Did you know that Florida is the third-most-populous state in the country? This is only behind massive California and Texas. As of July 2018, there were 21.3 million residents in the sunshine state.
Not only is the current population high, but the number continues to rise.
Every day, Florida sees 919 new Floridians, whether from people moving there (the majority) or from new births. Maybe it’s the weather—perhaps it’s the endless amount of must-see places in Florida—whatever the reason, the numbers prove its popularity.
Are you planning a trip or a move yourself? What places should you put on your must-visit list?
I’ve compiled a list of nine popular spots for day trips, a little history lesson, or just some fun in the sun. And trust me—there’s more where this came from!
Let’s get started.
1. St. Augustine
This city is located on the northeast coast of Florida. Many claim that St. Augustine is the oldest city in the entire U.S., so if you’re a history buff, you’ll have to make a stop here. It still holds centuries-old buildings, brick-lined streets, and plenty of European charm.
For 450 years’ worth of history—and maybe a horse-drawn carriage or two—take a stroll through the city and view its multicultural heritage. There’s plenty to eat and drink throughout as you explore the place where expeditions happened.
2. Kennedy Space Center
Make your way to Cape Canaveral if you want to see the place where rockets have been launched in NASA’s name since the 1960s. In fact, this site is where the first human departed for a journey to the moon!
It’s also the base for space shuttle launches and landings, as well as the starting point for hundreds of other aircraft.
The Kennedy Space Center has a timer on their website that tells you when the next launch will be. Sync your visit up to the timer for a fascinating sight.
3. The Florida Keys
If you’re coming to Florida, you may as well keep driving to its southernmost point and make the Florida Keys a stop on your list.
Although the Keys make up over 1,700 islands, only about 43 are accessible by car. The rest, if you’re feeling adventurous, could be a day trip away by boat. See for yourself what beautiful coral reefs are made up of.
You can check out the remote island that houses Bahia Honda State Park. Take an extended tour through Ernest Hemingway’s house and see where he resided (with his six-fingered cats) for over a decade. Or visit their countless trails, preserves, and sanctuaries that teach you about their wildlife.
4. Everglades National Park
The Everglades National Park is a lauded international treasure for many reasons—it’s a:
- World Heritage Site
- Wetland of International Importance
- International Biosphere Reserve, and
- A Specially-Protected Area Under the Cartagena Treaty
This beautiful, vast landscape is home to valuable, unique habitats that hold rare wildlife of Florida—the elusive Florida panther, the American crocodile, manatees.
The park was established in 1947 specifically to conserve its landscape and protect its land, water, and animals. Thanks to the help of scientists and conservationists, this idea became a reality. The Everglades makes up under 2,000 acres (over 2,000 less than it began) of cypress, mangroves, hardwood hammock, and more.
5. Weeki Wachee
If you want to dip your toes in some pure Florida springs, then make Weeki Wachee a stop on your tour. This beautiful spring, located in Hernando County, has been a destination spot for tourists and residents alike since 1947.
The water stays a cool 72 degrees year-round—but you’ll quickly acclimate to the cooler temps by staying warm with activity. Paddle or kayak down the Weeki Wachee river, play in the water park that’s entirely spring water, or keep it casual and watch the mermaid show.
Weeki Wachee houses the coast’s number one canoe and kayak facility. Rent one for the day and enjoy clear, clean water, maybe spot a manatee or a giant staghorn’s fern, and jump from a tree or two.
6. Blowing Rock Preserve
This preserve, located in Jupiter, Florida, is one of The Nature Conservancy‘s proudest accomplishments.
It’s a beautiful, still-peaceful piece of land that is a sanctuary and well-known model for native coastal habitat restoration. This island is home to creatures and plants that you can’t find elsewhere in Florida—loggerheads, leatherback sea turtles, sea grapes.
It has an extremely rocky coastline made of limestone, which some rock climbers actually summit during low tides. During storms or unusually high tides, plumes of saltwater can reach heights of up to 50 feet.
Take a visit here and thank the generous residents of Jupiter City for their donation of the 73 acres. They had a direct hand in preserving an authentic Florida dune habitat.
7. The City of Bradenton
Bradenton, Florida is home to its own must-visit list. There are plenty of things to do in Bradenton whether you’re an art geek or a beach bum.
Anna Maria Island is one of the best beaches in Florida. It offers crystalline water, a fantastic fish pier, and soft, white sand. When you’re done at the beach, take a stroll through the Bridge Street Market, or make your way to the Village of the Arts.
Bradenton has its own national park, too. Check out the De Soto National Memorial for a reconstructed version of de Soto’s campground.
Must-See Places in Florida—Whether You’re a Resident or Tourist
This list was hard to create because let’s be honest—there’s no lack of things to do in the sunshine state. Once you’ve finished visiting these nine must-see places in Florida, there’s nine more where they came from.
To help make the most of your adventure, check out the ‘Travel Tips’ section of my blog!