If you’re headed to Florida with the family, you can’t do better than MacArthur State Park for intimate, energetic family fun. This barrier island is a beach paradise that’s also home to habitats for rare animals and plants. The park is open every day, and there’s so much to do that you won’t be ready to leave at sundown. Here are just a few things to check out during your stay.
Start at the nature center
Before you explore, you should know what you’re exploring. The nature center explains exactly why this park is so treasured: the island is home to several rare species of plants and endangered wildlife and aquatic species.
If you enjoy birdwatching, you’ll see terns, herons, and sandpipers at the very least. You may get to see nesting sea turtles at the right time of year, and there’s no telling who you’ll meet if you hike down one of the many beautifully maintained nature trails.
Get on the water
Whether you’re into paddle boards or kayaks, there’s quite a bit to do in the waters around MacArthur State Park. There are some amazing parts of the park that you can’t really fully appreciate unless you approach from the water, so a guided tour is the best way to see everything.
Tours can also be tailored to your family’s needs, whether you’re looking for an educational experience or you need something suitable for beginners. If you know what you’re doing, you can also surf at the park, although if you don’t, you’ll need to look for custom surfing lessons.
Get under the water
As much as there is to see above the water, there’s also a lot to see below it. Snorkeling around MacArthur park is an otherworldly experience. See the Limestone Rock Reef and experience the clear water and sea life all around you.
While you’re exploring the sea, you are likely to see parrot fish, sea turtles, barracuda, damselfish, and all kinds of coral. Visitors have also been known to come across dolphins, and you may see some crabs and other crustaceans along the way.
If you love to fish, you will find few places better than MacArthur Beach State Park. If you’re an angler, head to the lagoon where you can fish from a kayak or use your waders. If you prefer ocean fishing, anyone can fish from the non-swimming beaches. You need a fishing license for anyone in the family over 16, but younger ones can fish without one. You can fish for shark, snook, trout, redfish, or tarpon in and around the park.
Engage with nature
If you’re trying to get the kids out of the house and away from screens for a while, MacArthur Park is the perfect place. Not only are there plenty of birds and wildlife to see, but it’s a great place to learn about plants.
Help your children connect to the flora around them with art. They can draw or otherwise recreate something they’ve seen, trace as many different leaves as they can find, or engage in a scavenger hunt. Have them look for the largest and smallest plants they can find and then draw what they’ve found.
Eat some fresh food
A full day at the park demands plenty of fuel. There are lots of lovely picnic spots around the island and many of them are equipped with grills. There are also plenty of restaurants within two miles of the park.
Try Sandpiper’s Cove for amazing seafood and upscale offerings. Sara’s Kitchen has a more homey vibe and delicious breakfast and lunch fare. La Fontana offers pizza and Italian food, while Guakamoles Mexican Grille is the place for tacos, burritos, and other Mexican and Latin style food.