27 essential Florida destinations you need to visit before you bite the dust

by and

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. 

1) Kennedy Space Center 
Kennedy Space Center, SR 405, Titusville, (321) 452-2121
You’re probably never going to fly into space, but this is the next best thing. The center is a hotspot for the entire country, and holds space travel technology and equipment that we used decades ago. Visitors can even sit and watch NASA’s official rocket launches into space. Even though you can’t go with the astronauts on their voyage, the center does have  fragments of moon rocks you can touch.

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2) Peanut Island

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. 

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3) Ancient Spanish Monastery
16711 West Dixie Highway North Miami Beach, 305-945-1461
This monastery was built in 1133 AD in Sacramenia, near Segovia, Spain. In 1925, William Randolph Hearst purchased the building, and had it deconstructed brick-by-brick and shipped to the United States. It sat in a warehouse for 26 years until entrepreneurs bought it and rebuilt it to the tune of $20 million over 19 months. It was repurchased and now stands in Miami with a loyal congregation. 

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4) Castillo de San Marcos

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.

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5) Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West

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.

8) Everglades National Park

(305) 242-7700

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.

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10) Silver Springs State Park

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.

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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?”

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12) Key West Duval Street
Key West is where you go to party, and Duval Street is the street you want to party on. Hog’s Breath, Sloppy Joes, Margaritaville, and so many more restaurants and bars sit on this street where people come from all over the world to celebrate. This is the place to be. 

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13) Venetian Pools
2701 De Soto Blvd, Coral Gables, (305) 460-5306

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.

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14) Cassadaga

Florida is colorful, that can’t be denied. Where else would you find the Psychic Capital of the World? Cassadaga, a community in Volusia County, is home to numerous psychics and mediums. Take a trip to experience the supernatural. 

15) Coral Castle

28655 S Dixie Hwy, Homestead, (305) 248-6345

The 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. 

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16) Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
1502 SE Kings Bay Dr, Crystal River, (352) 563-2088
Come here if you want to see the largest group of manatees you’ll ever encounter. The refuge was specifically designed for the protection of the endangered Florida Manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee. Visit in the wintertime and you’ll be able to glimpse over 600 of these majestic sea cows. 

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17) Florida Caverns State Park

3345 Caverns Rd, Marianna, (850) 482-9598

This 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.

18) Bok Tower Gardens

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.

19) Kingsley Plantation in Amelia Island
11676 Palmetto Ave, Jacksonville, (904) 251-3537
Kingsley Plantation is a former estate owned by Zephaniah Kingsley from 1814 to 1837. The plantation was acquired by the National Parks Service in 1991, and through various waves of restoration, now showcases many parts of the estate as it used to look in the past, which includes a fully-restored slave cabin. Kingsley Plantation is cited by the National Park Service as the oldest surviving plantation house in the state.
20) Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

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.

21) John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, (941) 359-5700
John Ringling opened the museum in 1931 to serve as both a legacy for himself and to promote art appreciation in the state. He was one of five Ringling brothers who ran the circus called “The Greatest Show on Earth”, which made him one of the richest men in America in the 1920s. As he traveled for the circus, he bought many significant art pieces for his private collection, most of which can be found in this museum. 

22) Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

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.

23) Solomon’s Castle
4533 Solomon Rd, Ona, (863) 494-6077
This castle was built by Sculptor Howard Solomon and the outside is covered completely with aluminum printing plates. It covers about 12,000 square feet and stands about three stories tall. The castle is open to the public on Tuesday through Sunday, for most of the year except July through September. Admission for adults is $10, and $4 for kids 12 and under.
PHOTO VIA  LIVELIFEINHIFI/INSTAGRAM
  • Photo via livelifeinhifi/Instagram
24) Devil’s Den

5390 NE 180th Ave, Williston, (352) 528-3344

This 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.

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25) Whimzeyland

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.

#Miami #Southbeach 😍

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26) South Beach
Miami, FL 33139
Today South Beach has pretty much become synonymous with a trip to Miami. This Miami Vice set location attracts millions of tourists and spring-breakers all over the world each year because of its beaches, active nightlife, and restaurants. If anything you might have to jostle the crowds at the beach at the peak of summer, but there are worse things in life than fighting for a prime tanning spot.

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27) Casa Casuarina

1116 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, (786) 485-2200

Italian 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. 

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