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" Named for the Spanish feast of flowers, Florida stretches more than 400 miles from its state line with Georgia to the Florida Keys. It's famous for its coastline, its Everglades, and its colorful coral reefs, but there are lesser known wonders as well. For instance, did you know Florida houses one of the largest underwater cave systems in the continental U.S., a type of prairie found nowhere else in the U.S., and an ancient forest system perched on prehistoric dunes?

....There is a gap between the time you fall in love with Florida and when you truly begin to appreciate the state's natural wonders. Florida is a complex living creature, and subtlety is its most endearing quality. The state possesses great treasures including the Everglades, coral reefs, clear springs, and magnificent forests. It also conceals small jewels, such as tropical tree snails, torreya trees and wild rosemary. And Florida has a soul."

from Florida the Natural Wonders by Jeff Ripple



Featured Florida Destinations:

The Florida Keys

When people ask about the top sights to see in the south Florida area including Fort Lauderdale and Miami, I always advise them to try and make some time to go down to the Florida Keys. The Florida Keys are the string of islands just south of the Florida mainland and runs 120 miles from end to end. Fort Lauderdale and Miami are fun but for a relaxing change of pace, the Florida Keys is the place to be. For snorkellers and scuba divers going to south Florida, I would consider Florida Keys a must. The waters around Key Largo are a protected marine park with a very healthy fish life and offer the best diving in the US. Key Largo is the first town as you enter the Keys after crossing the bridge from the mainland. It can be reached from Miami in an hour and from Fort Lauderdale in an hour and 45 minutes. Once the bridge from the mainland is crossed, the change in pace is noticed immediately. There is much less traffic and people just seem more relaxed in the Florida Keys compared to the mainland.

Key Largo is the main scuba diving town with many dive shops. There is even an underwater hotel with two guestrooms for adventurous types. This was a former marine research unit that was converted to the hotel. Islamorada and Marathon located more west are also top scuba dive locations. For those who are not into diving, there are numerous shops with colorful local arts and crafts. One collection of shops has a giant statue of a spiny lobster out in front. For more fun, there are two dolphin centers, one in Key Largo and another near Marathon where visitors can interact with captive dolphins. Dolphin programs should actually be booked well in advance since they are extremely popular.

There are sign markers along the main US number 1 highway that mark each mile along the 120 mile route. Most addresses in the Florida Keys along the main highway will actually refer to which mile marker they are located near. It's a very efficient way to navigate. It takes about 3 hours to drive from Key Largo to the far end at Key West but more than likely, visitors would want to stop off at numerous locations along the way for shopping, photo opportunities or just admiring the scenery. The scenery gets better as one heads out more west, especially near the bridges that connect the islands. A common sight to see are locals fishing off the bridges and numerous pelicans standing on the posts like permanent fixtures. One of the most spectacular sights is the seven mile bridge which is the world's longest segmented bridge.

The Florida Keys are not really known for its beaches with the exception of Bahia Honda Park which is even further west in the lower keys. The snorkeling in this area, especially Looe Key, is among the top sites in North America....read more about the Florida Keys »


Sarasota

Sarasota is a great place to take a few days and just relax. The west coast of Florida is known for it's waterways and sunsets and Sarasota is the best of all Florida's west coast has to offer. The Sarasota area consists of not only the city of Sarasota but the Island communities of Longboat Key, Lido/St. Armands Circle and Siesta Key, these are some fabulous vacation destinations. The beaches here are constantly being rated among the nations finest and there are 35 miles of white silky sandy ones to enjoy....read more about Sarasota Florida »


Vero Beach

Whether you are looking for a vacation that will take you to one of the most beautiful towns in America, or you have a love of beaches, great shopping and terrific prices, you'll find everything that you're looking for and more at Vero Beach! Vero Beach, Florida can be found in Indian River County, along the northernmost part of the Central Atlantic Coast, and it is well known to natives of the area for its relaxed charm and easy-going appeal....read more about Vero Beach »


Tarpon Springs

America is known as the great melting pot. Occasionally, a group of immigrants settle an area and do not blend into the great homologous masses. Instead, that town becomes a tiny enclave of the mother country. Tarpon Springs, on the gulf coast of Florida, is such a place. Its culture is as Greek as any Aegean Island. As you stroll down Dodecanese Boulevard, the honey-sweet aroma of Baklava wafts from the Parthenon or Hellas Bakeries. The sharp tang of Feta Cheese assails you from Louis Pappas Restaurant. In Plaka Restaurant you watch as a swarthy man expertly carves lamb from a slowly revolving spit to create a mouthwatering gyro.

A gentle sea breeze plays a tinkling tune on the seashell mobils and sways the dangling lines filled with freshly harvested sponges. The mournful sound of a Greek love song drifts from the courtyard of what was once the old Sponge Exchange, now converted into upscale boutiques, gift shops and food and drink establishments. Inside the gleaming whitewashed walls, tables are arranged so you can rest from your sightseeing and sip a glass of Retsina or nibble on a flaky pastry as you enjoy the music of The Islanders. On one side of the courtyard stands a refurbished sponge diving ship, the Aegean Isles. Her smart black and red trim stand out in sharp contrast to her sparkling white hull. On a front wall of the Sponge Exchange there is a hugh Byzantine style painting of a sponge diver. At the bottom right of the picture is a small plague. It reads "In memory of John M. Cocoris from Leonidion, Greece. The founder of the sponge diving industry in 1905 in the city of Tarpon Springs...read more about Tarpon Springs Florida »


Pensacola
Along the Florida Panhandle on the Gulf of Mexico you'll find the city of Pensacola. Pensacola is part of a stretch of Florida loving called the 'Redneck Rivera' by the locals and in a way this is very true. Not only will you find some great upscale shops and restaurants but you can also kick back and relax on sugar white sand beaches as you stare out at the emerald green waters of the Gulf or you can charter a fishing boat and try to catch one of the many species of fish that swim in the waters around there. The sunsets along the Gulf Coast are some of the most spectacular you'll ever see, one of the best places to see a sunset is on one of the many piers dotted along the water here. It's a great place to just relax and take some time to unwind...read more about Pensacola Florida »


World Golf Village - St. Augustine

The St. Johns-St. Augustine Chamber of Commerce has always boasted about the Nation's Oldest City. Now it's bragging about the newest addition to the county's attractions, World Golf Village. For golfers and non-golfers alike, it provides a world of fun.

The Village is the ultimate destination for golfers wishing to play on The Slammer and The Squire, a recently completed world class course named after Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen. As you drive in from I-95, you wend your way past this challenging course. It was expertly carved from the Florida flat woodland of an old pine plantation. You are surrounded by native Florida vegetation. Numerous small lakes and ponds add to the beauty as well as preserve the balance of nature.

Honours Golf Company and architect Bobby Weed have created a course with a diversity of options that excite any golfer, novice or expert alike. Another plus, thanks to Florida's climate, the greens stay green year round. Driving past on International Golf Parkway in early morning or late evening, you may see deer grazing near the course...read more »