers is Manatee Park (www.leeparks.org), where you can see these gentle giants from November to March. Companies like See Manatees (www.see-manatees.com) also offer boat trips guaranteeing sightings.

Top five outdoor adventures

1. Kayaking in the Everglades
Numerous companies offer these trips, including Shurr Adventures (www.shurradventures.net), based in Everglades City. Expect to see alligators, hawks, dolphins and even manatees.

related: Take an eco-friendly trip to Costa Rica's North Pacific coast

2. See manatees in the wild
Another great place to see manatees is the Manatee Observation and Education Center (www.manateecenter.com) in Fort Pierce. Alternatively, take a kayaking tour with Manatee Guides (www.manateeguides.com) to Bonita Springs or into Estero Bay.

3. Skydiving
If you think a rollercoaster is the ultimate thrill, try freefalling at 120mph for 35 seconds. Adrenaline365 (www.adrenaline365.com) run skydives from 10,000 feet. Flights leave from the Kendall-Tamiami Airport, less than 20 miles from Miami.

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4. Snorkel the Dry Tortugas

The Dry Tortugas National Park (www.nps.gov/drto) is a group of islands 67 miles west of Key West. It's one of the least accessible national parks and snorkelers will appreciate the clarity of the water here, all the better to see the rainbow-colored coral reefs and equally colorful fish.

5. Meet a 'gator

A great way to see alligators and other wildlife is on the half-mile Aningha Trail, a boardwalk and paved walkway near the entrance to the Everglades National Park (www.nps.gov/ever).

 
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