Florida is filled with many full-filled destinations, including world-class beaches and resorts, amusement parks, and historical and cultural attractions. While millions of tourists visit the Sunshine State annually to enjoy the more famous attractions, it’s also blessed with hidden gems to escape to.
Listed here are seven lesser known Florida holiday destinations that are loved by locals and visitors alike.
Matlacha and Pine Island
The little fishing town of Matlacha, located southwest of Ft. Myers, has plenty to offer visitors. The tiny community is filled with vibrant colors, courtesy of its funky art galleries, and is the perfect laid-back environment for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Pine Island, the largest island in Florida, isn’t far off. Like most of the islands around southwest Florida, Matlacha Pass and Pine Island are teeming with large varieties of fish and shore birds. Pine Island alone boasts three aquatic reserves, making it an ideal travel destination for nature enthusiasts.
Gasparilla Island is a getaway hotspot that’s located west of Ft. Myers. Scenic beaches and historical sites dot this island, making it the perfect escape for those who want a major dose of nature and culture. In the state park, there’s plenty of time to enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. Boca Grande, the island’s largest town, features the beautiful Port Boca Grande Lighthouse. Just make sure to bring the right photography gear to capture the perfect lighthouse shot. Other fun activities in Boca Grande include dolphin, manatee, and bird watching.
Crystal River State Park
Some of the clearest waters in Florida can be found at Crystal River. Though kayaking is one of the fun activities you can do here, the real highlight is manatee swimming. Three Sisters Springs, which is situated 90 miles from Orlando, is one of the few places in the United States where you can legally swim with manatees. So if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be underwater with these gentle creatures, now is your chance.
The picturesque town of Cedar Key is a great place to relax and find tranquility. The tiny town has tons of great fishing spots, while the scenic beaches are ideal for those who want to unwind during the summer months. Go kayaking in the National Wildlife Refuge, or sample some of the town’s famous clam chowder with the friendly locals. To really enjoy life like a local, consider staying at one of the famous houses on stilts and enjoy the fresh ocean breeze.
Unlike the other destinations on this list, Winter Park is a city near Orlando. Nevertheless, it’s a great getaway if you wish to see great art. Discover sublime glassworks, mosaics, paintings, and sculptures by American and international artists in numerous art collections, galleries, and museums. For adventure-seekers, water-skiing and kayaking are also available to try out at Lake Virginia near the coastline of Rollins College. Want to admire some greenery? Mead Garden and Central Park welcome you to take a stroll.
Northeast of Florida, you’ll find the paradise that is Amelia Island. Beautiful, under-the-radar beaches can be found here where fun-filled year-round festivals happen and premier golf events are held. Explore well-preserved historical sites, including Florida’s oldest drinking and accommodation establishments, such as the Palace Saloon and the Florida House Inn.
Washington Oaks Gardens
If you’re near Palm Coast, considering visiting the Washington Oaks Gardens. This state park contains vibrant native plants and diverse wildlife. The distinct coquina rock formations are also a well-known attraction. The park is well-maintained, making it ideal for quiet strolls and peaceful picnics.
You might want to bring some road assistance kit when travelling to help you make prepared for nearly any roadside emergency. But prevention is always better than cure, so check your car before going on a trip.