Unique Places in Florida

  • View from the observation tower
    View from the observation tower
    by Ewingjr98
  • coral castle
    coral castle
    by doug48
  • St. George St-the main avenue
    St. George St-the main avenue
    by BruceDunning

Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Florida

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    Tropical Jewels: The Florida Keys

    by deecat Updated Feb 21, 2005

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    A few miles south of Miami, U.S. 1 crosses a bridge from the mainland to a 100+mile-long "necklace" of islands that curve between the Atlantic & the Gulf of Mexico called the Keys. Key Largo is the first of 32 islands connected by the 100-mile Overseas Highway. Another 850 Keys, some just bits of coral rock, lie unconnected to Key West.
    Since careful zoning was not considered when the Keys were 1st developed, it seems disorganized & WAY "LAID-BACK, ALMOST "SEA-SHACK" IN ATMOSPHERE. Regardless, the waters surrounding the land are sparkling blue-green & aqua in color & filled with marine life. The keys has America's largest coral reef system. Here, you'll find hundreds of tropical fish & more than 40 species of coral.
    The Key deer is only found in the Florida Keys. This particular deer is small (about 2 feet tall), & it is on the endangered species list.
    Key West is the last stop on the Overseas Highway, and its downtown is quite amusing & pretty much the same as when Ernest Hemingway's days more than half a century ago! conch houses still line narrow streets, & there is a leisurely atmosphere at all times. Key west is also famous for it's sunsets, Ernest Hemingway's home& 6-toed cats on his property. The home of John James Audubon is here too.
    Key West has a large gay community, an artist community, & a community of professional "hippies". It was great fun walking up & down the "main drag" with its unique shops, galleries, and casual restaurants.
    Since piracy was once a steady occupation in the Keys, today treasure hunting is a serious adventure
    About 70 miles west of Key West, there are the Dry Tortugas, which are tiny coral keys accessible only by boat or seaplane. The name comes from all the tortoises that live there. Fort Jefferson lies on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas. It's the largest brick fort in the Western Hemesphere.
    Key Biscayne National Park, Key Largo, & Big Pine Key are worth a "look-see".

    Part of the Scenery in the Keys
    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism
    • Fishing

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    For Fishermen and Golfers: Sebring

    by deecat Updated Feb 23, 2005

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    In 1994, Allan and I stayed just outside Sebring, Floriday, in a sub-division on a channel that led into Lake Istokpoga. We wented a two-bedroom home for the months of January, February, and March. This is where I learned about Florida as a big cattle-producing state. There were cattle everywhere!
    Sebring is known for all the affordable golf courses in the area. We certainly took advantage of that fact and golfed about 2-3 times a week! The area is also known for the fishing lakes, and I spent many hours that winter fishing.
    Sebring is located in Central Florida about 170 miles from Miami and 90 miles from either Orlando or Tampa; it's in the "heart" of Florida's lake country.
    George Sebring, pottery manufacturer of Sebring, Ohio, chartered Sebring in 1912.
    This sometimes sleepy town is known as "The City on the Circle" because it was conceived as a circular plan so the circle would be a focal point, and all roads would lead to and from the center of town.
    Harder Hall, financed by the Biltmores, was a major resort complex complete with its own golf course. It fell into hard times, but has undergone a comple renovation.

    During the time that we were there, Allan's sister and brother-in-law came to visit for a week as did my parents. By that time, we really knew the area and served as tour guides.
    One of our favorite golf courses was The Country Club of Sebring. We liked it so much that a few years later, we rented a villa on the golf course and stayed for one month.
    We also visited Winter Haven, home of Cypress Gardens, Lakeland,
    Lake Placid, Avon Park, and Highlands Hammock State Park.

    Every March, Sebring is the host of the 12-hour Sebring International Race.

    But, it's not a high energy area; rather, it's "laid back", casual, and relaxing.

    Rental House in Sebring
    Related to:
    • Fishing
    • Golf
    • Adventure Travel

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    A Small But Lovely Replica of China in Kissimmee

    by deecat Updated Feb 24, 2005

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    When Allan and I were staying in Sebring, we made plans to meet two of our friends at the entrance to Splendid China in Kissimmee. (Really about 25 miles west of Kissimmee) Not many people know about this wonderful place. It's scaled resproductions of all the most important and interesting places, monuments, and sites in China. In addition, there are restaurants, theatres, street performers, and shops.
    It is clean, well organized, quite accurate, and educational. Since we knew that we would probably never be able to go to the "real" China, we decided to experience it via reproductions.

    We loved The Great Wall, which took 6.5 million bricks to build the half-mile-long reproduction.The photo is in front of the Grand Buddha Statue. Some of my other favorites were the Forbidden City bminiaturized.

    Most impressive, however, were the reproductions of the many warriors...terrific.
    Of course, the Chongquing Acrobats were exciting and popular.
    The Chinese woman modeling the authentic Chinese fashions were excellent, and the models were so elegant, quite beautiful, and much taller than I had expected.
    I think that Splendid China is culturally significant and really worth a v
    isit.

    Splendid China
    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Theme Park Trips
    • Historical Travel

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    Strange but true

    by kyoub Written Jul 18, 2004

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    Dead Lakes State Park is full of dead trees.
    The currents of the Aoalachicola River created a sand bar that blocked the flow of the Chipola River. The water backed up and killed thousands of trees and that is where the park gets its name.
    The area has been a state park for several years now. It has good fishing and some strange scenery.

    Dead trees
    Related to:
    • Road Trip

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    See the bridge at Bahia Honda Key

    by tpangelinan Written Mar 1, 2004

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    The overseas railroad. Henry Flagler built this rail road in 1912. In 1935 a hurricane destroyed a section. It had to cross water 30' deep. 5, 055' bridge. The top was for two lanes of traffic after this.
    Started in 1905, complete in 1912, often refered to as Flagler's Folly.

    Old washed out bridge
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Family Travel
    • Historical Travel

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    The Ocala National Forest

    by traveldave Updated Aug 25, 2007

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    Located about 18 miles (29 kilometers) northwest of Orlando, the Ocala National Forest was established in 1908, and is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi River. It is also the southernmost national forest in the continental United States. The popular movie The Yearling was filmed in the Ocala National Forest, and one of its trails is named after the movie. The word ocala derives from the Timucuan Indian word for "fair land" or "big hammock."

    The Ocala National Forest was established to protect the Florida scrub habitat that is rapidly disappearing in most other parts of the state. The 607-square-mile (1,572-square-kilometer) national forest mainly consists of the sand pine ecosystem, and in fact contains the largest concentration of sand pines in the world. There are also large stands of longleaf pines, as well as other types of trees and shrubs.

    The forests provide good habitat for many species of mammals, including Florida's largest concentration of black bears, white-tailed deer, wild boar, bobcats, foxes of two different species, raccoons, river otters, skunks, opossums, and armadillos. Reptiles are common, and include American alligators and several species of snakes, tortoises, and lizards. And the area is great for birdwatching, with noteworthy species being limpkin, the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, the endemic Florida scrub jay, and Bachman's sparrow, among many others.

    The Ocala National Forest provides ample opportunities for outdoor activities. Visitors can take canoe trips or fish on the forest's 600 lakes and ponds, swamps, rivers, streams, and springs. Campers will enjoy the forest's 12 major campsites. And adventurous types can get out into the deep forest on miles of hiking, biking, horse, and off-road vehicle trails.

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    St. George Island State Park

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Mar 16, 2008

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    St. George Island State Park is one of the best examples of Florida’s Gulf Coast barrier islands, with nine miles of undeveloped white sandy beach, small ponds, protected sand dunes, and grassy flats. This park is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and Apalachicola Bay. Enjoy the beach, fly a kite, fish, hike, camp, boat, enjoy bird watching, and watch for bottlenose dolphins swimming off shore. The park has two boat ramps and if you enjoy canoeing and kayaking, these may be rented on the island. There are six picnic areas with grills, tables, and bathrooms. There is also a campground with 60 electric and water sites, as well as primitive campsites. The main campground has showers available for campers. If you enjoy hiking, take the Gap Point Trail that starts at the campground and leads into the pine flat wood forest and takes you to the bay. We saw a bald eagle’s nest with an adult eagle sitting in a near-by tree. When we reached the bay, we found the tide was out, and we saw thousands of small crab holes and mounds, as well as various sizes of raccoon footprints in the sand. I bet this is a favorite night time feeding area for raccoons. In the evening we could hear frogs from the campground, and when we walked down the road to a small pond, it sounded like hundreds of frogs, it was so LOUD. I shown my flashlight across the pond but could not see one frog, and the light itself didn’t even interrupt their calls. It was a clear, moonless night, exposing the millions of bright stars that crowd the night sky. They seem even closer together here than in the northern states where I live. See photo 2 for a close-up view of the vegetation along the dunes.

    Directions: The park is located on St. George Island, ten miles southeast of Eastpoint, off of U.S. 98. The address is 1900 E. Gulf Beach Dr., St. George Island, Florida 32328. To access the island you will drive across a long bridge, drive past sand dunes and ocean side residences to the park gate, and then it will be another four miles to reach the campground.

    St. George Island Low Dunes At St. George Island State Park
    Related to:
    • Beaches
    • National/State Park
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Lake Osceola in Winter Park community.

    by Faiza-Ifrah Updated Feb 28, 2004

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    Lake Osceola in Winter Park Village offers scenic pontoon boat tours. One can have magnificent views of the multi-dollars villas like shown here, of wildlife and of surfers.

    The Lake can be reached by taking I4 East from US 192, Kissimmee or Orlando, Exit 45 right on Fairbank, take left on Orlando and then right on Morse till the dead end to the lake (sorry, my husband says that if some one really wants to see each and every place in a strange land after getting lost, then one should follow my directions).

    Pontoon boats sale very slowly and the pilots are very informative. They will stop boats for you if you want to take pictures. The real fun is to hear about the lifestyle of the rich who lives along the lakesides and history of how some villas came about.

    The shopping area of the community is beautiful. The prices are on the higher side, but no body minds window shopping.

    Places like Lake Osceola and the affluent set-up of Winter Park Village can be a good interval to take some rest before hitting the busy and hectic theme parks again.

    A villa with all rooms facing lake
    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Cruise
    • Historical Travel

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    Eco-Walk in Kissimmee.

    by Faiza-Ifrah Updated May 11, 2003

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    Go to Eco-Walk, which is located next to the World of Orchids, south of marker 11 on US 192 in Kissimmee. The walking is done on an elevated boardwalk and the trees are marked for identification of species. Keep the camera ready for picturing birds. While we were told that the boardwalk is quite crowded during the summer months, we encountered few visitors there in January. The quality of fauna was awesome.

    Address:

    2501 Old Lake Wilson Road
    Kissimmee, Florida 34747

    Ifrah & Rayyan on the boardwalk
    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism
    • Birdwatching

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    Airboating for observing wildlife.

    by Faiza-Ifrah Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Airboating in the water channels, Everglades and Lake Tohopekaliga, sail on a pontoon boat on Lake Osceola and drive on narrow roads to see rural Florida.

    Lake Tohopekaliga can be reached by going south on Poinciana Boulevard on US 192 for 40 miles till the dead end to the lake. This mama gator got angry when we approached her nest of about 40 hatchlings.

    An angry mama gator
    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism

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    Along St.John's Canal

    by Pawtuxet Written Feb 25, 2003

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    We lived outside Sanford, Florida many years ago. Our home was surrounded by palm trees and pine trees. We were 3 miles from a paved road. The town of Sanford was a sweet little town (now on the National Historic Register) and the people there were very welcoming. Lots of boating and farming in the area. Also ... Sanford is the town where the railroad will offload your car if you wish to ship it south. Handy.

    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism

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  • Faiza-Ifrah's Profile Photo

    Everglades - an easily visited national park

    by Faiza-Ifrah Updated Jun 11, 2003

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    The Everglades was established as a national park in 1947. If I am not wrong in recalling what I had read some time ago, it is one of the three most visited parks in the world.

    The park spans the southern tip of Florida into most of Florida bay and is the only subtropical forest preserve in North America. We had found it to be a place where the wildlife is probably the most abundantly and the easiest observed anywhere in the world.

    Flora: the park has both temperate & tropical plants like saw grass prairies, mangrove & cypress swamps, pinelands, & hardwood hammocks.

    Fauna: everglades are home to both alligators and crocodiles (American species is on the endangered list). Other wildlife includes 350 species of waterfowl and birds, the Florida panther (again endangered and an expected 30 or so are reported to be surviving), Armadillo, 4 species of poisonous snakes and oh yes beware of the critters everywhere and all around you. Good place to let your children experience watching for hours dragonflies, grasshoppers, mosquitoes (take tons of repellants with you), golden orb weaver (spider).

    You have to be very careful with children, not to let them go beating about the bush or for a swim. Swimming is not encouraged except for the designated area.

    Children will definitely enjoy airboat ride in the everglades (not the national park area though. For our recommended best airboat rides through river grass to Miccosukee Village, about 30 minutes west of Miami). This is the best way to have a closer look at the wildlife, especially the alligators and waterfowl.

    The park's Eco-system is endangered due to population explosion in south Florida. Rain is the only source of water. .

    However, for family travelers like us, this park will remain one of the easiest visited and traversed with plenty of activities in its vicinity as well. Another advantage was that much less baggage was actually required to be carried compared to when you are exploring some other more rugged and wilder national parks (my opinion).

    Ducks take to air as our airboat approaches
    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism
    • National/State Park
    • Family Travel

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    Cypress Island nature preserve - newest attraction

    by Faiza-Ifrah Written Feb 25, 2003

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    More than 15 types of exotic wildlife inhabits this 200 acres island , which is located in the middle of Lake Tohopekaliga.

    The attractions include: picnic grounds, recreation center, 2 mile long nature trail, airboat and swamp buggy tours, seaplane rides, gator safaris and finally, natural stands of cypress and live oaks.

    In the picture, an Anhinga spreads its wings to dry its feathers after a stretched period of underwater search for food. Anhingas are often confused with Darters and Snakebirds.

    An Anhinga (Anhingidae)
    Related to:
    • Family Travel

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    Interested in watching Raptors?

    by Faiza-Ifrah Updated Apr 19, 2003

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    While the Bald Eagle in the pic is in the Flight of Wonder at Animal Kingdom, WDW, you can observe 20 species of raptors - owls, eagles, falcons, hawks, vultures and kites at Florida Audobon Society Center for Birds of Prey. The Center treats almost 50 percent of injured or sick birds brought to it for release in the wild, while the permanetly injured are kept in the center for good.

    A must visit off the beaten path attraction for birders, especially raptor lovers.

    The Center is located at:

    1101 Audobon Way
    Maitland, Florida 32751

    A Bald Eagle
    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Zoo

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    Paynes Prairie- where the buffalo.... roam?

    by goingsolo Written Dec 28, 2008

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    You may not have known that there are bison in Florida. You may not care either, and, if that is the case, then feel free to stop reading this tip.

    I'd highly recommend this one if you're in the area. Its hard to believe that, 20 minutes or so from the fast food and motel sprawl of Gainesville lies a flat prairie land, which is sometimes dry and sometimes flooded. Where American Bison roam free and white tail deer prance around in the forest. All of this in Florida!

    Paynes Prairie, one of the most unusual landscapes in Florida, contains a small population of bison who freely roam the prairie land just outside of Gainesville. Paynes is a spectacular state park filled with white tail deer, hiking and horse trails, and, if you're lucky, a glimpse at an American Bison. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see one, but did come across several deer. I also hiked through the forested and marshy areas also found in the park.

    Paynes Prairie
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Road Trip
    • Hiking and Walking

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Florida Off The Beaten Path

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