Florida has long been a favorite vacation spot for both American and international visitors. Boasting more than 1200 miles (over 1930 km) of shoreline, the Sunshine State has plenty to offer. First-time visitors and seasoned annual guests will always find plenty to do.
Everyone is, of course, familiar with the theme parks that draw many thousands of families each year. But there are plenty of other things to do in Florida, and many of the best activities take place outdoors. The flora and fauna of Florida are unique, and well worth a closer look. Let’s review the ten best things that you can do outdoors in Florida. Some may seem obvious, but others may be surprising.
- Visit the Everglades National Park. The park, located near Homestead, Florida, covers more than two thousand square miles (over 3200 km). Biological diversity abounds in the swamp, and the park is home to several endangered species including the West Indian manatee. It is believed that less than 5000 manatees survive today. Those interested in the manatee in particular should also consider a trip to Crystal River, near Tampa, where you can swim alongside these huge creatures. Because of the critical importance of the swamp, the area has been named a Wetland of International Importance, a World Heritage Site, and an International Biosphere Reserve.
- Go to the beach. Florida has a thriving culture centered on boating, fishing, snorkeling and diving, and even surfing. Florida may not have the biggest waves, but surfing is alive and well here. You can take surfing lessons at Cocoa Beach, the home of the world-recognized Ron Jon surf shop. Take the time to see some of the best beaches in the world, beginning with South Beach. Relax on the beach or turn to celebrity watching. South Beach is popular with the “Beautiful People”, and celebrity sightings are commonplace. We normally relate beach fun to a blazing sun over head, but in South Beach, be ready for nightfall. A rowdy party scene turns this end of Miami into a round-the-clock fun zone.
- Continue your beach tour with another of Florida’s ten best beaches at Fort Lauderdale Beach. With more than seven miles of beaches, Fort Lauderdale offers traditional beach activities like volleyball and rollerblading, but also has an excellent promenade of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues along the beach. Party aficionados should note that there is a ban on public drinking in Fort Lauderdale Beach, so plan accordingly! Major events include an annual boat show extravaganza and a stunning 4th of July (Independence Day) celebration.
- Golf. Florida is favoured by golfers all around the world and not without reason. Top rated golf courses and warm weather year round create the perfect environment for enthusiasts and ocasional players alike. Get your sticks ready and head to West Palm Beach or play golf in Orlando for that dreamed getaway.
- Snorkeling and diving are perennial favorites. Snorkelers will be flocking to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo to snorkel the only living coral barrier reef in the United States. Divers have their pick of reef and wreck sites all along the coast, but should pay attention in particular to the Biscayne National Park. Due to traffic control policies on the waters nearby, the reefs here have a very healthy and diverse population of fish species.
- If you’ve had enough water for now, saddle up a horse and take a ride. Amelia Island, near Jacksonville, is the home of Amelia Island State Park. Horse riding is available for group tours through the state park, and can also be found in the Orlando area for a real change of pace from the normal attractions in the area. Get away from the hype and hysteria and enjoy nature from horseback.
- Follow in the footsteps of Hemingway and head south…way, way south, to the Florida Keys. These islands, including Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key, and Key West offer a unique lifestyle. End your Key West experience each day with Sunset Fest at Mallory Square, a nightly celebration of spectacular sunsets with local musicians providing a soundtrack.
- Step back in time with a visit to St. Augustine, the oldest city in the USA. The city predates both Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, and was founded in 1565. You can tour St. Augustine on foot, by boat, by trolley, or even via horse drawn carriage.
- Take a boat to the Dry Tortugas. This seven-island cluster lies off the coast of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico and is the home of Fort Jefferson. The fort was begun in 1846, but was never completed. The huge installation is one of the Western hemisphere’s largest brick buildings.
- Finish your Florida vacation with a real shot of adrenaline at Warbirds Adventures in Kissimmee. Climb into the front seat of a North American T-6 trainer, the main training plane used to qualify US pilots in WWII. Your flight can be smooth and level, or an aerobatic adventure, your choice! You actually get to fly the plane yourself, a rush that should not be missed!
Whether you prefer relaxation or excitement, you’ll find what you need in the sunshine state’s great outdoors. To save some cahs first compare flights to Florida and then check all there is to do; from the ocean to the trail and even to the sky, you’ll leave with a smile…and a plan to return soon!
How many of these activities have your enjoyed while in Florida? Is there another you would recommend? Share your thoughts below!