When people think of places to visit in Florida, Miami is inevitably high on the list. The glorious Art Deco beauty of Ocean Drive, the raw, exciting Latin vibes of Calle Ocho, and the magnificent stretches of golden sand make the bright lights of this pulsating, glamourous city hard to look past.
While Miami is undoubtedly a superb travel destination, it is all too easy to be distracted by its neon delights at the expense of the rest of Florida’s attractions. Sticking solely to the famous spots in Miami means missing out on some of the other weird and wonderful places that the Sunshine State is full of, and failing to get the full, authentic Floridian experience.
So when planning your Florida holiday, don’t forget to take a look at some of the less well known places, in and around Miami itself and further afield. Read on for some of the coolest alternative Florida destinations, to guarantee you an unforgettable trip.
Tucked away from the showboating of Miami Beach and the glitz and glamour of Ocean Drive, Wynwood is Miami’s alternative, artistic neighbourhood, and well worth a visit. This eclectic district is the heart of the city’s booming craft beer scene, and is filled with creative artistic expressions, most notably in its extraordinary street art and graffiti. Wynwood feels a world away from the party atmosphere of downtown Miami, and is the perfect antidote to the mainstream vibes of the more famous spots. Hit up the artisan breweries and explore the remarkable al fresco art exhibits in this delightfully hipster part of town.
Just up the coast from Miami, Fort Lauderdale is a beachside jewel, with as much sun and sand to offer tourists as Miami. Fort Laurdedale’s Port Everglades is the second largest cruise port in the world, and a holiday cruising out of Fort Lauderdale can be an extraordinary experience, with the Bahamas, Cuba and the joys of the Caribbean just a stone’s throw away. The city itself has loads to offer, with some of the best beaches in Florida, unrivalled shopping, and a magnificent dining scene centered around Las Olas Boulevard.
Florida’s Everglades National Park is one of those special, unique places on Earth that you really should visit at some point in your lifetime. With over 2,400 square miles of wetlands, it is a totally unique ecosystem, and one of the most fascinating, exciting and bizarre places to visit in the world. Ride an airboat through the swamps in search of giant alligators, see manatees, black panthers, and a stunning array of birds, or learn about Indigenous cultures and traditions at the Big Cypress Reservation.
The Florida Keys are a strung-out archipelago of tiny islands stretching from Florida’s southernmost tip into the Gulf of Mexico towards Cuba. From Key Largo to Key West, these tiny islands offer up some charming and unusual experiences, an exceedingly laid-back and relaxed vibe, as well as some of the most beautiful views in the US. Key Largo has extraordinary diving and snorkelling in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Islamorada is rightly lauded as the sports fishing capital of the world, Marathon gives you the chance to swim with turtles and dolphins, and Key West feels like the picture perfect end of the world.
If you are looking for a beach holiday in Florida but want to avoid the crowds and the noise that inevitably comes with the most famous stretches of sand, then Sanibel Island might be the answer. This gorgeous, unspoilt strip of land across the peninsula from Miami is full of untouched natural beauty and empty, peaceful beaches fringed with swaying palm trees. Leave the skyscrapers and the chain restaurants of the big city behind, and escape to an oasis of peace, tranquility and gorgeous nature.
Another spot for travellers looking for a more gentle, relaxed pace of life, Naples is a charming and delightful little town on the Gulf coast. With the finest powder ‘sugar’ sand beaches and out-of-this world sunsets, Naples is a great place to kick back and do nothing for a few days. The historic pier is a wonderful spot for fishing, bird watching and dolphin spotting, and the botanical gardens in town is an absolute treat. Just north of the town lies the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, created in the 50s to protect the last few areas of bald and pond cypress trees from logging. Eager visitors can walk along three kilometers of boardwalk and check out these rare, beautiful trees, as well as catching a glimpse of alligators, wetland birds and cottonmouth snakes!
Miami might be the go-to destination in Florida, and it absolutely deserves its reputation as a buzzing party capital. But stepping off Miami Beach and Ocean Drive and exploring the city, and Florida itself, a little more widely can bring some truly exceptional and once in a lifetime experiences.