Orlando North, Seminole County — where trees are made of wood, the grass is real and the waterways have not been manufactured. The destination, which borders Orlando to the north, provides a generous helping of real Florida, with a wealth of natural riches that’s a respite from theme park crowds and chaos.

But here’s the thing: You can do both. Those theme parks are just a short ride away from our outdoor wonderland.

Orlando North runneth over with lakes, rivers, streams, and springs. In fact, the St. Johns River makes up most of the county’s northern border. There are three major lakes: Harney, Monroe and Jessup (which is said to have the highest alligator population in Florida). More than a dozen State Parks, Preserves and Wilderness Areas dot the landscape.

All these natural attractions feature an abundance of recreational pursuits that you can do on your own or experience through tours. You can hike, and swim ‘til you drop; go fishing, boating, sailing, kayaking, tubing, paddleboarding, airboat riding, eco-touring, cycling, ziplining, mountain biking …

And horseback riding. “I love bringing people out here on the trail to show them the wilder side of Florida,” says Rebecca Herrbach, who offers horseback tours at Hidden Palms Ranch in Sanford. “A lot of people come to the state and don’t get the chance to see all this natural beauty.”



One of Orlando North’s particularly beautiful experiences is found in its natural springs. We encourage you to rent a kayak or bring a tube to Wekiwa Springs State Park. The spring-fed Wekiva River is a crystal-clear 72 degrees year-round. During the hotter months, a dip in this water is about as refreshing as it gets. “I mean, to think you can get this just a few minutes outside of Orlando,” says Ned Johnson, who runs the paddleboard rental at Wekiva Island.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for wildlife. Gators, of course (they’re docile, but keep a safe distance all the same). Also, a striking array of birds, wild turkeys, pigs and hogs, bobcats, coyotes, maybe even black bears.

These are species you definitely don’t see at the theme parks.