Beyond Disney: Can’t-Miss Spots to Explore in Florida (+Savings Advice)
It’s no surprise that so many tourists frequent the Sunshine State. Florida ranks high on the most desirable vacation spots in the U.S. It has many tourist stops, and many automatically assume the best place is Orlando. Although this is the home of our favorite animated characters, there is more to see from coast to coast.
You might find yourself on Florida toll roads with no destination in mind. Let’s dive into some must-see spots that might not be at the top of your list. It’s through exploration and new adventures that we create beautiful memories to last a lifetime.
What does Florida have to offer?
You might ask yourself what sets Florida apart from the rest. Outside of its tropical paradise, Florida has so much old-world charm to offer its guests. Whether it’s a castle, fort, haunted hotel, or museum, this state has it all.
The beaches are incredible, but let’s not forget the beautiful hillsides. Although many might think Florida is relatively flat, you might be surprised at its hillside terrains, which lend to some of the most prestigious and beautiful golf courses in the U.S.
Surprisingly, you’ll also find some fascinating and unique caves in several parts of the state. From scuba diving to cavernous hikes, you’ll be blown away by the natural beauty this state has to offer.
No matter your budget, even if you think you can’t afford to travel, there are ways to visit this beautiful state on a budget.
Top 3 Must-See Spots in Florida
#1 – Old-World Charm: St. Augustine
This quaint town on the East Coast of Florida brings visitors old-world charm and modern, fun amenities. St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers. Although the city has lived through many changes throughout the years, it still holds classic beauty and preserved landmarks.
Take a trolley or a stroll through the downtown historic district. There you’ll find many shops and restaurants that are sure to please everyone who’s visiting. In downtown, you’ll find the oldest store and wooden schoolhouse, both museums.
If you’re a wine enthusiast, be sure to check out the San Sebastian Winery. Founded in 1996, this winery offers daily complimentary tastings for all its guests over 21+. Once you’ve delighted your taste buds with your complimentary wine, relax with your favorite varietal in the wine bar.
If supernatural experiences excite you, you won’t be disappointed with the different ghost tours offered in St. Augustine. From trolleys and walking tours to private encounters, the spooky ghost stories are sure to fright.
#2 – Historic Beach Town: Sanibel Island
Along with expansive bike paths, hiking trails, and miles of coastline beaches, Sanibel packs a historical punch. This island is home to some of the oldest pioneer gravestones in its cemetery and historical landmarks preserved over hundreds of years.
Sanibel Historical Museum and Village is an absolute must. This attraction holds a collection of 19th- and 20th-century buildings. From a 1926 post office to Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room, everyone will have a wonderful stroll through all the different sites you’ll see.
Another spot you should check out simply for the views is Sanibel’s Lighthouse. There’s not a better opportunity to take in the breathtaking sights that Sanibel Island has to offer. Make sure you have your camera ready; you won’t want to miss the chance at some beautiful photos.
#3 – The Emerald Coast of Destin
If you’ve never seen the waters of Destin, you’ll need to put this one on your bucket list. Destin is known for its sparkling emerald waters and cluster of small, shallow islands visited by boat. The most popular of these islands is called Crab Island. During the summer months, you’ll find hundreds of boats anchored for a day on the water.
If you’re a foodie, Destin won’t disappoint. There are many famous restaurants with rave reviews. From seafood to steaks, surf n’ turf is certainly their specialty. Louisiana Lagniappe is one of the most popular restaurants, known for its impeccable service, fresh seafood, and specialty cocktails.
Another local favorite is McGuire’s Irish Pub. Boasting thousands of dollars on the walls and ceilings, your eyes won’t know what to look at first. The pub offers many different beers and wines, as well as an adorable gift shop.
Destin will check all of your tropical paradise boxes from parasailing, paddleboarding, scuba diving, and sunbathing. There are lots of hotels, boutique motels, and rentals along the beaches.
5 Tips to Save Money During Your Florida Vacation
- Be aware of the time of year you’ll be traveling to your destination. There are certain times Florida vacations are more budget-friendly due to peak seasons; the cheapest seasons are late spring or early fall.
- Check online for coupons and promotions for any attractions on your list. You’d be surprised at how many places offer special promotions during certain times of the year.
- Rent a home, apartment, cottage, or room instead of staying at a hotel. Many times, hotels have extensive fees associated with your stay.
- Pack your lunch when the family is out and about. Many spots that attract tourists inflate their prices on food and beverages. Outside of a nice dinner or unique lunch spot, try to cut down on unnecessary food expenditures.
- Traveling with another family will likely cut down on costs with group rates and rentals. Being able to split the cost of excursions helps your bottom dollar. Also consider boosting your insurance coverage with something like GAP coverage if you are driving a leased vehicle.
The Sunshine State: All That Florida Has to Offer
This small list is just the tip of the peninsula. This state has so much to offer tourists from all different walks of life. There are so many can’t-miss spots, and it will likely take dozens of trips to see them all.
No matter your budget, Florida is sure to please. Take a trip to the Sunshine State, and you won’t be disappointed.
Carla Hughes writes and researches for the car insurance comparison site, CarInsurance.org. She is a true Floridian, born and raised in the Sunshine State, and has been fortunate enough to experience many beautiful places Florida has to offer.