Welcome to my blog post on the top 10 things to do in Florida. My name is Lisa Asplund (@lisalovesflorida) and I’m originally from Springfield, Missouri. I moved to Florida in July of 2017 and haven’t looked back since! I have lived in Palm Harbor, Clearwater and now I reside in Sarasota.
I work as a brand ambassador – representing brands at events across the state. In my free time, I enjoy spending time outdoors. Swimming, snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, hiking, biking and exploring places I have never been before are just a few of my favorite things to do.
Florida is a great place to live as there are endless things to do. It’s the only state that borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. On the same day, you can surf during sunrise in the Atlantic Ocean and by the end of the day you can relax at the beach watching the sunset by the Gulf.
Aside from the amazing beach activities on offer, the Sunshine State also has beautiful crystal-clear fresh water springs and forests blossoming with wildlife. The cities in Florida are full of history, restaurants, museums and fun things to do. America’s oldest city is even located in this state.
My favorite place to be in Florida is on one of the many isolated sandbars in the Gulf of Mexico. Here you can find peace and serenity while being surrounded by the water. There are many sandbars found in the Gulf just by taking a watercraft out. All of the sandbars are absolutely gorgeous!
Top 10 Things To Do in Florida
Traveling to Florida gives you the chance to experience an endless summer. I suggest taking at least a month to travel through, if not longer if you have the time. Each major city can easily take a week in itself to see, let alone the other attractions like beaches and national parks. For those planning a trip to Florida, here are my top 10 recommendations for things to do:
1. Experience the Lido Mangrove Tunnels Tour
The Lido Mangrove Tunnels Tour is an amazing kayaking experience! During some parts of the tour it feels like you are paddling in the middle of a jungle, while in other parts (the open water section) you have all of this incredible wildlife around you. There are tons of birds about and if you are lucky you might be able to spot manatees, bottlenose dolphins and sharks.
2. Learn about America’s Oldest City – St. Augustine
St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain. It’s regarded as the longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the US. As America’s oldest city, St. Augustine is full of history. You can feel it just by walking downtown. There are many educational tours on offer and even ghost tours to learn more about the city.
3. Enjoy the Attractions of Weeki Wachee, Florida
Weeki Wachee Preserve covers 11,206 acres near the Gulf coast in Hernando County. You can enjoy a range of activities here including the world-famous mermaid shows, an educational boat cruise that teaches about the wildlife and Florida Springs, hiking trails and stand-up paddle boarding.
4. Spot Rich Wildlife at Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is an adventure-lover’s dream! You can explore the park by hiking various trails or by going on an airboat tour. This is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles coexist. You can also spot bears, manatees, bobcats, snakes and occasionally a Florida panther.
5. Tour the Ten Thousand Islands with Eco Endeavors
Eco Endeavors offer an incredible private boat tour of the Ten Thousand Islands. This is a spot many visitors miss and it’s a shame because they are just so beautiful! These islands start with the largest – Marco Island – and they sit off the coast of Everglades National Park. The eco tour teaches you all about the importance of mangroves, while looking for wildlife.
It also makes a stop by the Cape Romano Dome House which is an usual looking structure built in the 1980s. The base of the homes are now completely underwater and two of the domes actually collapsed during Hurricane Irma. It’s likely that the remaining domes will collapse with the next major hurricane – so make sure you see this sight while it still exists!
6. Visit the “Cigar Capital of the World” – Ybor City
Ybor City is regarded as being the “Cigar Capital of the World”. You can find cigars being hand rolled in shops and visit Ybor City State Museum to learn about the rich cultural history of the city and its cigar industry. You can also find a park in the city that is a Cuban territory! So you can fool your friends on social media by tagging yourself in Cuba while being in Florida.
7. See Space Shuttles at Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center currently still has rockets being launched there. See retired space shuttle Atlantis and have virtual space experiences while learning about the history of NASA and the Kennedy Space Center. This is a great activity to enjoy from Orlando as it’s only an hour away.
8. Take a Boat Tour at New Smyrna Beach, Florida
While this is a popular surfing beach, I actually suggest visiting it to view the sharks. Taking a boat tour is the easiest way for visitors to view sharks but it’s not uncommon to see them from the beach as well. If you are feeling adventurous rent a paddle board or kayak to search for sharks.
9. Travel to Key West with Key West Express
Key West Express is a catamaran ferry that you can hop on at either Fort Myers or Marco Island and it lands in Key West. There is a sun deck, flat screen TVs, air conditioned interior, and a full service bar to make your trip to Key West feel like a mini cruise. Key West is the southernmost point of the US and it’s only 90 miles north of Cuba, believe it or not.
10. Search Venice Beach for Shark’s Teeth
Venice Beach is the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World” because it’s filled with many fossilized shark teeth. You can purchase a sifter and roam the beach until you find some shark’s teeth of your own. If you get extremely lucky you might even come across a Megalodon shark tooth!
Best Memory from my Travels around Florida
I’m in love with manatees, so my favorite experience while traveling in Florida was while I was paddle boarding. We spotted manatees and sat on our boards to watch them. One manatee put its tail down towards the bottom of the water so its head and eyes were up looking at me.
The eyes and nose of the manatee were out of the water and it just sat there watching me for a moment. It made me feel special that the manatee thought I was interesting. Please remember though when viewing manatees do not touch, chase or harass them. They are precious creatures and we must do our best to protect them and help them thrive.
Florida’s Diverse Culture and Food
Another great aspect about Florida is the culture. There is a huge Latin and Caribbean influence here, and also many European immigrants. For example: Tarpon Springs has the largest percentage of Greek Americans in the US, while Venice and Naples have big Italian communities.
With the people being so diverse, it also diversifies the cuisine and food culture. You can find nearly any type of food you can dream of in this state. But of course, being on the coast, there are many seafood restaurants as well. I’m vegan so my food preferences may be different from others.
My favorite restaurant is Dharma Fine Vittles, the Sanford location. They offer southern style vegan food. I didn’t even know I liked southern food until I tried this place! I also love Bodega in St. Petersburg and Tampa. This restaurant has vegan and non-vegan options, and the best Cuban food.
Tips for your Visit to Florida
When traveling to Florida keep an eye out on the weather and while at the beach, the water conditions. Rip currents, tropical systems and lightning can be real threats. Always bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Also, the vibe is different in different areas of Florida. Go out and explore instead of just staying in one spot. This way you can make the most of your visit!