From the Disney World theme parks of Central Florida to the underwater paradise in the Florida Keys, there is truly something for everyone in the Sunshine State. Every part of Florida has something unique to offer.
We have explored the state from top to bottom and put together our list of the best places to visit to help you explore all the best spots to go in the Sunshine State – from popular Florida destinations to local hidden gems.
Table of Contents
- 33 Best Places to Visit in Florida
- Miami Beach
- West Palm Beach
- St. Augustine
- Key Largo – The Florida Keys
- Islamorada – The Florida Keys
- Key West – The Florida Keys
- Sarasota Barrier Islands
- Everglades National Park
- Biscayne National Park
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- Daytona Beach
- Cape Canaveral
- Cocoa Beach
- Rainbow River
- Blue Spring State Park
- Pensacola Beach
- Panama City Beach
- Fort Lauderdale
- Crystal River
- St. Petersburg
- Amelia Island
- Fort Myers and Sanibel Island
- Apalachicola and St. George Island
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33 Best Places to Visit in Florida
The largest city in southern Florida is a metropolitan sprawl of beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, museums and art galleries, world-class restaurants, and stylish places to stay. In Miami Beach, specifically, you can find a little bit of everything to do, making it one of the best places to visit in Florida.
The most eclectic area in Miami is South Beach. The Lincoln Road Mall is excellent for shopping with trendy boutiques and high-end designers mixed with surf shops and tiki bars.
The art deco district on Ocean Drive is a well-preserved architectural wonder from the 1920s with beachfront bars, restaurants, and nightclubs at every corner. And let’s not forget the beautiful beach just across the street with its warm, turquoise waters and white sand.
On the banks of Biscayne Bay is downtown Miami, which surprisingly, is wildly different from South Beach and Miami Beach.
The big city lights shine bright with tons of fun things to do – including rooftop bars, luxurious condos, fine dining, and plenty of cultural institutions to explore. The Frost Museum of Science, Perez Art Museum, and Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, to name a few, are all worthy of visiting.
But the ultimate attribute of Miami is its position as the cultural capital of not just Florida, but the United States. This is a place for anyone and everyone from all walks of life. Every culture has their neighborhoods, their food, and their music. It’s a unique blend of worldly experiences all coming together in one location.
👉 Read Full Article: Best Things to Do in Miami
Orlando is the theme park capital of the world and is home to multiple theme parks including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, and Discovery Cove. This is the main draw for most people visiting Orlando and makes the city one of the top places to visit in Florida.
If family fun at Magic Kingdom isn’t your thing, Orlando still has plenty more fun stuff to do. The community is a true melting pot which means you can find restaurants serving authentic international cuisines, such as Vietnamese food and Puerto Rican dishes. Orlando is also home to a vibrant arts scene and plenty of smaller attractions.
I think one of the best things about Orlando is the central location within Florida. Staying in Orlando puts a good portion of the state within driving distance for a day trip. If you can’t decide where to go in Florida, you can’t go wrong with Orlando!
👉 Headed to Orlando? Don’t miss our guide to where to stay in Orlando, for our recommended neighborhoods and hotels.
Jacksonville is located 30 minutes south of the Georgia border, but it is a true Florida city. While the city center is a hub for business and commerce, the many fun things to do around Jacksonville make it one of the best cities to visit in Florida.
I recommend visiting the hip (and I don’t use that word lightly) Five Points neighborhood. You’ll love wandering through the antique shops, trying new food at one of the gastropubs, and sampling local brews at the bars. To hop around to other attractions, use the St. Johns River Taxi. Boats are always my preferred method of transportation because you don’t have to drive and you get excellent views of the area.
For families, the Jacksonville beaches are a short 30-minute drive away. The kids will also love the Jacksonville Zoo. Don’t miss their impressive tiger habitat, where you can get up close and personal with the magnificent cats.
👉 Pro Tip: You’ll probably only need to spend a couple of days in Jacksonville to explore the city. Extend your stay at nearby Amelia Island or St. Augustine.
In my opinion, the Tampa Bay area is the hottest location for food and drinks in Florida (sorry Miami!). Local breweries, like Cigar City and Coppertail, are the perfect place to cool off on a hot day and sip on some new beers. If you’re not a beer drinker, check out Cigar City Cider & Mead, which is located in historic Ybor City.
Also located in Tampa is one of the best theme parks to visit in Florida, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. You shouldn’t miss this when you visit Florida because it is a theme park and a fantastic zoo rolled into one.
Tampa Bay is also home to the current NFL and NHL championship teams, the Buccaneers and the Lightning. Sports fans will be able to find events and games to attend year-round.
For more, see Marina’s local guide to the best stuff to do in Tampa.
West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach is quickly developing into a luxurious, cultural destination along the Atlantic Coast and one of the best places to visit in Florida. The downtown center has cultivated into an eclectic entertainment district with world-class restaurants, concert venues, nightclubs, and high-end shopping.
Across the Intracoastal waterway are the pristine beaches of Palm Beach lined with public parks and beachfront mansions owned by the rich and famous. Head north to John D. MacArthur Beach State Park for hiking trails, paddling adventures, and untouched beaches. Surrounding towns like Jupiter, Delray Beach, Juno Beach, and Boca Raton put the cherry on top for one of the best places to visit in Florida.
🌴 Visiting Nearby Jupiter: One of Palm Beach’s best-kept secrets is Jupiter, FL. This small town is packed full of outdoor adventures, pristine beaches, delicious Caribbean restaurants, and plenty of fun stuff to do in Jupiter.
St. Augustine is the oldest city in America and one of the best places to visit in Florida. The town’s history dates back to the 1500s and you can still visit sites and admire the architecture from throughout the centuries.
Some of the main attractions in town are the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse and the Castillo de San Marcos. You can tour the fort and other sites by riding the Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley that operates throughout the city.
📚 Related Reading: Exploring the history of St. Augustine is one of the best activities in Florida. Check out our other recommendations for the top things to do in Florida.
Key Largo – The Florida Keys
Off the southern tip of Florida is the Florida Keys – a 120-mile string of tropical islands connected by a series of bridges and one roadway, the Overseas Highway. Starting in Key Largo and ending in Key West, you’ll pass over the famous Seven Mile Bridge while taking in breathtaking views along the way.
Known for its warm water, natural landscape, and pristine coral reefs, Key Largo is the best place to visit in Florida for snorkeling and scuba diving. Tours depart daily from John Pennekamp State Park bringing eager underwater explorers to colorful coral reefs teeming with life.
After your boat trip, don’t forget to stop at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen for (arguably) the best Key Lime Pie in the Keys.
Islamorada – The Florida Keys
Also known as the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, hopping aboard a fishing charter to wrangle in Mahi, Kingfish, or Wahoo is a must in Islamorada. Other activities include feeding the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina, paddling to Indian Key State Park, or exploring the mangroves on Plantation Key.
Key West – The Florida Keys
If you have to limit your trip to one destination in the Florida Keys, pick Key West. The southernmost point, Duval Street, Hemingway’s House, sunset cruises, Smathers Beach, and Fort Zachary Taylor are just a few of the many attractions in the small Pirate town. Delectable fish shacks, Caribbean-style cuisine, and lively bars are spread throughout the island, and make Key West one of those places to go in Florida that is worthy of your bucket list.
🚗 Drive the Overseas Highway: Forget all the island Florida vacation spots along the way, the scenic drive alone is worth the trip to the Florida Keys. The best way to see and do it all is by renting your own car. Discover Cars compares prices to find you the cheapest car rental available.
Sarasota Barrier Islands
The gulf coast barrier islands near Sarasota include Lido Key, Siesta Key, Longboat Key, and Anna Maria Island. Siesta Key is arguably the most popular of the islands thanks to its expansive beaches. Siesta Key Village is located north of the public beach and is an idyllic strip of cafes, beach shops, and hole-in-the-wall bars.
While Siesta Key is a fabulous beach to visit in Florida, I prefer to hang out in places that are a little less popular. I recommend Lido Beach to my friends and family because the island is less crowded and more laid back.
Sarasota is located on the water and is one of the best places to go in Florida if you want somewhere that combines the laid-back philosophy of a beach town with the hustle and bustle of a big city. The downtown area is equipped with plenty of sidewalks, making the city extremely walkable. There are new restaurants and craft coffee shops opening up constantly.
The crown jewel of Sarasota is The Ringling, a compound of museums celebrating art and the circus. For an add-on of $10, you can also tour the Venetian mansion that served as the winter home of the circus magnate.
Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park, Florida’s largest and most well-known, is a mesmerizing expanse of freshwater marsh home to wading birds, millions of alligators, and even crocodiles. Things to do in this world heritage site are more diverse than you might think too: an airboat tour is a given, but also consider cycling a 14-mile loop with an epic view at Shark Valley, camp on a platform at Flamingo, hike a tropical hammock at Royal Palm, or go for a dolphin cruise at Gulf Coast.
🛏️ Where to Stay: Staying in Fort Lauderdale is a great option to visit the Everglades for the day. Here’s our list of where to stay in Fort Lauderdale to help plan your trip!
Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park, the second-largest National Park in Florida, isn’t as well known as some more popular Florida destinations, but it is equally as beautiful. Composed of 95% water, the park’s main activity is obviously boating! The Biscayne Institute is the best company to get you around the National Park with snorkeling tours, kayaking guides, island hopping cruises, or sightseeing boat rides.
Dry Tortugas National Park
70 miles west of Key West is the least known but most interesting of the national parks in Florida: Dry Tortugas National Park. The small chain of islands is home to Fort Jefferson, a Civil War-era fortress with a dark history. Today, visitors are able to sail to the island to camp, explore the history, and snorkel the pristine marine life nearby.
⛵ Set Sail to Dry Tortugas National Park: Sailing aboard a large catamaran to the island is the best way to fully enjoy the day trip from Key West.
Daytona Beach is one of the premier beaches on the Atlantic Ocean and rightfully calls itself the “world’s most famous beach”. While it is no longer the spring break hotspot that it used to be, the town maintains the relaxed atmosphere that the coast is known for. The boardwalk and pier are the central hub of the area, housing attractions, restaurants, and shops.
Nascar fans are surely familiar with the Daytona International Speedway and the many races held there throughout the year. The venue also hosts concerts and other events.
🚗 Forget the Parking Lot: Don’t worry about circling a parking lot for the perfect spot. This is one of those places in Florida where you can drive and park your rental car right on the beach!
When most people hear Cape Canaveral, they think of Kennedy Space Center. This historic location is the site for numerous rocket launches throughout the year, and is certainly one of the best places in Florida to visit. The Visitor Center welcomes guests to learn about the history of space travel, meet a real astronaut, and tour the grounds of the facility.
Canaveral is also home to one of the most popular cruise ports in Florida. Cruise lines such as Disney and Royal Caribbean operate out of the port, which is the closest port to Orlando and the theme parks.
Thanks to NASA wanting privacy around the space center, much of Canaveral is considered protected wildlife areas, like the Canaveral National Seashore. The area along Florida’s Atlantic coast is a necessary refuge for Florida’s native wildlife.
Cocoa Beach is one of the best places to visit in Florida to experience the energy of the Sunshine State. To me, getting on a board and riding the waves into the beach is better than Disney World or any of the amusement parks.
Cocoa Beach has never tried to stray away from the vibes of being an authentic beach town. From Ron Jon Surf Shop to the old Florida motels, this area welcomes you to relax and enjoy the sun and the sand at one of the best places to vacation in Florida.
👉 Pro Tip: If you’re visiting the Space Coast for a rocket launch, many of the beachfront hotels in Cocoa will provide you with an excellent view!
Rainbow River and the headsprings at Rainbow Springs State Park are located west of Ocala in Central Florida. This area is a hidden gem in Florida, loved by locals but rarely found on “best places to visit in Florida” lists for visitors.
The name comes from the beautiful blue and green colors that can be seen throughout the water thanks to the sandy bottom. Since the river is spring-fed, it is cool and clear year-round. You can enjoy the water by swimming, tubing, paddling, or boating on the river.
Blue Spring State Park
I think the coolest thing about Blue Spring State Park is that you have completely different experiences in summer and winter. During the hot summers, splash in the springs to cool off. You’ll always see kids competing for who can free dive deeper into the spring head.
In winter, the constant 72-degree water becomes a warm home for manatees. As ocean temperatures drop, these gentle giants move inland through the rivers. No swimming is allowed during manatee season, but you can get a fantastic view of Florida’s state marine mammals from the extensive boardwalks.
👉 Want To Visit More Springs? Blue Springs is one of a handful of springs in North Central Florida. Take a look at this springs map to see where the over 700 springs are located throughout Florida.
Tallahassee is the state capital of the Sunshine State, but the natural spaces hold the true beauty of the area. Parks, like Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park, provide miles of walking trails through forests, gardens, and near waterways.
As a die-hard Florida Gator fan, it pains me to admit that Florida State University has a gorgeous campus. Wander through the expansive greens surrounded by red brick buildings. Don’t forget to stop by Westcott Fountain, a favorite photo location for graduating students.
The Florida Panhandle is the most popular beach destination for those living in the southern United States and many visiting from the Midwest, as well. It’s known for its Emerald waters, moderate temperatures, and pristine natural setting. One of the best Florida beaches in the panhandle is in Pensacola along Santa Rosa Island.
Most of Pensacola Beach falls under the protection of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and as a result, these preserved stretches of sand are amongst the most beautiful in the state. Other attractions in the area include Fort Pickens, a Civil War-era fortress overlooking Pensacola Bay, and the infamous Flora-Bama roadhouse.
The Emerald Coast continues along the Gulf of Mexico into the popular tourist destination of Destin. The entire town revolves around beach vacationers with surf shops, quirky restaurants, fantastic seafood, and beautiful parks and beaches spread throughout the area. Henderson Beach State Park is the best of the bunch, even making our list of best beaches in Florida.
Panama City Beach
The old Panama City Beach reputation of a college spring break destination has dissipated over the years. Today, it’s one of the best Florida vacation spots for a family-friendly environment. Panama City Beach offers plenty of things to do including viewing marine life at Gulf World Marine Park, camping at St Andrew’s State Park, Shipwreck Island Waterpark, or swimming in freshwater springs.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Gainesville after spending my college years there. This funky college town has a lot of personalities. Weird, eclectic, artsy: there are lots of words to describe the atmosphere around town, but most importantly it is fun. From craft coffee to vintage shops to dive bars, there are lots of places to explore in Gainesville.
Outside of the downtown area and the University of Florida campus, you can find some of the coolest places to visit in Florida. Just south of Gainesville is Paynes Prairie State Park where you can see wild horses and bison roaming the flat landscape. Devil’s Millhopper and Devil’s Den geological sites are also close by.
The wild, college spring break days of old Fort Lauderdale have graduated. Ushered in are a new era of cultural experiences, a family-friendly atmosphere, luxurious living, and plenty of unique things to do throughout the South Florida city.
Las Olas Boulevard is a great area to stay in Fort Lauderdale. It’s the center of action in downtown and extends eastward before ending on the sandy shores of Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Nature lovers can find snorkeling, fishing, and scuba diving tours departing daily from the Bahia Mar Yachting Center. Or at the very least, hop on one of the many boat tours to enjoy the 300+ miles of navigable waterways around the city (I recommend the Water Taxi for some great sightseeing of the city).
🚗 Nearby Florida Destinations: I lived in Fort Lauderdale for years and explored the city up, down, and around. So I must say, the city is an excellent destination as a launching point for many day trips to surrounding destinations.
Every winter when the temperatures drop, manatees head upstream to a natural spring for warmth. In Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, specifically, the marine mammals tend to gather by the HUNDREDS! With such a magical migration taking place, it’s a great opportunity to hop into the water and get up close and personal with the majestic creatures.
🤿 See for Yourself: I mean, honestly, where else are you going to snorkel with hundreds of manatees?
Nestled in the subtropical Southwestern region of Florida is Naples. And with a nickname like the Paradise Coast, it’s no secret what awaits you along its shores. The sand is sugary white. The waters are a glimmering blue. And the sunsets are a bursting blend of color. It really is paradise.
But the beaches aren’t all that draws so many to Naples. While you’re here, take a stroll through the Naples Botanical Gardens – a massive spectacle of aromatic flowers, tropical plants, and exotic trees. Cast a line from the Historic Naples Pier or even trek into Everglades National Park at the visitor center in nearby Everglades City.
🐚 Discover a fully intact seashell in Marco Island: This highly rated tour departs from nearby Marco Island to remote islands along the Paradise Coast. You’re guaranteed to find that one perfect seashell you’ve been searching for!
St Pete is located just across the bay from Tampa. The vibe is a mix of beach town meets young professionals. You can admire fine art at museums like The Dali or take in the larger-than-life murals painted throughout the city.
A short trip over the intercoastal will get you to St Pete Beach, which is known for its soft, white-sand beaches. Even if you don’t want to pay the hefty nightly rate, you can check out the iconic and very pink Don CeSar on St Pete Beach. Fort De Soto Park is located on the southern island and is one of the best vacation spots in Florida for camping, fishing, and hiking.
Clearwater Beach is home to sugar-soft, white sand, and vibrant blue waters along the Gulf Coast. This is one of the best places to visit if you want to relax on the beach for a few days. Clearwater Beach has tons of restaurants within a short walking distance of the major hotels and rental homes, so you’ll never need to leave the area.
For fans of the movie Dolphin Tale, make sure you check out Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is just a short drive from Clearwater Beach. You can meet Winter, the star of the movie, along with other animals featured in the film.
Amelia Island is one of the best places to visit in Florida for a relaxing beach vacation away from the noise and hustle of busier spots. Historic downtown Fernandina Beach offers a number of family-owned shops and restaurants.
Along the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll find numerous vacation homes, motels, and condos, but the area never seems to feel as busy as other beach towns. Add in the southern charm of North Florida, and you have one of the best vacation spots in Florida.
Fort Myers and Sanibel Island
The white sand beaches of Southwest Florida are the ideal Florida destination for families seeking a Gulf Coast getaway. Fort Myers Beach is a small epicenter of tiki bars, tourist shops, and seafood shacks. Across the Sanibel Causeway is Sanibel Island – a storied stretch of natural Florida located on the bluest water in the state.
The region is also a great access point to Everglades National Park, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, or Rookery Bay.
☀️ Explore all of South Florida: Fort Myers and Sanibel Island included, explore all the things to do in South Florida!
Apalachicola and St. George Island
For ultimate reclusiveness, head to the remote Saint George Island in the Apalachicola region of the Florida panhandle. This is the best place to visit in Florida for those seeking a complete immersion into untouched nature.
Specifically, St George Island State Park is one of the last natural barrier islands in the state with biking routes, nature trails, and waterways for paddling. The pristine beach goes on with no end in sight and the surrounding small towns provide old Florida charm with a hint of southern hospitality.
No matter which of these top Florida destinations you choose to visit, we know you’ll enjoy your escape down to the Sunshine State.
Once you decide which places to visit in Florida, check out our Top Fun Things to Do in Florida article for suggestions on Florida attractions and activities!
Editor’s Note: Andrew Bloem contributed to this article.
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