Written by Melody Larson
Have you heard of the 7 Natural Wonder List by CNN in the world? Their list of the natural wonders include the Aurora Borealis, Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, Mount Everest, Paricutin and Victoria Falls. The mission of Seven Natural Wonders is to promote and protect the natural wonders.
What are the 7 Natural Wonders (not man-made) of Orlando? This is a bucket list of must see unforgettable sights to see in Orlando. The 7 Natural Wonders of Orlando list was limited to places that were within a one-hour drive from Lake Eola to keep it within the Central Florida area. Bonus: Most of them are either free or under $10.
Lake Eola in downtown Orlando used to be a sinkhole. The sinkhole is about 23 feet 8 inches deep and is located 100 feet east of the fountain. You will be amazed at the views and size of Lake Eola if it is your first time visiting. The art sculptures, swans and ducks make Lake Eola truly special. See the See Art Orlando Self guided walking tour at Lake Eola.
BIG TREE PARK
The Big Tree Park in Longwood has a boardwalk that leads to the former sight of the approximately 3,500 year old bald cypress tree “The Senator” tree was lost to fire in 2012. However, the the approximately 2,000-year-old Bald Cypress Tree companion tree “Lady Liberty” still stands tall. The park also serves as a Trailhead for the Cross Seminole Trail. Big Tree Park includes a playground and a “Phoenix” clone of “The Senator” that was planted nearby.
We are fortunate to have so many natural springs in our area. The water is clear and naturally around 68-72 degrees year-round. You can also purchase a $8.95 Florida state park book passport and get it stamped see Get a Real Florida Passport to Journey to Every State Park.
- Wekiwa Springs State Park in Apopka has boat tours, camping, canoeing, kayaking, swimming and snorkeling. The cost is $6 per vehicle.
- Kelly Park/Rock Springs in Apopka is popular for the floating down the stream in an inner tube. Kelly Park also has a concession, picnic pavilions and playground. The tube rentals are available from vendors outside the park and guests may bring their own pool floats. The cost is $3-5 per vehicle.
- De Leon Springs State Park in De Leon Springs offers swimming, hiking and boat tours. You can also make your own pancakes at the Old Sugar Mill restaurant. The cost is $6 per vehicle.
SIGNIFICANT TREE MAP
The Significant Tree map was created by the City of Orlando in 2014. The Mayor Tree is a 200-year-old live oak tree with branches on the ground located next to the Mennello Museum of Art. This gigantic tree is used as a wedding ceremony location. The remarkable tree looks like something out of Game of Thrones or in the Lord of the Rings shire. All of the trees on the Significant Tree Map are free to visit except for the ones inside Harry P. Leu Gardens which has a $10 admission for adults.
Most if not all lakes in Orlando have alligators in it. You can view alligators in their natural habitat at a densely populated lake. Lake Jesup has an estimated alligator population of almost 13,000 and is second only in the state to Lake Okeechobee. Warning: Never feed alligators. Observe and photograph them from a safe distance.
- Overlook Park: Overlook Park in Oviedo is a free park with a boardwalk that takes you onto Lake Jesup and puts you right near the alligators.
- The Black Hammock Adventures: It’s a lakeside bar and restaurant in Oviedo with airboat tours on Lake Jesup. You can get your photo with a baby gator at the end of the tour. The adult airboat rides are $28.95 each. See the website for specials.
- Gatorland: You can have a full day of gator entertainment here and gator wrestling. See the website for any FL resident specials. The adult single day admission is $26.99. See the website for FL resident specials.
Blue Spring Park is a designed manatee refuge in the winter (mid-November -March). You can’t swim with the manatees during manatee season but you can view them in the crystal clear water from the boardwalks. The park also has a big playground, bathrooms, gift shop and the historic Thursby House to explore. The park offers boat tours and water activities in the 72 degree water in non-manatee seasons. Get here early since there are lines to get into the park regularly. The cost is $6 per vehicle.
Black bears are the only species of bear found in Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates that there are 3900 bears living in Florida.
- Black Bear Wilderness Area: You can view black bears in their natural habitat at The Black Bear Wilderness Area in Sanford, FL. It is free, open to the public, has two hiking trails (1.5 mile and 7 mile) and it has rustic camping. It has no public restrooms. You have a high chance of seeing some black bears here, bear scratches on trees or bear prints. Warning: There is a slight degree of danger to hike here since it is home to wildlife like snakes, bears, alligators, etc. Wear bug spray since this is a wooded area. Leashed dogs are allowed.
- Central Florida Zoo: You can also see Florida black bears at the Central Florida Zoo if you prefer to view them safely from behind a fence. The adult admission is $19.50 each.
NOTE: The Florida Panther was not included in this list since the only places to see them were farther than an hour drive away. However, you can see the Florida Panther at Wild Florida in Kenansville, FL or at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Immokalee, FL.
About the Author/Photographer:
Melody Larson has lived in Orlando for 21 years and is a UCF alumna. Her adventures have included bunny yoga, bungee jumping, parasailing, flying a plane, horseback riding on the beach and holding an alligator. Find her @orlandoadventuring on Instagram. All images courtesy Melody Larson unless otherwise noted.