Catching a glimpse of Florida’s native wildlife on its home turf is a thrill that’s hard to beat. Biking or walking the county’s 93,000 acres of conservation land and parks has its perks (like viewing a crocodilian-crowded wetland from the protection of a conservation deck), but taking it all in on horseback is an experience not to be missed.
There aren’t many places where you can ride a horse on the beach—but you can in Fort Pierce. Tours on Horseback trots folks over to Frederick Douglass Memorial Park on south Hutchinson Island for one-hour coastal rides ($45 per person). From atop an equine, you may spy sea turtles, manatees, and dolphins at play in the surf or flocks of brown pelicans diving for their next meal. If you’d prefer to get off the sand, try one of the company’s customized preserve expeditions. Ride through local state parks and nature sanctuaries like Paleo Hammock, an 80-acre habitat in Port St. Lucie whose basin swamps, depression marshes, and forests of ancient oak, palm, and elm provide refuge to deer, ibis, turkey, and avian varieties like barred owls and heron.
If you’re interested in checking out the vistas and rolling scenery that early pioneers would have witnessed, amble over to Sunny Time Stables in Palm City for an hour-long excursion in Savannas Preserve State Park ($40 per person). Owner Linda Sistarelli conducts single-line formations through the 50-acre area, which stretches between Fort Pierce and Jensen Beach and is teeming with wading birds, gopher tortoises, eagles, and the occasional alligator sighting. Riders are paired up with steeds from Horse Haven Rescue Inc., Sunny Time’s nonprofit that retrains, rehabilitates, and “bomb-proofs” (an equine term for animals who won’t spook at frightening sounds or situations) horses that have experienced abuse, abandonment, or neglect. The bucolic setting is ideal for selfies, so don’t forget your camera or phone—and a bottle of sunscreen.