This state park has superior cabins and is a great base for kayaking the Suwannee and hiking. It’s also home to an oddly dated museum on Stephen Foster. (We considered it a funky Florida find.)
At Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park near Jacksonville, Florida’s largest Civil War battle will be reenacted, with gun smoke, booming cannons and cavalry. Three of the famous “Colored Regiments” were among 10,000 troops that fought here.
Wakulla Springs State Park has a historic lodge, spectacular spring/swimming hole, scenic boat rides and many spots to hike, bike and kayak nearby. The Big Bend region of Florida is often overlooked by visitors, who are missing out on a rustic, rural area.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is a vast place where visitors see birds, wildlife and a historic lighthouse. It’s a hidden gem in the Big Bend region.
This large state park in a rural, out-of-the-way part of Central Florida, preserves Old Florida cracker history. It offers great hiking trails and camping plus lakes to explore by kayak or canoe. Wildlife, from deer to alligators to sandhill cranes to eagles, is abundant.
The island of Palm Beach is the exclusive winter home of billionaires. For the rest of us, it’s a fun place to gawk at mansions and their ficus hedges sculpted into works of art. The town is full of history, too, from Henry Flagler to JFK to Donald Trump.
Deering Estate is a serene spot in South Dade offering sweeping views of Biscayne Bay, a fascinating tour of a castle-like home and boat tours of Biscayne National Park.
One of Florida’s least accessible historic sites, Fort Gadsden, also known as “The Negro Fort”, is a tale of war — and the deadliest cannonball in American history.
Florida’s wackiness goes back to its first settlers, and Koreshan State Historic Site celebrates one of our earliest eccentrics. Thanks to this cult leader, though, a lovely wooded site on the Estero River was preserved through the years for us to enjoy.
The west side of the Indian River Lagoon has an Old Florida flavor — especially the scenic 20-mile drive between Stuart and Fort Pierce. The region has enough places to explore to make a great getaway.
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.
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 the nation’s No. 4 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.