The Florida State Park system offers incredible adventures and vacation spots with an abundance of locations close to Clearwater.
With ample natural resources and incredible views of water and land, the entire family can find a place to help take away their worries and enjoy life.
Whether you are searching for great beaches to swim, sunbathe, snorkel, view wildlife, or camp, we found the five best state parks to find your own personal oasis, all with very low entrance fees.
Map of State Parks Near Clearwater FL
Here is a map of the Florida state parks covered in this post:
List of State Parks Near Clearwater
Here are each of those state parks with their distance from Clearwater and the features that make each worth visiting.
1. Caladesi Island State Park
Location: 1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, FL 34698
Caladesi Island State Park is only accessible by boat via Honeymoon Island, which is connected to the mainland, and it’s only five miles from Clearwater.
Both islands, however, are unspoiled, with breathtaking natural beauty and plenty of opportunities to view native flora and fauna. Picnic areas, nature paths, and restrooms are also available.
Most visitors come to swim, relax, sunbathe, promenade, and look for shells or fish, all of which are fantastic activities on these pristine preserves. Beginning at 10 a.m., ferries run every half-hour in the winter and every hour in the summer, and the ferry’s fee covers the park’s cost. Once on the island, try out hiking or simply enjoy the crystal clear water without the large crowds.
You do not want to miss out on camping on Caladesi Island if you want a natural hideaway. What makes this park unique is you can only camp on a boat instead of on land, and you can even rent all the supplies you need so you can leave almost everything at home.
Grab a meal at the island’s cafe or a gift at the souvenir shop. Finally, enjoy the island’s boat dock, showers, and restrooms. You can also enjoy Anclote Key Preserve State Park very close by, with a very similar setup and a lighthouse.
2. Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park
Location: 8737 US-19, Port Richey, FL 34668
Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park is a hidden gem with unpolluted waters about half an hour away from Clearwater. Just minutes away from the real world, you can explore bayous, inlets, and mangrove-lined coasts in the deep salt spring.
Discover the Gulf of Mexico by taking to the open waterways while searching for wading birds, dolphins, shorebirds, and possibly an otter along the way.
Whether you have a few hours or all day, travel around the park’s four miles of coastline, where there are plenty of picturesque sites to see. The first sight you need to see is the Eagle Trail, as you might spot some eagles and their eaglets at the right time of year.
From there, visit the butterfly garden and a cove, boardwalk, and a few more trails. The Emerald Room cavern is fed by Cauldron Springs, which flows deep into the cavern allowing for diving to see astonishing phenomena, and it’s believed the spring is even deeper adding to the sense of adventure.
The state park offers group and primitive camping for very small fees, but priority goes to youth groups. Bathrooms are nearby the amenities are sparse. However, you can enjoy fishing and paddling in open waters.
Pack a picnic and enjoy nature while searching for foxes, bears, tortoises, alligators, dolphins, otters, and manatees. Finish your trip at the Tidal Waterfall and learn how to make usable salt!
3. Hillsborough River State Park
Location: 15402 US-301 N, Thonotosassa, FL 33592
Hillsborough River State Park is one of Florida’s oldest, and it’s just forty-four miles from Clearwater. Head to this park to enjoy the water with fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.
Anglers will love fishing for bass, bream, and catfish. Hikers and cyclists have access to seven miles of nature trails to thoroughly enjoy the gorgeous nature. The park’s swimming pool is a huge draw on hot summer days, as is the river too!
The park offers space for RVs, and 112 campsites with full hookups are a popular overnight stop. Bring a hammock to a few of the campsites and electricity for all.
Water, a fire ring, and a picnic table are provided at each site. There are toilets with hot showers and laundry facilities in each loop. For your convenience, the campground has a dump station. Pets are welcome, but they must be kept in a crate, on a leash.
Visit the Fort Foster State Historic Site, a reconstructed fort from the Second Seminole War via ranger-led tours. The park features a store and a café that serves breakfast and lunch and various picnic spots, and two children’s playgrounds.
A long fishing pier, a wildlife center, and a beach area with decent facilities are also available in the State Park, making this a destination to see.
4. Little Manatee State Park
Location: 215 Lightfoot Rd, Wimauma, FL 33598
The forty-mile Little Manatee River runs for six miles through the Little Manatee State Park, just fifty-five miles away from Clearwater. Find unique trees and ecosystems along with rare trees making this a fantastic destination for kayaking and canoeing.
However, the main attraction is the migrating manatees who spend the winter at the park, which can be seen from December to March.
One of the best hiking paths in southern Florida resides at the park with a 6.5-mile layered loop teeming with birds and animals. Add in fifteen miles of equestrian paths, picnic areas, and two children’s playgrounds right on the riverbank for an exceptional vacation.
Because the river is an estuary, anglers need a freshwater and saltwater fishing license, but you get the chance to catch bluegill, largemouth bass, and catfish.
A thirty-site campground with full hookups is also available, along with a full-service equestrian campground. Each site includes a picnic table, fire ring, water, and electricity in the heart of the camping loop with a bathhouse with hot water showers.
Moreover, the park offers a dump site, wheelchair accessibility, and coin-operated washers and dryers. With all these options, you definitely need to visit the river filled with manatees and tons of amenities.
5. Colt Creek State Park
Location: 16000 State Rte 471, Lakeland, FL 33809
About sixty miles from Clearwater in Central Florida, you will find Colt Creek State Park. It is home to wetlands, cypress domes, lakes, and longleaf pines.
In addition, the park offers a home to fox squirrels, white-tailed deer, American alligators, red-shouldered hawks, and a variety of wading birds, among other Florida natives.
In the pine Flatwoods of the park, you will find 27 full-service campsites and six tent-only sites. Some locations can support rigs of up to 70 feet in length. Horses can camp too at ten sites, including the trailer with room for up to eight people.
While the campground is modest, it offers ample sites without a crowded feeling, and pets are welcome. Add in a bathhouse with showers, a family room, washers, and dryers with vegetation around each site for privacy for an excellent vacation destination.
Located within the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve and Colt Creek, the park offers unspoiled wilderness, mostly made up of pine Flatwoods, cypress domes, and open pastureland. Take a boat out on three different lakes or fish from the dock before heading to land to try hiking on twelve miles of trails.
Finally, take the kids geocaching, paddling, or picnicking to take full advantage of the surrounding nature and all the beauty it holds.