Around one and a half million British holidaymakers visit the Sunshine State every year making us the state’s top overseas visitor market. Orlando is the biggest magnet thanks to its theme parks and numerous other attractions and entertainment facilities, but the sugar-soft sands of the Gulf Coast and the lure of Miami and Fort Lauderdale along with the Atlantic coastline’s equally-inviting beaches are almost as irresistible.
There’s a wealth of wonders and delights waiting to be discovered away from the thrill rides and beaches, too. Whether it’s a pulsating airboat ride through the Everglades, snorkelling with wild manatees in clear hot springs, watching cowboys riding bulls at a rodeo or teeing off on one of its 1,200 golf courses, Florida has it all.
ORLANDO & CENTRAL FLORIDA
Mickey, Donald and friends continue to delight all ages at Orlando’s big theme parks. Such is the pace of development at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, as well as at SeaWorld Orlando, LEGOLAND and other attractions that there is always something new to see and do, from the latest rollercoasters to whole new parks and entertainment areas.
You can stay on site in themed hotels and enjoy all the rides and nightlife just a walk, shuttle or monorail ride away, or rent a villa to use as a relaxing base.
Central Florida is more than just the theme parks, though. Kissimmee’s Silver Spurs Rodeo is the largest rodeo east of the Mississippi and the 1,700-acre WestGate River Ranch is the largest dude ranch in the east. Get up close and personal with nature on Orlando’s doorstep, with airboat rides on Cypress Lake among options.
With a heart that beats to Latino rhythms in its historic Ybor City district and natural attractions from alligator-rich wilderness areas to gorillas in the midst of thrill rides, Tampa is a world of experiences in a single destination and lies 90 minutes from Orlando.
Cultural institutions include the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum, featuring many of the artist’s works, in St Petersburg. St Pete’s, as it is known, and neighbouring Clearwater are the most popular twin-centre holiday combination with Orlando and boast 35 miles of white-sand beaches. The Crystal River areas has springs that teem with manatees in winter months, while the northern Pandhandle region has even more award-winning beaches.
Among gems in Florida’s southwest are the city of Fort Myers and Captiva and Sanibel islands, famous for their seashells.
Stately Naples and nearby Marco Island are known as Florida’s Paradise Coast and offer 30 miles of inviting beaches as well as expansive nature areas.
MIAMI & SOUTHEAST FLORIDA
Cities along this part of the Sunshine State ooze with glamour and pizzazz – Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Palm Beach among them.
Miami is best known for the colourful Art Deco buildings that line Miami Beach, but the city is also heaven for foodies and offers great shopping, museums, street art and other cultural attractions besides being the starting point for cruises to the Caribbean and beyond. Take your time to explore the Florida Keys, stopping off to enjoy the marine flora and fauna on a kayaking trip, before joining in the sunset celebration at Key West.
Fort Lauderdale tempts visitors with one of America’s largest designer outlet malls, Sawgrass Mills, a stylish and lively oceanfront promenade, a maze of waterways served by water taxis, and the nearby Everglades where you can hop on an airboat to view the alligators and other wildlife.
EAST AND NORTHEAST FLORIDA
Daytona Beach calls itself the “birthplace of speed” as its hard-packed sands were where motorcycle and car races were first held, nearly 120 years ago. Catch a NASCAR race at the Daytona International Speedway– or enjoy high-octane thrills yourself as a passenger in one of the racers on the banked circuit. Driving is still allowed on designated parts of its beach, at a sedate 10mph. New Smyrna Beach is a favourite with families.
Surf Atlantic rollers at Cocoa Beach and learn about space flight at Kennedy Space Centre, where you might even see a rocket launch.
St Augustine is the oldest city in America, having been continuously occupied since being founded by the Spanish in 1565. Between it and Jacksonville is TPC Sawgrass, home of the Players Championship where you can emulate the world’s top golfers by taking on the 17th hole of the Stadium Course with its notorious island green.