Florida really is one of the most touristed areas in the world – Orlando’s tourist industry alone is worth $21 billion a year and sees around 44.5 million visitors.
With its proximity to the Caribbean, there is a large black & Cuban (following the 1959 Castro coup) population.
Here are our Top Five sites in Florida
- Art Deco District , Miami – built in the 1930s, Miami Beach’s Art Deco Historic District is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the buildings along the Espanola Way are this style including the Clay Hotel, which used to be a casino run by Al Capone. The building is stunning and also houses and International Youth Hostel so this should definitely be a Place to Stay. Alternatively there’s the equally famous Biltmore Hotel that looks like a European Palace with a gigantic pool that is described as probably the world’s most beautiful. Capone also had a speakeasy here and on Thursday nights they hold Storytelling at the Biltmore, where you are spooked with tales of gangsters and their victims ghosts.
- EVERGLADES – The largest subtropical wilderness in the USA, covering over 3125 square miles. There are numerous ways we could approach this such as hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking and boating. There’s also something called a slough slog, which involves wading up to the waist around the swamps and Big Cypress, led by a ranger. Plenty of alligators and flamingos to see, and manatees arrive in the Glades in winter. Big Cypress National Park (part of the overall National Park) is home to snakes, wading birds, the Florida panther, wild turkeys, and red-cockaded woodpeckers.
- FLORIDA KEYS – From the southernmost tip of Florida the Keys start with Key Largo and stretch 126 miles to the final island of Key West. The waters are full of dolphins (you can swim with them at the Dolphin Research centre on Marathon Key) and the drive along the Seven Mile Bridge is spectacular.
Locals dub Key Largo as the ‘diving capital of the world’. You can dive the wreck of the Spiegel Grove, a ship the length of 2 football pitches, which was intentionally sunk to provide the backbone of the USA’s only coral reef system. You can stay in Jules’ Undersea Lodge, a hotel built in a 30-foot deep lagoon and divers can enjoy unlimited air supply by means of 120-foot lines.
Key West is where Ernest Hemingway made his home and has been a haven for artists ever since. You can visit his home, which has the first pool to built on the island. It cost him so much ($20,000) that he took a penny & pressed it into the wet cement, saying ‘here, take my last penny’. It’s still there. The house is also home to around 60 cats; many are descendents of Hemingway’s own 6-toed cat. He is described as the greatest American writer of all time. People hold their weddings at the house .The sun is famously brightest at sunset on Key West and the locals and performers gather for the Sunset Celebrations at Mallory Dock every night.
- SPACE COAST – Kennedy Space Centre – one of only two places on earth where people have been launched into space. Surrounded by beautiful parkland and vegetation, it is located on Merritt Island. You can check out the spacecraft and space exhibits, you can experience a lift off simulator, which is so realistic that the windows of the theatre shake and get a bird’s eye view of the launch pad from an observation deck.
Cape Canaveral – But the best thing of course would be to watch a shuttle launch. Bus tours to NASA’s 6-mile viewing site leave the visitors centre before launches. At Cape Canaveral, the Air Force Space and Missile Museum has rockets, missiles and other exhibits for the space enthusiast .
- ST AUGUSTINE – This is the USA’s oldest city and was first settled in 1565. It is a very pretty mixture of cobbled streets, European architecture and Spanish Colonial flair. It is in complete contrast to everyone’s image of Florida as nothing more than Mickey Mouse land. It is home to the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, the oldest house in America.