Every year, travelers from all over the country and the world flock to the Sunshine State to get a taste of our picture-perfect beaches and year-round warm weather. If sun, sand and surf is what you’re seeking, we’ve got you covered — but there’s much more waiting to be discovered.
From the natural treasures in the Everglades to the stunning sunsets of Naples and the historical offerings in St. Augustine, there’s something for all ages to enjoy. Whether you’re planning a day trip, a weekend getaway or a weeklong vacation, here are some of our top picks.
Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the country, with nine distinct ecosystems identified across 1.5 million acres of wetland; and there’s plenty to do in the park’s three main areas — from hiking trails, boat tours and water activities to wildlife viewing. It’s the perfect getaway for anyone looking for adventurous, outdoorsy fun.
- Airboat tours are the perfect way to explore the marshes and canals and get a glimpse of the alligators that famously reside in the park.
- Hiking is a popular way to explore the park at your own pace. There are short, easy trails as well as other options for more advanced hikers.
- Take a canoe or kayaking tour for a chance to see manatees and other wildlife.
- Biking is permitted along the main park road and on the Shark Valley Bike Trail, Snake Bight Trail, Rowdy Bend Bike Trail and Long Pine Key Bike Trail.
- Take a Shark Valley Tram Tour, where you’ll learn about the park as you comfortably explore a 15-mile loop of the Everglades.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is another great option. This stunning little slice of heaven sits on the southernmost tip of Key Biscayne, and it’s a favorite with locals. Most notable is the lighthouse built in 1825, now the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. Arrive early to secure a good parking spot.
- Pack a picnic and enjoy a day on the beach. The park also has pavilions, picnic tables and grills for larger gatherings.
- If you don’t mind the climb, take in the incredible views from atop the Cape Florida Lighthouse. You can also take a tour and learn more about its history.
- Enjoy refreshments and seafood dishes at the Lighthouse Cafe.
- Walk or bike the nature trails. Single and quad bikes can be rented in the park near the lighthouse.
- If you have your own kayak or canoe, two launches are available in the park.
Did you know there are a total of 800 keys in the Florida Keys? While it’s impossible to visit them all in one trip, the most popular remain Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and Key West. Let’s look at some of the top things to do in Key West.
I recommend leaving Friday evening or early Saturday morning to beat traffic and give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the island once you arrive.
- Snap a group photo with the Southernmost Point Buoy at the intersection of Whitehead Street and South Street.
- Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home. This stunning Spanish Colonial mansion was once the home of famed writer Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Pauline.
- Stop by The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory and stroll the tropical paradise.
- Grab your camera and head to Mallory Square for an unforgettable sunset celebration.
- Take a ferry or seaplane to Dry Tortugas National Park and explore the 19th-century fort or snorkel the crystal-clear water.
- Grab dinner on the famed Duval Street and then enjoy the nightlife offerings.
The largest of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island is located off the southwest coast and offers beautiful beaches, watersports, shelling and boating opportunities for those seeking much-needed R&R.
- Visit Tigertail Beach for its white-sand beaches, nature watching and spectacular west coast sunsets.
- Take a family-friendly eco-cruise to catch a glimpse of the playful dolphins.
- Take a guided tour by boat or kayak of Rookery Bay in nearby Naples and explore the unique ecosystem.
- Check out the nightly Sunset Celebration and Fire Dancers at the JW Marriot Marco Island Beach Resort.
- Visit the Marco Island Historical Museum to learn about the island’s history and the Calusa Indians that once inhabited the area.
You’ll find some of the nation’s top beaches along Florida’s Gulf Coast, as well as nature preserves, cultural attractions and bustling city life. Start in Naples and work your way up the west coast of Florida.
- Naples is a vibrant city filled with everything from high-end shopping and fine dining to swamp adventures and stunning beaches. If you’re a nature lover, be sure to visit the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary or Naples Botanical Garden. For those interested in culture, check out the performances at The Naples Players or explore the fine art at The Baker Museum.
- Sanibel Island, known as the “seashell capital of the world,” and its neighbor, Captiva Island, are prime spots for biking, fishing, boating, swimming and snorkeling. J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge offers some nice trails and bird-watching opportunities.
- Sarasota is a lively beach city filled with museums, beaches, outdoor activities and great restaurants. Work up a tan on Siesta Beach (ranked No. 2 in the U.S. by Tripadvisor), visit The Ringling art museum, stroll along Bayfront Park, or see the lions, tigers and more at the Big Cat Habitat.
- The Tampa Bay area offers activities for everyone in the family, from Busch Gardens theme park and the Florida Aquarium to the Tampa Museum of Art.
- Just a stone’s throw across the Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg and famed Clearwater Beach offer the best of both worlds in fun and relaxation. Visit one of the many museums, such as The Dalí museum, home to his largest collection outside Spain. Explore the Brooker Creek and Weedon Island Preserves by paddleboard or kayak or spend the day strolling the Florida Botanical Gardens or one of the many piers.
There’s much more to discover if you continue up the coast, so I recommend you plan your itinerary in advance.
The east coast of Florida also offers lots of activities and attractions. From the popular beaches of Hutchinson Island to peaceful Amelia Island, there are plenty of stops you can do along the way.
- Hutchinson Island is located close to Port St. Lucie, and it’s best known for its scenic beaches and nature preserves. Visit the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, a 57-acre marine life nature center; go snorkeling offshore; get an adrenaline rush with watersports or take a boat tour.
- Cape Canaveral, home to the Kennedy Space Center, is an hour east of Orlando. Here you can get hands-on experience of what it’s like to explore space. Be sure to visit the Astronaut Hall of Fame, The Rocket Garden, the Apollo Moon Landings exhibit and the space shuttle Atlantis.
- St. Augustine is the place for history lovers, as it’s the oldest city in the country. Explore the historical St. George Street, visit Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, check out the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum or immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Anastasia or Fort Mose State Parks.
- Amelia Island sits at the northernmost tip of the east coast. Here you can visit Fernandina Beach, explore Fort Clinch State Park, go horseback riding on the beach and enjoy all kinds of fun water activities.
No matter your interests, there’s so much to experience right here in our own state. Where will you travel to next?