Florida. Unless you’re a native, when you hear the word Florida you probably think of either Disney World’s theme parks in Orlando or the hustle of South Beach and the nightlife in Miami. Those places are definitely fun in their own way.. but there’s so much more to Florida than the overcrowded destinations. There are beautiful beaches and coastlines, clear freshwater springs, wildlife-filled swamps, cypress forests, and small towns filled with history. As a Florida resident, I have been all over the state, and I am going to list just a few of my favorite, natural, outdoor, beautiful spots the state has to offer.
Location: Williston, Florida
Cost: $15-20 to snorkel, $10 snorkel equipment rental, $38 to Scuba dive, various prices for scuba gear rental. You can also camp there in a cabin, RV, or tent for various prices.. See their website for more details, click here
About: Although it doesn’t look very big from the surface, it is a prehistoric spring that is used for scuba diving, reaching depths of 54 feet! You can also just snorkel around the surface if you like, as there are plenty of fish that live in the spring. It gets VERY crowded in the summer months and you will have to wait in a line to go in. I opted to camp there the night before and got up early to be the very first person in the spring (thats how I got my photos without anyone else in them). The water is 72 degrees year round.. which actually felt freezing in the early morning hours. Beautiful spot.
Location: near High Springs, Florida
Cost: Varying rates depending on age and activity (scuba, camping, type of camping, tubing, etc.) refer to their website for cost details, click here
About: Ginnie Springs has something for all ages. It is a campsite most known for it’s tubing and scuba diving. The springs have crystal clear water that remains the same temperature all year round. The scuba divers can dive down into caverns, while the tubers can sit an relax as they float down the Santa Fe river. The tubing takes about an hour to float down.. and you must either walk or drive back from where you exit the river. If you want to go upstream in the river, you can rent kayaks or canoes there as well. You can bring coolers on your tubes and link up to your friends for a fun day on the water. They have RV hookup campsites and tent campsite if you plan on staying the night. A beautiful and fun place.
There are SO many other springs to visit throughout Florida. They all have clear spring water year round. You can swim with manatees at many of them, relax on a tube, camp, snorkel, etc. Some of them include:
Crystal River (Three Sisters), Rainbow Springs, Blue Springs, Ichetucknee Springs, and Kelly Springs. For individual prices and locations, click on any of them to go to their website or go to FloridaSprings.org for more information on all Florida springs.
Location: South Florida.. expanding over a vast area of the south and southwest
Cost: free to drive around and walk the trails. Activities cost money of course.. for example air boating is a popular activity to see some gators in their natural habitat
About: The Everglades National Park is a huge park that takes up a large chunk of Florida’s south. It is a protected area made up of mainly swampland. It is home to many alligators, manatees, reptiles, birds, and other animals (even the Florida panther, which is almost extinct). Much of the park is pretty inaccessible by foot, simply because of the swampy makeup of the landscape. For this reason, many opt to pay for an airboat ride to see more of it. I’ve done it twice and highly recommend it. If it’s summertime, the gators won’t be as prevalent along the trails banks.. so an airboat ride will ensure you get to see some gators in their habitat. In the wintertime, the gators hangout all along the walking trails banks trying to bring up their body temperatures (picture of me with them above). Either way, the airboat ride is a fun experience regardless.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Location: Islands, located west of Key West/the Keys
Cost: The ferry costs $184/adult, $125/child. It includes roundtrip ferry, 2 meals, a guided fort tour, and snorkel gear rental. Sea planes range from $284-$265 depending on type of ticket, but also includes roundtrip transportation, fort admission, and snorkel gear. Private charter boats are the most expensive from $3300-$5500, for multi-day trips from 3-5 days with various options.. refer to DryTortugasinfo.com for more information on all ways and costs of getting there.
About: Open to the public, but only accessible only by ferry, private boats, or seaplane. Ferry takes 2-2.5 hours and plane takes about 40 minutes. The Dry Tortugas’ shallow clear waters make it a popular spot for snorkeling and diving. There are plenty of sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, sting rays, and coral reefs filled with fish. A nearby shipwreck is a popular diving spot as well. Fort Jefferson is another main attraction on the island for those who like to stay on land. This National Park is one of the most beautiful and unique spot in the country for nature lovers.
Falling Waters State Park
Location: Chipley, Florida
Cost: $5/vehicle, $2/pedestrian, or $18+taxes/fees for camping overnight.
About: Waterfalls aren’t something Florida is known for.. but if you’re looking for one in Florida, here it is. It is Florida’s highest waterfall, surrounded by trees, ferns, and sinkholes. What makes this place especially unique, is the depth of the bottom of the falls (sinkhole) is unknown and where the water ends up is unknown! Website for more details, Click here
Probably an obvious statement to tell you to visit the beaches on your next trip to Florida.. but there’s so many to choose from. Some of my favorites include: Blowing Rocks beach in Jupiter, the white sandy beaches at Topsail Hill Preserve Park, and a dog-friendly Juno Beach. All 3 of those are “local” beaches.. without bars and restaurants along them, to enjoy what the beach in its natural beauty. If you are in the mood for drinks and food while on your trip, Daytona’s Beaches and Fort Lauderdale’s beaches are 2 cities that will be a bit more crowded, but provide a good time nonetheless.
The only “non-natural” destination in this blog. But St. Augustine is perhaps one of my favorite towns in Florida if I want to take a break from nature. It is the oldest city in the United States, founded in the 1500’s! There is an old fort to explore, lots of historical buildings, restaurants, and attractions, a cobblestone street filled with shops, and just so many quaint but fun things to do. The town is so old it is said to be filled with ghosts, so there are ghost tours at night (if you’re into that), and tours of old jails and things from long ago. If you are looking for a night in a town, this is one I highly recommend!
The Keys- ALL of them
Location: Southernmost part of Florida.. in fact, southernmost part of the US!
About/To Do: A chain of islands off the south coast of Florida, connected by just 1 road, the Overseas Highway, from north to south. You can’t take a trip to Florida without visiting the Florida Keys.. but it is probably best if you make an entire trip out of the Keys. From Key Largo (northern Key) to Key West (southernmost Key.. and southernmost point in the US), you can’t go wrong. The Keys all have have a laid-back atmosphere, focused around the water. Whether you’re boating, fishing, snorkeling, diving, biking along the water, enjoying a cocktail(s), lounging on the beach, swimming in the pool, hitting up a little local pub, trying the best Key Lime Pie, eating some of the freshest seafood around, or just plain not moving from your chair for a week straight.. there’s something for everyone.
Key West is the most populated, and has the most activities for tourism (helicopter tours with @AirAdventuresKeyWest, sunset sailboat tours, fishing charters, Mallory Square sunset shows, “Duval Crawling” all the bars on Duval Street, shopping, etc.) The other keys are a bit quieter. Key Largo, Islamorada, and Marathon are 3 Keys that have plenty of shops and restaurants around, with a slightly quieter atmosphere than Key West. The rest of the Keys are super quiet and peaceful, and perfect for a relaxing getaway from the “real world” for a bit.
Where to stay: So many options. I’ve stayed in anything there from tiny budget hotels to 6 bedroom houses. But no matter where you stay, you will never be far from the water (if not on it).. so you can’t go wrong. If you’re looking to rent a house in the Keys, which is a common thing to do, VRBO.com is a great site to use. And for hotels, I always recommend Hotels.com.
Hope this list helped you see there is so much beauty to the state of Florida. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at KellyNicoleTravel@gmail.com or send me a message on Instagram @KellyNicoleTravel