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With some of America’s best beaches, most imaginative theme parks, and wildest nightlife scenes, the Sunshine State is basically synonymous with vacation. But it isn’t all hedonism and sunburns. Wildlife teems within the state’s parks and coral reefs, and culture and history can be found in cities like Miami and St. Augustine. If you’re looking to escape to a quiet island where nobody but the seagulls and hermit crabs will intrude, Florida has that, too.
Water enthusiasts will undoubtedly appreciate this peninsula most, considering the state offers 8,500 miles of shoreline, 7,800 lakes, 320 natural springs, and 35 rivers. The opportunities for outdoor adventure in Florida simply abound, from paddling through Everglades National Park to scuba diving along a coral reef in the Keys, fishing off a scenic pier, or jet-skiing on the coast. Wherever you land in this wondrous state, expect to swim every day and admire Technicolor sunsets.
Travelers tend to arrive in Florida by air or car, with regional transportation hubs set in Miami (MIA), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Orlando (MCO), Tampa (TPA), and Jacksonville (JAX). Major interstates include the I-10, which comes over from Alabama to the west, and I-75 and I-95, which come from Georgia to the north. While arriving in Florida by bus (Greyhound and Megabus) or train (Amtrak) is possible, these options aren’t as popular.
Florida’s infrastructure was built to be navigated on wheels, meaning that most travelers will either arrive by car or rent one. But rideshares, shuttles, taxis, bicycle rentals, your own two feet, and other forms of local transport are also on the table, depending on your particular destination.
With few exceptions, most destinations in Florida experience high season from March to August, and visitation peaks during Spring Break and the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Northern beaches are packed in the summertime, as are Orlando’s theme parks, when heat and humidity levels max out. February and September are lovely shoulder months for a Florida trip, considering the drier weather and relatively relaxed vibe. Temperatures cool off starting in October, and the beaches quiet down considerably for a spell until the snowbirds show up in December. The dry season of November to April is also ideal for hiking and camping. Do note: Hurricane season stretches from early June to the end of November.
Declared a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance, this vast subtropical wilderness is also known as the “River of Grass.” An airboat ride here is a quintessential Florida experience, but paddling a kayak or even strolling the boardwalk through a mangrove swamp will also allow a glimpse of this wetland’s unrivaled beauty.
Florida is home to more than 4,500 islands, including the Keys, the most famous string of these self-contained bits of paradise. Where to go depends upon how you’d like to spend your days: searching for seashells on Sanibel Island, strolling Amelia Island’s 13 miles of white sand, snorkeling off Hutchinson Island in Martin County, or walking along the winding boardwalk of St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park.
White sand beaches, teal water, glitzy 1930s architecture, and pulsating dance parties are only the entry point to this world-class city by the sea, which features strong Iberian, Caribbean, and South and Central American influences. Creativity percolates here, manifesting itself in the city’s art, design, gastronomy, and nightlife, while tropical gardens and verdant parks offer opportunities to appreciate the region’s flora and fauna.