Best Places to Visit in Florida
When most people think of Florida, they think of sunshine, theme parks, orange juice and alligators. But this former Spanish colony, which became the 27th state to enter the Union, is much more than that. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, it has mile upon mile of white sand beaches. Its moderate climate makes it a popular tourist destination all year round. An overview of the best places to visit in Florida.
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach on the Florida panhandle offers 27 miles of white sand beaches on the Emerald Coast. The beach is a popular destination for residents of the southern United States as well as tens of thousands of high school and college students on spring break. Besides having fun in the sun in the emerald green waters, this town of just over 12,000 permanent residents offers sports fishing on the gulf, plenty of golfing, marine parks including one for alligators, amusement and water parks in short, something for everyone in the family.
Naples may have had rustic beginnings, but today this Gulf of Mexico city is one of the wealthiest cities in the United States, with houses selling for more than $40 million. As on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, development along the shoreline has been kept residential. It got its name because the bay it’s located on was said to be prettier than the Bay of Naples in Italy. Besides its beautiful city beach, the nearby wildlife refuges make it a popular tourist destination. These include Everglades National Park, Florida National Wildlife Reserve and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary that has a 2.5-mile long boardwalk meandering through it. The city also has vibrant arts and shopping districts.
Sanibel Island is located just off Fort Myers in the Gulf of Mexico. It is connected to the mainland by a causeway. It is known as a quiet, natural travel destination, well-suited for families. Wildlife refuges take up more than half of this long narrow island, whose beaches are also popular as places to hunt for shells. This island of less than 7,000 permanent residents may have harbored pirates in the days of yore, if local legends are to be believed. Aside from beachcombing and looking for wildlife, attractions include a highly-rated historical museum, a botanical garden, a lighthouse and an arts center.
No longer the Spring Break destination of popular imagination, Fort Lauderdale is today a sophisticated cultural center with an increasingly upmarket social scene. Located on the Atlantic Ocean about 23 miles (37 km) north of Miami Beach it is also known as the “Venice of America” due to its expansive canal system. The city has an impressive tourist infrastructure with plenty of hotels, golf courses, marinas and museums. The city’s Port Everglades is one of the busiest cruise-ship ports in the world, with megaships departing daily for the Caribbean, Mexico and beyond. The most popular section of the city beach is called “The Strip” with eating and drinking establishments that run along the land side of the beach road.
One of Florida’s best natural treasures, the Everglades feature a unique combination of ecosystems that include swamps, sub-tropical jungles, saw-grass prairies and the largest mangrove complex in the Western Hemisphere. Much of the Everglades are protected within the Everglades National Park and provide shelter to a wide variety of birds, fish and reptiles, including endangered species like the American crocodile and the Florida panther. From the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, visitors can arrange boat tours to the Ten Thousand Islands, a labyrinth of mangrove islands. Other visitor centers offer ranger-led tours and programs. An air boat tour is one of the most exciting ways to experience the Everglades.
Image by Thomas.Gut, SaffyH under CC License.