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Book picks: Florida Travel Guides written by locals

Last updated on May 5th, 2021 at 01:14 pm

Florida authors know Florida best, so this year’s book picks focus on Florida authors who are passionate about their state, adventurers who have paddled remote streams, lakes and rivers, hiked and biked forest trails or camped in Florida’s uniquely tropical environment. 

These books are not meant to be read cover to cover, but rather to be used as a reference to build an itinerary for exploring authentic Florida, the Florida you won’t see from beachfront condo towers or the Magic Kingdom.

Quixotic Key West & the Lower Keys Travel Guide

People who love visiting Key West often wonder: Where do locals dine (or drink or shop or snorkel.) Well, this guidebook is by Karuna Eberl and Steve Alberts, who live on Cudjoe Key in the Lower Keys, and that’s what makes it special. We’ve visited the Keys dozens of times, but still learn lots of interesting things from this entertaining and useful guide. The book is full of practical listings for where to eat, stay and go, but it is also full of quirky stories that are part of what makes Key West unique. It’s a 288-page, full-color guide to Key West and the Lower Keys and covers travel, nature, history, and the environment. $19.95 on Amazon

Paddles in Paradise

Ed and Deborah Higgins are retirees from Massachusetts who found their paradise on Florida’s paddle trails. So off they went, and they reported on their adventures in these two fabulous guides. If you are a canoe or kayak enthusiast looking to get away for a few hours of peace, tranquility, and natural beauty, this paddling guide will certainly take you there. The book includes 25 recreational paddles in Southwest and Central Florida, near their home in Punta Gorda. $18.95 on Amazon

More Paddles

This sequel to “Paddles in Paradise” features 25 all-new paddles around Southwest Florida within four hours of Punta Gorda. Together with “Paddles in Paradise”, you have a bucket list of fabulous destinations to keep you paddling all year long. $18.95 on Amazon

Buy both books directly from the authors for only $25.

Explorer’s Guide to North Florida and the Panhandle

Author Sandra Friend is the ultimate authority on hiking Florida’s wilderness trails. Among her many ongoing projects, she publishes the popular Florida Hikes! web site with her partner in exploration, cyclist and paddler John Keatley.  In this guidebook, Sandra and John wander North Florida from Pensacola to Jacksonville, to Cedar Key, Gainesville, Palatka and Flagler Beach, leading you to shimmering springs, historic sites, down-home eateries, parks and trails, and natural wonders you may never have heard of before. Includes overview maps and hundreds of photos. $14.99 on Amazon.

You may also like:

50 Hikes in South Florida. $11.99

50 Hikes in Central Florida. $12.29

Touring the Springs of Florida

Melissa Watson’s “Touring the Springs of Florida” features full-color photos and in-depth descriptions for each of the springs included in this book and surrounding areas. Detailed maps, GPS coordinates, and thorough driving directions lead you every step of the way. Whether you’re tubing, swimming, snorkeling, paddling, hiking, diving, or simply sightseeing, there’s a spring for you. $17.48 on Amazon.


Florida’s Paved Bike Trails

Florida has seen an explosion of paved bike trails over the past decade, and Florida journalist Jeff Kunerth has gone along for the ride. Jeff and his wife Gretchen offer all the detail you need to enjoy more than 60 of Florida’s best paved trails, from the Nature Coast State Trail to Shark Valley or the Cross-Florida Greenway, backyard rides and wilderness adventures. Most of these trails are considered multi-use trails, making them also available to roller skaters, walkers and even wheelchairs. With this book, you’ll find trails to suit your needs and near your location. A useful guide for Florida’s bicycle enthusiast. $17.50 on Amazon.


Florida Keys Paddling Guide

Few people know the backwaters in the Florida Keys than Bill Keogh, who has guided kayakers from his base, Big Pine Kayak Adventures, at the Old Wooden Bridge on Big Pine Key for decades.  Each trip in this guide includes a chart, route suggestions, information on distance, tides, and winds, and safety tips. You’ll also find information on the wildlife, habitats, and ecosystems that will be encountered, as well as historical and natural features of the area. $17.95 on Amazon



Weird Florida 

Author Charlie Carlson, whose interest in the paranormal and strange events provided the basis for this book, has produced a different kind of guidebook, a fascinating compilation of stories that will take you to legendary oddballs and odd places, and there are more than a few in Florida. This is a guidebook that you can open to any page and be entertained, perhaps even providing a destination around which you can plan a vacation. Carlson has passed on to another world, wherever that might be, but his curious writings live on. Perhaps you’ll encounter him in your travels! $10.31 on Amazon.



Oh, Florida!

Speaking of weird. Craig Pittman’s “Oh, Florida” is not so much a travel guidebook as it is a guide to the people who live here, and they can be very weird. As a long-time Florida journalist, Pittman knows the territory and the oddballs who make the Sunshine State so special. All you have to do is follow the headlines: “Florida Man Tasered After Naked Marriage Proposal at Wrong House.” Floridians like to poke fun at themselves, and many exceed expectations. Pittman takes you on a ride through our inglorious history of self-degradation with panache. $10.80 on Amazon.



A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip.

This page may include affiliate links from which we may earn a modest commission if a purchase is made. More often, we include free courtesy links to small businesses, such as kayak outfitters, from whom we receive no commission. 

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Dave Hogan

Saturday 23rd of November 2019

Excellent story! Now I have some new books for my Christmas Wish List!

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