Discover Florida’s hidden gems!
The Sunshine State has an abundance of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Here are some travellers can explore on their next vacation.
FLORIDA’S ADVENTURE COAST: Some of the best hidden gems on Florida’s Adventure Coast are in its small towns and communities, where charming views and friendly locals draw guests time and time again. Enjoy a scenic drive when you visit one of these local favorites, offering culinary treats and plenty of small-town charm.
Near downtown Brooksville, Sparacia Witherell Family Winery & Vineyards sits on one of the highest elevations in Florida at 275 feet above sea level. Here, visitors can enjoy the sultry breezes off the Gulf of Mexico, where they grow native Muscadine and hybrid varieties of wine grapes. Nine varieties of wine are available, along with blueberry wines and wheat beer. Free tastings are offered at the winery’s tasting room that also features a gift shop with a humidor, wine accessories, gift boxes and wine available for purchase by the bottle or glass. On balmy evenings, visitors can enjoy sipping on the stone patio overlooking the vineyard; weekends usually offer food trucks on-site and live music on the veranda.
Located in Ridge Manor, Southern Harmony is a quaint, small-town cafe serving big flavor of southern, home cooked meals. With the aim of bringing guests the feel and flavor of their two home-states, Florida and Louisiana, the owners of Southern Harmony have created a place that feels warm and welcoming “in the same way going home to your mom or grandma’s house would – except we’ll let you leave without picking up after yourself or doing the dishes!” Owners, Cindy and Anthony Rogers, bring together a unique blend of both Cajun influences to the table, offering plenty of familiar southern favorites, as well as unique dishes and beverages
CLAY COUNTY: As the quaint, small town that serves as the county seat, Green Cove Springs has always been a gathering place. Take a step back in time when you visit Spring Park, home to the Green Cove Springs spring pool, one of the oldest in the country dating back to 1871 when Dr. Joseph Applegate made it accessible to the public for medicinal purposes. Today, the spring is part of the newly-renovated park providing residents and visitors with waterfront access to the St. Johns River, pavilions, gazebos and numerous playgrounds. The spring pool stays at a consistent 72 degree fahrenheit temperature throughout the year.
For a taste of local cuisine, stop in for a cup of locally brewed Brass Tacks Roasters Coffee at Spring Park Coffee. For a fun-loving atmosphere or to catch up on sports scores, Ronnie’s Wings, Oysters and More is just steps from Spring Park. You’ll also find in this area Italian favorites at D’Fontana and tangy Pan Asian Cuisine Sushi Bar. For a sweet treat, stop in for a delicious treat from Sweet Sensations.
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.
THE PALM BEACHES: The Palm Beaches is abundant in popular tourist spots, and is a hidden treasure trove of to-be-discovered findings. Situate yourself at Howley’s, a 1950s established diner situated exclusively on South Florida’s Dixie Highway. Authentic old-school details are peppered throughout the space, serving up comforting breakfast favorites amongst restored pressed-tin ceilings, terrazzo floors and a working jukebox. Opened by the Howley family in the ‘50s, the restaurant now boasts sparkling modern touches while still paying homage to old times. Howley’s truly rewinds the clock, allowing patrons modern takes on classic menu items alongside a historic atmosphere.
For the ultimate local taste of The Palm Beaches, try the informative and delicious two-hour walking tour of downtown West Palm Beach with West Palm Beach Tours. Featuring a handful of tour options, most tours include stops at five locally-owned restaurants and eateries, allowing guests to taste innovative dishes and learn historical fun facts and truly get a feel of Southeast Florida. Vibrant street art compliments the entertaining stories of West Palm Beach’s past, and tropical weather allows for the ultimate vacation experience. An optional cocktail package is available for purchase, adding frozen signature drinks and the likes of a French pear martini to quench your thirst.
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 ofswimming 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 www.VISITFLORIDA.com.
About VISIT FLORIDA
VISIT FLORIDA is the Sunshine State’s official tourism marketing corporation and travel planning resource for visitors across the globe. As Florida’s No. 1 industry, tourism was responsible for welcoming over 122 million visitors in 2021, an increase of 54 percent from 2020. VISIT FLORIDA promotes tourism through sales, advertising, promotions, public relations and visitor services programs, and serves more than 13,000 travel industry partners throughout the state. To learn more about VISIT FLORIDA, follow @FloridaTourism on Facebook and Twitter, or go to visitflorida.org. For inspiration in the Sunshine State follow @VISITFLORIDA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit www.visitflorida.com. For media resources, visit www.visitfloridamedia.com.
About Vox International
VoX International is a Canadian-owned destination marketing firm based in Toronto, Canada with offices in Vancouver and Montreal, providing Canadian representation nationally. VoX is a full-service sales, marketing, event planning and public relations agency led by a team of high profile, knowledgeable travel industry executives. Recognized as a marketplace leader, VoX offers a wide range of support within the North American meeting, incentive, events, and hospitality and leisure tourism sectors. VoX’s passion for providing personal, innovative and results driven solutions are key factors for driving the company’s reputation for success.
Senior Public Relations Manager, VoX International
VISIT FLORIDA – Canada
416-935-1896 ext. 242