Whether your heart’s desire includes turtle or manatee sightings, swimming with the dolphins, kayaking, teambuilding or just meditating on the beach, Florida promises plenty of unique outdoor adventures for meeting groups.
While Palm Beach County may be known as the home of the “Winter White House,” or President Trump’s own Mar-a-Lago, there are other inhabitants that visitors flock to see on this tony county’s 47 miles of pristine beaches: sea turtles. Also known as marine turtles, these endangered reptiles come each year during nesting season, from about the beginning of March to the end of October.
Monitored by Loggerhead Marinelife Center, which supports nearly 5 percent of the world’s loggerhead sea turtle nests, groups can visit one of the world’s most critical sea turtle nesting habitats. In June and July, Wednesday through Saturday evenings, the Center takes groups on turtle walks, a unique program that teaches visitors about the turtles’ habitat and allows visitors to observe the nesting and egg-laying process.
Wakulla Springs State Park just south of Tallahassee is the place to see manatees. Each winter, more and more of these impressive sea cows are finding the changeless temperatures of the springs to their liking. Normally found on the Gulf Coast, they first showed up nearly 15 years ago in the park. Groups can take glass-bottom boat tours or a riverboat tour along the Wakulla River to see an abundance of wildlife. Close to Orlando, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge offers snorkeling with manatees.
Another great place for observing wildlife is the Myakka River State Park. Located just nine miles east of Sarasota, it is one of the oldest and largest state parks in Florida. Attendees can enjoy wildlife viewing from a boardwalk that stretches out over the Upper Myakka Lake, or take a treetops stroll along the canopy.
The park’s river and two lakes provide plentiful opportunities for boating, freshwater fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Scenic lake tours are offered daily on the world´s two largest airboats, while safari trams offer tours of the park´s backcountry from mid-December through May.
Swim with the Fish
For those who would rather swim with sea life than just observe the critters, SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove offers a private, all-inclusive full-day outing in Orlando. A limited number of people are admitted per day to play on the beach, snorkel in the fish-filled waterways and experience a 30-minute swim with dolphins. Guests come nose-to-bottlenose with these fascinating and intelligent animals and can even hold a dorsal fin for the ride of a lifetime.
The resort also offers underwater walking tours, up-close encounters with lionfish and sharks, and a one-on-one interaction with diverse animals, such as schools of fish and gentle rays. Groups can also hold a private dinner or reception in a tropical setting with live music for up to 400 people.
Would you rather ride a horse than a dolphin? Groups visiting Ocala, the “Horse Capital of the World”, can ride a majestic thoroughbred on wide-marked trails in the Ocala National Forest. These self-guided and unhurried trails lead to leaning sand pines of the “big scrub” and the straight and sturdy longleaf pines of the “flatwoods”, as well as numerous lakes and grassy prairies.
Paul Daum, owner of Jacksonville-based Corporate 1 Events, takes groups to the beach for Sea Art Motivation. Strolling the beach and discovering shells, seaweed, reeds, sticks, sea glass, driftwood and other “supplies”, foragers create a one-word collage with their finds.
“They create words like ‘commitment’, ‘team’ and ‘patience’ and then talk about why that word means something to them,” Daum said. “Taking people out of the office and creating a bonding experience for these companies creates a camaraderie that lasts once the group gets back to the office.”
While ice sculptures are common at events, Hilton West Palm Beach breaks the ice—literally—to cool off attendees by challenging them to create their own ice sculptures in a Build-a-Break Ice Sculpture Challenge—no chainsaws allowed. The hotel provides tools and techniques, courtesy of the culinary team, which is well-versed in ice sculpting.
Participants are divided into teams whose goal is to sculpt a block of ice into a masterpiece. At the end, the company’s CEO chooses the winner. Finished sculptures are used as dinner centerpieces.
Inspired by the TV show Big Break, where 12 men battle it out to compete in a professional golf event, The Villas of Grand Cypress has developed its own Big Break Challenge on the 21-acre, Jack Nicklaus signature-designed practice facility. The Grand Cypress Golf Academy will put groups into teams for a friendly competition that includes driving, pitching and putting. After a day on the links, it’s drinks all around at the Club Bar and Restaurant at the Clubhouse, which seats 100-plus.
“You can’t beat being outside in the sunshine at one of the top teaching schools in the country, recognized by the Golf Channel,” said Perry Goodbar, Villas of Grand Cypress director of sales and marketing.
At Margaritaville Resort & Marina, Key West, the marina is conveniently located just one block away from Duval Street in Old Town Key West. A day of sport fishing is a great group activity where attendees can catch any one of an array of fish that are then brought back to the resort for the chefs to cook to perfection.
Also in Key West, Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, is set on the largest private beach in Key West, offering more than 22,600 square feet of flexible event space and outdoor reception areas. For one-of-a-kind teambuilding, groups can immerse themselves in the true Key West lifestyle with activities from life-size, over-the-top sand-sculpting to a historic bike tour.
In Key Largo, Ocean Reef Club’s partnership with the Coral Restoration Foundation enables groups “to contribute by taking either a snorkeling or scuba-diving trip to a coral nursery and helping to plant coral on the reef,” said Michelle Simpson, Ocean Reef Club’s executive director of sales. “These teambuilding events allow groups to be a part of this nonprofit conservation organization while putting life back into the ocean.”
Attendees can fulfill their dreams of flying by taking a ride on a JetLev, offered at the TradeWinds Island Grand on St. Pete Beach. JetLev is a water-propelled jetpack that soars up to heights of 30 feet at 30 miles per hour. TradeWinds was the first on Florida’s west coast to offer flights aboard these custom-designed packs. The exhilarating experience takes riders into the Gulf of Mexico and allows them to fly over, or even walk on the water.
After a stressful meeting, Florida offers plenty of activities for attendees to unwind, when staying at the National Hotel in Miami. The meditation pods line the longest infinity pool on Miami Beach and are nestled under beautiful shady palm trees that create a private sanctuary where guests can really indulge in their moment. The meditation pods are also easily accessible from guest rooms and meeting spaces.