First things first, Florida is totally huge, with so much diversity for just one state. This all means that there’s a bunch of incredible things to do and a heap of the best places in Florida that are dotted all across the state. Though, if I’m honest, it can be hard to whittle down a definitive list of places to visit, especially if you’re short on time.
This is exactly why I wanted to share some of my favourite spots and best places in Florida that you can include on your trip to the Sunshine State.
Now, first things first, Florida’s sheer size can be something of a trek, especially if you’re heading all across the state. Honestly, you can easily spend a week or two exploring and still not have covered half of the best places in Florida. Though, I always use this as an excuse to return! 😉
After heading to places like Clearwater, St Petes, Miami and Fort Lauderdale (along with the Keys, Pensacola and Orlando), I’ve come to realise how much more there is to Florida than just its sunshine.
It’s a state brimming with yummy foodie scenes, a mix of cultures and a whole heap of natural beauty that can’t be missed.
Take a look, below, at some of the best places in Florida to explore on your next trip. Have the best time.
Okay, so Orlando is probably one of the most well-known places in Florida to visit, especially if you love the thrills and magic of theme parks.
For what it’s worth, some theme parks in Orlando might seem like a family outing, but rest assured, it’s for anyone and any age. Over the years, I’ve headed across to lots of the theme parks in Orlando, with one of my favourite being Islands of Adventures (at Universal). Here, they have a lot more ‘grown-up’ rides that are a mix of terrifying and totally fun!
That being said, Disney is also a must-do whilst in Orlando. The nostalgia and new rides and parks are just out-of-this-world. Just make sure to watch a parade and see the fireworks at the end of the night. It really is one of the best places in Florida, especially if you’re looking for fun.
If you’re looking for a hotel near Disney’s Hollywood Studios, then check out the Waldorf Astoria that’s perched pretty close by. It’s a total haven after a long day in the parks.
There are so many great parks in Orlando, with Disney World being the most famous and you could easily spend an entire week in Orlando and still not see all of the theme parks there.
2.) Visit St. Petersburg
One of the closest (and best) seaside spots close to Orlando is St. Petersburg (or, nicknamed, St Pete).
Located on the Gulf of Mexico, St Pete has a beautiful downtown area and incredible beaches that are well worth visiting for a long weekend.
Better still, St Petes has an incredible foodie scene, with lots of little haunts, bars and restaurants serving everything from Cuban food, to Mexican dishes. Honestly, you’ll be stuffed when leaving. One of our favourites was Trophy Fish, that has live bands, the freshest seafood and the best cocktails. It’s so much fun.
Oh, and don’t forget to check out the ‘Pink Palace’, whilst you’re there. The Don CeSar is a totally iconic hotel right on the beachfront and was once a favourite of Marilyn Monroe.
We loved staying here, especially as there is so much to do (right on your doorstep)
3.) Explore Fort Lauderdale
Perched around 30-minutes drive from Miami, Fort Lauderdale one of the best places in Florida to visit if you want a relaxing vacation. That being said, there’s also a heap of party spots and cool bars to visit if that’s more your thing.
Once here, make sure to explore Stroll along Las Olas Boulevard and stop off at Louie Bossi’s for some of the best Italian food in the city. Also, after relaxing on the beaches, head over to Bonnet House and see the art murals in nearby Hollywood, too.
4.) Find St. Augustine
Known as the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine on Florida’s Atlantic Coast is a gem of a city and easily up there as one of the best places in Florida to visit.
Now, the Spanish colonial architecture (along the city’s streets) is totally gorgeous and pretty unique in a state that has lots of new cities. Plus, if you’re feeling hungry, head over to Woodpeckers Backyard Barbeque that’ll have you stuffed in no time. They do the tastiest ribs.
Once here, be sure to explore the historic downtown area for some little treats. Oh, and for some extra interesting history, check out the 17th century Spanish stone fortress, called Castillo de San Marcos.
5.) See the Everglades
The Everglades is definitely one of the best places in Florida to visit if you want to see wildlife and one of the totally unique national parks in the USA.
Home to panthers, alligators, snakes, birds, it’s a totally unique preservation area is not to be missed, even when visiting cities like Miami or Fort Lauderdale.
For a one-of-a-kind experience, take an airboat ride through the swamps and see how many gators you can find (we found just a couple). Though, just be sure to bring plenty of bug spray, as the mosquitos can be merciless here. I think I left with 20 bites!
6.) Head to Tallahassee
Being the capital city of Florida, Tallahassee is sometimes forgotten in light of its bigger sisters;
located in the panhandle area of the state. With its rolling hills and pretty forests, the area surrounding Tallahassee looks and feels very different from the rest of the state. For a bit of true Southern history, visit the Goodwood Museum and Gardens, the site of a former cotton and corn plantation. Or perhaps pop into a reconstructed 17th-century Spanish mission, called Mission San Luis.
For outdoor adventures, the nearby Apalachicola National Forest and Tate’s Hell State Forest offer plenty of hiking trails and places for fishing.
Though, if you don’t fancy exerting yourself, take a drive (west of the city) and look for the caves near Marianna at Florida Caverns State Park. It’s a very different natural experience in Florida.
7.) Explore the Florida Keys
Stretching for about 120 miles (193 km) off the coast of South Florida, the Keys are a tropical delight. The sunsets here are legendary – especially so with a cocktail in hand.. and perhaps even a Key Lime pie in the other. 😉 When you’re in the area, you have to head down to the beach, go snorkelling or perhaps even scuba diving and if you’re into to it, get a boat and head out fishing.
Key West is easily the best-known area of the Keys, with plenty of things to see and do. Ernest Hemingway’s home is located here, including a museum about it, and the city’s famous Duval Street is popular for its bars and shops.
We did the drive here straight from Miami and arrived just in time to catch the sunset before finally heading out into town and its such a fantastic place to visit. Heads up though, it is a lot warmer and a lot more humid than most places in Florida, something which caught us all by surprise) so come prepared. It’s easily one of the best places in Florida that’s just of the mainland itself.
8.) Tube the Ichetucknee River
This is one of those random experiences that can sometimes even surprise residents of Florida, in that not a lot of people have heard of this place (every time I speak to someone from Florida, I always get confused looks, which I assume to be more to do with how I’m pronouncing the name, until I write it down and confirm that they still have no idea where this place is).
Located a 2-hour drive north of Orlando, Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a National Park and a fantastic way to explore the more natural side of Florida.
You can organise barbecues here (the picnic tables come equipped for barbecuing), go hiking, canoeing, scuba diving and one of our favourite, tubing down the river. Plus, you can rent tubes from many of the small shops when you arrive.
Now, the best part is that the current of the river takes you down with it so you need to put in 0 effort and quite literally just go with the flow.
When we visited (as I mentioned earlier), we got to see so many amazing wild animals. Although, the most amazing of the lot had to be the manatees. It really is one of the best places in Florida to explore.
9.) Visit the Kennedy Space Centre
Located on Merritt Island in the Cape Canaveral area, NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre is only 90-minutes (or so) from Orlando. Home to all things space-related, it’s one of the best places in Florida to visit if you’re interested in NASA, space and rockets.
Once here, you can experience what it is like to launch off in a space shuttle in the Visitor Center’s Shuttle Launch Experience. Plus, you can see what was going on during the Apollo era in the Centre’s Apollo/Saturn V Centre.
10.) Visit the best beaches
Florida is home to quite a few stunning beaches and they’re probably some of the most popular in the United States.
In fact, when in Florida, you’re never more than 75-miles away from any beach (and most are amazing) For some of the clearest, bluest waters in the state, head to Clearwater Beach on the Gulf Coast (around St Pete).
Though, if you’re further south, make a trip to Miami’s South Beach for the ultimate beach-goer experience that’s right in the city itself. For something more unique, check out Venice Beach in the Venice and Sarasota areas, where you can find prehistoric sharks’ teeth washing up onshore.
11.) Find Dry Tortugas National Park
If you want to see a very different side to Florida, you should head over to Dry Tortugas National Park. It’s totally different from the other best places in Florida and a spot that’s well worth a gander at (if you’re in the area).
One thing not to miss is Fort Jefferson, which is steeped in history. Though, the shoreline is totally pristine here and shouldn’t be bypassed when you arrive. Its an amazing place to go snorkelling and see some of the best coral reefs. Just keep your eyes peeled for the resident turtles).
*Heads up -Dry Tortugas National Park is on an island not far from Key West (68 miles away) and as such, you have to fly in via seaplane which takes 40 minutes each way so this isn’t one of those trips you can do with your car.
12.) Explore Miami
Miami is perhaps the most obvious stops to make in Florida, especially if you want a fun city to visit. 🙂
Miami has such a fun vibe and some incredible neighbourhoods to explore. Once here, make sure to check out all the art walls at Wynwood, explore Vizcaya Museum and visit the Design District.
Oh, and if you want some cool live music spots, head over to Little Havana. It’s easily one of the best places in Florida to visit for an authentic taste of Cuba.