Explore Florida

Florida Travel Guide

Millions of pleasure-seekers can't be wrong! Florida is North America's favourite holiday destination and draws hordes of tourists all year round. The reason for the state's popularity as a vacation station is its sunny climate and its situation along the coast. Consisting of a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern corner of the United States, Florida's uneven coastline is indented with estuaries, bays, inlets, lagoons and rivers, creating ideal enclaves for holiday resorts. Right in the south the peninsula ends in an arc of islands resting on coral reefs, known as the Florida Keys, today accessed via a highway ending in Key West, the southernmost point of the United States.<br /><br /> After World War II, tourism development took off at a great pace in Florida, not to enhance its natural attractions, but to build new man-made ones. The central part of the state, particularly around Tampa and Orlando, has since become a theme park paradise for thrill seekers. Enticing venues offer everything from water slides to rollicking roller coasters, and themed animal habitats attract thousands to the accompanying resort hotels on the mammoth sites of Disney World, Sea World, Busch Gardens and other major resort operators.<br /><br /> The state's biggest city, Miami, echoes the vibrancy of the rest of this holiday paradise, with its soft white sandy beaches vying for attention with the city's numerous attractions and colourful neighbourhoods. Its famous Art Deco district and Latin American quarter are constantly thronged with visitors, many of them passengers from the hundreds of cruise ships that come and go in the bustling port. Within easy access from Miami are the Everglades, a marshy grass plain home to plentiful wildlife and filled with alligators.<br /><br /> Aptly named the 'Sunshine State', Florida offers anything anyone seeks in a holiday, whether it be fine wining and dining, learning about space exploration, discovering endangered wildlife, riding a roller coaster or bronzing on one of its famous beaches.<br /><br />

Norton Museum of Art

Culture vultures should not miss out on one of Florida's major cultural attractions, the Norton Museum of Art in trendy, upmarket West Palm Beach. The museum's permanent collection is internationally renowned, including European, American, Chinese and contemporary art, from the Renaissance through to the present. There is also a photography section. The museum regularly hosts travelling exhibitions and offers education programmes for children. There is a museum shop and café serving refreshments. Guided tours are available. Photography is allowed in certain parts of the museum, but not in many of the exhibition areas - if you would like to take photographs be sure to ask permission first.<br /><br />

Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex

Situated in Boca Raton at Red Reef Park on a barrier island, Gumbo Limbo (named after a species of tree) is an eight-hectare (20-acre) marine and estuarine reserve dedicated to showcasing and preserving a concentration of plants known as a 'tropical hammock'. The Environmental complex includes large outdoor aquariums containing local marine life, including the area's ubiquitous sea turtles. Visitors can also visit a butterfly garden, see visual presentations and interpretive displays, catch the view from an overhead observation tower, and stroll an elevated boardwalk through the hammock and mangrove swamp. The nature center is informative and fun for people of all ages.<br /><br />

Seminole Reservation

An hour west of Fort Lauderdale, on the road to Naples, the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation boasts the Ah-Tah-Thi-Khi Museum, giving visitors an insight into the history and culture of Florida's 'unconquered' Indian tribe. The museum features exhibits and a living village where visitors can watch artisans at work. There is also a nature trail to explore, and a film on Seminole history is shown regularly. Apart from the many interesting cultural artefacts on display, the reservation is scenically very lovely, showcasing some of the typical everglades flora and fauna. The Big Cypress Seminole Reservation is the ideal place to go to get a feel for the American Indian heritage of Florida.<br /><br />

Miami Science Museum

Address: 1101 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL.

Admission: $28 (adults); $20 (children 3-11 years old). Free for infants up to two years old. Open daily from 9am to 6pm.

Telephone: (305) 434 9600

Nothing is staid or boring in Miami, least of all its museums. The Miami Science Museum, officially called The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, contains more than 140 exhibits, all designed to be hands-on and interactive, coupled with live demonstrations and collections of rare natural history specimens that make discovering and learning a great deal of fun. The Wildlife Center boasts more than 175 live reptiles and birds of prey, and the adjacent Space Transit Planetarium provides more thrills with projected astronomy and laser light shows. The whole family is bound to enjoy a visit to this science centre and the trip should prove educational for all ages. Please note that the newly renovated and relocated museum is now officially open.<br /><br />

Miami Seaquarium

Address: 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway

Admission: $44.99 (adults), $34.99 (children aged 3 to 9). Daily 10am-6pm (box office closes at 4:30pm).

Telephone: (305) 361 5705

At least half a day is required to fully enjoy south Florida's premier attraction. The Seaquarium is world-renowned for its marine life shows and attractions, including performing killer whales and television aquatic star and dolphin, Flipper. Another favourite star is the sea lion Salty and his colleagues, who amuse and amaze with their antics. It is even possible to arrange close encounters with some of the animals. The Miami Seaquarium is set in a tropical paradise boasting wonderful views of the city - an extra perk for those who can drag their eyes from the animal shows. Visitors should be sure to check the official website for a schedule of show times before planning their day.<br /><br />

Vizcaya Villa

Address: 3251 South Miami Avenue

Admission: $18 (adults), $6 (children 6-12). Free for children under 5. Other concessions available. Daily (except Tuesdays) 9:30am-4:30pm; closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Telephone: (305) 250 9133

Lovers of antiques revel in visiting the magnificent 34-room Vizcaya bayfront villa, built in the Italian Renaissance style in 1916 as a winter retreat for wealthy industrialist James Deering. The grand mansion took hundreds of artisans five years to complete, and the formal gardens, which surround the villa fronting on Biscayne Bay, took even longer to lay out. Today visitors can tour the villa and grounds, enjoying the original furnishings and décor in a variety of Renaissance, Baroque, Rococco and Neoclassical styles. Vizcaya Villa gives visitors a taste of the best of Europe in the heart of Miami, melding cultures very pleasingly.<br /><br />

Spanish Monastery

Address: 16711 West Dixie Highway

Admission: $10 (adults), $5 (children, students and seniors), Free for children under 5, other concessions available. Monday to Saturday 10am-4:30pm; Sunday 11am-4:30pm. The monastery sometimes closes for special events so it is best to phone ahead to confirm they are open.

Telephone: (305) 945 1461

Miami boasts the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere - but there is a catch. Dating from 1141 the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux in North Miami Beach is a hugely popular tourist attraction, although not quite indigenous to the area. The monastery stood originally in Segovia in Spain, but in the early 1950s the medieval building was bought by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, disassembled, shipped to Miami, and rebuilt on its present site. Time Magazine called the project the 'biggest jigsaw puzzle in history'. The fascinating medieval complex is a joy to explore, and the fact that it seems out of place in Florida only makes it more magical. Guided tours are available for groups of 15 or more.<br /><br />

Coral Castle

Legend has it that unrequited love led a Latvian immigrant to spend 25 years single-handedly carving a castle out of rock between the Florida Keys and Miami, on the South Dixie Highway. The amazing monument to the man's determination has been called America's Stonehenge and has been featured in numerous magazine and newspaper articles. Visitors are awed by the castle, which also contains affidavits from neighbours testifying to the fact that the builder had no assistance with his mammoth task. The creator, Edward Leedskalnin, once proudly showed visitors around the castle himself, but now an audio guide does the honours. This quirky attraction is fascinating to visit and fun for the whole family.<br /><br />

Everglades National Park

The vast Everglades National Park that spans the tip of the Florida peninsula, 35 miles (56km) southwest of Miami, has been described as a 40-mile-wide (64km) slow-moving river of grass, interspersed with shallow wetlands. It is the only subtropical preserve in North America, containing temperate and tropical plants. It also boasts dozens of endangered species that find a home in this natural habitat, like the swallowtail butterfly, American crocodile, leatherback turtle, southern bald eagle and West Indian manatee. The best way to explore the park is by canoe; although private operators also run rapid air-boat tours, which are popular with thrill-seeking visitors. The park has been accorded several honours including its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance.<br /><br />

Ybor City

Ybor City in central Tampa, with its cobblestone streets and huge old cigar factory buildings, is a National Historic Landmark District that beckons visitors back to an era when this Latin Quarter was known as the cigar capital of the world. The historic enclave, founded in 1886, has been fully restored and although the cigar factories are no longer operational, the buildings now house shops, restaurants, clubs and art galleries drawing large numbers of visitors. It is still possible to watch locals demonstrate the ancient art of premium hand-rolled cigar making, or spend a wild night applauding Spanish Flamenco dancers.<br /><br />

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens is an extraordinary adventure park, a combination between massive zoo and theme park, which predates Florida's more famous Walt Disney World and offers an equally exciting and entertaining experience for visitors. The park is based on an overall African theme, divided into numerous different areas with thousands of animals living in naturalistic environments. At Busch Gardens it is possible to come face-to-face with some of the world's most endangered animals, including Bengal tigers and orangutans. The site also contains thrill rides, live entertainment venues, shops and restaurants, all overseen from the Skyride cable car that crosses high above the park. In one day it is possible to visit Tutankhamen's Tomb in Egypt, cross the plains of the Serengeti, and watch snake charmers in a Moroccan sultan's tent. Popular rides include the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster, that travels up to 60miles per hour (96 km per hour), and the Falcon's Fury drop tower.<br /><br /> Opening times vary according to season so be sure to check the official website when planning your trip. If you plan to visit any other theme parks in the region it is well worth investigating the combination tickets on offer as huge savings can be made.<br /><br />

Museum of Science and Industry

The hands-on Tampa Museum of Science and Industry, affectionately known as MOSI, is designed to educate, amaze and amuse both young and old with more than 450 interactive exhibits. Visitors can, for example, experience what it is like to be in a Gulf Hurricane with winds of up to 74 miles per hour (200km/h), or defy the laws of gravity in space. The biology section features a unique way to explore the human body, and visitors of all ages will enjoy strolling through the butterfly garden. Also at the museum is Florida's first IMAX dome theatre, and the museum building is set in a 47-acre nature reserve which features walking trails. The museum can easily occupy the whole family for at least half a day.<br /><br />

Tampa Museum of Art

The Tampa Museum of Art boasts stunning facilities, and is located along Gasparilla Plaza. The 66,000-square-foot building houses a collection of 20th-century and contemporary art, as well as a renowned collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. There is also a changing special exhibitions programme. Their most recent addition to the building, which opened in February 2010, is itself a work of art. From the innovative translucent ceilings to walls covered with LED lighting, the seven interior galleries and one exterior sculpture gallery offer visitors a world-class experience. Visitors will appreciate the museum's setting and should take the opportunity to stroll along Hillsborough River while there.<br /><br />

Henry B. Plant Museum

The Henry B. Plant Museum, in the heart of downtown Tampa, is designed to transport visitors back to the turn of the century. The ornate building is Moorish in design, featuring 13 silver minarets, said to be a copy of the famed Alhambra Palace in Spain, and in itself is worth a visit. Railroad tycoon Henry Plant built the edifice in 1891 as the 511-roomed Tampa Bay Hotel. Today it houses period art and furnishings from Europe and the Orient, and details via exhibits the history of the resort and the early days of the tourist industry. The tropical gardens are also a joy to explore and a lovely place to enjoy a picnic.<br /><br />

Florida Aquarium

More than 5,000 aquatic creatures, including crocodiles and moray eels, live at the three-storey Florida Aquarium, where it is possible to explore the underwater world in air-conditioned comfort. The Florida Aquarium is home to an impressive array of the animals found in the famous waterways of the state, as well as many of the favourites found in aquariums the world over. The aquarium utilises behind-the-scenes tours, dive shows, audio tours, close-up animal encounters and touch-tanks to spice up the experience. There are also numerous informative and entertaining themed exhibits. There is a little waterpark and play area for young children needing some extra entertainment.<br /><br />

Walt Disney World

Orlando's most familiar landmark is undoubtedly the turreted Cinderella Castle that stands in the centre of the original Disney Florida theme park, the Magic Kingdom, at Lake Buena Vista. Walt Disney World opened in 1971 and has been making childhood fantasies come true ever since. Today it is just one of four Disney parks that cover more than 28,000 acres of Orange and Osceola counties in central Florida, with accompanying resorts, shopping complexes, hotels and waterparks. Apart from the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Orlando now includes Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. The park complex also includes two water parks, Disney's Blizzard Beach and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon.<br /><br /> Magic Kingdom is where the most famous Disney attractions are located, from Cinderella's Castle to the Main Street USA parades. Little girls can visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to receive princess makeovers, while boys can become proper swashbucklers at the Pirates League. Rides at the Magic Kingdom include classic favourites like Space Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, and It's a Small World.<br /><br /> Disney's Hollywood Studios gives visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the workings of the glitz and glamour of the movie industry, with rides and attractions dedicated to the Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, the Twilight Zone, Cars, and even American Idol. The popular Studio Backlot Tour demonstrates thrilling special effects, and multimedia galleries give insight into the history of Disney.<br /><br /> Animal Kingdom is a wildlife park home to more than 1,700 animals from 250 species. Visitors can go on an Expedition to Everest, or a Kilimanjaro Safari Expedition. The iconic Tree of Life towers over conservation exhibits and dinosaur boneyards, with bird shows, thrilling rides and live musicals as well.<br /><br />

SeaWorld Orlando

Spread out between the Disney parks at Lake Buena Vista and the downtown Orlando area is the renowned SeaWorld attraction, which has been making a major splash in central Florida for more than a quarter of a century. The park is designed to give an interactive look at the sea and all its facets, featuring themed animal habitats from tidal pools to iceberg lakes. In addition, visitors can hug a dolphin or kiss a killer whale, and watch the famous aquatic SeaWorld stars go through their paces in various entertaining shows.<br /><br /> SeaWorld is well-known for its epic rides as well as exciting animal encounters, and as of June 2016 the theme park launched Mako, a huge rollercoaster that reaches speeds of up to 73 miles per hour (117km per hour) on an impressively long steel track, leaving riders feeling both breathless and weightless. The ride is the tallest, fastest and longest coaster in Orlando.<br /><br /> Neighbouring Discovery Cove offers visitors a chance to swim with dolphins, view wildlife, sunbathe on gorgeous beaches and snorkel among the coral.<br /><br />

Universal Studios Florida

Experienced theme parkers recommend that it takes at least two days to fully appreciate all the delights on offer at the Universal Orlando entertainment complex, which includes two theme parks: the Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. The movie-themed park with its thrilling, innovative rides, production studios and film sets also has three superb luxury on-site hotels, so spending a night is a good idea. At Universal Studios visitors are invited to go behind the scenes and become involved in the movie action, while Islands of Adventure offers thrilling rides, shows and attractions on five different islands.<br /><br />

Wet n Wild Orlando

One of Orlando's numerous water parks, Wet 'n Wild has the distinction of being the most popular water attraction in the area and also the world's first amusement park devoted solely to water flumes, pools and slides. The park was designed by George Millay, creative genius behind the Sea World parks in San Diego and Orlando, and has been operating since 1977. Thrilling rides like The Storm, The Surge and The Bubba Tub are there to be enjoyed, along with numerous other attractions and facilities. Wet 'n Wild has numerous group rides, a great selling point for families and all those who enjoy sharing their thrills and spills. The park is open daily year-round, but opening times do vary according to season - check the official website listed below for details.<br /><br />

Lee County Manatee Park

A sighting of an endangered West Indian manatee, a shy and lumbering walrus-like creature whose numbers are dwindling, is a must for visitors to Florida. At the Lee County Manatee Park, on the Orange River in eastern Fort Myers, these animals can be viewed in their natural habitat from observation decks. The Park also offers information, walking tours and workshops, as well as picnic facilities, and a fishing cove with a deck and a pier. Kayak and canoe rentals are also available. Some of the facilities are only open between May and November when the weather is hot and pleasant - check the official website to see what is available when.<br /><br />

Orlando Odditorium

Housed in an odd-looking building that is tipped to one side and apparently sinking into the ground, the Orlando Odditorium contains a remarkable collection of weird and wonderful exhibits, amassed over a period of 40 years by explorer Robert Ripley. Examples of the exhibits are shrunken heads and a scale model of a Rolls Royce made entirely of matchsticks. Visitors can measure themselves up against the world's tallest man and learn about all sorts of odd and surprising records. Ripley's 'Believe it or Not' collection is world-renowned and has been documented in television series and best-selling books. This is a good family attraction with a real sense of fun.<br /><br />

Orlando Museum of Art

In true Florida style, Orlando's Museum of Art is not just another gallery but a fascinating world of creative themed exhibitions showcasing its permanent collections of American Art, Art of the Ancient Americas and African Art. The Museum also has an active programme of visiting exhibitions on display in the elegant building with its marble floors and glass ceiling. Group tours are made memorable and educational with commentary about art appreciation and the lives of the various artists represented. The museum's collection is extremely varied, covering a number of time periods and artistic schools and movements. Visitors should note that the museum is closed on Mondays.<br /><br />

Kennedy Space Centre

The John F. Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral, 46 miles (74km) southeast of Orlando on Florida's east coast, is one place in this fantasyland state where fact is just as entertaining as fancy. Visitors to the centre follow the story of NASA's exploration of space through interactive exhibits, movies and tours. Guests can tour a full-size replica of the space shuttle 'Explorer'; walk through a giant model of a module from the International Space Station; view films about Mars and the Pathfinder exploration; view historic authentic rockets, like that piloted by pioneer astronaut, John Glenn; and marvel at the Apollo/Saturn Centre, which houses all the artefacts from the historic moon landing. The Space Center requires several hours to digest, and on the same site is the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, established on the land NASA did not require for its space operations. The 220-square-mile (570 sq km) refuge contains more endangered species than any other wildlife refuge in the US, including the southern bald eagle and Atlantic loggerhead turtle. The US Astronaut Hall of Fame, in the nearby town of Titusville, is another of the area's attractions.<br /><br />

Fantasy of Flight

Midway between Tampa and Orlando, about 20 minutes drive west of Walt Disney World, the Fantasy of Flight resort is billed as the world's greatest aircraft collection. The attraction began as a vision of aviation enthusiast and historian, Kermit Weeks, as a tribute to the pioneers of flight, and today it features many rare and vintage aircraft, which actually take to the skies. Visitors are treated to an 'Aircraft of the Day' flypast, as well as the chance to fly themselves in a simulator. The site also offers tours of the aircraft collection in hangars, a sight and sound presentation detailing the history of aviation, a tour of the 'back lot' where vintage aircraft are restored, and an Exploration Centre.<br /><br />

National Museum of Naval Aviation

The museum on site at the sprawling US Naval Air Station west of Pensacola is regarded as one of the largest and most remarkable air and space museums in the world, with more than 170 aircraft on display, dating from the 1920s to the space age. In addition, the museum boasts a very realistic recreation of a World War II aircraft carrier and a wartime Pacific airbase. Between March and November visitors might catch a practise session of the Navy's Blue Angels flight demonstration team soaring through the skies. If not, the team can be seen in action in one of two IMAX films shown at the museum. Keen would-be aviators can have a go at doing it themselves on the flight simulator. Please note that as of 1 February 2016, all visitors to the National Naval Aviation Museum who do not possess a Department of Defense identification card will be required to enter via the West Gate located off Blue Angel Parkway.<br /><br />

Tallahassee

The capital city of Florida, Tallahassee is located 191 miles (308km) east of Pensacola on the 'Big Bend', close to the border with Georgia, 14 miles (23km) to the north. The city is set in rolling hills and sports moss-draped oaks, fragrant magnolia trees and grand old plantation houses more reminiscent of the Deep South than the Florida sunshine scene. Tallahassee hosts the Florida State University and the state's new Capitol Building, which towers 22 storeys above the downtown area. The city's five Canopy Roads, where trees form virtual tunnels, are lined with interesting sites such as plantations, ancient Native American settlements and mounds, gorgeous gardens and scenic picnic spots. There is also a Museum of Natural History and Science combined with a natural habitat zoo of indigenous wildlife.<br /><br />

Marine Life Center of Juno Beach

Over thirty years ago Juno Beach resident Eleanor Fletcher, affectionately known locally as 'the Turtle Lady', began assembling a collection of turtle artefacts and information that has grown to become the Marine Life Center on the oceanfront at Loggerhead Park, which monitors turtles along the Gold Coast. The Center is essentially a turtle hospital, and visitors can see ill and injured creatures being rehabilitated. The Center has numerous exhibits, including tropical fish and shells, and a gift shop. Evening guided 'turtle walks' are offered during June and July, but bookings must be made in advance. There are a number of other guided tours, hikes and talks available - check the official website for details.<br /><br />

Edison and Ford Winter Estates

Famous inventor, Thomas Edison, and his friend, automobile magnate Henry Ford, both spent dozens of winters in the city of Fort Myers in the early years of the 20th century. Edison's home is the region's top historic attraction, and has been preserved as it was during his lifetime. The Victorian house called Seminole Lodge still boasts working light bulbs, which he invented. They burn in the laboratory where he worked on more than 1,000 inventions during his winter visits. The house next door, Mangoes, was built by Ford in 1916. Visitors are given guided tours of both houses by costumed guides giving 'living history' accounts. Scenic river rides on board a replica of Edison's electric boat are also offered.<br /><br />

Koreshan State Historic Site

In the dying years of the 19th century a former Civil War surgeon, Dr Cyrus Teed, founded a pioneer settlement on the banks of the Estero River, south of Fort Myers, where he led the community to practice a religion he termed Koreshanity. Chief among his beliefs was the equality of men and women and that the universe was a hollow sphere containing everything within it. Planning to build a utopian city, the community generated their own electricity, built boats, established a general store and constructed numerous buildings, of which 11 remain today to be explored by visitors. The last four members of the sect donated the land to the State of Florida in 1961 and it is now preserved as a park with a nature trail, picnic tables and campsite. Guided tours of the Koreshan buildings are offered.<br /><br />

Southwest Florida Museum of History

The Southwest Florida Museum of History is housed in the former Atlantic Coastline Railroad depot and chronicles the history of Southwest Florida, from the Paleo Indians through the Calusa, the Seminoles and the Spanish explorers to the early settlers. A pioneer cracker house, a 1926 fire pump and a 1929 Pullman private railroad car are among the exhibits. Pride of place is held by the 'Land of Giants' section depicting the huge animals like mammoths, mastodons and the Bison Antiqus that roamed the area about 12,000 years ago. The museum also hosts regular travelling exhibitions. Guided tours are available and there is an audio guide in both English and Spanish for those who prefer to explore independently.<br /><br />

Shell Factory and Nature Park

The beaches along this stretch of the Florida coastline are world-renowned for their seashells and the largest collection of shells, fossils, corals and sponges in the world is the focus of a unique family-oriented attraction north of Fort Myers. The Shell Factory not only exhibits a fascinating and extensive collection, but the 18-acre complex includes shops selling a range of jewellery, ornaments, lamps, objets d'art and glassware as well. The complex includes a petting zoo, wildlife refuge, eco laboratory, a restaurant, game arcade, miniature golf course and boating lake; more than enough to keep the whole family entertained.<br /><br />

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

In the heart of Key West's old town is the house where Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway, one of America's most respected authors, lived and wrote for more than 10 years. The rooms and gardens are open to the public, enabling visitors to step back in time to Hemingway's most productive period, and to enjoy the lush garden where more than 40 cats have taken up residence. The cats have an interesting back-story: Hemingway owned a cat with extra toes and almost all the cats that now live at the house have this genetic trait; some of them are said to be direct descendants of the original pet. Entertaining guided tours are offered. There is a book store and gift shop on the property.<br /><br />

Key West Lighthouse Museum

The landmark beacon of the Key West Lighthouse was built in 1847 to warn ships of the hazardous reefs lying off the lower Keys, and, having been taken out of commission in 1969, is now a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can climb the 86-foot (26m) high tower to marvel at the spectacular view. The clapboard bungalow that was the keeper's quarters has been restored and maintained as a museum, providing a glimpse of life in Key West in the 19th century and into the bygone profession of lighthouse keeping. Interestingly, the first keeper of the Key West Lighthouse was a woman, an almost unheard of appointment for the 19th century.<br /><br />

Pigeon Key

Tiny Pigeon Key is an island west of Marathon on the Overseas Highway, which originally served as a construction camp for the first railroad built through the Keys. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and operated by the non-profit Pigeon Key Foundation as an historic preserve. Visitors can explore a railroad museum featuring artefacts and photographs about the original Flagler railroad and building of the old Seven Mile Bridge. Some of the cottages have been restored. The tiny island makes for an interesting historical attraction and a visit feels a bit like a step back in time. Guesthouses are available for small groups wanting to overnight in a restored, historic building on the island. Pigeon Key can be reached on foot or by ferry.<br /><br />

Crane Point

In the downtown area of Marathon there is a tropical oasis of nature trails and educational displays, set among hardwood trees, on a piece of land that was originally occupied by a Bahamian immigrant family in the early 20th century. Known as Crane Point Hammock, the Adderley family made a sparse and simple life here by selling sponges gathered from the sea and making charcoal. Their home has been restored and the grounds laid out with several miles of walking trails and wooden walkways through the botanic wonderland. One trail takes in the Marathon Wild Bird Center where injured Keys' birds are rehabilitated. There is also a natural history museum on site, dedicated to sea turtles, and a children's museum. Visitors can also witness fish feedings at a tropical saltwater lagoon, and an iguana enclosure.<br /><br />

Butterfly Conservatory

The Key West Butterfly Conservatory is billed as a trip to paradise, and a walk through the tropical wonderland filled with free-flying butterflies and colourful birds is certainly a magical experience. The conservatory is home to nearly 60 species of butterfly and 20 different species of birds, all contained in climate-controlled glass habitats with lovely features like waterfalls and a variety of flowering plants. In the Learning Center, visitors can explore the butterfly anatomy, physiology, lifecycle, feeding and migratory world of the Monarch, and get an up-close view of live caterpillars. There is also a gallery showcasing butterfly art and a gift shop selling some fun souvenirs.<br /><br />

Audubon House and Tropical Gardens

The restored homestead known as Audubon House contains the works of renowned ornithologist John James Audubon, who visited the Florida Keys in 1832 and completed drawings of 18 previously undiscovered birds for his folio in the gardens of this house. The house was originally built in the 1840s by Captain John H. Geiger, harbour pilot and wrecker, who lived here with his wife and nine children. Audubon House has been furnished in the typical, comfortable style of a prosperous Key West home of its era. Entertaining audio tours are available and in addition to exploring the house visitors can enjoy wandering through the gorgeous gardens, planted with orchids, bromeliads and other tropical, exotic and native plants.<br /><br />

Dolphin Research Center

One of the most enjoyable activities on a visit to the Florida Keys is an up-close-and-personal encounter with dolphins, which abound in the area. At the Dolphin Research Center visitors can enjoy half-day education programmes, walking tours and a 'dolphin encounter', spending 20 minutes of structured swimming time with the resident Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. The center is also home to some sea lions, a collection of exotic birds, an iguana, and a pack of rescued cats affectionately called the 'rat pack'. Many of the animals have been rescued and the center is committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals in Florida.<br /><br />

National Key Deer Refuge

The endangered, attractive and tiny white-tailed Key deer have found a safe haven in their refuge at Big Pine Key, where they can roam in 14 square miles (36 sq km) of their natural tropical hardwood hammock habitat, which is threatened just like them. There were only 27 or so Key deer surviving in 1957 when the refuge was established; this number has now grown to about 800. The refuge is also home to 22 other federally listed endangered and threatened species of plants and animals, five of which are found nowhere else in the world. More than 90,000 visitors come to the refuge each year and the beautiful natural landscapes are as rewarding as the rare animals.<br /><br />

Lincoln Road Mall

Admission: 10am-11pm seven days a week.

A pedestrian promenade lined with palm trees and colourful art deco buildings, Lincoln Road Mall is a great haunt for locals and foreigners. Once called the 'Fifth Avenue of the South', this lively seven-block shopping district serves up big name labels like G.A.P. and Banana Republic but also houses the renowned Regal Movie Theatre and the Lincoln Theatre, home to the New World Symphony. Considered one of the best people-watching streets in South Beach, take refreshment at one of the string of sidewalk cafés or soak up some local culture at the many art galleries along the mall. The Farmers Market on Sundays is the best place for fresh vegetables, fruits, juices, homemade breads and flowers, and on weekends Antique vendors display their wares along the sidewalk. At night, street performers take to the mall, entertaining passersby.<br /><br />

Wolfsonian Museum

Address: 1001 Washington Avenue

Admission: $7 (adults), $5 (seniors, students and children aged 6-12). Free admission after 6pm on Fridays. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 10am-6pm; open until 9pm Fridays; noon until 6pm on Sundays. Closed Wednesdays and some public holidays.

Telephone: (305) 351 1001

A vivacious collection of art and design pieces depicting popular culture from 1885 to 1945, the Wolfsonian is the amalgamation of a long-term pursuit by eccentric heir and collector, Mitchell Wolfson Jr. Housed in the original warehouse used as a storage facility for the 70,000 pieces, visitors can pick through the origins of graphic and industrial design in the hotchpotch of distinctive propaganda art from Germany, Italy and the United States, and the remarkable industrial design pieces from modern German design to Bauhaus. A haven for lovers of good design, the Wolfsonian is chock full of artistic treasures. Not to be missed is the über cool Dynamo café and museum shop.<br /><br />

Jungle Island

Address: 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Miami, FL

Admission: Adult $39.95, children $32.95. 10am-5pm every day of the week.

Telephone: (305) 400 7000

An offshoot of Parrot Jungle, which was established in 1936, Jungle Island is a new complex offering an exciting array of wildlife from parrots and macaws to crocodiles and penguins. You can witness over 200 parrots at the Manu Encounter, the world's only aviary replicating the clay cliffs of Manu, Peru and at the Parrot Bowl, a gaping amphitheatre, you can be entertained by the clever antics of cockatoos, parrots and macaws. Look out for the rare albino alligator and 21-foot crocodile at the Serpentarium. The waterpark featuring the 168-foot Hippo Slide, with an exhilarating 40-degree drop is also a favourite. The theme park is full of fun and interesting animals and offers many shows.<br /><br />

SeaWorld Aquatica

Address: 5800 Water Play Way, Orlando, FL

If you're up for something exciting, intriguing and just downright fun, then SeaWorld's Aquatica is certainly worth the visit. There are loads of thrill rides to enjoy in this water park as well as other varied attractions, ensuring the whole family stays entertained. Visitors can experience a gentle ride through an undersea world and see the unbelievable sea life below, or they can revel in an adventure-fuelled race against the rapids. With so many rides and slides to choose from, this water world will leave any visitor thrilled, and soaked!<br /><br /> The signature ride, Dolphin Plunge, features slides that shoot riders through a pool of Dolphins, and for the real adrenalin junkies the most thrilling and fast paced ride of them all is the Ihu Breakway Falls, a watery free-fall drop slide. Whether you're after relaxation or adrenalin SeaWorld's Aquatica is great fun for the whole family. The park is open daily all year-round, but opening and closing times do change according to season.<br /><br />

Biscayne National Park

The Biscayne National Park can be seen from downtown Miami, but the city and the park offer vastly different treasures for tourists. The coral reefs and tiny islands of this water sanctuary are home to an abundance of wildlife, and even a couple of awe-inspiring pirate shipwrecks. Biscayne is a great camping, boating and swimming spot for families and provides a nature sanctuary right on the doorstep of Miami for those who need a break from the glitz and bustle of the city. The park offers many fun outdoor activities and there are a variety of boats and water craft available for hire - check out the official website listed below for more details.<br /><br />

Crandon Park Beach

Address: 4000 Crandon Boulevard, Key Biscayne

A family holiday in Miami wouldn't be complete without spending some time on the beach. Aside from providing a beautiful sample of Florida's famed sand and sea, Crandon Park Beach also has an Amusement Center with a carousel, a roller rink, a splash fountain and a playground for kids to enjoy, making it a very good option for families on holiday. The Crandon Park Gardens are beautiful to see, and there are a few picnic spots to enjoy as well. The beach itself is long and spacious, ensuring that it seldom feels crowded, and there are plenty of picturesque palm trees providing shade. The water deepens very gradually so that the shallows are extensive and safe for kids.<br /><br />

Gold Coast Railroad Museum

Address: 12450 S.W. 152nd Street Miami, FL

Admission: Adults and Children age 12 and up $8.00. Children age 2 to 11 $6.00. Children under age 2 enter free. 10am-4pm on weekdays, 11am-4pm on weekends.

Telephone: (305) 253 0063

Kids will be delighted by the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, which offers train rides, toy trains to play with, and interesting model train exhibits. The museum's railroad car collection includes President Roosevelt's historic Ferdinand Magellan carriage. In March each year there are Thomas the Tank Engine rides for children. Model train building sessions take place between 10am and 2pm on weekdays, and between 11am and 4pm on weekends. Tours are conducted at specific times each day and cost a small additional fee - check the official website listed below for details.<br /><br />

Miami Childrens Museum

Address: 980 MacArthur Causeway Miami, FL

Admission: Adults $18. Florida residents enter for a discounted price of $14. Children under 1 year old enter free. 10am-6pm daily.

Telephone: (305) 373 5437

The child-sized exhibits at the Miami Children's Museum are both colourful and interactive. Kids can explore the museum's simulated hospital, supermarket or fire station, playing with and moving anything they like. The Mt. Michimu rock-climbing wall offers a fun, physical challenge for older children. The museum ensures that there's always something going on to entertain visitors and many fun activities and play areas are always available. For safety reasons, children are not allowed into the museum unaccompanied by an adult, and adults are not allowed into the museum unaccompanied by a child. The Miami Children's Museum is the perfect family attraction for a rainy day in the city!<br /><br />

Discovery Cove Orlando

Discovery Cove is an exquisite tropical island paradise. In recent years, Discovery Cove has supplanted its sister park, SeaWorld, as the premier marine theme park in the state of Florida, but the competition remains steep and many travellers choose to visit both. What makes the experience of visiting Discovery Cove so unique is the level of interaction that it offers: guests can swim with bottlenose dolphins, snorkel alongside a coral reef teeming with exotic fish, unwind on pristine sandy beaches, and hand-feed tropical birds in a free-flight aviary. It is even possible to wade in the welcoming Freshwater Oasis, coming face-to-face with playful otters and curious marmosets in the lush landscaping. The combination of relaxation and adventure is glorious.<br /><br /> Discovery Cove offers some impressive ticket combination deals which should be considered for those visiting multiple theme parks in the region.<br /><br />

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located at Islands of Adventure and allows visitors to enter their favourite scenes from the films, including the Hogwarts Express, Hogsmead village, Zonko's joke shop and Diagon Alley, and has fun rides that include the Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge. Children can visit Ollivander's to find their perfect wand, or sample chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans at Honeyduke's sweet shop. The attraction is wildly popular and fun for the whole family, but queues can be intolerably long at peak times. Harry Potter fanatics give the park rave reviews, and even the uninitiated praise the rides and magical details.<br /><br />

Gatorland

Florida is famous for its alligator population, and Gatorland in Orlando is a good place to get an up-close-and-personal experience with these interesting animals. The park is home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles, as well as a breeding marsh with boardwalk and observation tower, reptile shows, an aviary, petting zoo, swamp walk, and educational programs. A huge thrill is provided by the Gator Zip Line, which allows brave visitors to the park to zoom about high above the enclosures. Gatorland has several restaurants, and even offers a gluten-free menu. Visitors can enjoy the whole park at a leisurely pace in about four hours, but a family can easily spend even longer enjoying the various attractions.<br /><br />

The Holy Land Experience

Vastly different from most theme parks in Orlando, The Holy Land Experience is a religious attraction designed to recreate pivotal scenes from the Bible, including the Great Temple, the Last Supper Communion, and a Jerusalem Street Market. Staff members re-enact stories from the life of Jesus, and large-scale productions are staged in the Church of all Nations auditorium. The park is designed to be spiritually motivating and a visit can be very moving for the religious. The Holy Land Experience is far more about the story of Jesus than it is a genuine recreation of Jerusalem, but the replica temples and ancient streets help to bring the story to life and set the scene.<br /><br />

Miami Beaches

The beaches in Miami are world-famous; some for their stunning settings and some for their stunning sunbathers. Crandon Park Beach is good for children, with the playground and carousel as well as picnic areas and restrooms. Haulover Beach Park also has good facilities like volleyball and tennis courts, a golf course, concession stands and picnic tables, but parents should be aware that the northern end allows nude sunbathing. Hobie Beach is the best place for windsurfing in Miami, while the sandy beach in Oleta River State Park is popular for boating and kayaking. The central Miami beaches have good facilities, like concession stands, showers, lifeguards, walking trails and beach chair and umbrella rentals, but tend to be the most crowded at peak times. Topless sunbathing is allowed in Miami Beach.<br /><br />

Key Largo

The longest and largest of the Florida Keys, Key Largo is the closest of the islands to Miami, and easily accessible at only an hour's drive from the city. Although the main drag has rather a strip-mall feel to it, Key Largo is known as one of the best places to go scuba diving in Florida, with shipwrecks and colourful coral reefs and more than 600 species of tropical fish inhabiting them. There are many popular dive sites in Key Largo, and no shortage of dive operators to guide visitors to them. Boating and parasailing are also popular activities in Key Largo, and at night the island buzzes with a lively nightlife spread over a number of restaurants, bars and clubs.<br /><br />

Marathon

Located roughly at the midpoint of the Florida Keys, Marathon is a popular holiday destination for families in Florida. The bustling town has a number of good restaurants and hotels, as well as interesting historical attractions like the museums of Pigeon Key and Crane Point, including the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys and the Florida Keys Children's Museum. There are plenty of places to enjoy nature around Marathon, including Curry Hammock State Park, and many excellent snorkelling and dive sites around Sombrero Beach. Children can enjoy up-close interactions with marine life at Dolphin Connection, the Dolphin Research Center, and Turtle Hospital. The Old Seven-Mile Bridge is a popular spot for activities like bicycling, rollerblading and fishing, while there is a nine-hole golf course on Key Colony Beach.<br /><br />

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Located on the western end of the Florida panhandle, Gulf Islands National Seashore is a 150-mile (241km) stretch of undeveloped beach. What it lacks in tourist traps it makes up for in sheer beauty, and camping, hiking and bicycling in the isolated, protected regions is a treat for travellers looking to get away from the crowded resorts of southern Florida. The park includes several islands, including Santa Rosa Island (home to the popular Fort Pickens Campground), Perdido Key, Horn Island, and West Ship Island (home of Fort Massachusetts). There are limited restaurants and shops in the Gulf Islands National Seashore region, though most camping sites are near enough to coastal beach communities that visitors don't need to bring everything with them and will find necessary amenities not too far away.<br /><br />

Panama City

Located near Pensacola on the gulf coast of the Florida panhandle, Panama City is a popular travel destination. Set along 27 miles (43km) of white sand beaches, the town is a great place for families on holiday in Florida, with plenty of outdoor activities available in St Andrews State Park and Pine Log State Forest, and city attractions like the Panama City Visual Arts Center and Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum. Panama City is usually a fairly quiet town, but comes alive each spring as thousands of students flock to the town for Spring Break. Concerts, parades and other events are regular occurrences during this period, and travellers looking for peace and quiet should remember to avoid Panama City at this time.<br /><br />

Amelia Island

Located off the coast of Jacksonville, on Florida's northern Atlantic Coast, Amelia Island is the southernmost of the Sea Islands, which extend north along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. Amelia Island is a popular weekend destination from Jacksonville and Pensacola, drawing tourists with its excellent golf and tennis resorts, the stunning natural scenery in Fort Clinch State Park, and the lovely town of Fernandina Beach, which boasts beautiful Victorian mansions and a number of shops and restaurants. Perhaps the greatest attraction of the island, however, is the 13-mile (21km) stretch of pristine beach. Check out the official website listed below for more details on what is available for tourists on the island.<br /><br />

Azul

Address: 500 Brickell Key Dr, Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Food Type: Fusion

On entering Azul, guests will be impressed by the sophisticated atmosphere created by copper-burnished walls, silk-covered chairs and a white marble open kitchen - floor to ceiling bay views won't go unnoticed either! The menu offers a unique fusion of Mediterranean and Asian cuisine, with still more international influences. The raw tuna with caviare, crab, avocado and Asian sauces is excellent, as is the Moroccan lamb. Open for dinner Monday to Saturday, reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Palme dOr

Address: 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables

Food Type: French

Voted as the best restaurant in south Florida, Palme d'Or offers glamorous dining at the prestigious Biltmore Hotel. Specialising in Nouvelle French cuisine, the menu offers tasting portions; patrons can sample the array of flavours, textures and taste sensations which Palme d'Or is renowned for. Try the slow-braised beef effilochée with polenta and parmesan, or the wild mushroom cassolette. This excellent dining experience is complemented by attentive service and live music. Open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner. Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Joes Stone Crab

Address: 11 Washington Avenue

Food Type: Seafood

A Miami institution, Joe's Stone Crab has burgeoned since its humble beginnings as a sidewalk vendor in 1913. Renowned for its stone crab claws, a plethora of scrumptious side orders include Joe's famous hash browns and cole slaw, creamed spinach, grilled tomatoes and fresh salads. Don't forget to try Joe's famous mustard sauce and the appetizing seafood bisque (there is also a selection of other seafood, steaks, ribs and chicken to choose from). Note: Joe's is only open during Stone Crab season, from October to May. Open for lunch from Tuesday to Saturday, and dinner all week.<br /><br />

News Café

Address: 800 Ocean Drive

Food Type: Cafe

The South Beach breakfast establishment, News Café, offers a superb oceanfront setting, outside seating and an international newsstand - ideal for that first coffee of the morning. With a plethora of breakfast options, patrons can tuck into Eggs Florentine, buttermilk pancakes, or try the Middle Eastern combo (a hummus, tabouli salad and grape leaf platter). Their burger and fries or smoked salmon bagel are also great. The ultimate lure of News Café is that they're open 24 hours a day, and breakfast can be ordered around the clock.<br /><br />

Señor Frogs

Address: 3480 Main Hwy, Coconut Grove

Food Type: Mexican

Señor Frog's appeals to college students and young people because of its trendy atmosphere and affordable menu. It's known for a rip-roaring good time, potent margaritas and a mariachi band. The food at this cantina is cheesy and tasty, if not exactly authentic. A specialty, the mole enchilada with 14 different kinds of mild chillies mixed with chocolate, is flavourful and unique - a definite must! Portions are huge and served with rice and beans. Open daily for lunch and dinner, reservations not accepted.<br /><br />

Timo

Address: 17624 Collins Ave, Sunny Isles

Food Type: Mediterranean

Timo is a hip and happening restaurant in Sunny Isles, owned by executive chef Tim Andriola. The restaurant is a trendy Italian Mediterranean establishment popular with North Miami Beach locals. Specialties worth trying are the wood-fired rock shrimp pizza, or the herb-roasted chicken. Timo's atmosphere is laid-back and casual, making it the ideal place to enjoy any kind of occasion, from a business lunch to a romantic candle-lit dinner. Open for lunch Monday to Friday and dinner all week. Reservations required.<br /><br />

Red Fish Grill

Address: 9610 Old Cutler Rd

Food Type: Seafood

Located at the edge of the saltwater lagoon lies the Red Fish Grill, surrounded by the magnificent setting of the tropical Matheson Hammock Park. The ambience of the restaurant, reminiscent of Old Miami, makes it an ideal place for a romantic dinner. Red Fish Grill offers delicious seafood dishes that won't disappoint - try the Chilean sea bass, or the mahi-mahi with spinach, sweet potato and blue cheese. Open daily for dinner and closed on Mondays.<br /><br />

Jacks Place

Address: Rozen Plaza Hotel, 9700 International Dr

Food Type: Seafood

Serving a variety of steaks, grills and seafood, Jack's Place is the place to go for quality food. Start with the tender grilled crab cake or stuffed shrimp and enjoy the Lobster Ravioli served with fresh English pea and corn sauce. Open for lunch and dinner. Bookings recommended.<br /><br />

A Land Remembered

Address: Rosen Shingle Creek 9939, Universal Blvd

Food Type: Steakhouse

This renowned Orlando steak house is the place for carnivores to meet and features an impressive wine list to boot. Start with the Little Creek Frog Legs, which are Cajun spiced with a mango rum glaze and tuck into a mouth watering Châteaubriand, Filet Mignon or the famous Key Lime Pie. Open for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Cala Bella

Address: 9939 Universal Blvd

Food Type: Italian

For mouth-watering Tuscan cuisine where Italian classics marry with American cuisine to create a wonderful taste sensation, Cala Bella is the place to go. Start with the mozzarella stuffed Bella meatballs braised in Borolo wine before diving into marinated herb roasted lamb chops with pickled garlic and shallots in rosemary minted Marsala. Bookings recommended.<br /><br />

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