When most people think of Florida, they think of sunshine, theme parks, orange juice and alligators. But this former Spanish colony is much more than that. Florida’s lack of travel restrictions makes it an attractive potential destination.
History buffs won’t want to miss this one. You can find beaches and sunshine all over Florida but only in St. Augustine do you get the oldest city in America. St. Augustine on Florida’s Atlantic Coast is a gem of a city and easily up there as one of the best places in Florida to visit. The Spanish colonial architecture along the city’s streets, is totally gorgeous and pretty unique in a state that has lots of new cities. With all of the landmarks and attractions that come with it. From the brick-paved streets to the European architecture, this place is filled with history – and maybe ghosts?
There’s a reason it’s called Clearwater – and it tops so many “best Florida beaches” lists: this is one spectacular stretch of coastline. And while the Keys are more about water sports, Clearwater Beach is the perfect spot for just laying out on soft sand, splashing around in the shallows, or strolling down the promenade. This is the relaxing beach vacation you’ve been looking for.
If the Florida heat is starting to get to you but you still want to explore the outdoors, then descend into the Devil’s Den. Despite what the name might suggest, this underground escape is actually quite beautiful. And there aren’t any lakes of fire: the water is a cool but comfortable 72°F year-round. The cave itself is prehistoric; animal fossils have been found here that date back to the Pleistocene Age.
A 120-mile-long chain of tropical islands curving around the base of the Florida peninsula, connected to the mainland by a series of bridges. The most spectacular bridge, the Seven Mile Bridge in the Lower Keys, has been frequently used as a location for films. The islands are categorized in groups of Upper, Middle and Lower Keys. Beginning at Key Largo, the Upper Keys are where tourists will find a wider variety of accommodation, shopping, dining and nightlife. The Middle Keys and Lower Keys feature a more quiet and remote atmosphere. Key West is the southernmost city in the continental US and the former home of author, Ernest Hemingway.
With over 3 miles of river and eight major springs, Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a great place for kayaking, canoeing, swimming, snorkeling, and more. Just grab some tubes, plop down at the head of the river, and float your way to the end in a leisurely fashion. Unfortunately, food and drinks (including alcohol) aren’t allowed, but that just gives you more time to make friends with the otters, beavers, or other wildlife you might encounter along the way.
If nightclubs and shopping are your idea of a vacation, well, Miami is your place. That being said, while Miami is definitely Florida’s glitziest city, it’s got more to offer than just luxury cars and celebrity sightings. You’ve got museums, art exhibits, Zoo Miami, Little Havana, and lots of pro sports teams. And the beach……. Bring your most fashionable bathing suit if you want to fit in.
For others, their vision of Florida is more airboats and gators. Fortunately, not far from Miami is the country’s most famous swamp – and one of its biggest national parks. Walk, bike, kayak, or boat through a beautiful ecosystem, filled with reptiles, birds, panthers, and more. The Everglades does get pretty toasty in the summer but it’s also a lot less crowded, and the wetter environs let you experience the park in all its swampy glory.
The largest of Southwest Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island is a haven for water sports like boating, fishing and kayaking. Its sunny skies and white sand beaches invite visitors to sunbathe, swim and search for seashells. Those who want a break from the sand can learn about the island’s ties to the ancient Calusa Native Americans at the Marco Island Historical Museum or look for manatees, pelicans and other wild animals in Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
The beaches of Sanibel Island are revered around the world as one of the best places to go in Florida by conchologists (shell collectors). The practice of shell collecting is so popular on Sanibel Island’s shores that locals have nicknamed the act of bending down for a shell “the Sanibel Stoop.” Sanibel Islanders celebrate the seashell with an annual three-day exhibit and festival that typically runs in March. Shell enthusiasts can also learn about shells and mollusks by visiting The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. The biggest prize on the beach is the junonia shell, which can land you in the local newspaper. While shelling is serious business on the island, so is conservation. More than half of Sanibel Island is part of a designated wildlife refuge.
Located on Merritt Island in the Cape Canaveral area, NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre is only about 90-minutes from Orlando. The Kennedy Space Center has hosted millions of guests from around the world for more than 30 years — telling the story of how the United States built a space program that launched men to the moon, orbited satellites that have improved our lives, and sent probes into distant space to solve the mysteries of the cosmos. Home to all things space-related, it’s one of the best places in Florida to visit if you’re interested in NASA, space and rockets. Once here, you can experience what it is like to launch off in a space shuttle in the Visitor Center’s Shuttle Launch Experience.