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Home to Florida’s premier vacation hotspots, South Florida is where to find beautiful beaches, world-class shopping, and outdoor eateries selling fresh seafood fare. South Florida is a vibrant mix of contrasts, from the buzzing party scene in Miami to the laid-back vibes of Sanibel Island, where captivating attractions blend seamlessly with postcard-worthy landscapes, diverse neighborhoods and a range of opportunities for a memorable outdoor adventure. To discover what city suits your travel needs best, read on to find the best places to visit in South Florida.
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The perfect place to indulge in water-based adventures, the Florida Keys is home to idyllic landscapes with its 1,700 islands. Popular for its laid-back vibes, here you can spend your days on snorkeling and diving past the colorful reefs around Dry Tortugas National Park and wrapping up your evenings pairing the salty ocean breeze with freshly caught seafood by the water. Just south of Miami Key West is one of the area’s hotspots where you can explore the lively restaurants and bars along Duval Street, sample one (or a few) slices of key lime pie, and watch one of Florida’s beautiful sunset views in Mallory Square.
While Miami typically gets attention for its lively nightlife and South Beach action, its abundance of stunning beaches and family-friendly activities appeal to any traveler. Mixing big city vibes with a wealth of trendy restaurants, world-class shopping and endless water activities, Florida’s premier cosmopolitan city allows you to create your own itinerary based on your interests. For a dose of culture, browse the artwork inside the Institute of Contemporary Art, appreciate the ever-changing Wynwood Walls and sample authentic Cuban cuisine in Little Havana. Just a short drive away, make sure to take a trip to nearby Everglades National Park or take the kids to see the native animals in the Miami Seaquarium and Zoo Miami.
One of Florida’s most beloved beach destinations, Sanibel Island offers visitors a combination of beautiful natural landscapes and laid-back attractions. Boasting an unassuming personality with small-town charm, its lack of chain stores and traffic lights let visitors escape from the daily stressors of life. Running east to west in a banana-like shape, the most popular activity on Sanibel is to comb through its shoreline to find unique treasures washed up on the beach. Nature lovers will appreciate a day at the nature haven J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, while a day island hopping to nearby Captiva Island and Lovers Key State Park will have you feeling like you found your own slice of paradise.
A charming city filled with sun-kissed beaches and historic landmarks, Fort Myers is where to go to find the perfect mix of nature and family-friendly attractions. Popular for both its fishing and shopping opportunities, here you can also visit historical landmarks such as the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford winter estates. Dig your toes in the pristine sands of Lover’s Key State Park or spend the afternoon splashing in the Gulf of Mexico waters with your favorite four-legged friend at Bonita Beach. From November to March, or prime manatee season, head to Lee County Manatee Park to see Florida’s gentle giants from an observation deck.
One of Florida’s most underrated vacation destinations, Sarasota lures travelers in with its abundance of fun-filled attractions. Both kids and kids at heart will delight in the verdant displays of flora and fauna at Marie Selby Botanical Garden, while those in need of some serious rest and relaxation should pack their sunscreen for a day of lounging at Siesta Key Beach and nearby Lido Key. Get up close and personal with some of Florida’s fiercest creatures at Myakka River State Park, or for a truly unique experience, head to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art for a peek at the colorful displays of circus memorabilia.
A popular fishing destination, Stuart is known as the “Sailfish Capital of the World,” nestled on the Treasure Coast along the Atlantic Coast. Surrounded by wide waterways, it’s here that you can hire fishing and charter boat fleets. While fishing excursions reign supreme in this city, visitors can also enjoy the city’s rich history and pedestrian-friendly downtown area. Snap a photo of the famous sailfish fountain, get your art on at one of the local galleries, or pop in a quaint cafe for an afternoon under the sun. Perfect for those interested in the city’s history, visit the Stuart Heritage Museum and Road to Victory Military Museum.
A great place to indulge in beach activities, Fort Lauderdale is also home to notable arts and cultural attractions. Visit the popular beachfront promenade for a day of soaking in the ocean breeze, or cross the street to find some of the best dining and shopping attractions. Head to Millionaires Row for a look at the glitzy yachts and mansions, while you can explore the city’s history at the 1900s preserved Stranahan House. Nicknamed the “Venice of America,” here you’ll find a canal system where fishing enthusiasts revel in its opportunities. Take the kids to Butterfly World, the largest butterfly house, or explore the interactive, hands-on exhibits at the Museum of Discovery.
Home to white sandy beaches with gorgeous turquoise waters, Naples is a nature-lovers paradise. Situated on Florida’s Gulf Coast, here you can soak up the sunshine at Lowdermilk Beach, stroll along the iconic Naples Pier or take in the expansive landscape and wildlife views at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Both kids and kids at heart will love the thrilling slides found at Sun-N-Fun Lagoon, while you can find respite with a cold brew at Naples Beach Brewery. For a day of outdoor adventures, head to Naples Botanical Garden to see lush vegetation and floral landscapes, but if you’re in need of some retail therapy, then a trip to the waterfront Venetian Bay is a must.
Florida has their own version of Hollywood, and it’s much different than the one in California. Hollywood, Florida is a popular beach destination, where family-friendly neighborhoods and a charming boardwalk lures travelers in time and time again. Cyclists will find this city appealing, as the beachside boardwalk features the sparkling ocean on one side and charming cafes on the other. Visit the Anne Kolb Nature Center for a day of exploring paddle trails through the mangroves, or climb the Observation Tower for a panoramic view of the postcard-perfect surroundings. Home to Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlour and Restaurant, cool off with a heaping bowl of ice cream at this retro dessert spot serving locals for close to 60 years.
Perfect for enjoying South Florida’s beaches without the throngs of tourists, Deerfield Beach offers an award-winning coastline. With easy access to the ocean and the Intracoastal, outdoor enthusiasts will find this area appealing. Located north of Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach is home to Quiet Waters Park, where you can spend a weekend camping, fishing and the longest “cable ski” courses, combining surfing, skiing, and wakeboarding. For something unique, head to South Florida Railway Museum to see working model trains at a station from 1926, while nature lovers might prefer to spend a day exploring the nature trails and mangrove swamps at Deerfield Island Park.
Located along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, West Palm Beach is a great destination for culture vultures. Explore the artwork in Norton Museum of Art, catch a show at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, or indulge in nightlife along Clematis Street. While nearby Palm Beach highlights some of Florida’s most luxurious parts of its laid-back lifestyle, visitors will delight in the city’s array of upscale restaurants, high-end shops and vibrant arts venues. The oldest and largest public gardens in Palm Beach, head to Mounts Botanical Garden to see flowers from around the world or say hello one of Florida’s manatees up close at Manatee Lagoon An FPL Eco-Discovery Center in the wintertime.
Located on the picturesque Atlantic Ocean coastline, Delray Beach is an underrated vacation destination. A small town with a big personality, it’s the perfect place to avoid the tourist crowds. Here you’ll get the best of both worlds, as USA Today rated Delray the “Most Fun Small Town in America” in 2012. Just an hour from big cities like Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, visitors can spend their days indulging in outdoor adventures that include surfing, kayaking, sailing, and snorkeling. For a trip around the world without the need of a passport, experience authentic Japanese culture at Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens to find serene landscapes and a variety of cultural festivals throughout the year.