The Anti-Tourist’s Guide to Visiting Florida
When many people think of a vacation in Florida, most picture images of Disney World, Epcot Center, and Universal Studios. Those modern, man-made marvels are impressive in their own way and have their place for family fun — but they are also chock full of tourists and can cost a fortune.
Instead, experience the real Florida.
Steer clear of the tourist traps and see the natural beauty of one of America’s most astounding states. All it takes is a car and a desire to seek out the less-heralded locations that fewer people ever take the time to visit. Driving around such a large state means you have to know all the rules, however, so be sure to review Florida’s driving laws before you head out.
Swamps and bayous exist in many locations — but there is nothing quite like the Everglades. Even the name itself conjures up an alluring, dangerous place, and the ecosystems and backwater beauty mean that a day spent cruising around on an airboat is something you will never forget. And it is the best way to see the famous Florida ‘gator in her natural habitat — all from the safety of your boat.
Though located in the United States, some call Miami the capital of Latin America. The lively city is full of Cubans, Colombians, and Dominicans, making it arguably the most international city in the nation. While it is all worth exploring, South Beach is its jewel. Located a short taxi ride across a bridge over Biscayne Bay, this is the Miami you know from film and television. From high-end boutiques and five-star restaurants to beachgoers and beauty queens, you’re sure to see it all at one of the most glamorous shorelines on Earth. Enjoy the surf, have a mojito, or just revel in the gorgeous oceanfront views.
Anna Maria Island
Near Tampa Bay sits the gorgeous Anna Maria Island. This barrier break in the Gulf of Mexico is a popular destination, but a weekend here will help you escape while avoiding the worst of the tourist rush that Florida attracts. There is great fishing and golf if lazy seaside days aren’t enough for you, and the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum even offers up a bit of regional history.
Ernest Hemingway House
America’s greatest writer had a lifelong love affair with the Florida Keys. Anyone who has been can attest to just how pleasant the area is — and it was even more desolate and pristine back when Ernest Hemingway was enjoying its impeccable waters and climate. To gain perspective on just why he loved it so much, visit his old house in Key West, where he wrote “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and cared for the six-toed cats that continue to populate the grounds of what is now a museum dedicated to the author’s life.
Dry Tortugas National Park
This under-the-radar site features Fort Jefferson, a 19th century fort that was made from more than 15 million bricks. The historical allure is obvious, but you can also snorkel in the gorgeous waters that are full of sea life, enjoy some great birdwatching, take a kayak out, or even camp for a night in an altogether unique location to rest your bones. It’s a bit of a long boat ride to get there, but the trip itself is an epic jaunt through the open water — so you won’t be disappointed.