Think of Florida and we immediately picture the theme park capital of the world that is Orlando. But, of course, there is so much more to this most southern state of America than this heady world of amusement. You may have visited Disney in the past, possibly on more than one occasion, or the thought of huge parks attracting thousands of visitors a day is just not for you!
Florida is paradise for the coast lover; most of this state is shore-lined with turquoise waters and long stretches of golden sandy beaches, 210 miles of them. Most of Florida is a peninsular, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west. With year-round sunshine and warm winter temperatures, Florida is great to visit any time of year. Flight time is around 9 hours from the UK, with January and September being the cheaper months to travel.
We have put together some alternative holiday ideas for this sunshine state:
Most of us need no introduction here, even if our knowledge of Miami only extends to what we have seen on TV. Art deco style hotels; trendy night life at South Beach; stunning white sandy beaches; tropical gardens; a lively arts scene; and lastly, it is home to the world’s busiest cruise port!
Everglades National Park
At the Everglades National Park, we find the largest subtropical wilderness in the US, 1.5 million acres of it. It has National Park status: An International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage site, protecting this wonder of the world for generations to come. There are many ways to explore this swampland:
- Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park in the Western Everglades is home to amazing wildlife – the Florida panther, alligators, black bear, Everglades’ mink and the fox squirrel. You may even spot bald eagles here along with many other endangered species. An animal lover’s paradise!
- Corkscrew Swamp: a 2.1-mile-long boardwalk hovers over this swamp surrounded by towering cypress trees
- Shark Valley Visitor Centre is exactly what is says on the tin!
- Canoe into Hell’s Bay: navigate the tight twists and turns of this mangrove forest and keep your eyes peeled for the posts marking the trail
- Sawgrass Recreation Park: skim across the glassy water on this airboat adventure and engross yourself in the wild beauty of the Florida Everglades
St. Pete & Clearwater
St. Pete & Clearwater is the perfect spot for a relaxed holiday where you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the Caribbean. Situated in Tampa Bay, West Florida this area has it all; stunning beaches of white sugar sand, perfect sunsets, fantastic hotels and food to die for. Sea life is in abundance here and you will see dolphins in the wild. If Jazz is your thing they host an annual festival here not to be missed.
Florida’s golf courses
There are some outstanding golf courses in Florida with over 1,000 to choose from. Courses galore featuring sparkling lakes, tidal marshes, stunning oak tree lined fairways coupled with sophisticated accommodation at unique resorts. Golf is played here like nowhere else on earth!
Florida Keys are a string of islands stretching to the south of Florida on a 125-mile highway. A haven for enthusiasts of everything water based: fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming and boating, with average day time temperatures of 25 degrees. If you appreciate a good walk, guided eco-tours are available to introduce you to this most famous of island chains.
Other sites worth a visit in Florida
- Daytona International Speedway
- Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the US
- The Turtle Hospital, Marathon, Florida Keys
- The Dali Museum, St. Petersburg
- Art Basel, International Art Fair
- The Ca’ d’Zan Mansion – Florida is home to several of the largest mansions in America
If you wish to visit Florida without the massive crowds, March to May is the best time to go, with plenty of sunshine and warm weather.