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Orlando Travel Tips – 7 Places for Nature Lovers

When researching for travel tips to Orlando, the vast majority of information you'll find relates to the bazillion theme parks in the area. Most people visiting Orlando are there to do just that, but what if you need a break from mice and wizards?

Orlando Travel Tips Nature
Image via Flickr by Ricardo Mangual.

I recommend staying at any one of the many fantastic hotels near the theme parks in Orlando since you'll still want to be close to all the theme park action. I need to escape from time to time for a little fresh air and green, and I'm pleased to tell you that Orlando has a lot to offer in this department. Here are seven places that you can visit to feed your inner nature lover.

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University of Central Florida Arboretum

Orlando Travel Tips Nature - University of Central Florida Arboretum
Image via Flickr by Rain0975.

Located on the University of Central Florida campus, this 80-acre arboretum has hundreds of plant species in eight collections arranged by geographical area or ecosystems. Visitors can walk, jog, or bike around the 9-acre lake or simply sit at a picnic table and enjoy the open space. If you want to learn something about Florida's exotic species, grab a map and take a self-guided tour or schedule a group tour with one of the school's trained botanists.

Lake Eola Park

Orlando Travel Tips Nature - Lake Eola Park
Image via Flickr by Joel Mann.

When you don't have a lot of time, Lake Eola Park is the perfect solution. A downtown Orlando oasis, Lake Eola Park is an easy spot to get to for a little bit of fresh air. There's a 1-mile path around the lake that you can use to get in a quick walk or jog, or you can rent a paddleboat. There are beautiful swans at the lake, so don't forget to stop and take a look. On Sundays, there's a farmers market where you can buy supplies for an outdoor picnic.

Kelly Park

Orlando Travel Tips Nature - Kelly Park
Image via Flickr by Rain0975.

When it gets warm in Orlando, Kelly Park is a great place to get in the water and cool off just 20 miles from town. The springs are naturally 70 degrees, which I think is perfect for swimming or tubing. Water-related activities aren't the only thing you can do in this 248-acre park. You can also camp, hike, and rock climb. The many species of trees provide excellent shade for an afternoon nap as well.

Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve

Orlando Travel Tips Nature - Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve
Image via Flickr by Rain0975.

This 440-acre preserve close to Disney World is an outdoor dream. There are unpaved hiking trails, a raised walkway ending with an overlook, a nature center, a butterfly garden, and a picnic area. You'll get an opportunity to see birds, alligators, turtles, and even a bobcat. Best of all, visiting this preserve is absolutely free.

Harry P. Leu Gardens

Orlando Travel Tips Nature - Harry P Leu Gardens
Image via Flickr by Tilly C.

If you're a fan of flowers, then the Harry P. Leu Gardens is the spot for you. This 50-acre spot situated at Lake Ivanhoe has more than 1,000 rose bushes, which bloom from April to January, and an amazing collection of camellias, which bloom from November to March. Don't forget to check out the citrus grove or the butterfly garden. The 200-year-old oaks along the paths provide lovely shade as you tiptoe through the tulips.

Orlando Wetlands Park

Orlando Travel Tips Nature - Orlando Wetlands Park
Image via Flickr by Ricardo Mangual.

While Donald is a classic, bird watchers visiting Orlando are in for a real treat when they visit the 1,650-acre Orlando Wetlands Park. With more than 20 miles of roads and woodland trails to wander, this park has plenty of spots to relax, hike, bike, or try your hand at some nature photography.

If you want to see more of the park quickly, you can take a tram ride for a guided tour, where you'll get to see plenty of alligators, too. The park used to be closed in the winter from November 15 through January 31, but now it's open year-round.

Green Mountain Byway

Orlando Travel Tips Nature - Green Mountain Scenic Byway
Image via Flickr by Hector A Parayuelos.

Green Mountain Overlook and Trailhead is located along a scenic byway and offers a view of Sugarloaf Mountain, the highest point in all of Florida. You get great views of Lake Apopka, but for more of a workout, there's a trail that goes from the overlook to the lake. It's 6 miles round trip, so be prepared.

There are actually more than 20 miles of hiking and biking trails in the area. For light hikers, there's a gravel trail and raised boardwalk that empties onto a nice overlook. If you're a cyclist, the route through the scenic byway between the towns of Mount Dora and Winter Garden is very popular.

Orlando Travel Tips Nature Park
Image via Flickr by Ricardo Mangual.

If you're looking to escape the environment inside the crowded amusement parks, the great outdoors is waiting for you in Orlando!

How about you? Have you ever visited any of these parks in the Orlando area? Have any additional spots to add? Do tell!

For a visual summary of this post, check out my Orlando web story!

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  1. Kristina Paché Ferency says:

    These photos are beautiful and just stunning! I’ve never been to Orlando but when we plan our Disney trip I will make sure we include a few of these locations!! We love the outdoors.

    1. @Kristina, yay! It will give the kids (and you) a chance to take a break and recharge before hitting the theme parks again!

  2. i wouldn’t have thought to look for places like this in Orlando, would be a nice peaceful getaway

  3. Neely Moldovan says:

    Im not super outdoorsy but this looks like a lot of fun places. May have to check them out!

  4. This looks like a fun getaway for me and my husband! We both love the outdoors and are thinking of vacationing in Orlando this summer!

    1. @Divya, it will be hot, some of these spots are perfect for getting out of the heat!

  5. I love that there are some natural areas worth checking out while in Orlando. We love visiting the area so we’ll have to check out the parks and nature preserves!

    1. @Liz, hope you get to check out one of these spots on your next trip there!

  6. I have been to Orlando a number of times but have not visited any of those places. I did visit a Wetlands once and it’s quite interesting.

    1. @Valmg, hope you get a chance to visit one of these parks on your next trip!

  7. shannon fowler says:

    We actually just moved close to there. We have checked some of these out, but the green mountain overlook is something I definitely need to get to.

    1. @Krisin, there are a lot more recreational areas than what I covered, you don’t even need to go to a theme park to have a good time!

  8. Lisa Collins says:

    I have not visited any of these parks but what gorgeous surroundings! My kids would love the wetlands park and now I want to see more of Kelly Park!

  9. I had no clue Orlando had so many nice nature places to explore, I guess you always think just theme parks and swamps (which I know is wrong). WHo would have thought the university had so much great space to explore. Thanks for sharing.

    1. @Jill, so glad that I could highlight some of these great parks for you!

  10. Love this post. I definitely want to visit the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve. Our next trip to Disney will have to include a day there.

  11. I used to live in Orlando and LOVE lake Eola. I would take walks around it every Sunday

  12. Marissa Zurfluh says:

    Beautiful photos. Orlando is on my bucket list to visit with my family. Thank you for the tips!

    1. @Marissa, hope you enjoy your trip if you do get there – don’t forget to take a nature break!

  13. I’m happy to say I’ve been to many of these, but you’ve added a few more to my list. Great collection. It’s certainly time to start visiting these before it gets too hot!!

    1. @Tonya, glad to hear you’ve got new spots to take a break in, I hope you enjoy them!

  14. Kimberly Flickinger says:

    I will have to remember these places the next time that I am in Orlando.

  15. Samantha Peres says:

    OMG!! my dream is travel to Orlando!!!
    I wrote down and I will remember to go!!

  16. Wanda Tracey says:

    There is nothing nicer than checking out natural habitat locations.They are so interesting and a great way to get back and feel relaxed with nature.

  17. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    When I think of Orlando I never think of nature. I always think of the many amusement parks. I never knew there was so much beautiful nature to see there. Thank you so much for sharing this. God Bless