There's more to Florida than just Disney and Hogwarts. Here you'll find a few spots all around Florida that are a must-see for both residents and visitors. Some of these places are naturally beautiful, some have significant historical value, and some are just so Florida that we couldn't not mention 'em.
6500 Peanut Island Road, West Palm Beach, (561) 845-4445
Enjoy a breezy day on this lovely island that also was close to being the control center of a post-apocalyptic America. A secret bunker was installed underground on this South Florida vacation spot during the Cold War to shelter President John F. Kennedy in case the country was destroyed by nuclear war. The fallout shelter is open to tours for the public, if you want to mix cold war history with your summer vacation.
1 S Castillo Dr, St Augustine, (904) 829-6506
The Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine is the oldest masonry fortress in the United States and it’s weathered its fair share of battles. It’s unique star-shaped design comes from 15th century Italy, and was created to withstand newly-created cannon projectiles. The Spanish used the porous coquina limestone to build its walls, which had the benefit of absorbing cannon blasts rather than shattering. Tours are $10 and cannons are fired every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
907 Whitehead St, Key West, (305) 294-1136
Most go to Key West to party, but take the time to visit the home of one of the finest authors of our time. Ernest Hemingway made Key West his home after residing in Cuba, and the house is as interesting as the man himself. It’s full of European furnishings and trophies brought back from Africa, and possesses the first in-ground pool in Key West. A ship captain gave Hemingway a six-toed cat as a present, who Hemingway named Snow White. There are 40-50 six-toed cats on the grounds today, who are believed to be descendants of Hemingway’s original feline.
6) Southernmost Point Buoy
Whitehead St, Key West, (305) 809-3700
Technically, it’s only the southernmost point of the continental United States — Hawaii is actually closer to the equator — but it’s still as close as most of us are ever going to get. This giant concrete monument might be living a lie, but none of your friends are going to know it, so you can still brag about it after snapping a pic for your Instagram.
7) Tarpon Springs
The sponge industry gave this Florida city its claim to fame, and has helped it establish a vibrant and thriving Greek culture. Check out the Sponge Docks for a variety of Greek restaurants, markets, and bakeries.
This National Park is a national treasure on top of being a Florida landmark. It’s a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a specially protected area under the Cartagena treaty. The Everglades are home to a plethora of unique fauna including manatees, the florida crocodile, Florida Panthers and more.
9) Lake Okeechobee
Also known as Florida’s inland sea, this 730-mile lake ranks as the largest in Florida. It’s home to a large selection of reptiles, fish, birds and more, so you’re guaranteed to spot Florida’s unique wildlife.
5656 E Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs, (352) 236-2121
Take a trip to the horse capital of the world and see what the springs have to offer. The Silver Springs in Ocala are known as one of the largest artesian springs in the world. It’s been the location for film shoots, including the 1930s and 40s Tarzan films and the iconic 1954 horror film Creature From The Black Lagoon. Make sure to try out the glass bottom boat tours to see what lies below the water's surface. But be careful, the springs are home to packs of rhesus macaque monkeys.
11) Spook Hill
5th St, Lake Wales
Spook Hill is a gravity hill, an optical illusion where a car appears to roll upwards against the force of gravity. But really, that’s just one explanation, and the town of Lake Wales has their own: “Many years ago an Indian village on Lake Wales was plagued by raids of a huge gator. The Chief, a great warrior, killed the gator in a battle that created a small lake. The chief was buried on the north side. Pioneer mail riders first discovered their horses laboring down hill, thus naming it "Spook Hill." When the road was paved, cars coasted uphill. Is this the gator seeking revenge, or the chief still trying to protect his land?”
Created from a coral rock quarry in 1923, the Venetian Pool is a sight that can’t be missed. This 820,000 gallon pool is filled with spring water from a nearby aquifer. It’s home to two waterfalls and grottos for swimmers to explore. Non-resident tickets go for around $13.
28655 S Dixie Hwy, Homestead, (305) 248-6345The entrance to the Coral Castle says “You will be seeing unusual accomplishment” and that still holds true, decades after its creation. The eccentric Ed Leedskalnin created this sculpture garden in the 1940s, but it’s not known how. No one ever saw Leedskalnin build anything. When asked about how he created his masterpiece, he simply said he knew the secret of how the ancient pyramids were created and if he could learn, so could you.
3345 Caverns Rd, Marianna, (850) 482-9598This is the only state park in Florida with dry, air-filled caves. Guided tours are offered Thursday through Monday and last about 45 minutes. It is advised that the tours are “moderately strenuous”, so a good pair of shoes and comfortable activewear are probably a good choice if you decide to see the inside of these caves.
1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, (863) 676-1408
Founded by Edward W. Bok, The Bok Tower Gardens is a National Historic Landmark comprised of a garden, a bird sanctuary, and a 51-foot tower that has been nicknamed “The Singing Tower” for its 60-bell carillon. Recitals are given daily, and if you’re looking for a little bit of peace and beauty, this is one place to keep on your radar.
200 Greene St, Key West, (305) 294-2633
The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum is the only accredited museum in Key West, which basically means they’re also a research and archaeology institution. The museum houses the treasure recovered from 1622 Spanish Galleons, as well as exhibits of Caribbean piracy and slave ships. They also used to have a pure gold bar that visitors could lift through plexiglass, but unfortunately that was stolen in 2010.
Wildlife refuge in Merritt Island, (321)-861-5601
During the cooler months between October and May, paddle your kayak through the waters of the Indian River Lagoon and watch as the water around you begins to glow from the light of bioluminescent comb jellyfish. Come back again during the summer where every movement in the water, from a speeding fish to a meandering manatee, produces a stream of bright blue-green light.
5390 NE 180th Ave, Williston, (352) 528-3344This might not actually be the devil’s actual den, but to early settlers, the steam that escapes the cave in cold weather kind of looked like chimney smoke, and the obvious conclusion to them was that the cave led to Hell. Of course, what else could this underground spring possibly be? Maybe just a haven for extinct animal fossils like saber tooths and mastodons, or the final resting place for humans dating back to 7,500 BC, but you know. No big deal. Visitors can scuba dive and do some snorkeling.
1206 3rd St N, Safety Harbor, (727) 725-4018
Back in 1985, Whimzeyland was just an ordinary cookie-cutter home in a residential neighborhood. But now, ordinary is not a word that can be used to describe it. Also known as “The Bowling Ball House”, this house has been a 20-year project for Artists Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda that started when they went to a local flea market and saw a sign for 10 free bowling balls per person. Now, the house has over 300. It is free to look around the house, but the artists are away during the summer art show season.
1116 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, (786) 485-2200Italian Designer Gianni Versace bought this Ocean Drive mansion in 1992, and despite the fact that it is now more commonly known as the “Versace Mansion”, he only got to live in it for five years before he was murdered at its front steps by Andrew Cunanan in 1997. Casa Casuarina now operates as a high-end boutique hotel, so if you want to sleep in a place that has both marble bathrooms and a bloody past, you might want to splurge to stay here.