By Brian J. O'Connor
5:22 PM AKDT, April 15, 2012
1. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
Where: 10900 SR 703 (A1A), North Palm Beach, 2.8 miles south of US 1 and PGA Boulevard; 561-624-6950.
What: The park on this barrier island encompasses a 317-acres coastal hammock as well as a 120-acre mangrove swamp on Lake Worth Cove. The beach is a prime turtle nesting area, and rangers lead organized walks in June and July. Offshore reefs are easily accessible for snorkelers and divers, while a 1,600-foot boardwalk allows for viewing wildlife such as herons, ibis, roseate spoonbills and osprey in the mangrove area.
Recreational activities: Unguarded swimming on the two-mile, very private beach, as well as snorkeling and scuba diving. Weather permitting, a ranger-guided kayak tour through the estuary out to Munyon Island and back is offered daily on a first-come, first-served basis, scheduled according to the tides. Fishing is permitted from the shore and in the estuary (but not from the boardwalk).
The park maintains two nature trails, which are about 10- to 15-minute walks. A 4,000-square-foot nature center features a film on the park, displays on park history, plants and wildlife, Native American relics, a live sea turtle, snakes and aquariums. The nature center is open from 9 am. to 5 p.m. every day and is free with park admission.
The park has bathroom facilities and outdoor showers and offers vending machines but no concession stand. The park has two picnic pavilions available for reservation or on a first-come, first-served basis, and a small amphitheater that can be reserved for weddings and other events.
Fees: You must pay to enter and you must pay for kayak tours and rental of picnic pavilions and the amphitheater.
2. John U. Lloyd State Park
Where: 6503 N. Ocean Drive, Dania, 1.5 miles north of Sheridan Street off A1A; 954-923-2833. Main office 954-924-3859.
What: This 251-acre barrier island is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, from Port Everglades on the north to Dania on the south. Boaters have ocean access from two boat ramps through the Intracoastal Waterway to the Port Everglades Inlet. Amenities include a full-service restaurant serving beer and wine, the Loggerhead Cafe, and manatee viewing. The beach also is one of Broward County's most important sea-turtle nesting areas.
Recreational activities: Beaches, boat ramp, boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, nature trails, picnicking, scuba diving, snorkeling and wildlife viewing. Canoers and kayakers can paddle Whiskey Creek, a manatee sanctuary that flows through the park, beaching their vessels for a picnic at the north end. Snorkelers and scuba divers can follow submerged markers to reefs in one of the area's easier shore dives. Other amenities include a 45-minute nature trail, shaded picnic areas along the 2.5-mile beach and fishing from the jetty at the south end of the park. Limited picnic supplies, and canoe and kayak rentals are available at the refreshment stand.
Fees: Must pay to enter, use the boat ramp, rent kayaks and canoes and reserve a gazebo tent or grills.
3. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Where: 1200 S. Crandon Boulevard, Key Biscayne; 305-361-8779. From Miami, take I-95 to the Rickenbacker Causeway, all the way to the end.
What: This 400-acre beachfront park located on the southern tip of Key Biscayne is home to the Cape Florida lighthouse, first erected in 1825 and destroyed by Seminole Indians in 1836. A second tower, completed in 1846, still stands today.
Recreational activities: Swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing along 1.25 miles of sandy, Atlantic beachfront, with fishing available from several platforms along Biscayne Bay. A highly recommended shoreline fishing spot is the seawall located along the bay.
Eighteen covered pavilions provide shaded picnicking overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay available for reservation or on a first-come, first-served basis. The Lighthouse Cafe offering casual waterfront dining, was hit by a fire in January 2004 and is being rebuilt. The park's concession offers a variety of rentals, including bicycles, Hydrobikes, paddleboats, ocean kayaks, beach chairs and umbrellas.
There are two walking paths. Overnight boat camping is available in No Name Harbor, with the Boater's Grille offering limited convenience foods and supplies, as well as bait and tackle, showers, washers and dryers. Guided tours of the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper's quarters are available at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Tours are limited to the first 10 people to sign up at least 30 minutes ahead of time.
Fees: Must pay to enter, as well as to reserve picnic shelters and to dock a boat for the night.
4. John Prince Park
Where: 2520 Lake Worth Road west of I-95, Lake Worth; 561-964-4420. Other entrances at 27600 Sixth Avenue South and 4759 South Congress Avenue.
What/Recreational activities: This large 726-acre county park features 338-acre Lake Osborne, with fishing, water skiing and boating, including fishing piers, boat ramps and trailer parking. There also are picnic areas, RV hookups, a nature trail, golf and baseball training center, batting cages, tennis courts, softball fields, a playground, a five-mile bike path, exercise trail, wheelchair exercise course, 266 campsites, snack bar and restroom. Finally, don't forget the petanque court, for a round of the European lawn-bowling game, a distant cousin of horseshoes and a close relative of bocce.
5. Okeeheelee Park
Where: 7715 Forest Hill Boulevard, west of West Palm Beach, just east of Florida's Turnpike; 561-966-6600.
Recreational activities: Another big county park, Okeeheelee features a BMX bicycle-racing track, golf course, tennis courts, plenty of sports fields (softball, soccer, football, rugby), a nature center, volleyball court, freshwater fishing in a stocked lake (catch-and-release only), fishing pier, boat slips and ramp, exercise course, water-skiing, nature trails and nature center, picnic pavilion, boating, canoe and kayak and other watercraft rentals and other concessions.
Open sunrise to sunset. For boat rentals, call 561-304-1344; golf course, 561-964-4653; BMX track, 561-642-6774; ball field and water skiing permits, 561-966-6620.
Fees: User fees for scheduled activities.
6. C.B. Smith Park
Where: 900 N. Flamingo Road, Pembroke Pines; 954-437-2650.
Recreational activities: This 320-acre county park boasts the Paradise Cove water park, which includes two water playgrounds, two 700-foot waterslides, one 400-foot tube ride, a children's playground and restrooms. The park also has volleyball courts, a tennis/racquetball center, basketball court, snack bar, golf center with a driving range and miniature golf course, batting cages, bike and jogging paths, picnic areas with tables and grills and large picnic pavilions.
The park also offers fishing, as well as tent and RV camping complete with 72 hookups and 10 tent camping sites, as well as a meeting cabin that can accommodate 300 people and a corporate pavilion that can accommodate 500 people. Single and tandem bicycles are available for rent, along with canoes, john boats and paddleboats to explore the park's 80 acres of lakes.
Call 954-441-1333 for information on the golf range and batting cages. Call 954-437-2650 for reservations, fees, and hours for the park and tennis/racquetball center.
Fees: Admission charged on weekends and holidays only.
7. Quiet Waters Park
Where: 401 S. Powerline Road, Deerfield Beach; 954-360-1315.
Recreational activities: It's water, water everywhere at this 430-acre county park, which includes a freshwater swimming beach, skate park, mountain bike trails, cable water-skiing, a variety of boats for rental, and Splash Adventure, an interactive children's water playground (must pay to enter).
Fishing is permitted on the shores of most of the park's several lakes. The park also offers a skate park, a large playground, sports equipment rentals, and paved walking/jogging trails, as well as a snack bar. There are several large picnic pavilions available for parties, as well as more tables and grills throughout the park; the pavilion and large picnic area can handle groups of 400 or more. The park also has a campground that includes seven sites for camping with your own tent, and 27 Rent-A-Tent sites, which provide pre-setup tents, electricity, water, grills, fire-rings and picnic tables.
Fees: Admission charged on weekends and holidays only.
8. Snyder Park
Where: 3299 SW Fourth Ave., south of SR 84, Fort Lauderdale, 954-828-4585.
Recreational activities: Located near the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport, this 93-acre oasis offers nature trails, picnicking and bass fishing in two spring-fed lakes. A freshwater swimming beach is open during the summer season, with canoe and paddleboat rentals on the weekend.
Bike rentals are available. The park also features sanded-volleyball courts, horseshoes, a basketball court and a softball field. Exclusive in-line skating and cycling programs take place April through October. Picnic pavilions are available for rent, accommodating up to 6,000 people, including a 400-square-foot dance floor. Nature programs are presented monthly, and tours are available on request.
The park also includes Bark Park for dogs, with separate enclosed areas for small and large dogs, along with drinking fountains (at dog and human levels), benches, picnic tables, agility equipment, leash stations, two hose stations, scooper supply depots and disposal bins.
Fees: Must pay to enter.
9. Topeekeegee-Yugnee Park
Where: Just west of I-95 off Sheridan Street, Hollywood, 954-985-1980.
Recreational activities: Known as T-Y Park for short, this county facility features the "Castaway Island Water Park," which includes two 18-inch-deep pools and a lagoon, tropical coconuts and palm trees that spray water, picnic areas, concession stand and restrooms. The new Swim Lagoon for all ages includes a waterfall, a shaded zero-depth entry, and an ADA life. can rent 20-foot "Funbrellas" near the Swim Lagoon for parties. Elsewhere in the park are Safety Town, a miniature two-block village designed to teach pedestrian and bicycle safety to children. T-Y also offers paddleboats and swanboats for rent, bat/ball/glove rentals for baseball fans, two hard-court tennis courts, two basketball courts, a two-mile walking/jogging path, a covered playground, volleyball areas and concessions.
For gatherings, the park offers a lakeside gazebo, along with several large and small picnic shelters with water, electricity, grills and tables. Other picnic tables and grills throughout the park are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The park's RV campground includes 61 sites with full hook-up, hot showers, air-conditioned restrooms, and laundry facilities. Pets are welcome with a permit.
Fees: Admission charged on weekends and holidays only.
10. Tradewinds Park
Where: 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek, 954-968-3880. Admission is charged on weekends and holidays only. Admission to Butterfly World is additional.
Recreational activities: One of the county's largest parks, Tradewinds straddles Sample Road and includes an 18-hole disc golf course, a lake for fishing and fishing pier, boat/sports equipment rentals, and soccer/football and softball fields available for rental.
The park also includes Butterfly World, a tropical garden that's home to thousands of butterflies and hummingbirds, as well as the Tradewinds Stable, which provides hourly guided rides, pony rides and equestrian programs to the public, and the Tradewinds Educational Farm, including barnyard animals and a farmhouse museum. Both sides of the park offer playgrounds, volleyball, nature trails, biking/jogging paths, hayrides, snack bars and picnic areas.
Rental facilities include one corporate and several large, medium and small picnic shelters. There also is a model steam railroad operated by the Florida Live Steamers and Railroaders, offering public rides on the third full weekend of each month for an additional fee. Rides are unavailable in November and December.
For Butterfly World information, call 954-977-4400 or 954-977-4434; for the stables, call 954-968-3875.