Top 10 Best Destinations in Florida, U.S. for Outdoor Recreation
Florida is the southeasternmost U.S. state, with the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. It has hundreds of miles of beaches. The city of Miami is known for its Latin-American cultural influences and notable arts scene, as well as its nightlife, especially in upscale South Beach. Orlando is famed for theme parks, including Walt Disney World.Popular resort areas include the Gulf Coast, with its bright white sand, and Fort Lauderdale, a popular spring-break spot. The capital, Tallahassee, is home to several colleges and adjacent to the lakes and pine forest of the Red Hills region.
The state is also known for citrus groves and alligator-filled wetlands, including the sprawling Everglades National Park. On the Atlantic coast, visitors to the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral can watch NASA launches and tour a museum. The vacation town of Key West, at the state's southernmost tip, is known for pastel-colored houses, party atmosphere and Ernest Hemingway Home.
When to Visit Florida
Florida, a year-round destination, has a subtropical climate and many beaches. Many visitors arrive Dec–Apr and crowds peak over spring break. Popular events include the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, with parades and shows (January) and the Florida State Fair (February), both held in Tampa, as well as the Daytona 500 NASCAR race (February) in Daytona Beach. The Florida Film Festival (April) in Orlando and Art Basel Miami Beach (December), an international modern art fair, are widely attended arts events. Hurricane season is June–November.
10 Best Destinations in Florida, U.S. for Outdoor Recreation at Glance:
- Florida Keys (Archipelago in Florida)
- Key West (City in Florida)
- Islamorada (Village in Florida)
- Cocoa Beach (City in Florida)
- Destin (City in Florida)
- Key Largo (Census-designated place in Florida)
- Marathon (City in Florida)
- Wellington (Village in Florida)
- Miami (City in Florida)
- Fort Lauderdale (City in Florida)
1. Florida Keys (Archipelago in Florida)
The Florida Keys are a string of tropical islands stretching about 120 miles off the southern tip of the U.S. state of Florida, between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. They’re known as a destination for fishing, boating, snorkeling and scuba diving. The southernmost city of Key West is famous for Duval Street’s many bars, Mallory Square’s nightly Sunset Celebration and the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.
Other big towns are Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon, site of Sombrero Beach, one of the Keys’ few sandy stretches. Colorful marine life can be seen at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Dry Tortugas National Park. On Grassy Key, the Dolphin Research Center offers swimming with dolphins. Connecting it all to the mainland is the Overseas Highway, which replaced the 1912 Overseas Railroad that was damaged in the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. Running parallel to it is the Overseas Heritage Trail, a path for walking, biking and fishing. Food specialties include conch chowder, conch fritters and Key lime pie.
2. Key West (City in Florida)
Key West, a U.S. island city, is part of the Florida Keys archipelago. It's also Florida's southernmost point, lying roughly 90 miles north of Cuba. Famed for its pastel-hued, conch-style houses, it’s a cruise-ship stop also accessible from the mainland via the Overseas Highway. It’s known more for its coral reefs – destinations for diving and snorkeling – than for its beaches.Most attractions are in its Old Town neighborhood, the western half of the city. On Duval Street, the main drag, pedicabs ride past restaurants serving local specialties (conch and fish), bars serving brightly colored frozen drinks and shops selling Key lime pies and hand-rolled cigars.
Waterfront Mallory Square hosts nightly events with art, craft and food vendors, jugglers and musicians. At the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, descendants of the famed American author’s cat roam the grounds and exhibits explore his life in Key West, where he lived for more than a decade.
3. Islamorada (Village in Florida)
Islamorada is a village encompassing 6 of the Florida Keys, known for their coral reefs. The Theater of the Sea features dolphin encounters. Exhibits at the History of Diving Museum include a 16th-century treasure chest. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park is a former quarry. Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park has tropical forest. Indian Key Historic State Park is a tiny island with 1800s ruins.
4. Cocoa Beach (City in Florida)
Cocoa Beach is a Florida city south of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It’s a gateway to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which has rockets and iconic artifacts. The city is known for its beach and surf breaks. Inside a surf shop, the Florida Surf Museum traces the sport’s local history. Nearby Cocoa Beach Pier has eateries and shops. The maritime forest at oceanfront Lori Wilson Park attracts birdlife.
5. Destin (City in Florida)
Destin is a city in northwest Florida, in the area known as the Panhandle. It's known for its Gulf of Mexico beaches and many golf courses, as well as the Destin Harbor Boardwalk. Nature trails pass through the dunes of Henderson Beach State Park in the south, where the coastline is dotted with pine and oak trees sheltering wildlife. To the west are the tall slides, waterfalls and pools of Big Kahuna’s water park.
6. Key Largo (Census-designated place in Florida)
Key Largo is a census-designated place in Monroe County, Florida, United States, located on the island of Key Largo in the upper Florida Keys. The population was 10,433 at the 2010 census. The name comes from the Spanish Cayo Largo, or "long key". It is both the first island and town of the Florida Keys to be reached from the Overseas Highway to Key West. It was also the location of one of the stations of the Overseas Railroad.
7. Marathon (City in Florida)
Marathon is a city in the Florida Keys. It's set on 13 islands, known for their beaches and barrier reef. Loggerhead turtles nest at Coco Plum Beach and Sombrero Beach. Curry Hammock State Park has a sandy shoreline and mangrove creek. The Dolphin Research Center offers interactive demos in a shallow lagoon. Near the City Marina, Crane Point features a tropical forest, bird-rescue center and natural history museum.
8. Wellington (Village in Florida)
Wellington is a village just west of West Palm Beach in central Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. As of 2014, the city had a population of 61,485 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, making it the most populous village in the state. It is the fifth largest municipality in Palm Beach County by population. Wellington is part of the Miami metropolitan area. Wellington was named Money Magazine's "Top 100" Best Places to Live in 2010. Although Wellington is not a village under any standard definition of the term village in the US, it is referred to officially as the "Village of Wellington". The area is also home to The Mall at Wellington Green and a shopping plaza surrounding it.
9. Miami (City in Florida)
Miami is an international city at Florida's southeastern tip. Its Cuban influence is reflected in the cafes and cigar shops that line Calle Ocho in Little Havana. On barrier islands across the turquoise waters of Biscayne Bay is Miami Beach, home to South Beach.
This glamorous neighborhood is famed for its colorful art deco buildings, white sand, surfside hotels and trendsetting nightclubs.Wynwood Arts District, featuring dozens of galleries and hundreds of graffiti murals, and Pérez Art Museum Miami draw contemporary-art connoisseurs, as does the internationally renowned Art Basel Miami Beach festival in December. The Design District attracts trendy folks with boutiques and restaurants. In Coconut Grove, there’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a circa-1916 Italian-style estate surrounded by lush landscaping. On nearby Key Biscayne, spacious Crandon Park features a quiet beach with private cabanas. For alligator-seekers, Everglades National Park is less than an hour’s drive away.
10. Fort Lauderdale (City in Florida)
Fort Lauderdale is a city on Florida's southeastern coast, known for its beaches and boating canals. The Strip is a promenade running along oceanside highway A1A. It's lined with upscale outdoor restaurants, bars, boutiques and luxury hotels. Other attractions include the International Swimming Hall of Fame, with pools and a museum of memorabilia, and Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, featuring trails and a lagoon.
The inland network of canals and bays, part of the Intracoastal Waterway, can be traversed by water taxi or rental boat. Downtown’s Las Olas Boulevard has lively nightlife, with options like wine bars, cocktail lounges and dance clubs. Several museums lie in the Riverwalk Arts district, with displays of frontier life at Stranahan House, and works from American Impressionists at the NSU Museum of Art. Art-filled Bonnet House Museum & Gardens dates from 1920. Port Everglades, in nearby Hollywood, is a busy cruise terminal.
You are welcome to the Sunshine State!
© 2020 James L Komi