Florida is the most visited state in America for Brits, and it’s obvious why. The attractions around the Orlando area, such as SeaWorld, Universal Studios and, of course, Walt Disney World, are some of the biggest tourist draws on the planet. Yet not everyone wants to spend their entire holiday in an artificial theme park, but instead want to get out and explore the authentic side of a place. And Florida has heaps of authenticity to offer, from gorgeous beaches to happening cities and some of the most incredible nature on offer in America. Here is a look at where to go in Florida without ever stepping foot in Orlando or its associated theme parks.
Florida is much more than plastic theme parks – it has real cities too and a handful of them are amongst the most vital and vibrant in the United States. Head to sophisticated South Beach for Art Deco architecture, day-long daiquiris and buxom blondes sunning themselves on the superb sands. Alternatively head a mile or two inland and hit Miami, where the action has a distinct Latin flair with so many Cuban and Puerto Rican migrants offering a fiery and passionate vibe. Check out local home-spun American cuisine in Tallahassee while you are at it and mingle with the rich and famous down at the marina in Fort Lauderdale, where many of America’s most impressive yachts are berthed. Being at the very southern tip of the continental U.S.A., Miami also makes a great starting or finishing point for any tour of the States, in particular journeys up the East Coast, making it a strong destination for holidays for singles over 50.
This peninsula state has loads of natural wonders on display, including one of the most famous National Parks of all, the Everglades. See alligators and Crocs up close in this gorgeous stretch of swampland in the southern area of the state, travel on hovercrafts though some of the most beautiful wetlands in the world, and see migrating species of exotic birds as they stop to feed in this verdant landscape. Alternatively one can volunteer at one of Florida’s world leading animal sanctuaries, where you can feed and tend to species such as leopards, wolves, tigers, bears and cougars. Help get wounded animals back into shape and ready to be released back into the wild. So Florida is not just about package holidays, but ideal for adventure holidays too.
The Gulf Coast
They call it the Sunshine State for a reason, and Florida enjoys some of the finest weather in America. Days are sultry and slow, with temperatures frequently topping 30 degrees Celsius, while cool sea breezes offer a refreshing marine breeze during most afternoon. And the best place to take advantage of this enviable climate is at the pristine beaches of the Gulf Coast. Quieter and more expansive than the Atlantic Coast, beaches here are wide and unspoilt, with fine sands ideal for building sandcastles, lounging in the sun or practising your volleyball moves.
The Florida Keys
Extending from the top of the state almost all the way to Cuba, the Florida Keys are a chain of small islands that offer a peaceful and relaxing refuge from the tourist masses elsewhere in the state. Follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway down at the original Sloppy Joe’s bar in Key West, sail yachts out into the warm gulf waters and admire the traditional architecture and low-key old world feel of these special islands.
John is a travel writer who has criss-crossed America in search of the very best Adventure holidays to be found Stateside.