Places You Must Visit in Florida


The Sunshine State is a worldwide vacation destination and a must-experience for anyone living in the US. While there are hundreds of vibrantly-different places to explore in the state, along with over 8,000 miles worth of coastline, these unique top-11 places offer a comprehensive scope of Florida‘s various sides.

Amelia Island

Tourists enjoying a day in the pool at a luxury resort hotel on Fernandina Beach on beautiful Amelia Island. Editorial credit: Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com

Amelia Island is a charming speck in the ocean, home to endless scenic beauty only 30 miles northeast off the coast of Jacksonville. It is renowned for streets veiled in old Florida charm leading to 13 miles of pristine, uncrowded beaches and a golf course regarded highly in the US.

The top destination in the state is a must-visit for strolls along the Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach in the footsteps of pirates from bygone days, now housing a modern shrimp industry. Aside from beach-combing and sunbaths, a horseback ride along the beach is the most serene way to explore the beautiful island.

Daytona Beach

Beachgoers on Daytona Beach.
The spectacular Daytona Beach in Florida. Editorial credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Daytona Beach is postcard-worthy from all sides, with a true Florida vibe and attractions like amusement rides and a lovely boardwalk. It is a galore of water sports and a go-to vacation spot for sun-seekers and spring breakers. The year-round, crowd-less attractions include museums, art galleries, sandy beaches, dining, and outlets. The Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory Tour is a must for sampling your way through some of the US’ best chocolates amidst delectable sights and smells.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida
Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida.

One of the top most-unique national parks in the US is only 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West, amidst Florida Keys reef system’s southwest corner, which is the world’s third-largest. The remote park boasts a 100 square-mile spread of mostly picturesque blue waters and seven small islands, accessible only by boat or seaplane. It is home to the spectacular Fort Jefferson, superlative coral reefs, and a vast assortment of birds flying over the area. The fascinating, rich marine life is due to the remote location and the easterly flowing gulf current just south of the park.

The Garden Key is the second-largest island for a stroll-worthy galore around the fort amidst natural sights and scenic history. It hosts the park’s headquarters, a visitor’s center, and outdoorsy pursuits like campgrounds, excellent swimming areas, and snorkeling spots. The 14-acre island is the most developed and visited, with tourists from around the globe flocking to learn the history, sightsee, and stroll the premises of one of the nation’s largest 19th-century forts. 

There is direct access for ferries and passenger seaplanes from Key West, with entrance fees included in the price of the ride ticket. Private vessels have to register at the Garden Key and buy an entrance ticket along with a free boat permit, while space for personal vessels is limited. The State Park’s natural life and cultural features are under strict protection. The corals and seagrass communities amidst abundant shipwrecks are among the most vibrant in the Florida Keys. One must be careful not to touch the coral or dangerous animals underwater. Live or dead, the collection is prohibited, along with shipwreck artifacts.

Everglades National Park

Airboats tours in Everglades National Park, Florida.
Airboat tours in Everglades National Park, Florida.

The Everglades National Park is the crown jewel of Florida’s nature, encompassing 1.5 million acres of preserved wetlands teeming with invertebrates, fish, over 360 species of birds, and endangered wildlife, including the Florida panther, American crocodile, and West Indian manatee. It is a dream-come-true destination for active naturalists and sight-seekers for the abundant wildlife and vistas amidst palm trees.

The national park spreads through the southern tip of the Floridian peninsula as an ever-flowing “river of grass.” For unlimited adventures, there are tons of unique habitats covering various terrains like coastal mangroves, sawgrass marshes, and pine flatwoods. One can explore on a self-guided hike or join a tour for comprehensive knowledge. The main entrances are at Shark Valley, Florida City near Homestead, and Everglades City on the Gulf Coast, while the best time to visit is during the park’s dry season from November to April. Then, temperatures are lower, and wildlife is more active, except for the mosquitoes.

Florida Keys

Aerial view of Key West. Florida
Aerial view of Key West, Florida.

The Florida Keys comprise a 120-mile-long chain of tropical islands curving around the base of the Florida peninsula. It is not an overrated destination, as one of the most popular in Florida. The Keys are accessible from the mainland via a series of bridges, with the most spectacular, Seven Mile Bridge in the Lower Keys that starred in films like True Lies and Fast 2 Furious.

US Highway 1, the endlessly-scenic “Overseas Highway,” is the most distant bridge connecting Key Largo, Islamadora, Marathon, Lower Keys, and Key West. The Keys chain is broken down into Upper, Middle, and Lower Keys islands, with the most varied accommodation, shopping, dining, and nightlife on the Upper Keys, like Key Largo.

The first stop on the Overseas Highway is home to the underwater Christ of the Abyss statue, a destination for divers and snorkelers. The Middle Keys and Lower Keys offer a respite with remote atmosphere, wilder nature, and most-pristine and uncrowded beaches. The protected waters around the archipelago house a marine sanctuary of countless aquatic species and coral reefs, while the large island of Big Pine Key is home to the small species of whitetail deer that are just knee-high.

Kennedy Space Centre 

Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden view
Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden in Merritt Island, Florida.

Some hour-and-a-half from Orlando, NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre is a must-see for inter-stellar and -terrestrial fans. It offers a fun and insightful family-friendly visit to Merritt Island in the Cape Canaveral area. The Center hosts everything cosmos-related, including real-life rockets that probably still have space dust on them. 

There are countless experiences with highlights like the Visitor Center’s Shuttle Launch Experience to feel what it is like launching off in a space shuttle. The Apollo/Saturn V Centre alone can take a few hours to see and hear everything from the Apollo era.

Miami

Miami, Florida
Skyline of Miami city, Florida.

The southern Florida mega-hub is among the top-hippest cities in the US, with spring breakers’ favorite, Miami Beach laidback strip of developed sand, just across the water. Miami’s old and modern Florida sights and new attractions popping up are enough to diversify each day of a lifetime. It is a popular honeymoon, bachelor/ette parties destination, and a bucket-list item for anyone in the states for an atmosphere like nowhere else in the world. 

Miami’s own South Beach is exciting and vibrant, with an Art Deco District and ultra-hip pedestrian mall parallel to the beach. It is aligned with oceanfront dining terraces, entertainment, and much more. Culture fans enjoy strolling the history-laden Flagler Street downtown, while food lovers and shoppers head to the Brickell neighborhood with the Design District for a plethora of high-end boutiques, posh restaurants, and cafes.

There is a whole lot of Caribbean within Miami’s vibrant cultural specter, especially within the lively ethnic neighborhoods of Little Haiti and Little Havana. One must visit Overtown for hearty soul food and African-American history. The Coconut Grove natural and architectural galore houses the Vizcaya museum, coral rock homes, and cute sidewalk cafes to sit down with a tropical drink and watch peacocks strutting amidst street entertainers. 

Naples

Naples, Florida
Skyline of Naples in Florida.

One of the US’ richest cities spreads the coast along the Gulf of Mexico, with waterfront properties worth over $40 million. It is modern and wealthy today but deliberately preserves some rustic charm from its early beginnings. 

Named because the bay is “prettier than the Bay of Naples in Italy,” Naples boasts a beautiful city beach and nearby wildlife refuges that continue to exceed tourist expectations. It is home to part of the famed Everglades, along with the Florida Panther National Wildlife Reserve and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, renowned for a 2.5-mile long boardwalk. The city is the region’s hub for arts and shopping destinations for its relevant district.

Despite an extravagant vibe and attractions like a world-class golf course, chic restaurants, and high-end hotels, Naples retains a quiet ambiance and laid-back vibe of a coastal city with a mix of vibrant cultures. Its gently lapping waters and white-sanded beaches greet everyday Americans, families, and couples on a relaxing getaway to America’s Napoli, also known as Florida’s city of love. 

Orlando

 A crowd of visitors walking towards the entrance of the Universal Orlando Resort theme parks
A crowd of visitors walking towards the entrance of the Universal Orlando Resort theme park. Editorial credit: Kamira / Shutterstock.com

The heart of Florida’s tourist industry is a must-visit for anyone in the states. Orlando is a destination for families, party animals, couples, and culture vultures for a slice of the US like nowhere else. Orlando boasts internationally-recognized Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld, which continue to expand and get more vibrant each year. Newer destinations include Discovery Cove, Typhoon Lagoon, and Volcano Bay.

The city turns stampede during school holidays but always has demand for the wide variety of developed attractions, recreational pursuits, and services. There are championship golf courses, chic spas, restaurants, and immense shopping centers. The fine-dining scene alone is a destination for four one-star Michelin-rated restaurants to surprise the most discerning palates. Nearby attractions offer a refreshing change of pace, like the Kennedy Space Center and Crystal River with manatees.

Pensacola

Downtown Pensacola, Florida.
Downtown Pensacola, Florida.

The city along Florida’s Panhandle is a historic port and the region’s largest economic center on the state’s largest natural harbor. With nearly half a thousand years of history, there is a lot to explore, starting with the meticulous, restored Historic Village with Spanish, French, and British colonial buildings from relevant periods. Other historical highlights include the US Naval Aviation Museum and 1834 Fort Pickens on the western side of Santa Rosa Island.

Beach-goers love Pensacola‘s laidback atmosphere along the shores for down-to-Earth pursuits with a deep-south taste. There are sugar-white, vast sands at Pensacola Beach, while the Perdido Key is home to busy beaches and open natural areas. The local eateries serve grits with flair, while slight Southern drawl charms and the slower pace of life transport back to simpler days. 

The small, family-friendly city has attractions like museums, several performing arts companies, and a lively downtown. The concentrated promenade comprises inviting patios and one-of-a-kind shopping opportunities along shaded sidewalks.

Tampa Bay Area

tampa bay
Cruise Ships seen docked at Port Tampa Bay cruise facility in the Channelside district downtown. Editorial credit: TetKabrit / Shutterstock.com

Tampa Bay Area is a must-visit for all interest levels, from beaches to city views to thrilling roller coaster rides and zoos. Clearwater Beach is the nation’s top-rated bounding the namesake laid-back town. There is also a Marine Aquarium with the slippery stars from the Dolphin Tale movies, while the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival art event features monster-sized sand carvings along the beachfront. The 230-room spectacular Opal Sands is a popular place to kick up the feet for the night along the beach.

Tampa city sits on an inlet on Florida’s west coast across the bay from St. Petersburg, comprising an arts-centered area with murals and museums along vibrantly-decorated streets. The city is home to the Busch Gardens, Tampa Zoo at Lowry Park, the Florida Aquarium, and TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach. The interactive Glazer Children’s Museum is a favorite family destination, while the Museum of Science and Industry offers more hands-on learning. The Sparkman Wharf is a lively waterside section with funky restaurants housed in shipping containers alongside traditional options and a nearby RiverWork leading to the vibrant Armature Works area. 

This is a true bucket list of unique, must-hit places in the Sunshine State for all interest levels. From national parks to mega-hub cities, each destination shines with a galore of pursuits affordable to an average American on vacation. One is guaranteed a wide spectrum of emotions upon a visit, with only personal time constraints that may limit exploring the full scope of some destinations. 



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