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Florida Holidays – Enjoy all of the sunshine state

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It’s easy to turn a blind eye to what lies beyond the beautiful beaches and attractions of Orlando and Walt Disney World, where most overseas visitors eventually find themselves. Still, Florida holidays offer much more culture, scenery and character than the brochures would have you believe. From the Alabama and Georgia border to the KeysFlorida has more things to do than almost any other place in the United States. Nearly 200 national and state parks all feature the real Florida, with a diverse landscape of forests, marshes and mangroves where the raw, unspoiled country makes up a surprisingly large percentage of the state.

Some say The Panhandle does not seem to be part of Florida. It’s more akin to the Deep South in terms of location and style and is pretty much overlooked by most overseas visitors as tourism has been built on a domestic audience. However, the area still possesses exceptional beaches with many lightly populated. However, Panama City Beach has nearly 30 miles or strips of beaches, hotels, amusement parks and arcades, and a great reputation for diving the coral reefs with many shipwrecks creating artificial diving sites.

Quiet little Amelia Island, sitting only 15 miles from the Georgia border, is popular with visitors who can appreciate a charming seaside destination with few crowds in sight. Pristine beaches envelop the east side of the island, while salty marsh estuaries lie to the west, and the oldest lighthouse in Florida proudly stands nearly 70 feet tall. Thirteen miles long and two miles wide, Amelia offers charming beachfront lodges and inns which line the island, but accommodation can fill up very quickly.

St Augustine on Florida’s northwest coast is considered the oldest city in mainland America. Settlers arrived in the mid-1500s, and some buildings like Castillo de San Marcos date back almost that far. It has a walkable historic old town, with many of the picturesque narrow streets lined with attractive buildings. Coupled with over 40 miles of beaches, many golf courses, and several marinas in the area, it’s a popular destination. 

Continuing southwards, Daytona Beach mirrors its image as being somewhat brash and boisterous and hasn’t quite rid itself of the “spring break” crowd, but with 23 miles of beachfront, there is a lot of room for everyone to relax and enjoy the area. It will always be known for the Daytona International Speedway, and residents and visitors alike share their passion for all motor vehicles, even to the extent of being allowed to drive on the beach within certain hours. 

Moving eastwards into the Gulf Coast region, Crystal River is a sleepy, tucked-away destination and has little in the way of culinary or nightlife offerings, but it’s home to some of the best natural beauty of Florida, especially for those who love being on the water. The big attraction, however, is the chance to watch manatees laze around in the clear, warm springs, mainly in the winter months.

Florida Holidays – The Orlando theme parks offer an action packed vacation.

Orlando and the Space Coast is the destination of choice for a large percentage of visitors planning a vacation to Florida, and for good reason, with Walt Disney World and Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Animal Kingdom, Discovery Cove, Gatorland, Legoland and more, all located within a vast area of entertainment. Offering over 100,000 hotel rooms, Orlando is rarely full, although it may seem like it at times. With a bewildering list of things to see and do, the secret is to try and not do it all.  

Take time out to head due east from Orlando, and you’ll land at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where you can explore a 130-square-mile complex dedicated to all things space travel and, if you’re timing is right, watch rocket launches. 

Florida Holidays – Villa holidays offer a great option for those who prefer their own space.

Tampa was never the most popular place for overseas visitors, but the now revitalised Riverwalk on the heart of downtown on the Hillsborough River is attracting many new admirers. With the always-popular Busch Gardens Theme Park just outside town and the Ybor City Historic District known for its Cuban and Latin American influence in the many bars, restaurants and clubs, the city is getting a lot more attention. Nearby Clearwater Beach is a laid-back town that consistently ranks among the best beaches in Florida. Visit during the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival, and you’ll see monstrous sand carvings, the kind of beachfront art event only Florida can host. A little further south lies Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, both offering a Caribbean feel and unspoiled pale sandy beaches over 10 miles long. 

Directly across the state from Miami, Naples is another gem on the so-called Paradise Coast and for good reason. Romantic and ritzy, the town is known for beautiful white-sand beaches, sprawling golf courses, high-end restaurants, and upscale shopping. The retail therapy of Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South will stretch your wallet, or you can head to the impressive art galleries where you can view instead of buying. Naples Botanical Garden or Clam Pass Park are worthy natural attractions in town, and Artis Naples is a campus for visual and performing arts with a year-round list of impressive offerings throughout the complex.

Florida Holidays – Offer fantastic beach holidays on 2 coastlines

Miami, the main gateway to Florida and Miami Beach are separated from each other by Biscayne Bay. When thinking of Miami, most visitors have South Beach as an image as it is everything the city is known for. Beautiful art deco architecture, top-end boutiques with trendy bars and restaurants, some excellent museums and, of course, the world-renowned sparkling beach. A little further north of South Beach, bustling Fort Lauderdale is another seaside metropolis where you can spend action-packed days and nights, sometimes called the “Venice of America” because of its plentiful waterways where you can cruise along the canals or take a water taxi to Las Olas Boulevard for the city’s best shopping and dining.

A National Park visit might not be the first thing that comes to mind when booking a Florida holiday, but the state is ripe with one-of-a-kind natural habitats, and the Everglades is its crown jewel. The actual park only covers one-fifth of the entire Everglades, encompassing 1.5 million acres of preserved wetlands on the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. The Everglades is a slow-moving river of grass made up of unique habitats such as coastal mangroves, sawgrass marshes, pine flatwoods, and more. It’s a wildlife lover’s paradise, teeming with alligators, snakes, fish, and more than 360 species of birds. There are plenty of trails and walking tours available, but as most visitors come for the day, then an airboat ride through the marshes is a unique and unforgettable Florida experience, with the added alligator sighting a bonus for some. 

Stretching 113 miles from Key Largo to the southernmost point of the continental United States in funky Key West, the Florida Keys is a literal paradise, the road journey tempting stop-offs at every Key along the way with activities like boating, diving, fishing, and snorkelling in the coral reefs. Key West is edgier and more eccentric than anywhere else in America. However, this 7 square mile island is the most captivating, boasting the largest concentration of 19th-century wooden buildings in America, and with unique stores, restaurants and bars, it can be a noisy town, but there are surprisingly quiet areas and beaches to enjoy to the full.    


Florida is a constant surprise, and while mainly known for its many tourist highlights, there are numerous quirky and unusual attractions throughout the state. From the huge Flea Market in Waldo to mermaid viewing in Weeki Wachee or take a cruise down the canal in Key Largo on the restored “African Queen”, used in the 1951 Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn movie of the same name in 1951. Visit the amazing Dali Museum in St Petersburg, or if you want to know what your future holds, try stopping in Cassadaga near Lake Helen, which is a town of spiritualists and mediums, so if you don’t like the vision of one, you can try another. The Sea-Shell Factory in North Ft Myers is the largest of its kind and sells an enormous range of shells washed up on Florida beaches, while the Venetian Pool at Coral Gables is emptied and filled every day with filtered sea water for a swim never to be forgotten. Finally, Miami has a fabulous Design District with markets, designer stores and art galleries right next door to the artsy Wynwood area.

The 130 million tourists who visit annually can’t be wrong because Florida really does have something for everyone.

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