The Sunshine State of Florida is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico providing 1200 miles of coastline –identified by various coastal names. The coast can be partitioned into two – the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf Coast or even the East Coast and the West Coast. If you think that's fairly straightforward the they have loads of other names.
What do I mean?...
Would you have guessed that the Lee Island Coast isn't named for an island at all, but for Lee County? The Space Coast is easy enough , but would you know where to locate the Treasure Coast?
Just so you know, there is a First Coast, but not a Last Coast; a Gold and Emerald Coast, but no Silver or Ruby Coasts; there is a Cultural Coast, but that doesn't mean the rest of the state is a cultural void; just like the sun shines on the entire state, not just on the Sun Coast.
Did you know that Palm Coast is on the coast, but is really a city?
If that all isn't confusing enough, just wait, that's not all. There is the Nature Coast; the Central West Coast, Central East Coast and North Central Coast; the Big Bend Coast; and, let's not forget... the Forgotten Coast.
There's so much more to Florida than you think. Go on, head off the highway and off the beaten track, we promise you won't be disappointed. Here's our suggestions for some hidden gems in the sunshine state;
Beyond the 35 miles of St Pete's beaches and coastline, there are a range of outdoor adventures. How about the Pinellas Trail? Cycle, walk or run along the old railway line stretching from St. Pete to Tarpon Springs. The 40-mile Pinellas passes rivers, creeks and quaint, picturesque small towns. Visitors can even stop for a craft beer at an independent brewery along the way.
Visitors can get a glimpse of one of Florida's rarest surviving landscapes at Blowing Rocks Preserve - an intact Florida dune habitat, alive with beach sunflowers, bay cedar and sea grape trees, as well as sea oats and sea grass.
The Despuis Area with its clear night skies offers excellent stargazing. Here you can explore the visitors' center with its interpretive displays, walk the nature trail and butterfly garden, fish from the partially covered pier, take a 15-mile self-guided tour, picnic, enjoy primitive group or family camping. There are 22 miles of hiking trails, including a segment of the Ocean to Lake Trail and an equestrian campground with 40 miles of horseback riding trails.
Halpatiokee Park is the largest park in Martin County with 65 acres of active park land surrounded by 470 acres of wetland preserves. Bring your camera to capture wildlife on the many walking and hiking trails or the 7.5 miles of mountain biking trails. Halpatiokee is the Seminole Indian word meaning "Alligator Water."
Beautiful Timer Powers Park is located in Western Martin County on Citrus Boulevard in Indiantown, it's the location of the annual Indiantown Rodeo which is one of the nation's most prominent rodeos and dates back to 1947.
Downtown DeLand is a designated Historic District. With 68 historic buildings, a stroll through the downtown area is a history buff's delight. In keeping with West Volusia's motto, "Old Florida, New Vibe", the shops, restaurants, museums and theaters create a rich and vibrant lifestyle that honors the past, savors the present and lives for the future. Downtown DeLand offers year-round festivals and special events appealing to all ages.
Wine lovers will enjoy a trip to DeBary Hall, Built in 1871 it was the winter retreat and hunting lodge of Frederick DeBary, a successful wine importer and sole purveyor of Mumm's champagne in the United States. The home was once considered state-of-the-art modern living.
Real ale lovers will appreciate the Daytona Ale Trail, each location has a unique atmosphere and all are owned and operated by those who are truly passionate about their brews. The craft beer offerings are diverse; some are served with delicious tapas and meals, and others encourage you to visit neighboring eateries or bring your favorite picnic style dishes. You might also find a food truck or two parked nearby and ready to serve up a wonderful pairing. Either way, you'll be sure to come away with the unique and delicious flavor of the Daytona Beach area, as well as a delectable experience to share with friends and family.
Have you ever dreamt of becoming a fighter pilot for a day? For a unique bird's-eye view of the area which is totally off the beaten track, fly in a legendary WWII P-51 Mustang at Stallion 51 or become a fighter pilot for an afternoon by taking the controls of a restored antique fighter plane at Warbird Adventures.
The Everglades & Paradise Coast
Spanning the southern tip of the Florida peninsula and most of Florida Bay, the Everglades National Park is the only subtropical preserve in North America. It is also the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles exist side by side. Everglades National Park has been designated a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International importance.
Accessible only by boat, Keewaydin Island, on the Paradise Coast, is an eight-mile-long barrier island located between Naples and Marco Island. The beach seems to stretch endlessly on this island, and only 20 percent is developed with private homes. The Keewaydin Express shuttle boat offers round trips multiple times daily from various stops on Marco Island. Spend an hour or two shelling and beach walking, or unplug for a relaxing island beach adventure.
A drive down the Florida Keys' Overseas Highway is one of the USA's most iconic road trips and is well-known for its spectacular views across the surrounding azure waters. But holidaymakers will also reap rich rewards by pausing to search out hidden gems located along or near the fabled highway.
Nature and art lovers should visit Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanic Gardens near Key Largo. This unique boutique property includes a beautiful inn, one of South Florida's most sophisticated art galleries featuring world-renowned artists, and a lush botanic garden.
Near the southern end of the Upper Keys district of Islamorada lies Long Key State Park. Here visitors can paddle through connected lagoons and hike The Golden Orb Trail which winds through five natural communities to an observation tower that offers panoramic views of Long Key's Atlantic Ocean-lapped shores.
Whether cruising the highways or driving off the beaten track, a rental car will help you get you wherever you want to go in the Sunshine State.