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10 Eco-Friendly Outdoor Activities in Orlando the Whole Family Will Love

Outdoor activities in Orlando

When you’re planning outdoor activities in Orlando, you don’t need to stick to the theme parks. Sure, visiting Walt Disney World and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando is a total blast, but there are so many more adventurous things to do in Orlando. Florida and the Orlando region in particular is home to many stunning nature preserves, gardens, forests, and trails. In fact, there are so many Orlando outdoor activities that go way beyond the scope of this list.

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With that said, I’m focusing purely on the most eco-friendly outdoor activities in Orlando. These central Florida adventures provide so much outdoor fun in Orlando, whether you’re traveling as a couple, with friends, or the entire family. So, let’s get outside and explore these hidden gems in Orlando.

As you’re likely catching a flight to Orlando, especially if you’re traveling from afar, you’ll want to book a car rental from the Orlando airport. You’ll need a car to reach most of these places as many of them are in natural spaces on the outskirts of town. Here are my top 10 recommendations for eco outdoor activities in Orlando to appreciate nature and enjoy the great outdoors.

Wekiwa Springs State Park

Wekiwa Springs State Park - Outdoor activities in Orlando

Looking for things to do outside in Orlando? Look no further than Wekiwa Springs State Park. It’s a natural wonder about 20 minutes north of Orlando. Wekiwa Springs features refreshing, crystal clear waters that are naturally 72 degrees all year long.

42 million gallons of water flow from the springs to the Wekiva River daily. Wekiwa Springs State Park is a popular place to go camping in central Florida. If you’re seeking outdoor things to do in Orlando, you can go hiking, biking, birding, geocaching, swimming, snorkeling, and paddling at Wekiwa Springs State Park.

Tubing at Kelly Park / Rock Springs

Near Wekiwa Springs State Park, you’ll find Kelly Park and Rock Springs, another natural wonder in Florida. It’s a 245 acre park where you’ll find Rock Springs Run, a waterway that eventually flows into the Wekiva River. People flock to Kelly Park to go tubing at Rock Springs Run.

Start at the spring head and float along this natural lazy river. You’ll want to plan accordingly as they do cap the amount of visitors and cars start lining up as early as 5:00am on summer weekends! Tubes aren’t available in the park itself. Bring your own float or you can rent one at the nearby Rock Springs Bar and Grill.

Tibet-Butler Preserve

Tibet-Butler Preserve
Photo Credit: Ash Dunassyn

The Tibet-Butler Preserve is an amazing place to participate in Orlando outdoor activities like hiking and exploring natural habitats of the region. There are 3.6 miles of hiking trails where you can discover marshes, bay swamps, cyprus swamps, and pine flatwoods. You might be able to see some of the local wildlife, like river otters, tortoises, armadillos, and American alligators.

There are over 100 species of birds here, and the Tibet-Butler Preserve is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. There’s also a bright and spacious nature center with interactive displays, as well as educational programming.

Disney Wilderness Preserve

Photo Credit: Peter & Michelle S

The Disney Wilderness Preserve is operated by the Nature Conservancy, and it’s part of the Everglades ecosystem. It’s an 11,500 acre protected landscape near Kissimmee that used to be the site of an old cattle ranch. Today, you’ll find restored wetlands that are home to over 1000 species of plants and animals.

Hiking and birding are among the best outdoor activities in Orlando that you can do at the Disney Wilderness Preserve. There are three hiking trails that are all loop trails, depending on how long you’d like to walk. You can also pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at this peaceful place. Of course, don’t leave any garbage, enjoy wildlife from a safe distance, and be considerate of others on the trails.

Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park

The Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park is a thrilling tree top ropes course, and one of the most adventurous things to do in Orlando. There are 97 amazing aerial challenges across the ropes course. If you’re seeking outdoor fun in Orlando and want to combine exercise with a great challenge, this is the place to be.

Swing on Tarzan ropes, navigate across swinging logs, climb up ladders and nets, and soar through the trees on massive zip lines. This is one of the top things to do outside in Orlando, and a fabulous way to have an adventure in nature. There are courses for all skill levels, abilities, and ages, so bring the whole family for a memorable day.

Kayaking with Manatees at Silver Springs State Park

Kayaking with Manatees at Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park is a truly magical place to visit just outside of Orlando. It’s thought to be the largest artesian formation in the world, and it’s an amazing place to go kayaking in central Florida.

Kayaking at Silver Springs State Park is an eco-friendly and kind way to discover wildlife in its natural habitat without disturbing any of the animals. You’ll have the opportunity to spot manatees, wild Rhesus Macaque Monkeys, alligators and water birds.

Make sure that you practice ethical behaviors around the manatees. Do not approach any manatees and keep your distance. Do not feed the animals and speak quietly around the wildlife as to not disturb them.

Stroll Botanical Gardens and Arboretums

UCF Arboretum - Outdoor activities in Orlando

If you’re looking for a peaceful and quiet day in a gorgeous surrounding, check out the botanical gardens and arboretums in Orlando. I recommend going to the Mead Botanical Garden, the Harry P. Leu Gardens, or the University of Central Florida Arboretum. You’ll be surrounded by lush trees and bright blooms, and you might learn a thing or two about native flora from the area.

Go Biking on the West Orange Trail

For those who enjoy cycling, the West Orange Trail is of the best places to go biking in Orlando. It’s a 22 mile trail built in old railroad alignments that winds through Winter Garden, Apopka, and Oakland. There are four main stations along the way with restroom facilities, drinking fountains, and bike racks.

It’s one of the top outdoor things to do in Orlando. There are lots of scenic lookouts and historic buildings along the trail. Some interesting finds along the journey are the Oakland Nature Preserve, Lake Apopka, and the opportunity to ride through historic downtown Oakland and Winter Garden.

Explore Seminole State Forest

Seminole State Forest
Photo Credit: B A Bowen Photography

Seminole State Forest is the perfect place to get away from the city to savor a day in nature. This state forest has an impressive ecological diversity, featuring 18 different natural communities with their own unique characteristics. It’s home to many rare and threatened species in Florida, like the Florida black bear and the eastern indigo snake.

There are so many outdoor activities in Orlando, and you can find many of them at Seminole State Forest. There are 34 miles of hiking trails, 20 miles of multi-use trails for biking, and you can also go canoeing and kayaking on an undisturbed stream.

Ocala National Forest

Tibet-Butler Preserve - Outdoor activities in Orlando Florida

The Ocala National Forest is a little over an hour outside of Orlando, but it’s worth the drive. It’s the southernmost forest in the continental USA, and it’s the world’s largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest. There are more than 600 lakes, rivers and springs. You can swim and snorkel in some of the springs that feature crystal clear waters.

There are amazing opportunities to go hiking at the Ocala National Forest. Furthermore, bring your own canoe or kayak to explore Juniper Run, a winding waterway beneath a canopy of old growth forest. There are also several recreation areas to swim, go camping, and so much more. Some of the top Orlando outdoor activities can be found at Ocala National Forest, so be sure to add this spot to your eco-friendly Orlando itinerary.

Where to Stay in Orlando

If you’re traveling on a budget, there are lots of fantastic places to stay in Orlando. OYO is a great option if you’re looking for a budget hotel in Orlando. Even if you’re visiting on a tighter budget, you’ll still be able to find all of the essentials for a comfortable stay. Some of the amenities even include swimming pools, free parking, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

On the opposite end of the budget spectrum, you can also decide to book a quirky vacation villa hire. There are extraordinary luxury properties in Orlando, like townhouses and villas with outdoor swimming pools. You can continue enjoying outdoor activities in Orlando right from your home away from home.

If you stay in a luxury vacation home, you’ll have access to the comforts of home like a kitchen and a backyard. With a Florida tropical theme, many of the villas and houses are painted in all sorts of warm and bright colors. It will be a little more special than a typical hotel room where you basically rest your head at night and that’s it.

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Do you know about any other hidden gems in Orlando? Feel free to share them with us!

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Kelly Ratcliff

Monday 29th of June 2020

Fantastic list of things to do that are not theme parks! We often find really cheap flights from Minneapolis to Orlando and this makes me rethink taking advantage in the future!

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