As you plan your Florida travels, here are seven towns that I’ve found make great bases for exploring. Each puts you in the center of outstanding places to hike, bike, kayak and explore history. Each is surrounded by natural beauty.
Like a lot of visitors, for years I had overlooked Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park on my visits to Key West because it is tucked away out of sight. But the historic fort and great beach are worth discovering.
Kayaking the Braden River, with time at Jiggs Landing and Linger Lodge, is a delightful trip back into Old Florida. Both outposts date to the 1940s and the scenic river that connects them preserves much of its natural beauty.
With eight state parks, a national park, scads of history and top beaches, Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach make a great base to explore northeast Florida.
HOMESTEAD — Robert Is Here, just outside Everglades National Park, is a must-stop for my family on the basis of its Key Lime milkshakes alone. But we also love the menangerie out back, the exotic tropical fruits there for the tasting and the overall ambiance.
This original Florida roadside attraction still thrills, especially in the spring and early summer when its rookery fills with hundreds of nesting birds. The gators and crocs are well-presented with lots of information as well as entertainment.
Apalachicola is a charming, walkable small town full of history, good food & shops. It’s 20 minutes from miles of wide splendid beach on St. George Island.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park has reopened with its iconic mermaid show and water park. The gorgeous spring-fed river is also open for kayak and SUP rentals, although the route from the park has been shortened.
There are excellent reasons to stop in Islamorada on your Florida Keys trip. Kayak to Indian Key, feed the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina, visit two craft breweries, plus there’s a cluster of cultural attractions and a top-notch museum.
It’s spring in Florida: Azaleas are blazing in white, lavender, pink and red at this Florida state park with a rich history. About half the park’s flowers are in bloom, so this is the ideal time to visit because as more open, others lose their blossoms.
Delray Beach makes a great weekend getaway: It’s a charming, walkable urban area with outstanding gardens, historic buildings, a great downtown main street and an open, natural beach.
A Virginia Key kayak outing offers an amazing combo – views of the Miami skyline rising out of Biscayne Bay in one direction, mangrove lagoons with shore birds in the other. An extra treat: It’s the best way to see the old Miami Marine Stadium.
The Gamble Mansion has white columns to rival Tara and was the site of a dramatic Civil War event. It’s the only antebellum mansion left in South Florida.
A trip to Hillsboro lighthouse, a historic and romantic landmark in Broward County, is a fun day trip that starts with the boat ride to the lighthouse.
The Kennedy Bunker, a Cold War fallout shelter build for JFK in 1961, will close after its Oct. 22 tours. The non-profit that has managed the facility has lost its lease with Palm Beach County after several years of conflict. The county has not determined the future of the facility. The last tours are Oct. 14, 15, 21 and 22.
Mount Dora is a historic town that has figured out how to keep people visiting: Maximize the natural beauty and develop big arts, crafts and antique festivals.
Emerson Point Preserve is an exceptional county park, off the beaten path on the southern end of Tampa Bay. There is excellent hiking and kayaking, and the real gem is the Portavant temple mound.