Guide To Florida

While the sunshine state is best known for its theme parks, some of the country’s best beaches can also be found there, providing a safe haven to numerous rare birds, mammals and reptiles.

Islands
Cayo Costa State Park is an island accessible only by boat and features 2,500 acres of parkland, with nine miles of snow-white beaches. The waters surrounding the island are home to dolphins and manatee, while the island is teeming with all sorts of birdlife. You may visit on a day trip or camp overnight.

A 20-minute ferry ride away to Honeymoon Island features one of Florida’s most popular beaches; Caladesi Island State Park is secluded and unspoiled. The island features three miles of palm tree lined beaches with a small marina and a great little café. You may rent kayaks and explore the mangroves or simply lay on the beach all day. Unfortunately you can’t stay overnight but you can have a fun day trip here.

Located 70 miles west of Key West is a 100 square mile park, the Dry Tortugas National Park, this area is mostly open water with seven small islands. It is accessible only by boat or seaplane. The island is best known as the home of the redbrick Fort Jefferson, a former prison during the Civil War. The islands have no services, so make sure to take all supplies for your stay.

Wildlife
Florida’s wildlife is vast and varied. The Everglades in the South of Florida are a unique subtropical wilderness with rare species such as the manatee, bottlenose dolphin, American crocodile and the Florida panther. There are boardwalks and viewing platforms which penetrate the forest and mangroves making it easy to visit the various habitats.

The Ocala National Forest is 400,000 acres of springs, sand-pine scrub and subtropical forest and is home to raccoons, flying squirrels, otters and black bears. It also has a wide species of birds. You can find campsites and recreation areas here where you may purchase food, firewood and also rent kayaks.

The Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge is a group o thirteen islands in the Gulf of Mexico. It was established in 1922 by President Hoover to protect the breeding grounds of migratory birds. This sanctuary still ranks as one of the largest nesting area in north Florida, for birds such as ibises, pelicans, egrets and double crested cormorant.

Activities
Florida has many activities that you may partake in how about hiking in the Apalachicola. The largest of Florida’s three national forests occupies more than 900 square miles of the states north, the Panhandle. The Florida National Scenic trail is a 1400 mile trail which cuts through the forest and includes fishing, snorkeling and walking.

You may also opt to swim in the Ponce de Leon Springs. This crystal clear spring was named after Juan de Ponce de Leon who led the first Spanish expedition to Florida in 1513. Legend holds that he came here in search of the fountain of youth.

Although most of Florida’s Atlantic coast is built up and crowded, the 24 miles of the Canaveral National Seashore’s unspoiled barrier islands is great for someone seeking a quieter vacation.

Transportation
Florida is a rather large state and some regions are not serviced by public transport. Your best option may be to rent a car from the airport or in Miami.

Where to Stay
There are many lovely areas and inns you may stay in Florida, from fine houses featuring Victorian architecture to the more modern resorts.

Photo by Larry Keller