What’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions Florida attractions? Would it be Disney World or Sea World? What about the Kennedy Space Center? Or maybe you think of South Beach in Miami or the downtown areas of Orlando or Tampa? How many of you think of the natural side of Florida, getting out of the concrete jungle and what was here before all the man made attractions sprang up? If you love the real Florida as much as my wife and I do, then Forever Florida is an attraction you do not want to miss.
Located outside of St Cloud FL and near Holopaw, Forever Florida and the Crescent J ranch comprise 4,700 acres of the most natural Florida you will probably find in the entire state with the exception of maybe the Everglades. What we don’t see much of in our state any longer is native Florida animals, plants and entire ecosystems. With the advent of ever encroaching civilization, we lose the original, real Florida. Fortunately, Forever Florida has preserved the original, “just as nature intended.”
There are many ways you can experience the natural wilderness of one of the most “real” Florida attractions around. For those that want a leisurely sight seeing trip around the eco ranch and wildlife conservation area, you can take the Coach Safari and ride through 9 different Florida ecosystems on one of their elevated swamp coaches. You may get lucky and see some of the multitude of wildlife such as black bears, deer, more than 200 species of birds like the red shoulder hawk pictured above, and of course alligators and more. You will also get to see native Florida Cracker cattle and Cracker horses as the ranch boasts the largest herds of registered Cracker horses and cattle in the world.
Other ways to experience the eco wilderness and ranch include by horse back, and by the fun Zipline Safari where you soar up to 25 mph through the treetops at 55′ above the ground in some spots. Does that sound like fun? Watch for a future post on the Zipline adventure coming soon. There is also a 2 day horseback safari you can take to enjoy even more of the natural Florida wilderness on an overnight adventure. And last but not least, you can also camp here as well. There are areas for Boy Scouts, large groups and families or couples. You can also send your kids to summer camp for a week at Camp Illahaw where they will learn all about the real Florida and get to participate in a horseback riding and camping adventure they will remember for years.
The ranch also features a store with native Florida crafts and gifts and a restaurant where you can get something to eat after an enjoyable eco-safari. The restaurant also features Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other special occasion dinners at reasonable prices. You can check out their Festival Days page for more info on special restaurant events.
The ranch is open for safaris that run 7 days a week and the visitor’s center and restaurant building is open at 9:00 am every day. Have a look at their pricing and reservations page for scheduled departure times, rates and details. Reservations are required for all safari adventures. It is about 37 miles or a 45 minute drive from the intersection of Highway 192 and I-95. See their website for map and directions.
Don’t just hit the mouse house when you come to the Sunshine State, get out in the wilderness and experience what the old, original Florida was like in all of its natural beauty. Make plans to visit Forever Florida as soon as you can.
Many thanks goes out to William Crotts Photography for the pictures of Forever Florida wildlife. Enjoy some more below to see what you’re missing: