Florida is the southeasternmost state in the United States of America. Famed for its world-renowned theme parks, gators, scorching temperatures, there are many more incredible landmarks in Florida than the travel brochures let on. The Gulf of Mexico borders Florida in the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. With the most extensive coastline stretch in the continental US, Florida has more than 825miles (1327km) of beautiful sandy beaches.
Florida basks in year-round sunshine and warm temperatures, making it an excellent spot for a bit of winter sun. Aside from its theme park fame, Florida has a staggering number of national parks, including the Everglades, the largest subtropical wilderness in the US. Its vast number of national parks act as a perfect reserve for several endangered and protected species of animals and marine life.
Florida’s cities are fast becoming cultural hubs with museums dedicated to Salvador Dali’s masterpieces, Wynwood Walls graffiti area in Miami, and the SHINE Mural Festival in St Petersburg bringing artists from across the world to this southern state. Here are 20 famous historical and natural landmarks in Florida not to be missed.
- 20 Florida Landmarks
- Natural Landmarks In Florida
- Historic Landmarks In Florida
20 Florida Landmarks
Natural Landmarks In Florida
1- Gulf Island National Seashore
The Gulf Island National Seashore is a protected area of land spanning the mainland and seven islands shared between Florida and Mississippi.
The beaches along the island are made from white quartz, and the islands themselves are dotted with nature walks and historical monuments such as the 15-inch Rodman smooth bore cannon at Fort Pickens.
The biggest lure to the Gulf Island National Seashore is its abundance of wildlife.
When swimming, look out for dolphins, rays and turtles as they are frequently spotted.
Throughout the year, turtles make nests to lay their eggs on the beaches.
Snorkelling, kayaking and camping are popular in the area as visitors try to glimpse some of the rarer creatures in the area.
Gulf Island National Seashore is at Gulf Breeze, FL 32563.
2- St Johns River
St Johns River is the longest river in Florida at 310 miles (499km).
The river flows from south to north and passes through 12 of Florida’s counties and begins as a marsh in Indian River County.
As it moves up the state, it becomes a wide and clear river before reaching the Atlantic Ocean.
The river has created many lakes, including Monroe Lake and Jesup Lake.
Manatees seek shelter and warmth in the river’s springs and streams in the winter.
St Johns River is between Blue Cypress Lake in Indian River, a county, and East Jacksonville.
3- Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee is Florida’s largest lake at 36 miles (57km) long and 2.7m (8ft 10in) at its deepest.
A scenic hiking trail runs around the lake’s edge and parts of the surrounding natural landscape, covering 110 miles (176km).
Within the waters is an array of marine life and includes fisheries for both largemouth bass and black crappies and many wild catfish, bluegills, and sunfish.
Alligators are also found in its waters, so swimming is not recommended.
Lake Okeechobee is at Okeechobee, FL 34974.
4- The Florida Reef
The Florida Reef is North America’s only barrier reef.
The reef sits six miles from the Florida Keys and spans 350 miles (563km) from Dry Tortugas to the St Lucie Inlet.
Within the Florida Reef are more than 50 species of coral.
The reef is also part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which protects more than 6000 marine species.
Snorkelling is popular at the reef and can easily be enjoyed without specialist equipment.
Sadly the reef is in decline, with scientists estimating that as little as 2% of original reef coverage is remaining.
Thankfully, several organisations, including the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, are working to help the reefs recovery process and encourage cultivation.
The Florida Reef spans from Dry Tortugas to St Lucie and is accessible from Florida’s islands and the southern coast.
5- Manatee Refuge at Crystal River
Crystal River is a National Wildlife Refuge established in 1983 to protect the endangered Florida manatee.
Crystal River covers 177 acres of land, islands and waterways.
The Kings Bay Area of Crystal River offers year-round warm waters fed from natural springs, creating a safe environment for manatees during winter as they are susceptible to hypothermia.
The number of manatees in the refuge varies, but it can increase to 550 during cold days.
It is possible to snorkel with the manatees, but there are rules in place to protect these creatures from harm, and snorkelers must make reservations in advance.
Manatee Refuge Crystal River is at 1502 SE Kings Bay Dr., Crystal River, 34429.
6- Florida Caverns
The Florida Caverns is a 38 million-year-old dry cave system.
Within the cave are numerous stalagmites and stalactites. An unusual feature is a rimstone pool shaped like South America.
The caverns are particularly popular during hot summer days as they stay at 65 degrees due to their underground location.
Tours through the caves last 45 minutes and reveal small bats hanging from the ceilings close to the entrance.
The cave entrance was widened in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps to allow visitors to enter the caverns with ease.
Florida Caverns is at 3345 Caverns Road, Marianna, FL 32446.
7- Devils Den
Devils Den is a prehistoric spring formed when the roof above a subterranean spring collapsed.
The cave is currently privately owned and offers scuba diving experiences in its prehistoric waters.
Explorers found the cave with many fossils from extinct animals dating back to the Pleistocene Age.
The name Devils Den comes from the appearance of steam rising through the chimney-like opening on cold mornings.
Now famous for scuba diving, the crystal clear waters are warm at 72 degrees year-round and offer divers a unique view of fossil beds and ancient rock formations.
Devils Den is at 5390 NE 180th Ave, Williston, FL 3296.
8- Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve near Jacksonville cover more than 46000 acres.
The preserve consists of marsh, wetlands, islands and rivers.
Within the preserve, nature and history seamlessly merge.
Fort Caroline, and old settlement featuring drawings by Le Moyne of Native Americans, can be seen in reconstructed form and the oldest standing plantation home, Kingsley Plantation, on Fort George island.
Kayaking is popular throughout the preserve as visitors travel between the islands to white sandy beaches and piers for fishing.
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is at 12713 FT Caroline Road, Jacksonville, 32225.
9- Falling Waters
Falling Waters is Florida’s highest waterfall an is unusual because it cascades into a fern-covered chimney sinkhole.
The government created a park in 1962 to protect this sinkhole and the surrounding areas.
The water pouring into the sinkhole heads into subterranean caves below the national park.
The sinkhole is 30m (100ft) deep and 6m (20ft) wide.
Surrounding the torrent of water are several biodiverse plants and animals, including pitcher plants, a carnivorous plant, and terrestrial orchids.
Within the cave are several species of bats and cave crickets.
Falling Waters is at 1130 State Park Road, Chipley, FL 32428.
10- The Everglades
Perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in Florida and national parks in the USA is the Everglades National Park.
It covers more than 1.5 million acres of land.
The park was established in 1947 to protect the natural biodiversity of the area.
The Everglades is split into many smaller areas and includes Corkscrew Swamp, where ancient cypress trees tower over the marshy waters below.
Head into Fakahatchee Strand Preserve for the chance to glimpse a Florida panther or black bear.
The Everglades is also home to more than 360 species of birds, including egrets and wood storks.
The Everglades is in South Florida and is accessible through various National Park entrances.
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Historic Landmarks In Florida
11- Key West Lighthouse
Key West Lighthouse opened in 1848 with a female keeper, which was unheard of at the time.
The lighthouse underwent many additions over the decades, including a new lens and keepers quarters.
Key West was a manned lighthouse until 1969 when the coastguard no longer needed a full timekeeper due to technology advances.
Today the lighthouse serves as a museum and shares the stories of the women and men who provided light.
When visiting Key West Lighthouse, be sure to climb the 88 steps to the top for incredible views across the bay.
Key West Lighthouse is at 938 Whitehead Street, Key West, 33040.
12- Bonnet House
Bonnet House celebrates the life and works of Chicago born artist Frederic Clay Bartlett.
Bartlett created the house 1920s on the oceanfront.
The house was built on land purchased by Bartlett’s father in law, a prominent attorney and naturalist.
Today, the house and its exhibitions tie together Bartlett’s art and his link to naturalism through his father in law.
The museum offers visitors a glimpse at 1920s Florida life, Bartlett’s art, environmental preservation, and creative expression.
Art on display within the house includes examples of Bartlett’s work and pieces he and his wife collected, including ‘The Old Guitarist’ by Pablo Picasso and ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ by George Seurat.
Bonnet House is at 900 N. Birch Road, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304.
13- Castillo de San Marcos
Castillo de San Marcos has more than 450 years of history, making it the oldest fort in the US.
The fort was built by the Spanish to defend Florida and its trade routes across the Atlantic.
Now open to the public following its years as a military bastion, the fort shares its vast rooms and hallways used by soldiers and dark prison cells where the captive awaited punishment.
From the gun deck, 360-degree views across the ocean and the city are available.
The fort also offers daily cannon firings and weaponry talks and guided tours to make the fort come to life.
Castillo de San Marco is at 11 South Castillo Drive, Saint Augustine, FL 32084.
14- Fort Matanzas
Fort Matanzas is a fortified military watchtower built in 1742 as part of the Spanish army settlement.
The fort and the surrounding area are now part of 300 acres of protected Florida coastline, which cares for endangered species and maritime forest.
When visiting the fort, be sure to catch a live reenactment of some of the battles fought against the British and demonstrations on firing muskets.
Due to its inlet location, the fort is only accessible by ferry.
Fort Matanzas is at Matanzas Inlet, St Augustine, FL 32080.
15- Kennedy Space Centre
Kennedy Space Centre, formerly called the NASA Launch Operations Centre, was opened in 1968 and has been at the forefront of space exploration from the US.
Operations such as Apollo and Space Shuttle programs were completed at the KSC.
As Cape Canaveral, the main launch site for space missions, is close by, KSC manages the operations from its control rooms.
The centre has more than 700 different buildings, including the visitor complex.
Within the complex is a wide range of exhibitions on space, the history of NASA and space travel, and cafes serving astronaut food to curious visitors.
Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex, Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32953.
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16- Bok Tower Gardens
Unveiled in 1929, Bok Tower Gardens has been an important landmark for Florida for more than 90 years.
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. designed the tower alongside its founder Edward W Bok.
Bok was an immigrant from the Netherlands who fell in love with the view from the top of Iron Mountain.
The tower itself is a Singing Tower with a 60 bell carillon inside.
The gardens were a gift to the American people, and Bok ensured that the landscape around the tower was just as magnificent as the tower itself.
Atop the hill is a bird sanctuary filled with tropical trees and plants and 126 different bird species.
Bok Tower Gardens is at 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wells, 33853.
17- Villa Vizcaya
Now known as Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Villa Vizcaya was the home of businessman James Deering.
The house is in Coconut Grove in Miami and sits on Biscayne Bay.
Burrell Hoffman designed the house, whilst Diego Suarez took charge of the landscape architecture.
Construction began in 1912, with the house seeing its heydays in the 1920s and 30s.
The Italian Renaissance and Mediterranean Revival heavily influenced this waterfront property.
Today the villa is open to the public and rooms are preserved as they were during the villa’s heyday, with traditional decor inspired by the renaissance and 1920s Art Deco flourishes.
Visit the Renaissance formal gardens, a 40-acre masterpiece of flora.
Villa Vizcaya is at 3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129.
18- Seven Mile Bridge
Completed in 1982, Seven Mile Bridge is the longest in the Florida Keys.
The bridge was designed to be very wide to allow motorists to pull over and admire the views over the Keys.
The current bridge replaced an older railway bridge built in 1912, parts of which can still be accessed today.
The railroad bridge, which destroyed in a hurricane in 1960, is now popular with walkers and cyclists on the ocean trail, and fishermen looking for a picturesque spot.
Seven Mile Bridge is at Seven Mile Bridge, US Route 1/Overseas Highway.
19- The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Ernest Hemingway lived at 907 Whitehead Street during the 1930s.
Asa Tift, a marine architect, built the house in 1851 in a French Colonial style.
When Hemingway moved in, the house was in a state of decay but was restored by himself and his wife.
While living on the property, Hemingway penned some of his most famous books, including ‘To Have and Have Not’ and ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’.
Following Hemingway’s divorce and later death, the home was auctioned and converted into a museum in 1964.
Be sure to look out for the states most famous residents, the 60 polydactyl (six-toed) cats.
The cats are descendants of Snow White, a white six-toed cat given to Hemingway by a ship captain, and live happily in the house’s grounds.
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is at 907 Whitehead Street, Key West, FL 33040.
20- Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks
Tarpon Springs is often referred to as the sponge capital of the world’.
Immigrants from Greece who settled in Tarpon Springs built a community around the sponge industry.
The most famous landmark in Tarpon Springs is the sponge docks, where sponges are harvested, dried and sold.
Exhibitions in the history of sponge harvesting are also available throughout the area.
When visiting Tarpon Springs, head to one of the many Greek restaurants and bakeries for some of the best Greek food outside of Greece.
Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks is at Tarpon Springs, FL 34689.
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