Explore the Florida You Don't Know
It all starts with sunshine. And as the name suggests, the Sunshine State gives you just that, all year round, plus so much more.
If you think Florida is just Miami and Orlando, think again. There’s a lot more to discover outside these cities. So trade Universal Studios for Busch Gardens. Swap South Beach for Captiva lsland. And get ready to take your holiday beyond the expected.
There are 825 miles of beach to stretch out on in Florida, and some of the best can be found in Fort Myers and Sanibel. The aptly named Paradise Coast has miles of wild, untamed beach and over 100 islands, which you can explore by ferry, cruise or even your own chartered boat. And if you’ve come this far, you’d better pencil in a trip to the gorgeous Everglades National Park, the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles live side by side.
A short drive south of Miami will take you to the Florida Keys, a peninsula sandwiched between the warm aquamarine oceans of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. This string of islands are connected by living coral reefs, acres of mangroves as well as some of the most scenic drives on the East Coast.Discovery Awaits
Been there. Never Done That.
You don’t have to venture deep into the wilderness for wildlife here. Crystal River is a haven for animal lovers, and it’s just a 1.5 hour drive from Orlando. The Three Sisters Springs is the largest winter refuge for manatees in the world, and the only place in the US where you can legally swim with these gentle marine mammals.
Speaking of local wildlife, who could forget Lu? The hippopotamus-turned-honorary-Floridian spent the sixties starring in Hollywood films and TV shows, and is now happily retired at Homosassa Springs.
Further south on the Gulf Coast is Tampa Bay, a city that’s so packed with family-friendly things to do it’d give Orlando a run for its money. And if you’re travelling without tots in tow, fear not - there are just as many activities for adults. With its historic cigar bars, 30+ craft beer breweries, not to mention Florida’s oldest restaurant, you won’t be short of things to do, drink and eat.
No matter how many times you’ve been here before, there’s more to Florida than you know. Maybe this time, you'll go stargazing in Kissimmee Prairie, or spot sea creatures hidden in the Great Calusa Blueway.
Whatever you decide to do, discovery awaits.Go Further in Florida
Just like the manatees that live in its waters, Crystal River is known for its relaxed pace of life. This charming city is situated on the Gulf Coast, just north of Tampa, and is less commercial than holiday hotspots like Orlando, hence its nickname, the ‘Nature Coast’.
Days here are all about the water. So, when you’re not fishing for grouper at Homosassa, kayaking down the Chassahowitzka River or snorkelling with manatees at the Three Sisters Springs, you’ll most likely be tucking into a delicious bowl of gumbo or a shrimp po’boy sandwich.Meet the Manatees
First stop, Miami, a city that can be as laid back or action packed as you want it to be. Spend a day or two devouring Cubanos sandwiches between stints on the beach. Or, if you really want to hit the ground running, make a beeline for the Everglades National Park before your three nights in Key Largo. Home to crystal-clear waters, a living-coral barrier reef and more shoreline than you can shake a sandy beach towel at, you could easily spend a week here with nothing but a snorkel and your swimsuit.
If you can peel yourself off your patch of seaside, head to Key West, a destination with a slightly more upbeat feel and plenty of water sports, historic sites and cultural experiences to keep you busy. Once you’re done exploring the Ernest Hemingway Museum, you can join the festivities at Mallory Square, where locals gather each night to watch the famously beautiful sinking sunset. And for a truly unique stay your kids won’t ever forget, hunker down in the Hawks Cay Resort, Spa & Marina in Marathon, where you can swim with the dolphins that live in the hotel’s ocean-fed saltwater lagoon.
Tampa is a modern waterside city on the west coast of Florida with bags of charm. The downtown area is home to a mix of cultural, shopping and dining spots, many of which are clustered along the Riverwalk. Explore the waterfront promenade on foot or by bike. Or even by kayak, paddleboard or jet ski if you don’t mind getting your hair wet. What’s more, you’ll find some of the world’s finest beaches right on Tampa’s doorstep, including Clearwater’s sugarwhite sands and warm gulf waters.Try Tampa
This tropical slice of paradise is a place to unplug, unwind and notice the little things. Doing nothing is the order of the day here, and with miles of pristine clean, uninhabited beach, finding a spot to do just that won’t be difficult. There’s a decidedly Caribbean atmosphere here, helped in part by the 400 shell species that wash up on its shorelines from the Gulf of Mexico.
When you fancy taking a trip further afield, there are over 100 outer islands for you to explore. Try Cabbage Key, a private island brimming with tropical vegetation and winding nature trails. Or, take a boat over to Cayo Costa, a state park with nine miles of wild, untamed and unspoilt beach. And if you want to turn things up half a notch, you can rent a kayak or SUP board and paddle down the Great Calusa Blueway, where you might be lucky enough to spot a curious dolphin or manatee.