You are about to find out the most unique things to do in Florida. From exploring some pristine beaches that not many tourists know about, to go kayaking with bioluminescence, Florida has still many hidden-gems to be explored!
Fifteen years ago, I left Brazil and moved to Florida, and I’ve been calling this place home since then, and even after all these years, it still surprises me how diverse Florida state is!
This article will take you to the most unique things to do in Florida for you to add to our next dream trip to Sunshine State. Next time you come visit, remember that Florida is a very diverse state, and not only the amusement parks, or the paradise beaches. Florida has so much to offer for anyone who looks for a new adventure. So, without any further ado, let’s dive into this amazing list!
You might also be interested in:
- How to explore Ten Thousand Islands in Florida
- How to explore Honeymoon Island State Park in Florida
- How to explore Caladesi Island State Park in Florida
17 Unique Things to do in Florida
1. Go Surfing in Jacksonville
Jacksonville is the ideal place to try something new and one of the best unique things to do in Florida. While you are here, you can use the Beaches Trolley bus which runs by all the best beaches in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville is filled with adventure activities and some of the best surf in the state. Whether you are a seasoned pro or a brand new to surfing there is a break for you in Jacksonville. The best surf spot near Jacksonville is located in Hanna Park. This surf spot is called “the poles” and is best suited to intermediate and advanced surfers.
Another intermediate spot is on each side of Jackson Pier. There are left and right-hand breaks. For the best conditions, head to either spot in the winter. Some of the most popular beaches in Jacksonville include American Beach, Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach. The great thing is that you have the option to take a bus from NYC to Jacksonville.
2. Swimming with Manatee is One of the Most Unique Things to do in Florida
There are so many places I could recommend for a road trip in Florida, but one of the most beautiful, and unique has to be the Manatee Swim in Crystal River, Florida. A true definition of one of the best things to do in Florida, is to explore the Crystal River and the only place in the United States where you can legally swim with wild manatees.
Every year in Florida, as soon as the animals sense the coming winter, they seek out warm locations. One such site is the natural springs dotted around Crystal River. In fact, this area is the most significant winter refuge from Manatees in the entire world.
3. Fakahatchee Hilton – An Alligator Paradise in Florida
The Fakahatchee Hilton is no five-star resort. It’s actually a little shack in the south Florida swamp, home to more alligators than most people would probably like. It’s in the Fakahatchee Strand State Park and Preserves, but it is privately owned.
They allow people to visit and hang out outside of the Hilton, admiring the dozens of gators seen in the pond out back and around the property. It’s a very unique thing to do in Florida since it’s hard to find that many gators in one spot that is remote but still easily accessible.
The Hilton is privately owned, so be a respectful tourist of it when you do visit. The Fakahatchee Hilton is about an hour from Naples and less than a half-hour from Everglades City. You can either walk to the Hilton or bike there. It is about four miles round-trip.
4 . Go Kayaking on the Weeki Wachee River
Go kayaking in the Weeki Wachee River is absolutely one of the most unique things to do in Florida. The Weeki Wachee is known for its stunning beauty, with the clarity at the headsprings being 68- feet of visibility, ranking with the clearest freshwaters found on Earth!
This river makes you a sense of enchantment, as the mild 5-mile-per-hour current carries your kayak downstream, and each winding curve reveals a vista of lush greenery in the middle of magnificent nature. Besides all the amazing National and State Parks to go kayaking in Florida, make sure you add Weeki Wachee River on top of your bucket list!
5. Visit Honeymoon Island State Park
Located near Clearwater and St Petersburg, Honeymoon Island is one of the best places to visit in Florida, since it is mostly visited by the locals and not many tourists hang out here! It features stunning white sandy beaches and is a great place to go to enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
Perfect to stay away from the crowds! Here you will also find hiking trails, such as the Osprey Trail where you can observe the majestic American eagles! You can also walk along the beach and enjoy the gorgeous views of the Gulf of Mexico. And make sure you take a ferry to Caladesi Island. Talking about Caladesi Island…
6. Go Kayaking to Caladesi Island
Caladesi Island is considered a wild oasis in Florida, and in 2018 it was elected the number one beach in the U.S. The beach is the main reason people visit Caladesi Island. It stretches for 4-miles from the North tip of the Island to Dunedin Pass.
The beach is pristine, with crystal water, and white sands, surrounded by nature and framed with the blue sky almost all year long. Going kayaking to this paradise is considered one of the the most unique to do in Florida. Spend the day on the island, swimming, working on your tan, and relaxing in this tranquil paradise. Go kayak on the 3-miles trail exploring the mangrove forest.
7. Go Shopping at Matlacha Florida
If you’re looking for a colorful slice of Old Florida, head to southwest Florida, and the funky little fishing town of Matlacha Florida near Pine Island. Located between North Cape Coral and Pine Island north of Ft. Myers.
Matlacha has become known in the last few years for its colorful art galleries and the village that’s following suit. Today there’s enough to see on a day trip or longer for travelers who love the natural world of fishing, birding, and paddling. Stroll the colorful gallery and garden of artist Leoma Lovegrove as well as several other excellent galleries nearby featuring the work of local artisans.
Paddle the calm inlets and backwaters between dozens of small mangrove islands. Matlacha is a kayaker’s paradise. Whether you paddle a little the local stretch of the Calusa Blueway, you’ll be hooked for more.
8. Visit the Sinkholes in Gainsville
The city of Gainesville is located in north-central Florida, a little less than two hours from Orlando. It is home to the University of Florida, but it’s a lot more than your typical college town. Because of its location, there are a lot of fun things to do in Gainesville, including visiting multiple sinkholes.
Two places to see sinkholes are Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park and Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. This site has been attracting visitors since the early 1880s. The sinkhole is in the middle of a pine forest and is 120 feet deep! It’s lush and cool because of the shade. Fossils and shells have been found in the area too, making it a great place to learn about Florida’s natural history. The entrance fee is $4 per vehicle.
9. Visit Juno Beach to see the Densest Sea Turtle Nesting in the World!
Juno Beach sits between Jupiter and West Palm Beach, and it is home to the unspoiled coastline, blissfully laid-back vibes, and home of the most beloved residents, sea turtles!
Juno Beach is one of my favorite places to visit in Florida. I love that it isn’t as touristy as other spots and has many interesting activities nearby for those days when it’s not beach weather. The Juno Beach Pier is the main hub of activity in town, and you can find a Pier House with a bait shop, snack bar, and pole rentals. From May through October, Juno Beach is the densest sea turtle nesting ground in the world.
10. Camping in Bahia Honda
If you are adventure-minded and looking for some unique things to do in Florida, I will highly recommend camping in Bahia Honda State Park, one of the best campgrounds in Florida. Located in the Florida Keys, Bahia Honda is a fantastic tourist spot to experience the best of nature and outdoor activities.
There are three campgrounds in the State Park that consist of 80 campsites where you pitch your tent or park your RV. Each campsite has an electric and water facility and offers a fire ring, grate, and picnic table. Explore the white sand beaches where you can do sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. The water temperature is perfect for swimming and crystal clear.
11. Cape Romano
The Cape Romano Dome Houses are what remains of a family house that’s currently floating off the Ten Thousand Islands near Marco Island, Florida. The dome houses look completely out of place – floating around on the water, a long way away from land.
The closest city to the Dome Houses is Marco Island. The only way to visit the Dome Houses is with your own boat or on a boat tour. There are no bridges to the attraction, and it is one hurricane away from being gone for good. The best place to stay is at the JW Marriott Marco Island, a beachfront property ideally located within the best spots on the island.
Update: Unfortunately on September 28, 2022, the structures became submerged underwater due to Hurricane Ian.
12. Ten Thousand Island Wildlife Refuge is one of the Top Unique Things to do in Florida
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), is one of the most unique things to do in Florida, and one of my personal preferences too. A maze of mangroves, where the waters of the Everglades meet the Gulf Coast, forming a labyrinth of water, and it is the second-largest mangrove forest in the world, only surpassed by Bangladesh.
Ten Thousand Islands in Florida is for anyone looking for an authentic adventure while enjoying some solitude, being immersed in nature, and for anyone who seeks off-the-beaten-path destinations. You can rent a kayak to go explore the labyrinths of mangroves. Enjoy the very diverse wildlife with more than 200 species of birds, raccoons, river otters, dolphins, and manatees and if you are lucky, you can also spot bobcats and Florida panthers.
13. Visit the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is one of the most unique things to do in Florida
Miami is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Florida with a number of well-known attractions, pristine beaches, and unique art and culture scenes like Art Deco buildings and Wynwood graffiti; Furthermore, Everglades and the Florida Keys are on the outskirt of the city center that is only a few-hour drive away.
Located in the center, however, there’s a beautiful place that may somehow fall out of the tourist radar – Villa Vizcaya and its gardens. Villa Vizcaya is a private mansion and estate belonging to the wealthy businessman James Deering, completed in 1923. Today, the site has become a museum and is open to the public.
14. Explore the Little Havana
One of the most diverse areas of Florida is without a doubt Little Havana in Miami. It’s certainly visited by a lot of tourists but it certainly doesn’t feel touristy, in fact, you’ll struggle to get around speaking English! It’s the authentic feel of Little Havana that really puts it on the map and makes it one of the must-visit places in the state.
Explore the food scene. There are so many places to eat in Little Havana. You won’t find any burgers or pizzas but you will find a whole load of authentic Cuban cuisine from empanadas to Cuban sandwiches, pastelito pastries, and Cuban gelato. Make sure you start your day with thimbles of super strong, sweet coffee at Le Pub.
15. Watch a Miami Dolphin Game
One of the most interesting and unique things to do in Florida must be to enjoy the USA’s most-watched sport at one of the NFL’s most storied and glamorous franchises – the Miami Dolphins. Their modern and impressive Hard Rock Stadium, home to Super Bowl LIV in February 2020 is situated 15 miles north of downtown Miami.
Your day with the Miami Dolphins will inevitably be a long-lasting memory of your trip to Florida. Whilst this is less than a 20-minute drive opting for an Uber or similar taxi service is strongly recommended to fully enjoy the pre-game tailgating experience. As much of the day as the match itself, thousands of fans flock to the tailgate to chat about the Fin’s chances that afternoon over a few beers and a BBQ.
16. Visit the Ringling Circus Museum
Sarasota on the Gulf Coast of Florida is full of old Floridian charm. It is also famous for its beautiful beaches. Siesta Key beach continuously ranks as one of the top 5 beaches in the United States. One of the most famous and unique attractions in Sarasota is The Ringling – the sprawling estate of the kings of the circus, the Ringlings, the owners of Ringling Bros., and Barnum & Bailey Circus that was producing the Greatest Show on Earth from 1871 till 2017.
The most interesting part of the Ringling is the Circus Museum where you can see many circus props, performers’ costumes, and even train cars that were used to transport the circus. When you are visiting the area, don’t forget to check out other great attractions in Sarasota.
17. Kayak to See the Bioluminescence is one of the Most Unique Things to do in Florida
This was without a doubt one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had and one of the most unique things to do in Florida. In the warm and dark bay waters of Safety Harbor lies a natural phenomenon of glowing blue waters alive with an activity called bioluminescence.
The swirling of your hand or the paddle stroke ignites the bioluminescence. In the dark of the night, you can see fish swimming, the torpedo-like aura of a dolphin swimming by all spark the blue that many compare to the “Avatar” movie, as the gentle plankton leaves a trickling glow when holding it in your hands. It is just a must-see on your trip to Florida.
Unique Things to do in Florida Conclusion
Everyone knows Florida as a Sunshine State. With palm trees, pristine beaches, white sand, and clear water and there are really some stunning Beaches to Discover in Florida.
And I hope you enjoyed this list of very diverse unique things to do in Florida. The Sunshine State has much more to offer with many other great choices, including that Florida is home to the best killer key lime pie on the whole Planet!
If you love this article, I also recommend:
- 20 Best Off the Beaten Path Destinations in Florida
- How to visit Ten Thousand Island, the hidden ecological paradise in Florida
- 23 Amazing Things to do in Anna Maria Island, FL
- A complete guide to visiting Honeymoon Island State Park, FL
- A complete guide to visiting Caladesi Island State Park, FL
- How to rent an RV for a Dream Road Trip
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22 thoughts on “17 Most Unique Things to do in Florida, Revealed by a Local!”
What an awesome list of things to do Paula. Fabulous job by you on this post and by all the contributors who shared their wisdom. Well done everybody. Florida seems like its own little world down there as far as the range of things to do and experience. You were not kidding when you said this state is diverse.
Great list! I agree – kayaking Weeki Wachee is one of the prettiest places ever!
Super great post! I visit FL every month so I’ll have to check some of these places out! You should consider adding Ginnie Springs to this as well – I loved visiting this natural lagoon in FL! 🙂
This whole list is awesome. So many great insider tips. I really want to go swimming with Manatees! It sounds absolutely perfect and I love that you have recommended a responsible company to go with because I definitely think that protecting these amazing animals is so important.
I’d heard about Weeki Wachee but haven’t been yet…this is a great reminder. Thanks!
Love these unique ideas! I’ll definitely need to keep them in mind, as I travel to Florida pretty much annually now!
WOW! I didn’t know there are sooooo many awesome things to do in Florida. Swimmig with manatees sounds like an ultimate bucket list goal and I’d love to try surfing in Jacksonville! I know, one day I’ll make it there … 🙂
What amazing things to do. So many wildlife related things in Florida – manatees, alligators, dolphins. That’s amazing. I hear Florida and immediately think of the theme parks so it’s really nice to see some other things to do there, some really fun looking outdoor activities. I’d love to go swimming with the manatees and watching a football game is always a good activity
What a great list! Seems like there is so much more to Florida than just Disney and the beach!
Yes Megan! Florida is a very diverse state with so many great options.
Hi Emma – Oh, Florida has very rich wildlife. The manatees are my favorite, they are so amazing and gorgeous, you can see animals here almost every day. Alligators are everywhere, and anytime I go to the beach I see dolphins, it is so magical.
Yes you will Lina, and when you are here, just let me know and I can show you around. You will love to discover the adventures in Florida
Awesome that you are coming to Florida every year Elena, let me know next time you are around.
Weeki Wachee is my favorite place in Florida, it is so unbelievably beautiful.
You are very right Meghan, any interaction with animals need to be ethical and respectful. We are in their habitat and they are very curious actually about people, they approach us and it is incredible to see how a big animal can be so gentle.
Hey Lisa, a great reminder about Ginnie Springs. I was there a couple of months ago but it was crowded, even during the pandemic so I just left and didn’t have the chance to explore or take pictures. I will need to go back after this craziness and during a calmer time of the year, that place is incredibly beautiful.
Hi Ashley, oh yes…Weeki Wachee is my favorite thing to do in Florida, it is incredible!
Thank you so much Ryan, I am so glad to hear you enjoyed this collab post. I have been in FL for all these years, and I am still discovering hidden-gems to explore.
I find that Florida can be quite touristy, but these are some great activities that I had never thought (or known) of doing. I love the look of Matlacha!
Wow. So many amazing things to do in Florida! Bahia Honda looks SO incredible. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Devin, yes Florida has so many things to do and Bahia Honda does look incredible
You are right, Florida can be very touristy but also, it has so many hidden gems and so many diversity of amazing things to do that are not necessary beaches or amusement parks.