For such a small state, Florida is jam packed full of wonderful things to do. After spending over a month exploring Florida, we’ve decided to share with you why we love it so much here and our top 10 things to see and do while in the Sunshine State.
Paddle and swim with manatees at Crystal River
This was, by far, our favourite experience while we were in Florida, if not the entire trip so far!
We explored the crystal clear river system on paddle boards and then jumped into the turquoise water beside hundreds of resting manatees without paying a cent.
As Crystal River is a public waterway it means anyone is able to swim with these manatees for as long as they want for free – as long as you abide by a few rules that are put in place to protect these wonderful creatures.
Visit quaint Saint Augustine – America’s very first permanent settlement
The Spaniards were the very first to colonise America way back in 1565, and Saint Augustine still bears its Spanish heritage in stunning architecture, an original fort and quaint, cobbled streets.
The old part of town is the perfect spot to listen to live music, enjoy a drink or some delicious food and take in all the history.
Drive to USA’s southernmost point and watch the sunset at Key West
The Florida Keys do not feel like the United States at all. They are a chain of tropical Islands connected by dozens of bridges that take you to the very southernmost tip of USA – only 150kms from Cuba.
There you’ll find the sublime village of Key West where street artists perform every day, tropical fish swim like colourful baubles through snorkelling reefs and the sunsets are magnificent.
Battle your fears and walk among alligators at Everglades National Park
The Shark Valley trail through the Everglades National Park is a fantastic way to get up close and personal with native Floridian animals including turtles, snakes, eagles, alligators, birds and colourful fish. The 15 mile track can be walked, cycled or you can take a shuttle tour with a local guide.
Have a heap of fun at Universal Studios
Its tricky to choose which Orlando theme park is best – Disney or Universal? But for us we really enjoyed the Harry Potter worlds at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure – and for this reason (plus waiting less time in ride lines) we preferred Universal over Disney.
We also found the majority of Universal rides to be more modern and adrenaline pumping than those at Disney. If you’re after prettily themed areas and kids attractions however, Disney is the one for you.
Let your inner child run wild at Disney World
Disney world is just plain magical. No matter if you’re 5 years old or 85 you’ll be immersed into a wonderland of themed restaurants, intriguing shows, smile-inducing rides and complete wonder.
We really enjoyed Epcot where we ‘walked around the globe’ trying different foods at different ‘countries’ and taking in the beautifully themed parked. The safari ride and Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom is also fantastic, not to mention the light and firework shows at Magic Kingdom.
Soak up the sun at one of Florida’s beautiful beaches
Florida has so many beaches that it was impossible for us to visit all of them in 5 weeks. We did however check out the surf at Cocoa Beach, laze in a hammock above the waves in the Keys and take a dip at USA’s best voted beach – Siesta.
The majority of the beaches boast fine, white sands, crystal clear water and there’s always a bar, snack shack or restaurant nearby.
Read more: Siesta – USA’s best beach?
Witness world famous graffiti art at Miami’s Wynwood Walls
This incredible neighbourhood is completely covered in stunning street-art from dozens of specifically selected, world-renowned artists. Trendy bars, hipster-chique boutiques and fine dining restaurants have also popped up all over the area, creating a truly unique and enjoyable atmosphere.
Submerge yourself in one of Florida’s crystal clear springs
The springs in Florida are so bountiful that you’re bound to come across at least a couple during your travels. Make sure you stop and enjoy the clear waters, relaxed atmosphere, underwater environment (many springs have deep caves you can dive down into) and picnic areas that surround them.
Our favourites were Lithia Spring between Tampa and Orlando and Three Sisters Spring at Crystal River.
Camp on the beach!
We were utterly surprised to find that you can camp on Fernandina Beach (just north of Jacksonville). Pay $5 for 1 day beach access at the local fuel station (or $25 for an annual pass) and you’re free to drive on the sand, camp under the stars and even have a small campfire.
We took full advantage of this and thoroughly enjoyed a night camped on the sands with stunning views to the ocean.