The sunshine state has a lot to offer its visitors. You can find lots to do and see from the Panhandle right down to the southern most point in the US, at Key West. This is why almost 100 Million tourists visited Florida in 2015. There’s something for everyone: Disney World, the Kennedy Space Center, stunning beaches perfect for water sports or buzzing Miami and the laid-back Florida Keys in the South. Two national parks stand out for their efforts in conservation: the Biscayne National Underwater Park and the Everglades National Park — both are sure to enchant you like they did us.
Orlando is the place to stay if visiting major theme parks is on your radar. Disney World, SeaWorld and the Kennedy Space Center are all located in the area as well as many other fun attractions that are sure to please the young and the young at heart. Our favorite is the Kennedy Space Center and when we visited from Miami we had timed our visit with a rocket launch but as Mother Nature would have it the launch got cancelled due to bad weather and high winds. That said, the center is an impressive site and certainly worth seeing on it’s own.
Tip: Look on their website for rocket launch schedules and reserve ahead if you want to watch it from the launch pads of Cape Canaveral. If you can, plan a couple of days in case of postponement to avoid disappointment.
We haven’t visited the Panhandle but we drove through and saw the pristine white sand beaches, which would be an ideal destination for a quiet and relaxing vacation on the seaside.
We tried to visit Tampa however Tropical Storm Debby interfered with our travel plans. These sorts of things can happen when deciding to visit a place during hurricane season…
Beaches can be found all over the eastern coast of Florida and some of the most popular ones include: Daytona Beach, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Sunny Isles, Miami Beach and South Beach around the Miami area. There are of course beaches all along the coast from Jacksonville down into the Keys, although the keys did not have as many as we had expected.
Following are some of the beaches we visit more often:
Fort Lauderdale, a hub for spring breakers, has one of the best beaches in Florida with lifeguards and amenities (Picnic tables, BBQs, showers, restrooms). It’s a beautiful wide beach with room for numerous beach goers and ideal for many water activities. You can also watch the cruise ships depart (typically Saturdays and Thursdays).
For a change of scenery take a boat tour through the canals and see Millionaire’s Row with its multi-million dollar homes and mega yachts docked in front. This is where the rich and famous live, at least part of the year, and where spring breakers congregate to party and create a temporary island with their boats.
For a more relaxed vibe head over to John U. Lloyd State Park near port Everglades and watch cruise ship sail away from up close. You can almost touch them as they come up the narrow channel. Be ready for the customary blasts of the horn signaling a thank you to the port authorities and staff. It’s a great place for a BBQ or a picnic before the sunset, after which the park closes. Amenities are available but there aren’t any lifeguards. There’s also a dive center in the park, we will update this post once we have a chance to dive with them!
Further to the south, there is Hollywood Beach with lifeguards and amenities. The esplanade makes it a good place to take a leisurely stroll (wheelchair accessible) and to enjoy the ocean view. Also, many restaurants and tourist shops border the esplanade. Many snowbirds come here to escape the cold winters of their hometown.
Our usual hangout is at the northern end of Sunny Isles Beach. Many locals or long-term visitors come here to relax and enjoy the beach. It’s quieter and that’s probably why we love it! These beaches also have lifeguards and amenities.
Miami Beach and South Beach are two of the most popular beaches in Florida and are a prime destination for spring breakers, hipsters or snowbirds. Both have lifeguards and access to public showers, restrooms and changing rooms.
The Florida Keys are an excellent destination for scuba diving with many dive sites including many wrecks as well as beautiful reefs thriving with marine life. Snorkeling, boating or fishing are also popular activities. Happening Key West with its laid-back attitude is an excellent destination for those looking for a thriving nightlife.
There is so much to do in Florida, there’s something for everyone. We’re lucky enough to visit South Florida on a regular basis that I made a special page for Miami and South Florida.