South Florida is home to some of the United States' loveliest natural and cultural attractions, including the protected wilderness of famed Everglades National Park and the vibrant, avant-garde nightlife of lively metropolis Miami. Visitors can explore natural attractions like the beautiful Big Cypress National Preserve, a popular spot for alligator viewing, or go snorkeling at Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the nation's first underwater park. Beautiful resort areas like Palm Beach and Naples are home to lavish Gilded Age estates, upscale shopping districts, and some of Florida's best golf courses. Sites throughout the Florida Keys like Key West and Key Largo are accessible from the mainland via bridge or boat, home to lovely museums, historic attractions, and opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Ave Maria is a planned community in Collier County, located near the cities of Naples and Immokalee. The town is anchored around Ave Maria University and was designed by Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, the university's chancellor. Its major landmark is the stunning award-winning Ave Maria Church, which is designed to mimic Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural work and features unique elements such as a 30-foot sculpture of the Annunciation by artist Márton Váró. The lovely church, which serves as a home for the Ave Maria Catholic Church of the Diocese of Venice, received major awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction in 2008. Other attractions include adventure outfitters Orange Jeep Tours, horseback riding tour company The Stable Life, and the public Panther Run Golf Club. Each year, the community hosts the annual Sunshine State Steak Cook-Off, along with a Holiday Celebration of Lights.
2.Big Cypress National Preserve
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Big Cypress National Preserve is a lovely national preserve located approximately 45 minutes west of the city of Miami, spanning 720,000 acres throughout the region's Atlantic coastal plain terrain. The preserve was established as one of the United States' first national preserves in 1974, along with Texas' Big Thicket National Preserve. A wide range of native Florida flora and fauna are protected throughout the preserve, including Florida panthers, alligators, anhingas, river otters, mangrove trees, and over 30 varieties of blooming orchards. Visitors can explore the preserve's hiking and paddling trails as part of self-guided tours, embark on ranger-led swamp talks or canoeing excursions, or book custom tours with businesses like Captain Steve's Swamp Buggy and Airboat Adventures. The park's lovely Loop Road Scenic Drive is home to the scenic Sweetwater Strand Bridge, a popular alligator viewing spot, and the charming town of Pinecrest, which was known nationally throughout the mid-20th century for its famed dance club and bar Gator Hook Lodge.
33100 Tamiami Trail E, Ochopee, FL 34141, Phone: 239-695-2000
Bimini is a beautiful Bahamian island that is located just 50 miles off the southern coast of the state of Florida, making it the closest island within the group to the mainland United States. The picturesque destination is actually two islands, North Bimini Island and South Bimini Island, which are surrounded by a number of smaller cays. During the 16th century, they famously drew Spanish explorer Ponce de León in search of the fabled "Fountain of Youth." In the 20th century, American author Ernest Hemingway owned a summer home on the island and activist Martin Luther King, Jr. composed his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on the island. Today, visitors can arrive on the island via plane, ferry, or boat and can explore the historic Bimini Road underwater structure, which some claim is connected to the legendary city of Atlantis. Delicious local food specials include conch salad, which blends seafood with tomatoes, Scotch Bonnet peppers, and onions. The Bimini Bull Run also provides opportunities for up-close underwater cage experiences with deadly bull sharks.
Bonita Springs is a lovely southwestern Florida city that is home to stunning Gulf Coast beaches and waterfront parks, including the stunning 2.5-acre Bonita Beach Park, which is home to a year-round swimming area and a picturesque boardwalk. Barefoot Beach Preserve Park protects 342 acres of natural land on one of Florida's last remaining undeveloped barrier islands, named as one of the best beaches in the United States by Forbes Magazine. Lover's Key State Park spans more than 1,000 acres throughout four barrier islands, known for its excellent opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and biking. Other outdoor attractions include the secluded Little Hickory Island Beach Park and the beautiful Everglades Wonder Gardens, which showcase exotic wildlife.
Captiva Island is a beautiful island community in Lee County, located just north of Sanibel Island within Florida's pristine Gulf of Mexico coastline. The island, which was originally connected to Sanibel Island, was severed into its own island by the creation of the Blind Pass channel following a hurricane in 1926. Today, it is known as one of the Gulf's most scenic destinations, maintaining its historic charm due to zoning laws that state that no buildings can be constructed higher than the island's highest palm tree. Visitors can travel around by golf cart or bicycle and enjoy excellent opportunities for shopping, dining, and nightlife. The island's beautiful 2.5-mile beachfront showcases over 250 species of seashells, making it a great spot for beachcombing. Other attractions include the lavish South Seas resort, which is home to a nine-hole golf course, state-of-the-art fitness center, and the delicious Doc Ford's restaurant, named for the protagonist of the same name in the novels of author Randy Wayne White.
6.Cayo Costa State Park
Cayo Costa State Park is a charming Florida state park located on Cayo Costa, just 12 miles west of the town of Cape Coral. The state park is only accessible via kayak or boat, known for its stunning nine miles of undeveloped shoreline, which are prime spots throughout the year for swimming, snorkeling, shelling, and birdwatching. Anglers can enjoy excellent opportunities for catching redfish, tarpon, pompano, and snook. Hiking and hiking trails are located throughout the island's interior, which also offers day-use picnic sites and a small nature center. 30 tent campsites are showcased throughout the island, along with 12 primitive cabins available for overnight rental.
Cayo Costa FL 33922, Phone: 941-964-0375
7.Everglades National Park
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Everglades National Park is a beautiful 1,500,000-acre wetlands preserve located along the southern tip of Florida, protecting highly significant coastal mangrove, pine flatwoods, and sawgrass marsh habitats that provide homes for hundreds of native, rare, and endangered animal species. The park, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, is the nation's third-largest national park and the largest preserved wilderness east of the Mississippi River, created to protect one of the United States' most fragile ecosystems. Today, it attracts more than one million visitors from around the world, offering excellent opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and observing native wildlife. Walking trails traverse hardwood hammock and freshwater slough habitats, while guided nature tours offer opportunities to see alligators, crocodiles, sharks, and barracuda. Camping is available year-route at sites such as Long Pine Key and Flamingo.
40001 State Road 9336,Homestead, FL 33034, Phone: 305-242-7700
Fort Lauderdale is one of southeastern Florida's loveliest cities, known throughout the nation for its famed beaches and boating canals. The city, which is located two miles north of Port Everglades, is one of the United States' most popular LGBT-friendly tourism destinations, attracting over 1.3 million LGBT visitors each year. The lovely Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk landscaped park traverses the city's waterfront toward the Arts and Entertainment District, showcasing attractions like the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, the family-friendly Museum of Discovery and Science and AutoNation 3D IMAX Theater, and the Fort Lauderdale Historical Center. The preserved Stranahan House, the city's oldest building, is open to the public as a living history museum, showcasing turn-of-the-century furnishings. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park spans 180 acres along the city's beachfront, showcasing nature trails, canoeing opportunities, and overnight camping areas.
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Fort Myers serves as the gateway to southwest Florida, named in honor of Colonel Abraham Myers. The beautiful town, which is located along the banks of the state's sunshine-filled Gulf Coast, is known for its excellent swimming beaches, fishing opportunities, shopping destinations, and family-friendly attractions. Visitors can explore the preserved winter estates of American innovators Henry Ford and Thomas Edison as part of guided living history tours throughout the year, including garden and laboratory tours. Beautiful natural areas like the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge protect the island's sensitive mangrove forest habitats, home to native crocodiles, alligators, and bird species. Manatee Park offers opportunities to observe Florida manatees in their native habitats via kayak, while the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium offers butterfly house tours, animal demonstrations, and space-related shows. The town is also a spring training site for the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox baseball teams and offers ticketed opportunities to watch practices during March.
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Islamorada is a picturesque village that spans across six islands within the Florida Keys, located between the Florida Strait and the expansive wilderness of Everglades National Park. The village, which is known as the "Sportfishing Capital of the World," is home to the world's largest fishing fleet per square mile, offering a plethora of water sporting activities for visitors throughout the year. Visitors can dive among the Keys' stunning coral reef areas or learn about the technology and development of human diving practices at the History of Diving Museum. Dolphin encounters are offered at the Theater of the Sea, one of Florida's original marine parks, while tours of a former quarry site are available at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park. Lively theatrical productions are showcased throughout the year at the Coral Shores Performing Arts Center.
11.Jonathan Dickinson State Park
Jonathan Dickinson State Park is a charming Florida state park and historic site near the towns of Tequesta and Hobe Sound, named in honor of Quaker merchant Jonathan Dickinson, who shipwrecked in the region in the late 17th century and wrote a famed journal detailing his encounters with local indigenous tribes. Visitors can kayak or canoe throughout the park's lovely rivers, take boat tours aboard the gorgeous Loxahatchee Queen pontoon boat, or observe threatened and endangered native Florida species such as gopher tortoises, Eastern indigo snakes, and Florida scrub jays. A nine-mile mountain biking trail system is also offered, along with tent and RV hookup campsites at Pine Grove Campground. The Elsa Kimbell Environmental Education and Research Center presents natural exhibits, ranger-led tours, and daily showings of documentaries related to the park's preservation endeavors.
16450 SE Federal Hwy, Hobe Sound, FL 33455, Phone: 772-546-2771
Key Biscayne is a beautiful Florida town located across the Rickenbacker Causeway from Miami, located between Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and Crandon Park. The key is known for its stunning preserved beaches, including Hobie Beach, which is known as Miami's top spot for windsurfing throughout the year. Its nearby coastal barrier reef is home to the only nationally-recognized underwater archaeological trail, offering unique opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving. An 18-hole golf course, family amusement center, marina, and tennis center are offered at the 808-acre Crandon Park, which is also home to the Bear Cut Preserve Environment Study Area. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is home to the stunning 19th-century Cape Florida Lighthouse, one of the Florida Keys' most-photographed landmarks, which offers guided tours throughout the week.
Key Largo is a lovely Monroe County island within the upper Florida Keys, named in honor of the Spanish term for "long key." The island is the first island that can be accessed from the Overseas Highway via Key West, formerly home to an Overseas Railroad station. It was popularized in the 1940s following the release of the classic film of the same name, starring Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, which showcased the island's famed Caribbean Club bar. Today, visitors can dine aboard the African Queen dinner cruise ship, connected to Bogart's acting career, or explore the island's nearby offshore coral reef, the only living coral barrier reef in the United States. The island's amazing opportunities for scuba diving, snorkeling, and eco-touring have earned it the nickname "The Diving Capital of the World."
Key West is one of the Florida Keys' most famed islands, marking the southernmost point of the state of Florida just 90 miles north of the country of Cuba. The charming island is known for its picturesque pastel conch-style houses, many of which are preserved as living history homes today, including the Oldest House Museum. Visitors can drive to the island via the Overseas Highway or travel via cruise ship into its Historic Seaport District, which is known for its excellent shopping and dining destinations and eco-tourist excursion companies. Centuries-old Spanish treasure is showcased aboard the preserved Nuestra Señora de Atocha galleon, while beautiful modern art pieces are highlighted at dozens of local galleries. Significant cultural sites on the island include the 1860 African Burial Ground, which is believed to be the nation's only cemetery for African refugees following the transatlantic slave trade. Each night, the island's Mallory Square comes alive with lively festivities, including tightrope walkers, jugglers, and other street performances.
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Lake Okeechobee is Florida's largest freshwater lake, ranked as the second-largest freshwater lake in the contiguous United States. The lake, which is commonly referred to as Florida's Inland Sea, is contained by the 1928 Herbert Hoover Dike and is located along the gorgeous 152-mile Okeechobee Waterway. Visitors looking for delightful outdoor recreational experiences can vacation at nearby town Clewiston, located on the lake's southern shores, and enjoy excellent opportunities for speckled perch and largemouth bass fishing throughout the year. A number of hiking trails also surround the lake, which offers overnight camping experiences directly on the Kissimmee River. The region's fishing and farming heritage are celebrated each year during the Speckled Perch Festival and the Okeechobee Cattlemen's Rodeo.
Marco Island is a beautiful Gulf of Mexico barrier island connected to mainland Florida via bridge just south of the city of Naples. The island is known around the world as the home of some of the United States' most beautiful beaches, offering convenient access to the nearby mangrove forest estuaries of the Ten Thousand Islands. Visitors can stay at resort hotels directly on the beachfront or enjoy excellent opportunities for kayaking and paddleboarding at Tigertail Beach Park, known for its lovely tidal lagoon. Nearby at Collier Seminole State Park, opportunities abound for fishing, canoeing, boating, and primitive camping. Several golf courses on the island offer opportunities to hit the links, including the Faldo Golf Institute-affiliated JW Marriott's The Rookery at Marco. Excellent shopping and dining destinations abound, including the luxury and gourmet options of the Waterside Shops and the Coastland Center Mall.
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Miami is one of Florida's top tourism destinations, ranking only behind New York City with regard to international tourism in the United States. The vibrant, highly cultural city is known for its pristine beachfronts, eclectic restaurants, and avant-garde nightlife options. Visitors can explore trendy art galleries and restaurant concepts throughout the city's Wynwood Art District, known for its unique global fusion dining scene, which offers options ranging from Cajun-Vietnamese fusion pop-ups to family-style Mediterranean dining. Lovely performing arts venues abound, including the new Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the nation's second-largest performing arts center. Family-friendly museums include the Miami Children's Museum, the Frost Museum of Science, and HistoryMiami. The city is also known as one of the world's top LGBT-friendly tourism destinations, attracting more than one million LGBT tourists each year.
18.Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is a beautiful Japanese cultural center in Palm Beach County, located just west of the city of Delray Beach. The lovely park and museum are named in honor of George Morikami, the only member of the Yamato Colony to stay in south Florida following World War II. Today, the 188.5-acre museum campus showcases a replica Japanese villa museum building that houses permanent exhibits showcasing a 7,000-artifact collection, a 225-seat theater, and a traditional Japanese tea house. The beautiful Roji-en Japanese Gardens: Garden of the Drops of Dew are showcased on the museum's grounds, highlight six famous Japanese historical garden styles, along with a bonsai garden and an acclaimed cafe that has been featured on Food Network. Visitors can participate in a variety of Japanese cultural demonstrations, including tea ceremonies and tea-related classes. Traditional Japanese festivals are held at the facility throughout the year, including an Oshogatsu New Year's festival, a Hatsume Fair Festival, and an Obon-style Lantern Festival.
4000 Morikami Park Rd, Delray Beach, FL 33446, Phone: 561-495-0233
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Naples is one of the wealthiest communities in the United States, noted as the home of the second-largest concentration of millionaires in the country. The beautiful Gulf of Mexico city is known throughout the nation for its high-end shopping opportunities and over 80 championship golf courses, which earn it the nickname "The Golf Capital of the World." Visitors can explore iconic landmarks like the 1888 Naples Pier, known as a popular spot for Gulf fishing and dolphin watching throughout the year. Miles of pristine white sand beach can be accessed directly from the city at sites such as Clam Pass Park. Nearby, natural attractions such as Everglades National Park, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge offer excellent opportunities for hiking, fishing, birdwatching, and other outdoor recreational activities. Lovely cultural attractions include the Big Cypress Marketplace, the Naples Philharmonic, the Baker Museum, and the Naples Zoo.
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Palm Beach is a beautiful town in south Florida located adjacent to the state's mainland at Lake Worth Lagoon. The town is known as one of the United States' top resort destinations, home to exquisite 20th-century mansions, upscale boutiques and art galleries, and renowned fine dining restaurants. Visitors can explore the impressive Gilded Age residence of industrialist Henry Flagler, now operated as a living history museum facility as the Flagler Museum. Spacious Palm Beach Municipal Beach stretches along pristine waterfront stretches in the city's downtown district, offering direct beachfront access for water sports and sunbathing throughout the year. Worth Avenue is known for its upscale shopping and dining. Each year, the city hosts the renowned Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival, known as one of the nation's most acclaimed food and wine festivals.
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21.Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
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Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a gorgeous Florida state park on the island of Key Largo, spanning approximately 70 nautical square miles off the island's Atlantic Ocean coastline. The park, which was the first underwater park established in the United States, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is intended to protect significant coral reefs throughout the south Florida region. Visitors can explore the reefs via snorkeling and scuba diving excursions or view them up-close via glass-bottom boating tours offered by the park throughout the year. The park's visitor center is home to a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, along with a wide variety of natural history exhibits on the park's ecosystems. Canoeing and kayaking are popular throughout the year at the park, which is also known as a top south Florida fishing destination. Two manmade beaches are showcased at the park, including popular snorkeling site Cannon Beach and relaxing, secluded Far Beach.
102601 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037, Phone: 305-451-6300
Sanibel Island is a beautiful destination in southwest Florida, known for its pristine Gulf of Mexico beaches, which are prime spots for shelling, windsurfing, and sailing throughout the year. The island, which is located just a short drive from Fort Myers' downtown district, is home to the picturesque J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which protects native Florida species like roseate spoonbills, alligators, and ospreys. A nature center and wetland trails are offered by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, while a 190-mile canoeing trail is located along the Great Calusa Blueway. Shell collections from around the world are on display at the renowned Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. The historic Sanibel Lighthouse still functions today and can be explored as part of guided tours.
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Venice Beach has been named as one of America's happiest seaside towns by Coastal Living, known for its charming historic main street district and beautiful 1920s-era homes. The town is known as the "Shark's Tooth Capital of the World," hosting the annual Shark's Tooth Festival each year in celebration of the abundant fossilized shark teeth that populate its shorelines. Visitors can explore the city's beautiful beachfront, which is home to excellent surfing spots and landmarks like a 1964 sail-style pavilion building. The Venice Public Fishing Pier offers excellent opportunities for fishing and dolphin watching, while the Venetian Waterway Trail is known for its scenic biking trails. Between May and October, visitors can view significant populations of marine turtle nesting sites.
24.West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach is a lovely city in south Florida, separated from adjoining community Palm Beach by the Lake Worth Lagoon. The beautiful city is a cultural paradise for Florida visitors, home to the charming historic Clematis Street, which is known for its vibrant shops, restaurants, and nightlife destinations. Each Thursday night, the city's Centennial Square comes alive with live music performances hosted as part of the Clematis By Night event series. Visitors can catch live theatrical, music, dance, and opera performances at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts or view exhibits of American, European, and Chinese art at the Norton Museum of Art. More than 160 golf courses are located throughout the Palm Beach and West Palm Beach region, including 11 of South Florida's top courses according to Golf Digest.
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24 Best Day Trips in South Florida
- Ave Maria, Photo: Jane/stock.adobe.com
- Big Cypress National Preserve, Photo: JUAN CARLOS MUNOZ/stock.adobe.com
- Bimini, Photo: ANNELAURE/stock.adobe.com
- Bonita Springs, Photo: capic/stock.adobe.com
- Captiva Island, Photo: romanbreitung/stock.adobe.com
- Cayo Costa State Park, Photo: eblue/stock.adobe.com
- Everglades National Park, Photo: National Parked/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Lauderdale, Photo: kmiragaya/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Myers, Photo: Fotoluminate LLC/stock.adobe.com
- Islamorada, Photo: Chris/stock.adobe.com
- Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Photo: Phil/stock.adobe.com
- Key Biscayne, Photo: /stock.adobe.com
- Key Largo, Photo: lucky-photo/stock.adobe.com
- Key West, Photo: CheriAlguire/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Okeechobee, Photo: XOX Photography/stock.adobe.com
- Marco Island, Photo: Kjersti/stock.adobe.com
- Miami, Photo: Gabriele Maltinti/stock.adobe.com
- Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Photo: Ana/stock.adobe.com
- Naples, Photo: Jennifer Brinkman/stock.adobe.com
- Palm Beach, Photo: Solarisys/stock.adobe.com
- Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Photo: Happy monkey/stock.adobe.com
- Sanibel Island, Photo: captiva/stock.adobe.com
- Venice Beach, Photo: Gabriele Maltinti/stock.adobe.com
- West Palm Beach, Photo: doncon402/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com