HOMOSASSA SPRINGS WILDLIFE PARK, 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa (352-628-2311). This 168-acre state wildlife park features an underwater observatory, boat trips, nature trails, a children's education center, alligator programs, manatee programs and animal encounters. Creatures to look for include manatees, alligators, crocodiles and Florida snakes. Strolls along the nature trails sometimes offer glimpses at bear, bobcats, otters and cougars (which remain at a safe distance). The park's name derives from its central attraction, a huge 45-foot deep spring from which millions of gallons of fresh, clear water bubble every hour. Open 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily (ticket gate closes at 4 p.m.). Admission is $9 for adults, $5 for ages 3-12. Kennels and strollers are available.
HONEYMOON ISLAND STATE PARK, One Causeway Blvd., Dunedin (727-469-5942). One of the few northern barrier islands accessible by car in Pinellas, Honeymoon Island features a popular beach and nature trail, plus facilities for fishing and picnicking. Open 8 a.m.-sunset. Admission is $5 per carload of up to eight people.
JOHN CHESNUT SR. PARK, 2200 E. Lake Road, Palm Harbor (727-669-1951). This 255-acre park on the eastern shore of Lake Tarpon features a canoe trail, a playground, a fishing pier, a volleyball court and a softball field. Formerly known as Brooker Creek Park, Chesnut Park is entirely separate from Brooker Creek Preserve; a golf course is wedged between the two. Open 7 a.m.-dark.
JOHN S. TAYLOR PARK, 1100 Eighth Ave. S.W., Largo (727-588-4847). Surrounding the Taylor Reservoir and Lake, this 122-acre park offers boating, fishing, exercise trails, ball fields, a playground and a disk golf course. A sheltered picnic area with restrooms is available, and there's also an entrance to Pinellas Trail from the park. Open daily 7 a.m. to dark.
LAKE PARK, 17302 N. Dale Mabry, Tampa (813-264-3806). This 600-acre park boasts five lakes, a cypress swamp, and several pine and hardwood stands. In addition to fishing and boating, recreational opportunities include a BMX track, a radio-control car track, archery range, horse arena, trails for hiking or horseback riding, picnic shelters and equestrian facilities. Open 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
LAKE SEMINOLE PARK, 10015 Park Blvd., Seminole (727-549-6156). Bordering the eastern shore of Lake Seminole, this more than 250-acre park features boating facilities, fishing areas, volleyball courts, jogging/exercise trails, playground facilities and sheltered picnic areas. Leashed pets are welcome. Open daily 7 a.m. to dark.
LEMON BAY PARK AND ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER, 570 Bay Park Blvd., Englewood (941-474-3065). A favorite location for weddings, this 204-acre picturesque park is dedicated to nature study and has an environmental center where classes are held regularly. Also, guests can enjoy the butterfly garden, fishing, nature trails and picnicking on the grounds. Hours vary.
LETTUCE LAKE PARK, 6920 E. Fletcher Ave., Tampa (813-987-6204). Located near USF-Tampa, this shady, 240-acre riverside park has a scenic 3,500-foot boardwalk and observation tower for bird watching, fitness and biking trails, picnic shelters, and a playground. This is a very popular, often crowded destination. Open 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
LITHIA SPRINGS PARK, 3932 Lithia Springs Road, Lithia; 10 miles southeast of Brandon (813-744-5572). This Hillsborough County park sits on the Alafia River and offers overnight camping (water, electricity), fishing, canoeing (but no canoe rentals) and swimming. Food is sold in the picnic area, while a bathhouse makes even a quick dip in the cool spring waters quite convenient. Open 8 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.
LITTLE MANATEE RIVER STATE PARK, 215 Lightfoot Road, Wimauma (813-671-5005). This 2,400-acre park includes 4.5 miles of steep shoreline along the Little Manatee River, a 34-site campground (water, electricity) and several miles' worth of horseback and hiking trails. Fishing, hiking and canoeing are the favorite pastimes. Open 8 a.m.-sunset. Admission is $4 per vehicle.
MAXIMO PARK, 34th Street S. and Pinellas Point Drive S., St. Petersburg (727-893-7335). At the tip of the Pinellas peninsula, this 70-acre waterfront park meets the shores of both Tampa Bay and the mouth of Frenchman's Creek. The park offers excellent boating and fishing opportunities, and the Maximo Beach Archaeological Site is one of the few large shell middens remaining in St. Petersburg, the deposits dating from the late Archaic through the Spanish Contact periods. The beach area features picnic and playground facilities. Open daily 7 a.m.-dusk.
MEDARD PARK, 5737 Turkey Creek Road, Plant City; 2 miles south of State Road 60 off Turkey Creek Road (813-757-3802). This 1,284-acre park has a collection of old mine pits that were converted into a 700-acre reservoir some 20 years ago. Most noted for excellent fishing, the park also features camping, swimming, boating, restrooms and water fountains, horseback trails and a playground. Open 6 a.m.-sunset.