What Does Coastal Florida Have to Offer Your Family?

Florida is a wonderland for families. Unfortunately, the theme parks have given everyone the impression that that's all there is to do here. And that can't be further from the truth. When traveling as a family, you want to make sure that everyone has a good time — that everyone gets to do what interests them. And at every coastal destination, you'll have plenty of opportunities to do that.

Outdoor Activities

Wherever you go in Florida, there's someplace to cast a line, cruise a craft, or hike a trail. Coastal Florida offers so many opportunities for outdoor fun that it's a wonder anyone stays inside. Water activities dominate the outdoor scene of Coastal Florida, where you're always less than 50 miles away from water. Fishing and boating are the major activities, with opportunities to hook prize-winning game fish or just some trout for dinner. Second to that is surfing and windsurfing along Florida's Atlantic coast beaches. The Intracoastal Waterway provides not only a means to travel the coast by boat, but also calmer waters on which to water-ski or Jet-Ski.

Golf and tennis join fishing as Florida's top recreational activities. There's a joke going around Florida that says if anyone finds an extra tract of land in Florida, it more than likely will turn into a golf course or tennis court with an accompanying residential development before too long. Currently, Florida boasts hundreds of golf courses. In fact, if you traveled around the state, you probably could play a different course every day.

Cultural Activities

If you're like most of Coastal Florida's visitors, you're unaware of its fascinating historical sites and districts. Pensacola's North Hill Preservation District, for example, has restored homes built during the timber boom of the late 1890s and early 1900s. Its Seville Square Historic District offers restored eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings containing specialty shops and restaurants.

And then there are the old forts constructed to defend the coast, first by the Spanish and then by the English and Americans.

When you're not sunbathing on Florida's white sand beaches, you can visit countless museums with thousands of pieces of historic memorabilia, photographs, documents, and artifacts on display. Some, like the Ringling Museum complex in Sarasota, house priceless works of art. Others, such as the Edison Home and Gardens in Fort Myers, tell the story of inventions that we take for granted today.

Nature Activities

If you're looking to commune more with nature, you can rent a canoe and paddle the many state trails through miles of undisturbed scenic beauty in many state parks on or near the coast. You'll find opportunities for canoe rentals plentiful at all Florida state recreation areas.

There are plenty of places to hike, also. Unlike its northern neighbors, Coastal Florida offers tropical hammocks through which you can hike to see unique wildlife and vegetation. You'll find the country's largest remaining stand of virgin bald cypress, the oldest trees in eastern North America, in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, near Naples. Maintained by the National Audubon Society, the entire preserve is a must if you're a nature buff.

TRAVEL TIP

The best time to hike is from late fall to early spring, avoiding the heat of summer and the worst of the mosquitoes. You'll also see more variety of wildlife. Be sure to carry plenty of drinking water and wear comfortable hiking shoes.

And along those same lines, Coastal Florida is a birder's wonderland. With over 400 species of birds in the area, you'll find that carrying your binoculars at all times is a must. State recreation areas all along Florida's coasts provide a myriad of opportunities to observe herons and egrets, plus hundreds of migrating birds. You can also go for a swim and have a picnic.

One of the most extraordinary natural areas in the world exists in southern Florida. The Everglades sprawls over 5,000 square miles of land and water. It has been called the wildest, shallowest, strangest river in the world. Spending a day here is like going back in time to a primordial age.

And Collier-Seminole State Park, a 6,423-acre park south of Naples, where Big Cypress Swamp joins the Everglades, is the last refuge of the Seminole Indians. Walking the nature trails will give you an idea of what they had to endure to live in the swamp.

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