Awesome Things to do in Florida that you will need to add to your bucket list
There are so many unique Florida things to do that you should add to your next trip to Florida.
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 at how diverse Florida state is!
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.
Besides Florida being the amusement park’s paradise, you also have plenty of options if you want to skip the lines. You have plenty of options of things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks.
But Florida has a lot more to offer, and I am so happy to compile this ultimate list of unique things to do in Florida, besides the beaches and amusement parks.
Florida is very diverse, and here you can explore natural springs, swim with manatees in the wild, have an adventure vacation at many natural parks, and even, explore the second largest mangrove in the world, the Ten Thousand Islands.
Florida has truly something, for everyone.
I hope you enjoy this guide of interesting things to do in Florida shared by a local, and I hope to see you around.
Enjoy it and safe travels!
Florida Amazing Things To Do - PIN IT FOR LATER!
Florida Unique Things to do
1- GO SURFING IN JACKSONVILLE
Another intermediate spot is on each side of Jackson Pier. There are left and right-hand break. For the best conditions, head to either spot in the winter
- When you are all surfed out, you can find plenty to do. Stroll Jax Pier for ocean views
- Explore the Sea Walk Pavilion which often has live music and other events like outdoor movies in the evenings.
- There are over 22 miles of white sand beaches near Jacksonville.
- However, if you are more into history, then stop by Fort Clinch State Park before or after your surf. Construction began on the fort in 1736 and it continued to play an active role in American history up until WWII. It is now a museum.
- If you are a surfer newbie, there are lots of surf shops that offer rentals and lessons near Jacksonville Beach. You’ll find everything from one-on-one lessons, group lessons, and surf packages.
- Some of the most popular beaches in Jacksonville include American Beach, Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach. To get there, hop on the Beaches Trolley bus which runs by all the best beaches in Jacksonville.
2- SWIMMING WITH MANATEE IS ONE OF THE MOST UNIQUE THINGS TO DO IN FLORIDA
- Go snorkelling at the famous Three Sisters Springs. This spot alone attracts around 500 manatees annually thanks to its ample vegetation and temperate waters. Swimming in the aqua blue water of aptly named Crystal River with my pudgy aquatic friends is easily one of my favourite things I have ever done. You can get really get right up close and personal with them. Just make sure you do your research, as sadly, some operators are more ethical and devoted than others.
- Hire a kayak. Birds Underwater have a kayak service where you get a map and instructions and can head out on your own to search for manatees. You cannot swim with them this way, but the area – King Bay – is easy to navigate circle with around 660 acres of water to explore.
- Have brunch at Tea House 650. This rustic little spot has great service, outdoor and indoor seating, homemade packing and an awe-inspiring collection of tea. Should you want to make it boozy, they also have very fun tea cocktails.
TOP TIPS FOR SWIMMING WITH MANATEES AT CRYSTAL RIVER
- If one of your Florida bucket lists is to swim with these gentle giants, there are plenty of tour operators in Crystal River to choose from. Just make sure you do your research, as sadly, some operators are more ethical and devoted than others.
- I recommend Birds Underwater. It is imperative we all respect these animals and only swim with them in the designed areas, to ensure that manatee swimming here remains sustainable and so future travellers can have the privilege of a one-on-one experience. It is something you will remember for the rest of our lifetime. I know I won’t soon forget it!
- I only suggest you spend one or two nights here.
3 - FAKAHATCHEE HILTON - AN ALLIGATOR PARADISE
- Some other great things to do nearby are to walk the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk,
- Hike Fire Prairie Trail,
- Hike Gator Hook Trail,
- Go shelling on Marco Island.
TIPS FOR EXPLORING THE FAKAHATCHEE HILTON
- There are tons of alligators in the area, especially in the pond behind the Hilton and even some along the trail. Just make sure you don’t get too close to them.
- 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.
- The Hilton is privately owned, so be respectful of it when you do visit.
- The best time to visit will be winter so there are fewer mosquitos and humidity is lower.
- Food can be found in nearby Everglades City, or Naples if you want more options.
4 - GO KAYAKING ON WEEKI WACHEE RIVER IS ONE OF THE AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN FLORIDA
- Weeki Wachee River has an extensive network of subterranean caves, you can try to find them.
- Along the river, you can see many types of animals including the famous Florida (West Indian) manatee, alligators, raccoons, otters, and numerous birds.
- Go for a swim. I am a person who really doesn’t like cold water, but this river has some serious “magical powers” that attract you!
TOP TIPS FOR EXPLORING WEEKI WACHEE RIVER
- Since the opening of the canoe outfitter at the headsprings, Weeki Wachee is very popular and can be crowded especially on weekends.
- Don’t disturb the animals, especially the manatees. Appreciate the magnitude of these gentle giants without disturbing them.
5 - VISIT HONEYMOON ISLAND STATE PARK
- 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.
- You can take a ferry to Caladesi Island
TIPS FOR VISITING HONEYMOON ISLAND
- February to May is the best time to visit. It’s warm and dry!
- It’s very easy to reach Honeymoon Island from the mainland. No need to take a ferry, there is a bridge! Once you cross it, you will have to pay the state park entrance fee ($8 per vehicle) but it’s well worth it!
- There are no accommodations on the island, the best place to stay near Honeymoon Island is Clearwater, Treasure Island, or Dunedin.
- The beauty of Honeymoon Island is that it’s very well preserved, and you can easily spend the whole day here. Bring a picnic or do a barbecue. You will find loads of barbecues and picnic tables by the beach.
- Swimwear is a must on Honeymoon Island! You will want to swim and relax on the beach. If you are walking along the beach, make sure you are wearing shoes as there are mangroves and some roots might be sticking out of the sand.
6 - KAYAK TO CALADESI ISLAND IS A MUST THING TO DO IN FLORIDA
- Spend the day at the island, swimming, working on your tan, and relaxing in this tranquil paradise.
- Go kayak on the 3-miles trail exploring the mangrove forest.
- Enjoy the bird sanctuary, including ospreys, pink roseate spoonbills, eagles, and hundreds of migratory birds.
- Go kayaking around the island, as in the clear water you spot the local wildlife – spot dolphins, horseshow crabs, live shells, and stingrays. Occasionally you will also spot manatees.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING CALADESI ISLAND
- You can rent a kayak at Sail Honeymoon.
- You can take a ferry from Honeymoon Island or Clearwater Beach to go visit Caladesi Island.
- Another alternative to the ferry or kayak is exploring Caladesi Island by walking north on Clearwater Beach. Where Caladesi was once a separate island, a few years ago, sand deposits connected it to Clearwater Beach.
- There is a picnic area, playground, restrooms, a Caladesi Cafe, and showers available on the island.
7 - 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.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING MATLACHA FLORIDA
- Must-eat: Fresh fish from the local waters is always on the menu. Try the daily catch at Bert’s Bar and Grill or the shrimp tacos at Blue Dog Cafe.
- Best time to visit: If you can stand the heat, summer is quieter, but any time of year is fun in southwest Florida. The winter months of the dry season between November and March are perfect for paddling.
- What’s Nearby: Bokeelia at the northern tip of Pine Island has a few bars and an art gallery
- Hike the Calusa Heritage Trail on Pine Island
- Matlacha makes a great day trip from anywhere in central or south Florida, or spend the night in an island B&B. It truly is one of southwest Florida’s true hidden gems.
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.
WHAT ELSE DO DO IN GAINESVILLE
- Devil’s Millhopper Geological 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.
- Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park – With multiple trails, including a raised boardwalk, this site is a perfect place to spend some time outdoors. The boardwalk takes you right over the marsh area, close to the Alachua Sink, a sinkhole that acts as the main drain for the marsh. The entrance fee is $6 per vehicle.
TIPS TO VISIT THE SINKHOLES IN GAINESVILLE
- Both parks are easy to get to by car and can be toured within a couple of hours.
- They are open year-round, but summer months are particularly hot so you won’t see as much wildlife.
- Wear sunblock and drink plenty of water if you do visit during the summer months.
9 - VISIT JUNO BEACH TO SEE THE DENSEST SEA TURTLE NESTLING GROUND 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.
WHAT ELSE TO DO IN JUNO BEACH
- Loggerhead Marine Life Center – This is my all-time favorite place to take friends and family. This place rescues turtles and after nursing them back to health either releases them back into the wild or cares for them permanently at their facility. It’s so heartwarming watching them in the tanks and reading their stories on the placards. The best part is admission is free, though donations are much appreciated! Check out their gift shop—they sell local goods and lots of environmentally friendly products!
- Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse – This charming little lighthouse is the perfect background if you’re looking for a cute and original Instagram picture. I love that it has lots of little trails along the water, scenic views, and even a little hammock hangout!
- The Square Grouper – Directly across the inlet from Jupiter Lighthouse, you’ll find a funky little tiki bar called the Square Grouper. It’s the perfect spot to grab some cocktails and appetizers after a long day at the beach. If you time your visit late enough, you may even catch some live music.
- With excellent waves, Juno Beach Park is a popular spot for surfers, kiteboarders, and swimmers.
TIPS FOR VISITING JUNO BEACH
- If you’re planning a trip to Florida, the best time to visit Florida is between October and May.
- 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 IS ONE OF THE BEST EXPERIENCES IN FLORIDA
If you are adventure-minded and looking for some interesting 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.
WHAT ELSE TO DO AT BAHIA HONDA
- Explore the white sand beaches where you can do sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. The water temperature is perfect for swimming and crystal clear.
- Bahia Honda State Park offers plenty of outdoor recreational activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, and windsurfing.
- Hike to the top of the old bridge and enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire island.
- Don’t miss the magnificent sunset, take as many pictures as you can.
TIPS TO VISIT BAHIA HONDA
- If you are not comfortable with camping, you can rent a cabin which is pretty affordable.
- Bahia Honda can be visited at any time of the year, however for the best beach weather, visit in the months of March, April, and December.
- Make sure to reserve your campsite before visiting the Bahia Honda campground. Online reservation is available through the Reserve America site.
11 - CAPE ROMANO ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING THINGS TO DO IN FLORIDA
- The closest city to the Dome Houses is Marco Island. We would recommend estimating at least 2 hours getting to the Dome House from Marco Island and visiting the other beaches
- Visit the deserted islands within the Ten Thousand Islands Refuge.
- Other things to do in Marco Island include taking a trip to Keewaydin Island, also only accessible by boat.
- 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.
- One can visit anytime as the Dome Houses are not owned by anybody, just the birds that are perched on top of them.
- When we personally did our trip, we stayed at the JW Marriott Marco Island, a beachfront property ideally located within the best spots on the island. We ate in the resort, at Quinn’s On the Beach, since we wanted to eat beachfront and outdoors.
- We ate in the resort, at Quinn’s On the Beach, since we wanted to eat beachfront and outdoors.
12 - EXPLORE TEN THOUSAND ISLAND WILDLIFE REFUGE
- Rent a kayak to go explore the labyrinths of mangrove
- Enjoy the very diverse wildlife with more than 200 species of birds, raccoons, river otters, dolphins, manatees and if you are lucky, you can also spot bobcats and Florida panthers.
- Go on a boat tour to visit the hundreds of islands.
- You can take a drive on Loop Road through the Everglades.
- Go camping on one of the designed islands.
- The best time to visit is between October and May when the weather is cooler and drier – and there are fewer mosquitoes.
- Many come from far just to eat at the local restaurants in the Ten Thousand Islands area. All the restaurants are owned by a local who has resided here for years.
- The closest place for accommodations is Everglade City and Marco Island.
13 - VISIT THE VIZCAYA MUSEUM & GARDENS
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 scene like Art Deco buildings and Wynwood graffiti; Furthermore, Everglades and the Florida Keys are in 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 an estate belonged to the wealthy businessman James Deering, completed in 1923. Today, the site has become a museum and open to the public.
MAIN HIGHLIGHTS AT VILLA VIZCAYA
- The villa also has a lot of interesting design elements and rooms to explore.
- The architecture style of the villa is one-of-a-kind in the world, you won’t see it anywhere else.
- The main building a peculiar mix of Mediterranean Revival and Baroque architectural style based on the Veneto and Tuscan Renaissance model.
- There is an extensive Italian renaissance garden with a native woodland landscape and a historic village outbuildings compound.
- Stone Barge Mermaid Statue: The most eye-catching piece of art in the museum. Shaped like a boat overlooking the Biscayne Bay and beyond, the giant aquatic sculpture has not much practical value, but only an extravagant piece that highlights the owner’s wealth, and appreciation of beauty.
- The villa is located less than 3 miles away from Downtown Miami, and it can be reached by taking the metro to the Vizcaya Station, with a short 10-minute walk. Villa Vizcaya is a private mansion an estate belonged to the wealthy businessman James Deering, completed in 1923. Today, the site has become a museum and 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.
WHAT ELSE TO EXPLORE IN LITTLE HAVANA, MIAMI
- 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.
- Art galleries. There are several places to shop for authentic Cuban art including rare pieces smuggled across the sea when Cubans were fleeing Castro’s rule. Don’t miss Agustin Gainza Arts and Tavern.
- Learn how Cuban cigars are made at Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co on Little Havana main street. Although Cuban cigars are technically illegal in the US, there is nothing that can be done since the founder escaped Cuba with a few seeds in his pocket. They’re as Cuban as they get but ‘technically’ American!
TIPS ON HOW TO EXPLORE LITTLE HAVANA
- Visit at any time of day. Don’t miss authentic mojitos at Ball & Chain if you visit in the evening.
- Cuban sandwiches at Old Havana restaurant simply can’t be missed!
15 - WATCH A MIAMI DOLPHIN GAME
One of the most interesting things to do during a visit to 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.
WHAT ELSE DO DO WHEN YOU GO WATCH THE MIAMI DOLPHINS GAME
- 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.
TIPS ON HOW TO WATCH THE MIAMI DOLPHINS GAME
- The NFL regular season runs from early September to the end of December each year making it a perfect day trip during an autumn or winter sun break.
- Check the Dolphins website as early as possible for ticket options or try your hand with a ticket resale site.
- Unless you have picked more expensive tickets close to the field you can expect standard stadia fare with a typical Miami Latino twist. Whilst not the healthiest of days the game itself is straightforward to understand and you will not help but be swept up by the extravagance and razzamatazz of the occasion.
16 - VISIT THE RINGLING CIRUS 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. The centerpiece of the Circus Museum is a 3,800 square foot operational Circus Model, a 44,000-piece re-creation of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Circus combined shows from 1919-1938.
THINGS TO DO AT THE CIRCUS MUSEUM:
- Museum of Art, which is filled with many priceless objects from ancient and Medieval artifacts to European Art
- Bayfront Gardens, botanical gardens with several distinct sections: rose garden, dwarf garden, arboretum, etc.
- CA’ D’ZAN, a magnificent mansion where the king of the circus and his wife used to live. You can take a tour or just enjoy it outside.
- Historic Asolo Theater where you can catch various art performances.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING THE CIRCUS MUSEUM:
- To really enjoy everything that the Ringling has to offer I would recommend at least 1 full day dedicated to it.
- Dining venues within the Ringling may be closed during the pandemic but there are 2 picnic facilities available.
- When you are visiting the area, don’t forget to check out other great attractions in Sarasota.
17 - KAYAK TO SEE THE BIOLUMINESCENCE IS A BUCKET LIST FOR YOUR TRIP TO FLORIDA
This was without a doubt one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had 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.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU EXPERIENCE:
- Bioluminescence microorganisms occur widely in marine waterways in the summertime typically when the temperature is at its peak and the water is calm.
- If it is your lucky day, you can even see manatees swimming by and watch the tail lit up the water.
TOP TIPS FOR EXPERIENCING THE BIOLUMINESCENCE:
- Plan at least 2-hours to go on the dark water to see this magnificent experience.
- Kayaking is one of the most up-close and personal ways to experience dinoflagellate bioluminescence – if you don’t have your own, they rent it at the harbor.
- If you are booking a tour, you need to pay to book in advance because availability is limited.
Florida Unique Things to do Final Thoughts
This is a very unique and diverse list of 17 incredible things to do in Florida.
Florida has much more to offer with many other great choices, including that Florida is home for the best killer key lime pie on the whole Planet!
This list was prepared with some of the top Florida things to do and to give you some inspiration for your Florida bucket list.
Have you done any of these activities before? Which one would you love to add to your next trip to Florida? I would love you hear from you on the comments below.