The Sunshine State is home to so much more than just theme parks (although no one's complaining about those). Eclectic cities, fabulous shopping, natural beauty, top-hole golf... Florida is truly an all-you-can-see buffet of heroic holiday attractions.
Experience the real Florida using tips from the people who've been there. Our customers have tried the rides in the theme parks, been searched for alligators in the Everglades, and relaxed on the miles and miles of sandy beaches. Check out their top tips to help you make the most of your adventure.
With canals and waterways threaded through the city, it’s no wonder that Fort Lauderdale is known locally as ‘The Venice of America’. (Fun fact: there are 11 places in the US called Venice.) You can experience the waterways with a relaxing guided tour, or go it alone by chartering a boat for the day. This nautical network spans 165 miles of canals throughout the city and lets you see the sights from a completely unique angle. Just think of the selfies you’ll take.
When you want a break from playing Jacques Cousteau, Fort Lauderdale offers plenty of places to shop, relax and learn. Beaches abound, and cater for beach bums and adrenaline junkies alike. Sawgrass Mills is the largest single-storey mall in America, with more than 350 shops to explore. Then there’s Flamingo Gardens – home, unsurprisingly, to a huge flock of our pink-feathered friends, as well as 3,000 species of subtropical plants and wildlife. Meanwhile, there’s always something new to learn at the Museum of Discovery and Science, a multimedia paradise of space exploration, aviation and the largest living Atlantic coral reef in captivity.
Our customers' top tips:
"If you travel to Fort Lauderdale beach in July/August you might be lucky enough to see the baby turtles hatching!" Katherine McAlpine
"Visit a 'drive in' movie at Fort Lauderdale – a fantastic experience." Kerry Webster
"Fort Lauderdale's Jungle Queen Sunset BBQ Cruise is a must." Victoria Harrison
Naples, Marco Island & Everglades
Swinging times in Naples
‘The finest town in Florida’ is as elegant as it is indulgent, and this is never clearer than when you’re playing one of its many beautiful golf courses. You could spend your entire holiday hacking away happily amid the stunning scenery, but you’ll probably want to take a break to explore the vast natural reserves that surround many of the courses.
Relaxing beaches on Marco Island
Think beach paradise, think Marco Island. Miles upon miles of beautiful Gulf beaches frame the island, with plenty of safe, shallow and warm waters for families to enjoy. Naples, too, has over 10 miles of beaches, with Lowdermilk Beach Park being a family favourite and Clams Pass Beach Park offering serenity in the sun.
The amazing Everglades
If vast natural wonders are what float your airboat, this World Heritage Site is for you. As the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, it’s the place to see endangered species up close and personal – including the iconic American crocodile.
You can get back to nature and enjoy the national park (all 1.5 million acres of it) via canoe, bicycle and even on foot. Pack some sturdy shoes and leave your heels in the hotel room.
Hungry as a gator? Then sink your teeth into the historic Naples downtown area. Foodies can enjoy waterfront gourmet restaurants, open-air bistros and cosmopolitan eateries providing fresh Caribbean cuisine. For a little culture on the side, Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South offer a delightful mix of art galleries and boutiques.
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park has to be seen to be believed. The extraordinary landscape can be explored via the many trails, ranger-guided swamp walks, and even by water tour in a canoe or kayak. Spend your days surfing and sailing, then spend the night in a classic lodge beneath the stars.
Our customers' top tips:
"Visit Naples pier for spectacular sunsets and dolphin, stingray and pelican spotting." Teresa
"Enjoy the West Coast and feed the giraffes at Naples Zoo." @mrsacmby
"Thinking of getting married in Naples? Have your ceremony in the evening while the sun is setting on Naples Beach." Caroline Leah
Road Trip on Highway 192
If you hear the call of the open road, check out Route 192. It cuts across 75 miles of central Florida, offering access to many of the state’s best and brightest attractions, including Walt Disney WorldResort.
Kissimmee is one of these sparkling destinations, full to the brim with kitschy shops, restaurants catering to all tastes, and wonderful half-day attractions to entertain the whole family.
Fabulous airboat tours
Lakes, marshes, wildlife, and untouched scenery are just some of the things Florida is famous for, and you'll find them all in abundance in Kissimmee. An airboat tour is the perfect way to take in these wonders of nature, with Boggy Creek and Shingle Creek even giving you the chance to spot alligators in their natural environment.
For the chance to literally walk on the wild side, lace up your stoutest shoes and take on the hiking trail of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park: a gorgeous, unspoiled wilderness reserve of open grasslands and palm forests.
Old Town gives you the chance to step back in time, thanks to its retro-style shopping centre full of unique stores. Meanwhile, if you simply can’t visit Florida without making it mouse-tastic, Celebration is a community that was actually created and run by Disney, with hints of Mickey around every corner.
Unmissable Miami Beach
Is there any beach more iconic than Miami? While the miles of sand make one heck of a sundeck, adventurers of all ages will also find lots to tempt them. Snorkeling in Biscayne Bay’s reefs is an otherworldly experience, and the Seaquarium gives everyone a chance to meet beautiful marine life.
For cultural experiences the whole family can enjoy, check out the Adrienne Arsht Center for thrilling musicals, dramas and more.
Classic Art Deco architecture
Art Deco, the movement that shocked and delighted in the ‘30s, is still alive and well in Miami. Ocean Drive, the neighbourhood best known for its iconic designs, is recognised by the National Register of Historic Places and includes 800 structures of historical significance.
Pretty pastel shades, porthole windows and nautical railings are just a few of the period styles you’ll find in this stunning city.
Get ready to flex that credit card: Miami does retail therapy like no other. High-end boutiques stand side by side with thrift stores, creating a varied and genuinely exciting shopping environment. Meanwhile, Little Havana acts as the heart of the Cuban community, whose influences can be seen throughout the city and in its vibrant food scene, bars and culture.
Art Deco influences are just the start of Miami’s pitch to culture vultures: the Museum of Contemporary Art is among the best in the country; Miami Beach Cinematheque regularly hosts fascinating world cinema; and the Haitian Heritage Museum gives an insight into Caribbean life and traditions.
The most magical holiday destination in the world. The Walt Disney World Resort is the place where worries and cares disappear, fantasy and fun reign supreme and dreams coming true are the everyday.
Four Disney Theme Parks, two Disney Water Parks, over 20 themed Resort Hotels, two entertainment districts, and a state of-the-art sports complex immerse you in a world filled with exhilarating excitement, fantastic thrills and wonder. Add in countless opportunities for dining, shopping, relaxation and refreshing recreation, plus a huge range of activities from golf to relaxing spas, and it’s easy to see how this holiday of a lifetime has something for everyone.
St Pete's & Clearwater
There is plenty for culture vultures to see and do including the world famous Dali Museum which houses more than 2,000 works of art and boasts the most comprehensive collection of the Spanish surrealist’s works outside of Spain.
The Caladesi Island State Park is four miles of idyllic white sands and crystal clear water, Lounge on the beach, paddle the three-mile mangrove trail by kayak or sling your hook from your boat into the saltwater to catch some fish. This place is nothing short of heavenly and the kind of place the entire family will enjoy.
Fort De Soto Park offers a ton of activities such as biking, rollerblading, kayaking, kitesurfing, visiting the historic fort or simply just sunbathing.
Visit Winter, star of Dolphin Tale at Clearwater Marine Aquarium and learn about her remarkable journey.
Extending out into the fish-filled waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Pier 60 is a great place for a spot of fishing, but when the sun begins to set, that's when this local landmark really comes to life.
Our customers' top tips:
"Make sure you spend a day at St Pete's beach – possibly the best beach in the world." Sara Ockwellsmith
"Best tip for seeing dolphins: Clearwater beach boat ride and lovely inlet restaurants in St Petersburg." @ActuallyMummy
"A must do: a glass of wine at sunset at the pier in St Petersburg." David Sharp
Watch manatees in the wild at Manatee Park and be sure to keep an eye out for rare birds and alligators.
The area is also popular with the local wildlife, especially the endangered Florida manatees. These gentle, lumbering ‘sea cows’ can be encountered at Manatee Park, where it’s even possible to kayak amongst them in their natural habitat.
Please note that it is illegal to ever approach touch or feed a manatee as they are sadly on the endangered species list.
Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Take the family to one of the many idyllic beaches and soak up the gorgeous Floridian sunshine. If you love to shop, then grab yourself some bargains at the Sanibel Tanger Factory Outlets. Sanibel is an attractive seaside town which boasts amazing sunsets and luxurious hotels. For a truly romantic and memorable experience treat yourself to dinner onboard the Sanibel Harbour Princess, a luxury yacht sailing nightly for dinner and on Sunday for brunch.
Captiva Island is the sister to the larger Sanibel Island and pristine beaches, colourful shells and breathtaking sunsets is what it’s famous for. Captiva Island is all about the great outdoors with sailing, biking, birdwatching and water sports aplenty.
With a host of history to soak up, a bunch of gorgeous beaches to enjoy, and plenty of opportunities for shopping and activities; St. Augustine is one of Florida’s best playgrounds.
Explore the town’s multi-cultural heritage, and take advantage of the free events and tours on offer, to make the most of this beautiful city.