Florida: Off the Beaten PathOn April 27, 2021
Florida is one of the most popular destinations in the country. It’s filled with theme parks, outdoors activities, and miles upon miles of pristine beaches. Historical sites are in abundance, and sites that look to the future (Kennedy Space Center) also have a ton of visitors.
All of this is wonderful, of course, but sometimes it’s those visitors that can make a trip to these attractions feel a little too crowded. Sometimes you just want to go someplace where you can experience something uniquely “Florida” but without quite so many people around.
Let’s take a look at some of the great places to travel in Florida that remain a little “off the beaten path.”
Explore the Lesser-Known State Parks
Ocala National Forest
The Ocala National Forest is located in North Central Florida and covers more than 650 square miles of beautiful land that is bursting with wildlife and amazing sights. This is the kind of place that is suitable for a quick daytrip or for an extended stay.
There is plenty to do here. You can go swimming/snorkeling at Alexander and Juniper Springs, or try canoeing down the Salt Springs Run. Hiking is another popular option because the natural and diverse beauty is something you really have to see for yourself. There are also some campsites in the area so you can take your time and see it all.
Dry Tortugas National Park
If you’re headed out to the Florida Keys area, this park should be on your itinerary. It’s a little more remote than most other parks in the state, which is why it sees far fewer tourists than many other attractions in Florida. In fact, the park includes 7 of the most isolated islands in the Keys.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities here, but there is some great fishing and kayaking to be had, too. If you’re interested in seeing beautiful coral reefs and unique sea life, this is the place to go.
Florida Caverns State Park
Have you ever considered touring the real Florida Underground? At the Florida Caverns State Park, you can take a tour (it’s about an hour long) of some massive caves underneath the Sunshine State. These are the only air-filled caves open to the public, and it’s an experience you shouldn’t miss.
The park has plenty of other trails and full hookups for your camping needs, and it’s just a few miles north of Marianna if you’d prefer to just make a daytrip out of it. Either way, be sure you have comfortable shoes and a light jacket, because it can get pretty chilly down there.
Enjoy Unique Gardens and Preserves
Bok Tower Gardens
This 200-acre historic landmark can be found in Lake Wales, Florida. It was originally founded as a bird sanctuary and designed as a botanical garden that would serve as a safe habitat for many different species of birds. Now, you can see more than 100 different species there.
The tower itself, called the “Singing Tower,” is a 205-foot structure that is open to the public all year long. It was built next to a reflection pool and is surrounded by more amazing scenery. Come here to see the birds or just enjoy a relaxing walk through the park.
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
You can find the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens just west of Delray Beach in Palm Beach County. This is simply a beautiful and peaceful place where you can get a taste of Japanese culture and art. From ponds filled with koi fish to bonsai tree collections to quiet walking trails, this is a great place to visit.
There are two museum buildings where visitors can also get involved with various clubs and workshops to discover more about traditional Japanese music and art.
Secret Woods Nature Center
This is a beautiful place hidden in plain sight. While it is located close to two major highways (I-95 and I-595), it remains a quaint and quiet location. Secret Woods features more than 50 acres of land filled with various plant life. It was designated an urban wilderness in 1978 and has been preserved ever since.
You can walk the nature trails, spot the birds in the mangroves or make a stop at the nature center to learn more about the area.
Get Out on the Islands
About 30 miles from Fort Myers, you’ll find Pine Island, a great place to kick back, enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and take in the beautiful scenery. There is also a lot of great fishing, kayaking/canoeing, and other outdoor activities here. Or, you could explore the mangroves and palm trees that cover a vast portion of the island. There are even a number of aquatic preserves if you want to see something unique. All in all, it’s a great place to go when you want to get away from the crowds.
If you’re looking for a beautiful beach getaway, this might be the best choice. You can spend your days enjoying the beaches or exploring the natural beauty of the island, or you could head down to the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and see a structure that has been standing since 1890.
All the classic water activities (swimming, snorkeling, boating, fishing) are possible here, or you can just enjoy the peace and quiet as you wander the island.
Caledesi Island is located in the Gulf of Mexico, just a short ferry ride from Honeymoon Island. Here, you’ll find the Caledesi Island State Park, which includes miles of nature trails, a beautiful beach, a marina, concession stands, and more. You can explore the park and see all kinds of wildlife or you can spend your day out on the clear blue sea, kayaking or swimming in waters that can reach the mid-80s in the summertime.
Your Chance to See Something Unique
When you go off the beaten path in this state, you just might experience something fun, and unique, and still very “Florida.” Even if you’ve lived in this state most or all of your life, we’re willing to bet you still haven’t gotten around to seeing some of these local, lesser-known attractions.
Now might be the perfect time to get out there and see it all for yourself.