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Top Must-See Landmarks Of The State Of Florida

Updated on May 4, 2009

Discover the Florida Landmarks

A vacation to Florida is something that many people dream of going on their entire life. The area is most famous for its long sandy sun soaked beaches as well as the incredible shopping, dining and nightlife possibilities located in the many cities of the state. Florida is also famous for the number of Disney owned attractions, along with other amusement attractions, found around the Orlando area. The city is home to a number of professional sports franchises offering locals and travelers the opportunity to experience professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey up close and personal. One thing that does get overlooked though in the state of Florida is the large amount historical landmarks that can be found in the state. These are a great way to escape the more popular and crowded attractions, and still to have a great time while learning a little bit about the history of Florida, and the history of the United States as well.

Bok Tower Gardens

One of the most picturesque locations in all of Central Florida is Bok Tower Gardens. Originally built in the the mid-1920s, Bok Tower Gardens offers a chance to stroll in the Florida sun through an extensive area filled with a wide variety plant species. There are a number of things to see at the gardens including the Pine Ridge Trail, Pinewood Estate and the Singing Tower. There is also a well equipped visitor center that explains and describes the significance of the site. Among the many plants and trees that can be found in the garden there are wonderful examples of bunya-bunya trees, tree ferns, creeping fig, camellias, Asiatic jasmine, spider lily, wax myrtle, papyrus, blue plumbago and more.

Bell Tower Gardens. Photo by: joelmann

Pensacola Naval Air Station Historic District

One of the more vast landmarks in Florida, the Pensacola Naval Air Station Historic District actually consists of more than fifty buildings and structures. The Pensacola Naval Air Station played an integral role in both the history of Florida as well as United States military history. Many of the buildings show some of the classic architecture that was used in early 1900s construction.

Pensacola Naval Air Station. Photo by: akalat

Ferdinand Magellan Railcar

There is only one railroad car on the list of historic landmarks in the United States and it is located in Miami-Dade County. The Ferdinand Magellan Railcar is located at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum and is one of the highlights of the exhibits there. The importance of the railcar comes from the fact that it was for a number of years designated U.S. Number 1 and used as the official railcar of the United States President. When the Ferdinand Magellan was remodeled with heavier security measures for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt after the start of World War II, it made it the first railcar that was specifically built for a United States President since a special railcar had been built for Abraham Lincoln in 1865. The Ferdinand Magellan today appears to be largely the same as it was while it was in use by presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower. It was even briefly brought out of retirement by President Ronald Reagan in the mid-1980s. History buffs will love seeing this fascinating vehicle up close for themselves.

Mary McLeod Bethune Home

A national landmark giving tribute to Mary McLeod Bethune, one of the most influential women's rights and civil rights leader who fought against racism. She established Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls and helped to teach them reading, writing and home economics. She believed education was the key to the improvement of African American life. There is also a statue in Washington D.C. public park commemorating her service to the country. The home is located in Daytona Beach.

Mary McLeod Bethune. Photo by: bobster1985

Fort Zachary Taylor

Built in the mid-1800s, Fort Zachary Taylor sits on the southern tip of the Florida Keys and was controlled by Union forces during the Civil War. The fort played an important role during the Spanish-American War and stands today as one of the best examples of forts in the Gulf Coast region. It comes complete with an actual moat around it and is a wonderful historic site for anyone interested in history to explore. Fort Zachary Taylor is not only the location of a popular state park and historic attraction these days, but it is also largely considered the location of the best beach in the Key West area.

Fort Zachary Taylor. Photo by: gusdiaz

Freedom Tower

Located in beautiful downtown Miami, the Freedom Tower stands tall and is an easily recognizable landmark in the city's skyline. The building was originally built to be the headquarters of the Miami News & Metropolis newspaper in 1925 and was used in that role for a number of years. The newspaper vacated the building in the mid-1950s and after changing hands a number of times was eventually used by the federal government to process Cuban refugees who fled from the communist regime of Fidel Castro. The building was eventually purchased and restored and for a time was home to a museum dedicated to the Cuban refugees that once fled the shores of Cuba on their way to the United States, many passing through the doors of this very building. Currently there are a number of development ideas and plans for the building, many of them controversial to the local Cuban-American population. The building is now seen as a memorial to Cuban immigration to the United States.

Henry B. Plant Museum

The Henry B. Plant Museum is located on the University of Tampa campus, inside what was once the historic Tampa Bay Hotel. The museum presents wonderful exhibits and examples of life in turn of the century Florida when tourism really became one of the bankable industries in the state. The entire Tampa Bay Hotel building, now known as Plant Hall, is an official United States National Historic Landmark and is admired widely for its beautiful architecture. The hotel structure covers more than a quarter mile in length and was one of the premier places to stay in the Tampa, Florida area during its prime. Today, the entire south wing of the building is set aside as a way of showing off what life in the old Tampa Bay Hotel was like during its glory days. Truly one of the more beautiful buildings and grounds in the region.

Dade Battlefield Historic State Park

Covering more than eighty acres in Central Florida's Sumter County, Dade Battlefield Historic State Park is the site of one of the key battlefields of the Second Seminole War. Sometimes referred to as the Dade Massacre site, this state park features both wonderfully groomed areas as well as areas left to natural growth. One of the more popular events in the area, especially for those with an interest in early American history, is the reenactment of the battle that triggered the start of the Second Seminole War. The reenactment is sponsored by the Dade Battlefield Society and is a treat to view.

Ernest Hemingway House

One of the most important, popular and famous American writers in history is Ernest Hemingway. For a significant time during his professional life, he made his home in Key West, Florida and his former home is now a popular tourist attraction. The home can and grounds can be viewed from the outside and tours can be taken of the interior. It was within these walls that Hemingway penned the classic 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro' as well as other important works. Beyond its ties to Hemingway, the house is home to many firsts in the Key West area including being the location of the first swimming pool in Key West. This is a must stop for anyone interested in the life of Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway House. Photo by: vanz

Fort Gadsen

Fort Gadsen is actually the site of two forts, neither are visible any longer though thanks to an explosion in the powder magazine. The fort was built and occupied by British forces during the War of 1812. The British used the fort as a headquarters and training area for a regiment made up of escaped slaves and Seminole Indians that they had hoped would aid in the battle against the United States. Britain would eventually evacuate the entire Florida region, leaving this fort and many support structures and items in the hands of this regiment. This became a popular destination for black fugitives in the early 1800s and even instigated raids into neighboring Georgia. The United States eventually carried out maneuvers against the fort and during the battle the Americans successfully targeted the fort's powder magazine and the resulting explosion could be heard 100 miles away. Today, the site of Fort Gadsen is set aside as an important landmark relating to the early days of the settlement of Florida.

Maple Leaf

One of the more interesting Civil War related sites in the state of Florida is the site of the shipwrecked Maple Leaf. The Maple Leaf was an American Civil War transport ship that was sunk by torpedo in the St. John's River near Jacksonville, Florida. There are not many Civil War era shipwrecks in such easily accessible areas, which makes the Maple Leaf one of the more popular stops for history buffs traveling through the area.

Plaza Ferdinand VII

Located in the historic district of Pensacola, Florida, the Plaza Ferdinand VII has played a role in a great many important moments in the history of Florida and the surrounding area. It was here that American General Andrew Jackson announced publicly to the townspeople of Pensacola that the area they lived in was no longer a possession of Spain, but had been ceeded to the United States and was now the Florida Territory. Long before becoming President of the United States, General Jackson was also the first Territorial Governor of the Florida Territory, and it was here at the Plaza Ferdinand VII where he was sworn into office. The site was named after the King of Spain during the early settlement period of Florida, King Ferdinand VII. It is located on Palafox Street in Pensacola and features a bust of General Andrew Jackson.

Fort Mose Historic State Park

Located in St. Johns County, Florida near the city of St. Augustine, Fort Mose played a unique and important role in the history of the Florida area before it became part of the United States. During the time that the current area of Florida was under Spanish rule, Fort Mose was a legally sanctioned free black settlement. Though the Underground Railroad is famous for providing escaped slaves a way north during the early-to-mid-1800s to escape their bonds in the south, long before that escaped slaves fled further south to the site of Fort Mose where they were protected, organized, housed and allowed to live in freedom. This is today recognized as the first free black settlement that was legally sanctioned in area that would become the United States of America.

Ponce de Leon Inlet Light

The tallest lighthouse in the state of Florida stands at 175 feet high and was built in 1835. The Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station is located in between the St. Augustin Light and the Cape Canaveral Light and for a long time was an import navigational resource for area shipping. This first lighthouse was initially damaged by a strong storm and then was gutted by a fire set by the Seminole Indians during the Second Seminole War. A replacement was not completed and lit until 1887, and during that time it was known as the Mosquito Inlet Light. The name of the lighthouse was changed to the Ponce de Leon Inlet Light in 1927 when the name of Mosquito Inlet was changed to Ponce de Leon Inlet. Today, the lighthouse and surrounding buildings have been restored and are open for the public to explore. This is one of the nicer lighthouse museums in the nation.

Ponce de Leon Inlet Light. Photo by: drewwash

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    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 8 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      The Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse is a great place to visit. You list some other places I'll have to try on my next visit. 5* and lensrolled to my Florida Lighthouses lens and my Ponce De Leon lens.

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      olwagenw 8 years ago

      Good informative lens. Keep up the good work. 5 **** rating from me.