Exploring Florida â€“ A Guide to the Southernmost US State
Florida is the southernmost state in the US, and while it was not part of the original 13 colonies that formed the fledgling country after the Revolutionary War, it does boast some of the oldest European history in the country. Florida was actually settled by Spanish colonists and explorers well before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, and was the first area of North Am
erica to be explored by Europeans (not counting the Viking excursions). Of course, the area that would eventually become the state of Florida was inhabited for thousands of years by Native American tribes.
Florida is a peninsula, and is surrounded by water on three sides. The stateâ€™s east coast is on the Atlantic, while the southern and western coasts sit within the Gulf of Mexico. The state is longer than it is wide, and includes a number of islands as well as the mainland portion (the most famous of its islands are the Florida Keys, which stretch south from the tip of Florida into the Gulf of Mexico).
Given the immense amount of coastline it owns, Florida has been a haven for beachgoers for decades, but thereâ€™s much more on offer. Tourist destinations like Orlando can be found, and itâ€™s also a haven for nature lovers. The stateâ€™s Everglades National Park is home to everything from panthers to alligators and manatees.
Florida boasts a tremendous number of sightseeing opportunities depending on what you prefer to enjoy. Youâ€™ll find everything from natural areas to space exhibitions, swamps and more. Key West ranks as both a must see and must do attraction in the state. The southernmost island in the Florida Keys, itâ€™s also home to the Southernmost Point in the United States. Key West also boa
sts author Ernest Hemingwayâ€™s home. Duval Street and Mallory Square are two of the islandâ€™s more popular draws as well.
Kennedy Space Center can be found in the northwest of Florida, only a couple of hours north of Daytona Beach. While the Space Shuttle program has been retired, the Space Center houses both replicas and actual spacecraft, as well as memorabilia, amusement rides and more. Itâ€™s well worth a trip with the family.
Back in Daytona Beach, youâ€™ll find the Daytona Speedway; here, the annual NASCAR Daytona 500 is run every year. The race used to be held on the beach itself, and the beach here is technically a city street, and visitors can drive up and down the white sands (while observing the posted speed limit, of course).
If you have time, a trip to the Everglades is certainly worthwhile. Whether you want to take an airboat out into the glades, or just want to learn more about the areaâ€™s unique ecology and wildlife, this is a family-friendly trip that can offer days of enjoyment.
Thereâ€™s plenty to do in Florida, from amusement parks to beaches to shopping and dining. Perhaps the most popular reason to visit Florida is to head to Walt Disney World, located in Orlando. Disney is a massive combination of parks, and it can take weeks to see and do everything th
ere is, which is one reason families come back year after year. Disney isnâ€™t the only theme park in Orlando. Universal Studios is a huge draw, as is SeaWorld.
If theme parks arenâ€™t your thing, youâ€™ll find plenty of beach fun on the stateâ€™s coastline. From the white sands of Daytona Beach just outside of Orlando to the dark brown sands of Cocoa Beach and the red sands of Panama City on the Gulf Coast, there are beaches galore in the state. Most beaches are open to the public and can be accessed through public parking and entrance areas. There are some private stretches of beach directly in front of major resorts, though. Miamiâ€™s South Beach is one of the stateâ€™s most famous, particularly with the wealthy.
One great thing about visiting Florida is that youâ€™ll find you can drive to pretty much every location. Even the Florida Keys can be reached with your rental car â€“ just head south from Homestead onto the Overseas Highway (carrying US Route 1
). You can drive to most of the larger keys, and take a boat to smaller ones you want to visit.
Kennedy Space Center is accessible by car, and Orlando is also easily accessible via major highways. The entire state can be accessed from your rental car, with only a few exceptions. Everglades National Park can be reached by car, but travel within the park is limited, and youâ€™ll need to go on foot or airboat through many areas.
Whether youâ€™re planning a family getaway to Orlando, want to soak up the sun on Daytona Beach, head south to Miamiâ€™s nightlife, or enjoy the tropical sun in Key West, Florida has something for everyone to love.