Florida’s national parks that are always free are
- Biscayne National Park, Miami
- De Soto National Memorial, Bradenton
- Fort Caroline National Memorial and the Timucuan Preserve, Jacksonville
- Fort Matanzas National Monument, St. Augustine
- Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, stretching from North Carolina to Jacksonville
- Big Cypress National Preserve, Ochopee
- Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve, Jacksonville
Even parks with fees, offer fee-free days on select occasions.
- Canaveral National Seashore (one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida).
- Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, in St. Augustine.
- Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles west of Key West.
- Gulf Islands National Seashore, at the Mississippi-Florida border.
- Everglades National Park, south of Miami.
These are the 2017 free days at U.S. National Parks in Florida:
- January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- February 20: Presidents’ Day
- April 15-16 and 22-23: Weekends of National Park Week
- August 25: National Park Service Birthday
- September 30: National Public Lands Day
- November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend
Lifetime ticket for seniors
Though a hefty number of National Parks are free for all, many still charge a fee.
The National Parks Service plans to increase the price of a Lifetime Pass for Seniors (62+) from $10 to $80, effective Aug. 28, 2017. The extra money will be used to enhance park services.
A new annual pass for older adults will be available for $20 per year, but you can apply that to the cost of the lifetime pass down the road, if you so choose. The new fees will go into effect Aug. 28, 2017.
Our advice: If you qualify, buy yours now. If purchased online, you’ll pay $25 ($10 plus a $10 processing fee and a $5 handling fee). You can also purchase by mail for $20 if your application is postmarked by Aug. 27, 2017. If you purchase at any federal recreation site (you may be surprised to find one close to you as many are within city limits), the fee is just $10. Learn about the various NPS Passes here.
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Here is just a sample of what you can do during Free Entrance Days in other the National Parks:
Cabrillo National Monument in California lies at the tip of the Point Loma Peninsula, just west of the city of San Diego. The Visitor Center features the “Age of Exploration” exhibit, films, and ranger-guided programs with interesting insights into the history of Cabrillo. Features of the park include views of the harbor and city of San Diego, whale watching in January and February, and birding is popular year round.
Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah has famous fossil finds, dramatic river canyons, mysterious petroglyphs and endless opportunities for adventure. Kids can earn a special Junior Ranger Paleontology badge by completing age-appropriate activities.
Yellowstone in Montana is our nation’s first National Park. Popular activities include picnicking, fishing and hiking. The park features the largest active geyser field in the world, including Old Faithful, along with amazing wildlife. Be sure to consult the Yellowstone National Park Trip Planner.
The Grand Canyon in the northwest corner of Arizona and close to the borders of Utah and Nevada, provides many opportunities to learn about nature, science and history. Take a tour with a park ranger. Visit one of the many Information Centers. Watch a park orientation film (it starts every half hour from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily). Use your cell phone for a fun way to learn about the park and listen as park rangers give two-minute audio tours at points of interest on the South Rim. (During winter, South Rim roads are open, but are snow-packed and icy in places. Call 928-638-7496 for updated road conditions recording.)
Padre Island National Seashore southeast of the city of Corpus Christi, Texas, is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. The park protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies, and wind tidal flats teeming with life. It is a safe nesting ground for the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle and a haven for 380 bird species. It also has a rich history, including the Spanish shipwrecks of 1554.
Everglades National Park in Florida is America’s third largest National Park at 1.5 million acres. The park provides important habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and the elusive Florida panther. Popular activities include photographing birds, hiking and observing wildlife, and ranger-guided tours.
Especially for Kids. At participating National Parks, kids can participate in the Junior Ranger program. Participating parks provide a FREE booklet that describes all sorts of age-appropriate activities in the park. When they’ve completed the tasks, they are awarded an official Junior Ranger badge.
Entrance fees to extremely popular parks are in the $20 to $25 range for private cars. Many of the smaller parks, historical sites and recreational areas have lower fees, and 265 sites are always free. Another way to save if you’re planning a trip that includes multiple national parks, is to consider the $80 annual pass that provides entrance to all national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and many other Federal lands – more than 2,000 in all.
Find a Park by going to the National Park Service website and using the search tool or interactive map. You can search for parks in your state or parks that feature activities you like, such as camping, fishing or hiking, as well as educational programs and historic sites.