For a longer stay during your family vacations or even a quick weekend trip with the family, Orange County is the ideal getaway location for families to take a break together. Not only for Orlando, Walt Disney World, and the internationally famous attractions, but also for the stunning sunsets, tranquil beaches, and spectacular wildlife that Florida owns. I’ve put together my top recommendations for the best places to go and explore on your next visit to Florida, whether you want an adrenaline-fueled trip, serene beach trip, or educational and historical sightseeing, this will cover them all.
St Petersburg. If you are heading to Florida in search of sunshine, St Petersburg actually holds the Guinness world record for the most consecutive days of sunshine. This, along with its stunning, award-winning beaches, makes St Petersburg ideal for families hoping for some peace, quiet, and vitamin D. Fort De Soto Park is a beautiful beach with a pirate ship playground, tidal pool, and the chance to see dolphins and manatees. Not only this, but it is home to the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum, which hosts an unparalleled collection of works created by the surrealist master. This mixture of enriching activities and magnificent beaches makes St Petersburg highly unmissable.
Miami Beach. Miami Beach is often described as two separate cities, which actually provides the perfect balance for families with young children and families with older or grown-up children. North Miami Beach is incredibly child friendly, with affordable hotels and restaurants, as well as galleries, museums, and theaters for fun excursions together. The contrast to this is South Miami beach. This chic metropolis has rooftop bars, art-deco hotels, fancy high-end fashion all around, energetic nightclubs, and countless rich and famous people. This is a mesmerizing experience to go if your children are older and want a taste of famous Miami glamour.
St Augustine. This truly has something for all families. If you’re wanting to share some culture and education with your children, St Augustine has ancient Spanish forts, old pirate ships and museums, tours of abandoned prisons, and countless more activities that will engage young people’s minds. With stunning beaches such as Vilano Beach and Anastasia island, St Augustine is also perfect for some time to relax in the sunshine. However, it certainly is not lacking in waterside activities. Due to the wildlife and fantastic scenery, this is an ideal place to rent a paddleboard, kayak, canoe, or even boat, to explore what the area has to offer. Hiring a paddleboard is a perfect activity for the whole family, since it has such a range of ability levels, and St Augustine has so many paddleboarding locations that suit each different ability. In the water, you will find friendly manatees, dolphins, rare fish, turtles, and more, and there is no better way to see them than floating alongside them non-intrusively.
Amelia Island. For sheer tranquillity and pure relaxation, Amelia Island is the place to go. While it certainly does not have the activities that St Augustine has, or the metropolitan buzz of Miami beach, what it does have is 13 miles of glorious beaches, and a bit of actual peace and quiet. Again, this may be more ideal if you have slightly older children who aren’t looking for an action-packed getaway. It offers world-class golf courses, beautiful spas and restaurants, and rich history. Like St Augustine, Amelia Island was also plagued with pirates throughout its time, and throughout the 17th and 18th centuries was a safe haven for scallywags such as Blackbeard and Gregor MacGregor. Stories of their hidden treasure around Amelia Island have always passed from mouth to mouth, so you never know how lucky you may get.
Fort Lauderdale. The constant sunshine, warmth, and access to the water make Fort Lauderdale a paradise for sports. Here, you and your family can watch professional and division 1 college sports teams, such as the Miami Dolphins and the Florida Panthers. Not only this, but the area is abundant in luxurious, top-class golf courses for you to have a stroll around, before retiring to a beautiful restaurant for dinner. What’s more, the 1.5-mile promenade of Fort Lauderdale beach has been voted among the best places to skate by Rollerblade Incorporated. Rollerbladers, skaters, and cyclists all can enjoy the variety of trails available in parks and simply take in the stunning scenery as they go.
Sanibel and Captiva Island. Located just 30 miles off the coast of Fort Myers, this is the perfect location for an escape to somewhere beautiful and serene. One of the most intriguing elements of Sanibel and Captiva island is the wildlife. It is filled with natural beauty and scattered with parcels of protected lands to ensure that the habitats of all native species are protected. This island has over 200 species of birds alone, this is a haven for bird watchers or even just those who are interested in seeing animals enjoying their natural habitat. You may spot rosette spoonbills, flamingos, alligators, or manatees. There is a true abundance of Florida’s finest, most interesting inhabitants all across this island.
Key West. This is actually located closer to Cuba than it is to Miami, so has its own microclimate, making it a subtropical paradise with a truly unique history and culture of its own. Due to its Cuban and Bahamian influence, the city has been built on a heritage that is different from much of the county. Tin-roofed conch houses surrounded by palm trees sit next to sidewalk cafes, open-air bars, and famous pubs, making nightlife here a truly unique and friendly experience.
So my hope is that whatever your family unit may look like, something on this list appeals to just what you are looking for. Whether that be water activities, paddleboarding, history, culture, or even just a gorgeous beach to lie on and build up that tan, Florida will certainly have something interesting and exciting to offer you.