10 Things You Must Do When You Visit Florida
Florida is different from the other states, with it’s varied cultures, laid back atmosphere and surrounding water on almost all sides and a darn lot in the middle too. We are practically an island! The past few years have seen Florida as the only state not touched by snow, so while the rest of the country hunkered down to stay warm, we went fishing for bass and snorkeling in our crystal clear 72F springs. Flip flops are acceptable footwear at weddings and business meetings and panty hose is what we use to filter paint or to slowly add stabilizer to the pool. Historically, Florida has been occupied by many, from native Indians 10,000 years ago to the Spanish explorers, French and Brits, but few really wanted to stay once the mosquitoes started biting. And boy do they bite! The University of Florida created it’s own bug- the love bug to combat the mosquito problem, and now we deal with them as well, carrying around heavy duty sponges to clean our windshields of thick coating of love bug splatters. We have Mickey Mouse in Orlando, NASCAR races in Daytona, juicy Plant City strawberries, and long sandy beaches. There are important things you should do when you pay a visit to this sunshine state, and they really aren’t what most people think, so read on from this Florida-based blogger:
10 Things You Should Do When You Visit Florida:
- Spend a day at the beach. This is the obvious one. There are so many choices, from the white beaches of Destin, to the rowdy spring break party beaches of Daytona. And many in between. Like people watching? Try South Beach in Miami. Camping on a beach? Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys is for you. Check out Anastasia State Park and Canaveral National Seashore.
- Catch a fish. You don’t have to be a professional angler to hook a fish in Florida. You can fish from the shore, from a fishing pier (and Florida has many), from a fresh water dock or on a boat. There are fishing charters for deep sea fishing- they will include your fishing license fee, otherwise pick one up from the nearest Walmart, grab some bait and off you go. We fish small fish in fresh water with hotdogs, bigger ones with shiners. Salt water smaller fish prefer squid or shrimp, bigger ones like the smaller ones! Read about our angling adventures here.
- Eat fresh seafood. We are surrounded by seafood. Scallop season is nearly at it’s end in the Gulf, but fresh oysters are harvested in Apalachicola and at Cedar Key. The boys like them raw, but I prefer them steamed. Most seaside restaurants have a fresh catch of the day on their menu. Go ahead, try it!
- See a live manatee. West Indian manatees inhabit the waters in and around Florida. Waterways are posted with manatee zone signs (though I’m not sure if THEY actually know it) to let boaters know to go slow and take care to avoid these bulky cows of the sea. They are slow. They are vegetarians. And they are harmless. Manatees flock to the warm waters of the springs in the winter (Nov-Feb) but they are always about somewhere, so if you miss the winter zone, sign up for a tour to go out to see them. Here are 5 places to find manatees in Florida during the winter season.
- Explore a river by kayak. The amount of kayak/canoe trails in this state is phenomenal, from the 6 miles of the Silver River to the 40 miles of the Suwanee River trail. There’s the creepy Wacasassa River, the dark waters of the Withlacoochee River and the beautiful Juniper River Run. From deep swamps to residential areas, river trails are everywhere. Paddle them. Learn how to pronounce them and good luck with spelling them! Here’s a website that has an extensive list of some cool river trails- with photos! Paddle Florida
- Snorkel a spring. This was the first year I snorkeled a spring, an underwater cave that spews out sometimes millions of gallons of water daily. It is incredible to see nature at it’s best, and the underworld of a spring is something to marvel out. Best springs to check out? Try Ginnie Springs, Gilchrist’s Blue Springs, Alexander Springs, or even Salt Springs. Here’s a place to get started on your own spring hunting adventures: www.floridasprings.org
- Drink some fresh orange juice. I came to Florida as a little kid on family vacations and what I remember most is the fresh squeezed orange juice. Let me tell you, there is not a single company that can reproduce that fresh taste. Stop at one of the orange stands along the road for a taste of real Florida. You won’t regret it. And you may never go back!
- Hike the Florida Trail. The Florida trail is a hiking trail that stretches from the panhandle to south Florida, through swamps, through cow fields, over rivers and around Lake Okeechobee. You don’t have to hike the entire 1,400 miles to get a taste of wild Florida though. Check out my sister’s Florida Hike site for the best day hikes on the Florida Trail.
- Go sailing. If you are going to adopt the flip flop lifestyle, you should go the whole hog. Forget the rush and bustle and let the wind be your guide. If you can’t charter your own sailboat, there are plenty of sunset cruises just waiting to take you to sea!
- Find your own deserted island. There are many islands off of the Florida coast- one even has a fort on it near Key West. A whole area of Florida is known as the ten thousand islands. Get a boat and explore. Check out our YouTube video about Shell Island here. Or you can always let a ferry boat drop you off! Camp on Hontoon Island in the St. John’s River, or hop the ferry to the deserted Caldesi Island State Park.