9 Central Florida Eco Tours

Central Florida shines with unparalleled nature-based adventures.

Experience true Florida with these environmentally oriented eco-attractions, from bike rides to ziplines and from airboats to airplanes. 

Sunrise Safari

This two-hour golf cart tour, led by a certified Florida master naturalist, explores the 500 preserved acres surrounding Grande Lakes Orlando Resort. Wild daybreak sightings may include alligators, birds, bobcats, deer, foxes, otters and raccoons roaming near Shingle Creek, the northernmost headwaters of the Florida Everglades. You’ll also harvest morning memories at Whisper Creek Farm visiting a chicken coop and 7,000-square-foot garden which yields the resort’s fresh ingredients. Price: $60, grandelakes.com

Spring Into Stance

Take a stand-up paddleboard tour with Paddle Board Orlando. (Courtesy Visit Florida/Scott Audette)

Paddle Board Orlando offers a variety of natural spring treks led by stand up paddle board enthusiasts. Coast along Crystal River toward Three Sisters spring beside mellow manatees. These giant sea cows can reach up to 13 feet, about the length of your board and 3,000 pounds. Or dive into a Silver Springs excursion to find catfish, turtles and wild monkeys, rumored to have been released in 1938 by a tour boat operator and unrelated to the area filming of “Tarzan” in 1939. Paddle Board Orlando also ventures on the Winter Park Chain of Lakes, Halifax River near New Smyrna Beach, and Wekiva Island. Price: $35-$65, paddleboardorlando.com

Catered Camping 

Take sea kayaks or a small powered boat across Lake Tohopekaliga to Makinson Island for primitive catered camping. The Paddling Center at Shingle Creek in Kissimmee prepares all overnight basic needs such as tents, sleeping bags and firewood, along with activities including tours and on-site games like corn hole and whiffle ball. Prefer a day-only tour option? Navigate the seven miles of paddle-friendly trails of Shingle Creek via canoe, kayak or stand-up paddle board. Price: $13-$110, paddlingcenter.com

Scenic Bike Hike

Elite Road Bike Rentals paves the way to leisure two-wheeled exploration with 10- to 40-mile rides on hybrid bikes. On the partially-shaded West Orange Trail tour, pedal past preserved orange groves, a butterfly garden and a notable train depot. Take a pit stop on Plant Street in historic Winter Garden to see the clock tower, tile-lined fountain and quaint boutiques. On the Cady Way tour through north Orlando and Winter Park, discover nature’s masterpieces in the Loch Haven Park art district with a nod to “The Mayor,” a 350-year-plus sprawling oak draped with Spanish moss by Lake Formosa. Refuel with a picnic in Central Park on Park Avenue. On the Apopka Loop Trail, brave the dirt, lakeside path for breathtaking landscape views and sightings of alligators, snakes, turtles, raccoon, deer and many bird species. Price: $100, eliteroadbikerentals.com 

Just Plane Fun

Take eco-tourism to new heights with the Jones Brother’s Fly Out and Paddle In tour departing from Lake Dora in Tavares. Board a two or four seater sea plane for a 15 to 20 minute flight offering top-notch views of the Harris Chain of Lakes and a rolling landscape. Steady for a splash-and-dash landing on Lake Eustis where kayaks await. Led by an Adventure Outdoor Paddle guide, spend one hour drifting through the pristine Dora Canal. Price: $139,  jonesairandsea.com

Park It

Wekiwa Springs stays a constant 72 degrees if you're brave enough for a dip. (Courtesy DEP)

Wekiwa Springs State Park in Apopka is one of the best destinations for eco-tourism activities, including fishing, geocaching, hiking, equestrian trails, wildlife viewing and camping. The grassy hillside of Wekiwa Springs offers a serene atmosphere for sunbathers to picnic on the shoreline of its swimming hole. Canoe or kayak through the swamp paths to Wekiva River to find Wekiva Island, a party paradise with boardwalk cabanas, a pub and sand volleyball courts. Price: $6 entry per vehicle; canoe/kayak: $19.15 and up, floridastateparks.org 

Sunset Swamp

Take a ride with Boggy Creek Airboats for amazing alligator viewings. (Courtesy Paul Marcellini)

As the sunset illuminates the sky with bright orange hues over Lake Tohopekaliga, soar over green marsh on a Boggy Creek Airboat tour at 45 mph on a U.S. Coast Guard-approved airboat. Perched high on the propeller water vessel, your swamp captain will help you spot exotic birds, turtles and plenty of alligators wandering in their natural Everglades habitat. Price: $52.95 adult; $48.95 child; free for 2 and under, bcairboats.com

Moonlight Ziplining

Because many animals are most active at night, Forever Florida in St. Cloud invites thrill-seekers to glide from tower to tower on seven ziplines and cross three swaying sky bridges through the dark mystique of the pines. You’ll tour 4,700 acres of beautiful conservation, which is home to native wildlife including black bears, white-tailed deer and the endangered Florida panther. Price: $89.99, foreverflorida.com

Bioluminescent Nights

Take an unforgettable kayak ride at night in the glow of the jellyfish. (Courtesy Florida Today)

During Florida’s cool months, bioluminescent comb jellyfish (which do not sting), congregate in the Indian River Lagoon. Rent a kayak for a two-hour bioluminescent eco-tour starting at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, about an hour drive from Orlando, to see these and other peculiar creatures glow in the water. Price: $38, adayawaykayaktours.com

Categories: Metropoly