Most people visit Florida for its theme parks and party beaches, but there is another side. The state is a place of incredible natural beauty and home to some of the most powerful and influential people of the 20th Century. If you’re looking for something beyond the “usual Florida vacation,” keep reading for some of our favorite outdoor spaces and hidden cultural treasures.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
The Florida Keys have always been one of our favorite places, and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one of the reasons. The coral reef encompasses 70 nautical square miles off the coast of Key Largo, and the park includes mangrove forests, tropical hammocks and numerous beach habitats. 100-feet offshore from Cannon Beach there are remnants of an early Spanish shipwreck, and with sailing, diving and snorkeling tours leaving several times a day, it is a great place to experience the magic of the Keys.
St. George Island State Park
In a state known for its white sand beaches, St. George Island State Park is one of the most pristine. A long barrier island between Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, St. George is a place of sand dunes, sea oats and sunsets. It is tranquil and unspoiled. There’s also no shortage of activities, with boating, fishing, swimming and all the things you want from a beach minus the crowds and high-rise condominiums.
Keep reading below for three more Florida favorites…
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
It would be a shame not to see manatees while in Florida. The Homosassa Springs have always attracted them, and today the park is a key part of the state’s manatee rehabilitation program.
In addition, the park has many of Florida’s other native wildlife species. The rangers offer wildlife encounters and presentations throughout the day, and the freshwater springs and cypress swamps offer a beautiful environment for kayaking.
Edison & Ford Winter Estates
Located in Fort Myers, the Edison & Ford Winter Estates were the winter quarters of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. The grounds, gardens and houses, including Edison’s workshop, are open to the public. This is a chance to go back in time and see how two influential men lived a simple yet elegant lifestyle in the days before air-conditioning.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Situated on the shores of Sarasota Bay, the grounds of this unique Florida attraction is much more than a circus sideshow. Though John Ringling was one of the seven siblings who created the Ringling Brothers Circus, his former Florida estate includes lavish gardens, an art museum with several large paintings by Rubens and yes, even a circus museum. Ringling had an opulent lifestyle. From the imported marble floors to the exquisite furnishings, this is the place to see just what money could buy.
From lavish estates and art to beautiful natural scenery, Florida has lots to offer the visitor sick of roller coasters and mouse ears. Chart a course for the “other Florida” on your next visit.