VISIT FLORIDA Celebrates Offbeat Summer Attractions Across the State
10 experiences for travelers who think they know everything about Florida
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.: Florida is the top destination for American travelers, but VISIT FLORIDA wants to remind visitors that there is more to the state than its beaches and major attractions. Theme parks and watersports are certainly part of the package, but many travelers want to experience something they never imagined.
Statewide, offbeat experiences and rarely-visited attractions await those who are willing to dig deeper into what Florida has to offer. These 10 contenders may not have made all the top ten lists previously, but they are some of the best kept secrets in Florida – and that will soon change this summer.
Martin County: Hobe Sound embodies the definition of small beach town charm in Martin County. Consider staying at the nearby Jupiter Waterfront Inn for a dose of “Old Florida”charisma. Imagine a wine tasting experience at Case del Vino, followed by an afternoon of exploring the quaint downtown shops. Hobe Sound is also home to Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Southeast Florida’s largest state park, where visitors can go horseback riding, kayaking, fishing, hiking, cycling, camping and more.
Jefferson County: Ghost stories aren’t just for October. In “The South’s Most Haunted Small Town,” Monticello is home to a Victorian Haunted History Tour. Visitors will wander the streets, including the old jail, to hear about the ghostly apparitions that haunt this corner of Florida.
Pensacola: While Pensacola is hardly off anyone’s radar, nearby Perdido Key often goes unnoticed. Home to the iconic Flora-Bama and picturesque hikes, this area is a favorite for locals and a must-see for savvy visitors. One of the best ways to enjoy a sunrise or sunset over the Gulf of Mexico is one of the picturesque hikes leading to Perdido Key. The trail winds over the salt marshes, maritime forest, sand dunes and breathtaking views over the Gulf.
Vero Beach: Families and adults alike will be enticed by the many famous shipwrecks off the coast of Vero Beach, where they’re transported back centuries, with submerged remains still there. Treasure hunters salvaged millions of dollars in gold coins and valuable artifacts, much of which is on view at local museums. On Sea Grape Trail Beach, a wreck is so close to shore that after storms you may find treasures washed up on the beach. One wreck sunk with 70 pounds of emeralds on board, with only three pounds recovered to-date. For a closer look, scuba divers, snorkelers and paddle boarders can easily reach these wrecks.
Florida Sports Coast: It’s not easy to say its name, but Zephyrhills, home to “Skydive City,” is certainly an offbeat trip for any visitors to Florida. Professional skydivers from all over the world regularly visit the area due to its ideal jump conditions and specialty aircrafts, marking it as a premier drop zone. First-time jumpers can enjoy these supreme conditions and learn why the area earned the title “Skydive City.”
Clay County: For visitors passing through, Clay County boasts the centerpiece of Green Cove Springs’ Spring Park, located along the banks of the St. Johns River. While it may appear that the park's pool is just another pool, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. At 135,000-gallons, it is spring-fed with the spring water flowing into the west side of the municipal swimming pool, and then flows out the east side forming a stream eventually emptying into the St. Johns River. The water comes from below at a rate of 1,346 gallons per minute, at a constant temperature of 77 degrees, making it a popular spot for locals and visitors during the summer months.
Jacksonville:Jacksonville’s reef system provides a unique experience for divers looking to sample the Sunshine State’s unspoiled waters. With 22 miles of beaches and the most shoreline of any Florida city, Jacksonville is home to more than 100 artificial reefs with hundreds of colorful species of marine life off the Atlantic Coast shore. Boats, planes and culverts have been placed, or in some cases found, along the continental shelf to form Jacksonville’s reef system. These sunken objects placed in the waters provide food and shelter to marine life and in turn, have created beautiful spots for divers.
Lake Country: With 1,000 lakes and communities filled with historic charm, there’s plenty to keep visitors entertained. The Citrus Label Tour stops at attractions like Showcase of Citrus, Citrus Tower and the Howey Mansion. Travelers learn how the gilded age citrus growing industry impacted these towns. A guided kayak trip heads down the Dora Canal while a seaplane ride offers a view of the lakes from above. It even boasts the oldest hotel in Florida: the Lakeside Inn.
Miami: Though Miami is full of well-known attractions, not everyone visits Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a National Historic Landmark. Built between 1914 and 1922, as the winter home of farming manufacturer James Deering, Vizcaya is one of the most intact remaining examples from this era in the United States, when the nation’s most successful entrepreneur-built estates were inspired by the stately homes of Europe.
St. Augustine: Florida is covered in history, but none quite like Fort Matanzas in St. Augustine. The offbeat fortress dates back to the 18th century, and is constructed of local materials including rock-like materials created by seashells. It’s a little bit of history that whole families can enjoy exploring together.
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.