Florida is famous for its year-round sunshine, miles of golden beaches and larger-than-life amusement parks – but there’s far more to the ‘Sunshine State’ than meets the eye. Within its borders you’ll find America’s oldest city, St Augustine, the gateway to space travel and an array of charming seaside towns. Nature lovers can try an array of outdoor pursuits and wildlife expeditions, from kayaking and fishing to cycling and hiking, while foodies are well catered for with a burgeoning culinary scene.
Orlando is the theme park capital of the world, home to several big-name complexes including the legendary Walt Disney World – a magical 47-square-mile playground complete with thrilling rides, water parks, golf courses, shops and restaurants. Universal Orlando is another must-visit, where visitors can ride on the Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Forty-five minutes away on Florida’s Atlantic Coast sits the Kennedy Space Centre, where you can witness a shuttle launch and learn all about NASA’s early space programmes.
If you prefer the open space to crowded entertainment centres, head south to Miami’s Everglades National Park. This spectacular natural paradise spans over 1.5 million acres of tropical wetland wilderness and is one of the world’s largest conservation areas, where you can fish, kayak and spot an array of wildlife including alligators, birds, crocodiles and turtles. Nearby in the Florida Keys is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, America’s first underwater park where visitors can snorkel and scuba-dive among 70 square miles of coral reef and marine wildlife. Miami isn’t just about the great outdoors, though: the city is also famous for its hip galleries, buzzing nightlife, sumptuous seafood – and Latin rhythms, thanks to its close proximity to Cuba.
Over on Florida’s western Gulf Coast is Tampa, a laidback enclave of breathtaking beaches, upscale shopping and alfresco dining. Here you can sample the south-east’s best craft beers, stroll along the stylish Riverwalk and explore the Ybor City neighbourhood – a historic Latin quarter and former cigar manufacturing centre which is now a dining and nightlife hub.
From largescale luxury hotels to boutique boltholes and quirky guesthouses, Florida has accommodation to suit every taste. At Orlando’s family-friendly theme parks you’ll find sprawling five-star complexes – or for something more intimate, high-end self-catering villas can be rented in the nearby suburbs. In Miami, big-name brands operate sleek skyscraper hotels with rooftop pools and glitzy beachfront retreats with world-class spas, while the Florida Keys boast romantic tropical-island resorts perfect for a couple’s getaway.