Discover Florida’s hidden gems for Families!

A favourite destination choice by Canadians, families, continue to flock to the Sunshine State to make vacation memories that will last a lifetime.  Florida is the ultimate family playground vacation destination with an abundance of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. There is so much to see and experience in the Sunshine State; family fun is everywhere.

NAPLES: The city of Naples, perched on the Gulf of Mexico in Southwest Florida, is famous for its high-end shopping, world-class arts and culture, sophisticated dining, family fun, and wild outdoors. Within an hour of Naples and Marco Island are millions of acres of federal and state parks, preserves, and wildlife refuges.

Naples Grande Beach Resort is the ideal destination resort for families. Families of all sizes looking for a getaway without the hassle, the resort’s Mangrove Pool features a 100-foot water slide for guests over 48” and a beach style entry ideal for younger guests. The resort offers complimentary daily kid’s activities by the pool like Arts and Crafts, Watermelon Eating contest, Bingo and more. Families can enjoy the resort’s three miles of powdery, white-sand beach centrally located in the heart of Naples–it is just a five-minute open-air tram ride on the boardwalk through a 200-acre protected Mangrove Estuary. The beautiful beach is the perfect place to play in the sand, relax in the shade, take in the views of the Gulf of Mexico, or rent a kayak or paddleboard for more of an immersed adventure!

The resort has activities for guests of all ages with three pools total, an 18-hole championship golf course; and 15 tournament grade tennis courts. While the kids are enjoying the endless activities resort wide, parents can take a beat and relax at The Spa at Naples Grande. A one-of- a-kind sanctuary, The Spa at Naples Grande is the only spa in Naples/Southwest Florida to provide guests with both traditional as well as touchless services that allow guests to refresh and rejuvenate from anywhere in the resort.

FLORIDA’S SPACE COAST: Fulfill the epitome of “spring break” by taking a time-out from reality in Florida’s Sports Coast. Take a walk on the wild side with a family outing at Giraffe Ranch. Here, visitors can get up close to some of the world’s most exotic animals with guided tours, camel expeditions, and segway safaris. Families can create a lasting and unique memory that they won’t be able to stop talking about for years to come.

For thrill-seeking families, elevate the family adventure at TreeHoppers Aerial Adventure Park. Parents and kids alike can navigate through 10 different courses depending on their level of comfort. With over 100 distinctive elements, it’s no surprise that guests can spend all day at Florida’s largest zipline and ropes course.

It’s not Florida without water and at The Lift Adventure Park, they’ve put a new spin on splash. Offering kayaking, a huge floating obstacle course, and even a public beach, families will have a chance to experience ample fun in the sun. When visiting, don’t miss out on their main attraction, The Lift. This cable system pulls adrenaline seekers along the water as they get their chance to try tricks on wakeboards and more.

Another popular attraction in Tampa Bay are the Mirada and Epperson Lagoons. The Mirada Lagoon is known as the nation’s largest lagoon. You and your family can enjoy a day in paradise as you swim in 15 stunning acres of bright blue water. While the kids find endless thrills on their water slide and inflatable obstacle courses, parents can relax in the shade at their resort style swim up bar or one of several rental cabana options. Only a short drive away, the Epperson Lagoon also offers memorable times in the sun and sand. From water slides to kayaks to paddle boards, there is something for everyone in the family to do.

OCALA/MARION COUNTY: Ocala/Marion County is filled with hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. Nestled in North Central Florida, where the natural environment is vast, there is a unique adventure for every visitor and their family — from exploring the natural wonder of stunning clear springs surrounded by flourishing wildlife, to mountain biking the famous Cross Florida Greenway or meeting international equine champions.

Located not far from Ocala’s thriving downtown district, the Ocala National Forest is the picture-perfect setting for a variety of outdoor activities that will make you feel miles from civilization. Some of the most beautiful parts of the forest are Juniper Springs, Silver Glen Springs and Salt Springs. Visitors can enjoy the refreshing 72 degree fahrenheit crystal-clear waters at all three springs’ recreational areas swimming or paddling. Each spring is unique in its beauty.                                                                       

The Silver Glen Springs recreation area features a beautiful freshwater spring run and an important archaeological site, letting travelers experience the wild natural landscape with a taste of significant Florida history.

Salt Springs is a recreational jewel named after the naturally occurring minerals that rise to the surface from deep natural fissures in the earth, providing a slight salinity not found in the other nearby springs.

Juniper Springs, one of the oldest recreation areas, offers a campground, a swimming and picnicking area, as well as a nationally-recognized canoe run tucked away in the lush canopies. The historic millhouse was built in the 1930s and still stands with an operating waterwheel that visitors can see. This millhouse was once used to produce electricity for the recreation area.

MARTIN COUNTY: Martin County may be known for its pristine and uncrowded beaches, but what lies beneath the ocean surface is just as exciting. Discover one of Martin County’s hidden gems, the Georges Valentine Shipwreck, by diving into the unknown and exploring this 1904 wreckage for yourself. With local diving experts on hand, such as Kirk’s Dive & Surf, Stuart Scuba or Deep Six Dive & Watersports, travellers are sure to have an incredible experience. Cut through warm waters to witness Martin County’scoral reefs and diverse marine life while learning more about this historic site. Lucky divers may even find buried treasure.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park is an incredible natural park teeming with wildlife in 13 natural habitats, including sand pine, scrub pine, flatwoods, mangroves and river swamps. The Loxahatchee River, Florida’s first federally designated wild and scenic river, runs through the park. Ranger-guided tours of the 1930s pioneer homestead of Trapper Nelson are available year-round, along with aved and off-road biking,equestrian and hiking on the trails. Boating, canoeing, kayaking and freshwater fishing are also available either alongthe riverbank or from a boat. The park offers two full-facility campgrounds and also a primitive campground.

ST. LUCIE: As the winter chill begins to recede and springtime beckons, families across the nation are gearing up for a sun-soaked Spring Break filled with unforgettable memories. St. Lucie invites families to explore its family-friendly destination, offering a wealth of exciting activities that promise a spring break like no other.

Families can set off on a thrilling adventure with the Treasure Coast Kids Quest. This immersive passport program and interactive scavenger hunt takes participants on a journey throughout St. Lucie, guiding them to hidden gems and exciting stops with a prize once completed. Explore the rich history and natural beauty of this stunning region while discovering educational games at stops like the Oxbow Eco-Center and engaging challenges such as the Navy SEAL Museum Obstacle Course located just in front of the museum. Fun fact: the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum is the only museum dedicated solely to preserving the history of the U.S. Navy SEALs and their predecessors and the Museum resides on the training grounds of the original SEALS, the Frogmen.

SEBRING: Easily found in the center of peninsula Florida, the city of Sebring is an under-the-radar Central Florida destination that’s easy drive from most metropolitan Florida cities (around 2 hours from Orlando, Tampa/St. Pete, the Space Coast and Ft. Lauderdale). Away from the hustle and bustle of Florida's bigger cities, visitors have the chance to breathe, slow down and enjoy the space around them.

Sebring earned the nickname “the city on the Circle” for its’ unique circular design. The region is also home to a winery, breweries and the Sebring International Raceway, North America's oldest permanent road racing facility that opened in 1950 (and was highlighted in the Matt Damon/Christian Bale movie Ford Vs. Ferrari).

Outside of the charm of the city, the Sebring region has many family and nature-based  experiences for visitors to enjoy. Beyond golf (Sebring is known as “America’s Value Golf Capital" and is home to the Citrus Golf Trail) geocaching and lakes, there’s also a number of hiking trails, short or long, to enjoy. While there may not be ocean beaches, there are many popular lake beaches so you can still enjoy the Florida sunshine, chill on the sand and take a dip.

BRADENTON: In the Bradenton Area of Florida, be enriched in the commercial fishing culture of the Cortez Fishing Village and visit the Florida Maritime Museum to learn about the village's storied history. For those looking for the lesser-known spots they should experience when visiting the area, several high-quality choices can be found along Anna Maria Island and in Lakewood Ranch. Book a SUP Yoga session with Salty Buddha Paddle & Yoga for mindfulness relaxation floating on a paddleboard. Stop by Ginny's & Jane E's for their cafe and bakery or to shop for one-of-a-kind items and local art. Dine on some specialties, such as Florida grouper, frog legs and alligator at Linger Lodge, which offers a unique and cozy atmosphere on the river

JACKSONVILLE: The city is brimming with hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered by travellers visiting the city. Experience the scenery and natural wonders in town at Treaty Oak, a roughly 250-year-old tree in Jessie Ball duPont Park with humongous branches sinking into the ground. Explore Jacksonville Arboretum, which offers education on the flora of 13 different ecosystems and 120 acres of urban woodland hiking trails. For a rare animal viewing and interaction, the Catty Shack Ranch offers feeding and enrichment tours of their big cat sanctuary. Visit a fantastic collection of 244 historical and current maps of Florida from the Lewis Ansbacher Map Collection in the Map Room in the Jacksonville Public Library – Main Library or uncover a vast offering of new and antique books at Chamblin Bookmine.

WEST VOLUSIA: A hidden gem in the heart of Florida, West Volusia offers experiences that capture the essence of the Sunshine State. Beyond its famous beaches and bustling theme parks lies a place where Old Florida meets a New Vibe. Situated between Daytona Beach and Orlando, West Volusia boasts a diverse array of attractions. From the mystical allure of Cassadaga's spiritualist community to the natural serenity of Highland Park Fish Camp, West Volusia invites visitors to explore its natural landscapes, rich history, and local charm. Each destination within this enchanting area presents an opportunity to discover Florida's hidden treasures, making West Volusia an ideal escape for those seeking authentic, off-the-beaten-path experiences.

Proudly frozen in time, Highland Park Fish Camp is an authentic haven carved out of the wilderness, perfect for both avid anglers and families seeking a day on the water. It doesn't get more ‘Old Florida’ than this, with nearly 62 years as a family-owned fish camp, this quintessential Florida fishing experience is known for its pristine environment, abundant wildlife, and excellent catches.

While widely known for its manatee sightings in the winter, Blue Springs State Park  also offers beautiful, tranquil settings ideal for kayaking, hiking, and camping. It's a fantastic launch for nature lovers looking to escape the hustle and bustle and for adventurers looking to explore the St. Johns River and its many tributaries.

While many flock to Deleon Springs State Park  for the crisp cooling waters, one of the big draws is the culinary gem that is the Old Sugar Mill Restaurant. This historic eatery offers a truly unique Florida dining experience.  Built inside a 100-year-old replica of an actual sugar mill, the restaurant is famous for its DIY pancake experience. Guests cook their own pancakes right at the table on built-in griddles, using homemade batter and a selection of fresh, local toppings. After enjoying their pancakes, visitors can explore the park's stunning springs, where swimming, snorkeling, paddle boating and hiking are popular activities.

CRYSTAL RIVER: Crystal River is considered the gem of Florida’s Nature Coast, with spectacular treasures just waiting to be discovered. Whether exploring the trails, finding secret fishing holes or drifting away in crystal-clear springs, the entire destination is an explorer’s dream come true.

Tucked off US 19, four miles north of downtown Crystal River, this little gem is part of the Crystal River Preserve State Park; just watch for the Great Florida Birding Trail sign. A two-mile long level path loops through meadow into pine forest and then into oak savannah before crossing into a mixed hardwood freshwater marsh. It’s a spot loved by birds, birders and hikers alike, with interpretive signs and convenient benches. In the springtime, stop and watch the bluebirds in the nesting boxes.

Crystal River is also the Manatee Capital of The World. Let an experienced guide take you through the crystal-clear waters of our local springs, where visitors can swim alongside these gentle giants. Nowhere else will you find more manatees than  in Crystal River, Homosassa and the waters of Florida’s Citrus County. It’s also one of only a few places in the world where you can have an in-water experience of swimming with manatees in their own natural environment and the only place in North America. It’s a privilege and responsibility Crystal River takes seriously, and the in-water guides are trained to make sure all beloved threatened species are treated with the utmost care and respect.

The Sunshine State offers visitors an assortment of unparalleled culinary options. To learn more and plan your next trip, visit


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