There’s no denying that Florida is one of America’s strangest states, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is a place of fantasy. Where mice rule kingdoms, an alligator in your back yard is a viable threat, and the sand is so white and sugary that the locals sweeten their coffee with it (okay, that last part is genuine fantasy).
But it’s the very strangeness of Florida that makes it so irresistible. The theme parks that orbit around Orlando, like Disney World and SeaWorld, really are worth a day or two to relive childhood memories. Florida’s beaches are so extensive and diverse, you could spend a century surfing, strolling, sailing, and sunning on their powdery sands. Miami parties like a rock star, while St Augustine seems stuck in 16th-century colonial Spain. Florida is a place where culture, nature, and plain old fun fuse seamlessly together.
The entire state was essentially created on the back of tourism, so you can expect a welcome mat of comprehensive travel amenities wherever you venture. The seafood is an obvious highlight, with some real treats like conch fritters, stone crabs, and lobster served straight out of the sea at deliciously low prices. Hotels come in all shapes and sizes, from dingy budget motels along I-95 to posh spa resorts in the Keys. In general, Florida offers good value for money.
Most travelers come here for the beaches, but often find themselves planning a boat ride through the Everglades or a couple of days’ exploring Disney’s Magic Kingdom. There are rivers to kayak, spaceships being launched, and a serious dose of Cuba in Miami’s Little Havana. You can drop out of sight on Big Pine Key or cozy up to an A-list celeb in one of Miami’s South Beach clubs. Florida is whatever you need it to be.
Traveling won’t be much fun here unless you have your own wheels―preferably a convertible. Public transport is great in Miami and other major cities, but the real scenery of Florida is often found along its coastal byways between towns. Even if you base yourself in a tourist magnet like Fort Myers or Daytona Beach, in minutes you can be at the water or in a crab shack where only locals dare to tread. Fly into Miami International Airport or any of Florida’s other gateways, rent a car, and start your adventure. There’s simply no other way to go about it.
- Hunt for seashells along Sanibel Island’s immaculate beaches
- Rent a convertible and driving through the Florida Keys to the end of the line at Key West
- Party like a rock star at Miami’s South Beach
- Eat fresh stone crabs off a newspaper at a crab shack along the Panhandle
- Explore the Everglades on an air boat that skims just above the surface of the saw grass
- Shake hands with your favorite character at Disney World in Orlando
- See the Spanish colonial side of Florida at St Augustine’s incredible historic downtown