These are Florida’s top vacation spots, according to a fourth-generation Floridian, even though the Sunshine State has it all.
What’s not to love about miles and miles of beaches, almost as many palm palms as people? Vacationers from throughout the globe flock to Florida.
Choosing precisely where to go in Florida may be difficult, despite the fact that the state lives, breathes, and loves tourism. A vacation to Florida may be enjoyed by every kind of visitor since the state offers something for everyone: amusement parks for children, outdoor activities for nature lovers, and historical importance for the inquisitive.
There truly isn’t a wrong answer to the topic of where in Florida is best to go, but as a fourth-generation Floridian, here’s my opinion.
In The Palm Beaches
Consider Florida’s top attractions as being accessible quickly from the Palm Beaches. The area, also known as Palm Beach County, is made up of places like West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Wellington, Delray Beach, Jupiter, and Boca Raton.
The Palm Beaches’ strength is the vast variety of activities that are offered there. Shop, surf, scuba dive, have brunch with your dog, watch an international polo match, unwind on 47 miles of shoreline, meet rehabilitating sea turtles, take a quick two-night cruise to the Bahamas, see a Broadway musical at the Kravis Center, and catch a foul ball at a spring training baseball game are all things you can do in Fort Lauderdale. In the west, you may reserve airboat excursions of the Everglades or visit Lion Country Safari, a 600-acre cageless drive-through zoo, to get up up and personal with rhinos, giraffes, and zebras.
Palm Beach and Boca Raton provide all you need for a luxury resort vacation. Nothing compares to The Breakers, where you’ll be greeted like royalty, but Palm Beach’s newer hotels like The Colony Hotel, Eau Palm Beach, and The Boca Raton herald a more contemporary age.
Without the hassles of traffic and congestion, West Palm Beach offers a big-city vibe over the bridge. Take advantage of the free trolley service between Clematis Street, The Square, and the waterfront or go to Grandview Public Market in the developing Warehouse District.
Galley, a restaurant at Hilton West Palm Beach, serves delectable drinks, local seafood, and gourmet pizzas. The Ben West Palm and Canopy by Hilton West Palm Beach Downtown both feature roofs with breathtaking views.
St. Augustine has had plenty of time to perfect its craft as America’s first settlement. Midway through the 1500s, settlers began to come, and places like the Fountain of Youth and Castillo de San Marcos, which are still standing today, are nearly as old. It is a little village that is easy to navigate on foot. Rumors of the past float down every narrow cobblestone street.
In St. Augustine, learning about the local history is expected (ideally on a ghost tour when dusk has fallen). There are, however, some more recent additions intended to appeal to the contemporary traveler, such as Ice Plant for drinks and the Alligator Farm for a uniquely Floridan animal experience. See the city dazzle in the radiance of three million lights by visiting during St. Augustine’s annual Nights of Lights festival around Christmas.
Book a stay at the adults-only Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens for the ideal fusion of history and a warm breed of luxury. While there, you may take a tour of the grounds with the property historian and gather for beautifully prepared drinks at The Well Bar. St. Francis Inn, a bed & breakfast that was constructed in 1791 and offers a sense of old-world grandeur, embodies the essence of the city and everything guests enjoy about cozy lodgings. On St. George Street, the major thoroughfare in St. Augustine, it is situated directly.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, go to supper at O.C. White’s, The Floridian, or Michael’s Tasting Room, a famed restaurant in the center of the activity. The greatest root beer you’ve ever had, served with a stunning view of the Bridge of Lions, can be found at A1A Ale Works if you’re looking for something a little more laid-back.
The Florida Keys are a real paradise that span 113 miles from Key Largo to eccentric Key West, the southernmost tip of the contiguous United States; choose any Key along the route, and you’re assured a tropical escape without the need for a passport. Add boating, diving, fishing, snorkeling coral reefs, feeding 10-foot tarpon at Robbie’s, and other leisurely pursuits to your agenda as you take advantage of one of the greatest holiday spots on earth.
Playa Largo is a great option for families or anybody looking for an action-packed vacation; there are pools, water activities like sailing, parasailing, and kayaking, as well as a hammock garden for reading. Key Largo is home to the adults-only Bungalows Key Largo, the first all-inclusive in the Keys.
Book a table at The Fish House for the freshest seafood (and Key lime pie) in the Keys. This family-owned Key Largo institution is unique in that they are one of the few eateries that solely uses local fisherman, ensuring that the fish they serve is as fresh as it can be.
Disney World and Central Florida
Many people who are considering a Florida vacation choose to travel to Orlando, and it’s easy to see why: The city is home to Walt Disney World and Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Animal Kingdom, Discovery Cove, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Gatorland, and more. Although both tourists and residents will always frequent such locations, this Florida area has more to offer.
You can reach NASA’s Kennedy Space Center by traveling directly east from Orlando, where you can visit a complex devoted to all things space travel and even witness rocket launches. Winter Park, which is calmer to the north, is referred to as the Palm Beach of central Florida. There, you may wander under the eaves of gnarled oak trees and take in the sunsets across the lake. Eat supper at Hillstone Restaurant and breakfast at Briarpatch.
Once you’ve left Orlando’s tourist traps, Florida has a ton of opportunities for outdoor activities and adventure. Both the Blue Grotto, a 100-foot clearwater grotto that is well-liked by divers, and Rainbow Springs State Park, where you may peacefully float down Rainbow River on an inner tube, are located in central Florida, some distance from the Orlando area.
On Florida’s western coast, the peaceful, hidden community of Crystal River is less well-known and slower-paced. Despite having few dining and entertainment options, Crystal River is home to some of Florida’s most breathtaking natural scenery, particularly for those who like being on the water.
The lovely springs of Crystal River are best explored on a clear kayak trip with Get Up and Go Kayaking, and wintertime visitors have a decent chance of kayaking alongside any of the hundreds of manatees that move into the springs each year. Dolphins, turtles, birds, and other animals could be seen as you explore Hunter Springs, Jurassic Springs, and Three Sisters Springs. On 232 acres on Kings Bay, the nearby Plantation on Crystal River provides basic, unpretentious riverfront lodging.
Visit one of the famed live mermaid performances in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, approximately an hour’s drive south of Crystal River, for a vacation experience that is even more deliciously Florida.
Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale
No location in Florida packs as much of a sizzle as Miami when it comes to the greatest locations to visit. It’s a large metropolis with all the top restaurants, lodging options, and nightlife spots you could want. You may discover the kind of old-meets-new design that puts Miami on the map at the very Instagrammable Art Deco District in South Beach, and there is no shortage of street art and tall murals in the adjacent Wynwood Walls.
If you’re thinking about taking a vacation, August is unquestionably the finest time to visit Miami if you want opulent five-star experiences. The ideal trio of citywide discounts congregates this month: Miami Spa Months, Miami Spice Restaurant Months, and Miami Hotel Months. Visitors may take advantage of the specials to save money on accommodations at establishments like the Mandarin Oriental in Miami, opulent spa treatments, and meals at the greatest restaurants in the area.
Another vibrant beachfront city where you may spend days and nights filled with excitement is lively Fort Lauderdale, which is located a little farther north of Miami. Work your way along the Ale Trail for craft beer and food, or take the Water Taxi for a new view of the city. The Water Taxi is like a trolley system on water, suitable for Fort Lauderdale, which some refer to as the “Venice of America” because of its many canals. For the greatest eating and shopping in the city, get off the Water Taxi at Las Olas Boulevard.
Best of all, it takes only one hour or less for the brand-new, cutting-edge Brightline to link Miami to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
Tampa Bay region (Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater)
A tri-city refuge on Florida’s Gulf Coast is comprised of Tampa and the areas around it. Visit Busch Gardens to ride the roller coasters, or go to Clearwater Marine Aquarium to see the slick Dolphin Tale movie stars.
An unhurried community with some of Florida’s top beaches is Clearwater Beach. A unique seaside art festival that only Florida can stage, the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival offers visitors the chance to admire enormous sand sculptures. Stay at Opal Sands; it is a seaside hotel with 230 rooms and is about a half-mile walk from the event. Along with St. Petersburg, the region is a kind of underground center for art and culture, with murals and institutions like the beautiful Dali museum.
Pensacola, Panama City Beach, Destin, and Tallahassee, Florida’s capitol, are all located on the Florida Panhandle. The Panhandle is well known for being a spring break destination.
The beautiful sand beaches and calm Gulf waters of the Panhandle are a significant lure, but there are many more options for beach days: In St. Andrews State Park, visitors may go on hikes, bike rides, or canoe trips. They can also start happy hour early at stalwarts of Panama City Beach like the deliciously outrageous Pineapple Willy’s (don’t leave without getting a po’ boy with your ice drink). Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park in Destin will keep everyone entertained.
Island of Amelia
Visitors who like a pleasant coastal resort without any crowds in sight frequent quiet tiny Amelia Island. Additionally, rather of merely having flat, sandy beaches, the area’s topography adds appeal with its undulating dunes and marshes. Of course there are beaches, but those who like the outdoors should also visit the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and Fort Clinch State Park, which are home to the 19th-century Fort Clinch as well as natural trails, camping areas, and animals.
The oldest lighthouse in Florida, which proudly stands 67 feet tall, is another draw to Amelia Island. Amelia Island is lined with quaint beachside cottages and inns, giving guests their selection of charming lodging. Visit the island’s historic downtown Fernandina Beach to shop or dine at the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, an annual celebration honoring a common love of shrimp.
Cedar Key is a charming little island community with rustic cottages in pastel colors. Aside from local natural springs for swimming and paddling, visitors may expect to find uninhabited beaches and floral gardens. Cedar Key is a good site for anybody looking for a vacation that is a little bit calmer than the state’s more bustling hot places, yet it goes under the Florida tourist radar since it is a straightforward location.
For an up-close animal encounter, particularly in the colder months, consider taking a day trip to the adjacent Manatee Springs State Park. Other enjoyable activities in and around Cedar Key include bicycling, kayaking, and hiking. Additionally, if you’re interested in learning more about the region, there is the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, Cedar Key Museum State Park, and the Cedar Key Historical Society & Museum. At Cedar Key Airport Beach, watch the sun go down to round off your restful days.
Another treasure on Florida’s western coast is Naples; it’s no accident that this region is known as the Paradise Coast. Romantic and opulent, Naples is renowned for its stunning white-sand beaches, expansive golf courses, high-end dining options, and expensive shopping. In some ways, Naples might be considered a “sister city” to Palm Beach, which is situated just across the state on Florida’s eastern coast.
A dent in your credit limit may be made by going to Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South if retail therapy is on the plan (which it should be in Naples). Alternatively, you might visit the Naples Botanical Garden, Clam Pass Park, or the Naples Zoo if you like natural attractions. Art aficionados will also find a lot to appreciate at Artis — Naples, a multifunctional institution home to The Baker Museum and the Naples Philharmonic, or at any of the stunning art galleries strewn across the city.
National Park of Everglades
Even though visiting a national park may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Florida, the state is full of unique locations (expect alligators and palm trees rather than bison and geysers), and Everglades National Park is its crowning achievement.
The Everglades, a 1.5 million acre area of protected wetlands near the southernmost point of the Florida peninsula, is really a slow-moving “river of grass” that contains rare species including coastal mangroves, sawgrass marshes, pine flatwoods, and more. More than 360 different kinds of birds, alligators, snakes, fish, and even endangered species like the Florida panther, American crocodile, and West Indian manatee may be found there. It is a nature lover’s heaven.
There are paths and guided excursions available for those anxious to explore; the major entrances are in Shark Valley, Florida City close to Homestead, and Everglades City on the Gulf Coast. For cooler temperatures, more active animals, and fewer bugs, visit during the park’s dry season (November to April).