For the last four decades or so, Florida has become known as the land where fantasy is reality. Yet so many of its visitors miss the real Florida — the beauty and mystery along its coast. With so many miles of spectacular shoreline, it's hard to choose where to go. The sheer scope of coastal vacation possibilities will astound you. There's far too much to see and do in one day, one week, or one visit. To make the most of your vacation time, you'll want to pinpoint the places and activities that appeal to you and your family.
Even Florida's name suggests a wealth of tropical beauty: waving palms, fragrant orchids and bromeliads, emerald green waters, and sparkling white sands. Colorful birds wade through the waters and fly overhead as alligators doze in the sun on the banks of tropical rivers and swamps. Mother Nature populated this green peninsula with a variety of creatures and plants, all for you to discover.
Since the first railroads carried wealthy vacationers to the region in the late nineteenth century, Coastal Florida has been touted as a paradise. And though parking lots are paving over much of it, you can still find coastal areas where your family can have fun and commune with nature, too.
No two days of your vacation need be alike. You can walk in the footsteps of conquistadors and pirates one day, then canoe along a river little altered by time or man the next. You can eat seafood fresh from the ocean or sample local delicacies such as alligator tail. Though no place of interest lies more than 60 miles from the sea, this book covers only what's along the coast. Beginning in vibrant Miami, it heads northward up Florida's Atlantic coast to Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, and Cocoa Beach, then on to historic Saint Augustine and Jacksonville. Next, it focuses on the south, covering the magnificent Florida Keys and Key West before exploring the mysterious Everglades. Traveling up the Gulf coast to cultural Sarasota and urban Tampa and Saint Petersburg, it finally makes a journey across the Panhandle from beachside Panama City to genteel Pensacola. Each destination is intended to be used a base to explore the area around it. Each is distinctive, but combined they create a tapestry of beauty and history that's Coastal Florida.
You'll find both the old and the new celebrated here. The region's colorful past comes alive through exhibits of Spanish treasures, historical recreations of Native American settlements, re-enactments of buccaneer invasions, and state-of-the-art tours into the future at the Kennedy Space Center. But to discover the real treasures of Coastal Florida, you have to look beyond this book, meandering down narrow streets, hiking along wilderness trails, and visiting small towns and villages.
Through this book, you'll also become acquainted with Coastal Florida's natural habitats and human-made wonders. Each river, stream, and tropical lagoon has its own character. Each waits to be explored. Each offers a setting of peace and beauty found nowhere else in the country. You'll discover animals and plants here that exist nowhere else in the world. But even Coastal Florida's cities have their own personalities, from Latin Miami to commercial Jacksonville to Old South Pensacola.
If you already have an itinerary in mind — lying on a beach working on your tan, visiting a museum or two, watching silhouetted palm trees sway in the breeze at sunset, or perhaps encountering an alligator, a dolphin, or a tarpon — this book will help you fill it out. If not, you'll find a wide selection of recommended tours to use singly or in combination. Each chapter also offers recommendations for places to stay, to eat, and to play, all selected with your family's enjoyment in mind.
Whatever you choose to do, leave your watch at home and follow the sun. Bring along plenty of sunblock and a sense of wonder and curiosity that will allow you to discover the magic of Coastal Florida, and you'll go home wondering how soon you can return. Floridians say, “Once you get Florida sand in your shoes, you'll always return.” And when you do, you'll have The Everything® Family Guide to Coastal Florida to help you have a great time.