10 Drive-Thru Safaris and Wildlife Drives near Orlando

Lion Country Safari near West Palm Beach is home to more than 900 animals, including giraffes, lions, and zebras. Photo courtesy of the park
Lion Country Safari near West Palm Beach is home to more than 900 animals, including giraffes, lions, and zebras. Photo courtesy of the park
4/12/24 - By Charlotte B

Orlando and Central Florida residents are lucky to live among diverse wildlife and greenery. Explore these lush areas with a drive-thru safari from your car! Families can enjoy Orlando's wildlife regardless of weather or physical limitations. Wildlife drives offer safe ways to experience the outdoors.

Observe Orlando wildlife and even exotic animals from the convenience of your car. So, grab some snacks, load up the kids, and head out on one of these drive-thru safaris!


Be sure to also check out our Florida Family Travel Guide for more ideas for fun around the state. And see what else is going on by visiting our Orlando Outdoors Guide now!

1. Black Point Wildlife Drive – Titusville

Approximate drive time: 45 minutes
Part of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, visitors can sightsee and spot alligators, birds, turtles, snakes, and maybe even an otter on this 7-mile, one-way wildlife drive near the east coast. Wildlife is most active during early morning/late afternoon, and peaks October through March. The entrance fee is $10 per vehicle; guests can purchase a yearly pass for $25. A self-guided brochure is provided near the entrance. First-time visitors should stop by the visitor center, watch an educational film, explore the boardwalk, and shop. Kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge and complete a scavenger hunt. The drive is open from sunrise to sunset year-round. Restrooms are available at the visitor center as well as Cruckshank Trail. Two hiking trails are accessible along the drive as well.

2. Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area – Leesburg

Approximate drive time: 1.5 hours
Located along the east side of Lake Griffin near Ocklawaha River, the wetlands and water bodies along this seasonal drive contain one of the largest concentrations of alligators in Central Florida! Visitors can also view a variety of birds such as sandhill cranes, bald eagles, white pelicans, and waterfowl. A wildlife observation platform is onsite for guests to enjoy an expansive view of the marsh. Note: It's open seasonally from the third weekend in February through the last weekend in May, Friday-Sundays, 8am-sunset.

3. Giraffe Ranch – Dade City

Approximate drive time: 1 hour
Giraffe Ranch invites visitors to embark on guided drive-thru safaris. Spanning 46 acres, this ranch provides an opportunity to observe a variety of wildlife including rhinos, pygmy hippos, antelope, deer, zebra, primates, camels, and, of course, giraffes! Guests can also explore a cheetah breeding compound. For a customized experience, the ranch offers safari tours via custom vehicles, camels, and Segways.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive Orlando Drive Through Safaris
The wildlife at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive delights young visitors. Photo by author

4. Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive – Apopka

Approximate drive time: 2 hours
Known as one of the top three birding areas in the state, this 11-mile drive-thru wildlife sanctuary is FREE, open to the public, and a favorite among locals. Marvel at the sunbathing alligators and even the occasional otter or bobcat. There are several stops along the drive to stretch your legs, as well as portable restrooms and picnic pavilions at the pump house. An audio tour and birding and butterfly checklist can all be found on the LAWD website. The drive is open Friday-Sunday, 7am-3pm, and on federal holidays. Vehicles must exit the drive by 5pm.

5. Lion Country Safari – Loxahatchee 

Approximate drive time: 1 hour (plus 2-3 hours in the walk-through Adventure Park)
Located about 2.5 hours away from Orlando, near West Palm Beach, Lion Country Safari makes for a great day trip! This drive-through safari is home to more than 900 animals, including giraffes, lions, and zebras. Visitors can also explore the walk-through Adventure Park complete with rides, a water park, and more animal encounters.

RELATED: 100 Things To Do in Orlando with Kids Before They Grow Up (Other Than Theme Parks)

6. Ocala National Forest – Ocala

Approximate drive time: 2-3 hours
With more than 600 lakes and ponds and almost 100 miles of paved roads, the Ocala National Forest makes for a serene drive. The widely known Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway is centered in the Ocala National Forest and runs from Silver Springs to Ormond Beach. The Florida black bear population is highest in this area, so there is a good chance visitors will spot one or two. Troops of free-range monkeys also call the forest home, so keep an eye out in the trees. There are many natural springs throughout the forest, such as Alexander Springs, Juniper Springs, and Salt Springs.

RELATED: Top 10 Natural Springs Near Orlando

7. Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands – Viera

Approximate drive time: 2 hours
This scenic preserve sits on 200 acres complete with a lake and observation tower. The roads are usually open to vehicles; however during particularly wet conditions, they may be closed (call ahead to check). There is a covered gazebo surrounded by a butterfly garden overlooking the lake, perfect for a scenic picnic lunch. The preserve is open daily, with varying hours depending on the season.

8. Safari Wilderness Ranch – Lakeland

Approximate drive time: 1 hour
Located between Orlando and Tampa, Safari Wilderness offers drive-thru wildlife tours from the comfort of your own vehicle. This 260-acre reserve houses over 400 animal species including zebras, camels, water buffalo, lemurs, and more. Custom vehicle, ATV, kayak, and sunset safari tours are also available, as well as tailored experiences. safaris.

9. Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area – Christmas

Approximate drive time: 2-3 hours
This 18-mile loop trail is a great place to spot Florida’s wildlife year-round, including several species of wading birds, turkeys, white-tailed deer, and of course, alligators. There are several areas where guests can park to explore by foot or stop for a picnic. Fishing is permitted, so bring your poles —there are two fishing lakes that can be found on Long Bluff Road, as well as canals and creeks that lead to the St. Johns River.

Guests must purchase a daily-use permit upon entering at a cost of $3 per vehicle. Restrooms are available throughout the drive.

Wild Florida Drive-Thru Safari Park
Guests can meet and feed the giraffes at the Wild Florida Drive-Thru Safari Park. Photo by the author

10. Wild Florida Drive-Thru Safari Park – Kenansville

Approximate drive time: 1 hour (plus 2-3 hours in the walk-through Gator Park)
Visitors can see both native wildlife and exotic animals roaming throughout the 2-mile safari park, including bison, wildebeest, alligators, zebras, and more. Guests can meet and feed giraffes on an elevated platform at the conclusion of the drive, or walk through Gator Park to see more animals and experience educational animal shows.

Florida residents: Take advantage of a ticket deal, which includes admission to the drive-thru safari as well as the gator park. Advance ticket purchase is recommended since the park books to capacity often.

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