It’s only a few minutes after sunrise and I’m cycling on a velvet pathway through what feels like a primeval forest. I’ve already seen a half-dozen deer enjoying breakfast. The songs of the cicadas are the only notes that break the silence. Here is where the world slows down, and I can catch up. Like the rejuvenated leaves of the resurrection ferns, my spirit unfurls and a feeling of wellness erupts. I’m 20 minutes from home and I am surrounded by nature. It’s great to live in a community with places like this to still the mind and stir the soul.

Here are five favorite parks.

In This Feature:

Slip Away Into Nature at Scherer Thaxton Preserve

This 287-acre preserve off Honore Avenue is adjacent to Oscar Scherer State Park.

11/01/2020 By John McCarthy

Enjoy Robinson Preserve, a Rare Coastal Habitat, by Boat or on Foot

Formerly agricultural cropland, the preserve is being restored as salt marsh, one of the rarest coastal habitats.

11/01/2020 By John McCarthy

Hike or Bike Through Rothenbach Park's Gorgeous Oak Hammock

A series of trails at the site of the former county landfill provides access to some of the nicest woodlands around.

11/01/2020 By John McCarthy

Hike—or Drive—to Emerson Point Preserve, a Native American Temple Mound

A highlight is the sandy shoreline at the westernmost tip, with Robinson Preserve and DeSoto Memorial across the river and Anna Maria Island and the Sunshine Skyway in the distance.

10/31/2020 By John McCarthy

Walk Into the Past at Historic Spanish Point

This 30-acre bayfront sanctuary is authentic Old Florida at its finest.

11/21/2020 By John McCarthy