Florida Vacation Spots – Here Are the Best

Florida vacation spots are places in the Sunshine State that hold a special magic.  Beaches, attractions, outdoor activities all spell a wonderful vacation holiday.  Obviously there are lots of places to visit, but what are some of the best vacation spots in the state?Florida Vacation Spots -- Key West Sunset

Guess what — I’m here to tell you!  As a Florida native, I know the ins and outs of the state, and can direct you to some of the best places to visit and stay.  Some are rather obvious, like Disney World or Daytona Beach.  Some are a little more of the hidden places around the state — for example, where you can swim with manatees or relax on a quiet Florida beach.

Florida + Vacations = Fun

Starfish on Sanibel IslandSo, you’re thinking about a vacation here in Florida?  Doesn’t matter if it’s a day or a month, you’ll very likely find something in these pages.

There are places you can go out and about to in a day, and places where you may want to kick back for longer.  And it doesn’t matter if you’re a visitor or live here — there are all kinds of neat places hiding around the state!

Some of my favorites include Sanibel Island, Ichetucknee Springs, Disney World and Devil’s Millhopper (isn’t that an interesting name)?  But I also love the Keys, places like Orlando and Daytona Beach and many of the Florida State Parks.

There are places like Lion Country Safari, some of the zoos and aquariums and of course the myriad attractions in St. Augustine.

I could go on and on…and as you’ll see in these pages, I do, LOL.  :)

Florida Vacation Spots — Best of the Best

First, how can you find what you want in these pages?  You can use the search box in the upper right of the menu area.  You can also use the Categories area to find groups of pages you are interested in.

MacArthur Beach State Park KayakingIf you want to see my latest and greatest posts, check out the area marked as Recent Posts.

Anyway, that’s for finding something specific.  But you can also just browse and see some unique place that you had no idea was here in the Sunshine State!

Some of what I call the “best of the best” Florida vacation spots include:

  • AttractionsDisney, Universal, Seaworld and some you probably have never heard of.
  • Beaches  – We’ve got lots here in the state, so you’ll see quite a few.
  • Florida State and National Parks – if you love outdoor activities, the parks around the state are the place to be.
  • Florida Keys — these “islands in the sun” are definitely a destination in their own right (especially Key West)!

And a whole lot more!  After all, Florida is a state with both natural beauty and man-made wonders (like the cities and attractions).  Unless you are intent on snow-skiing on your vacation, Florida probably has something for you.  :)  (Sorry, snow is the one commodity that is rare here.)

I hope that in these pages you’ll not only find the Florida vacation spots information you’re seeking, but also have fun reading and looking at the photos.  In other words, I want you to have a good time while you’re here on the site.

So get ready and set — and hang on tight for a fabulous Florida vacation!

Yacht Club Resort at Disney World

Disney's Yacht Club ResortThe Yacht Club resort at Disney World in Orlando is kind of a “twofer” — it’s two resorts in one area.  Why do something like this?  Well, partly because the resort has two sides to its personality — luxury resort on one side and vacation villas on the other.

So what does that mean to you, if you’re thinking about staying here in this Florida vacation spot?  In a word — choice.

If you’re staying a short time, or there’s only one or two of you, the resort side makes more sense.

If, however, you have quite a few people in your party and you plan to stay a week or so, the vacation villa side may be perfect for you.

Let’s take a closer look at the resort and villas.

 Location, Location

Let’s start with where the complex is located on the Disney World property.  It’s snuggled up to EPCOT, and is so close that you can walk from the resort lobby to EPCOT and be there in 5 minutes.  There’s a special entrance for the people at the EPCOT area resorts, which has much shorter lines.

You can also take a water taxi to EPCOT from the resort landing.  It’s popular to walk to the resort, and then take the water taxi back after spending a long day walking around the park.  :D

The next closest Disney theme park is Hollywood Studios, which is about a 15 minute water taxi ride.  You could, of course, also take the Disney bus transportation.

(And remember, all the transportation between resorts and theme parks is free to guests.)

Eating Out

Interestingly, there are but two restaurants at the resort/villas.  The two are the Yacht Club Galley and the Yachtsman Steakhouse.

Word of warning, neither are inexpensive, but the Galley is the more moderately-priced of these two table-service restaurants.  I will say that the breakfast buffet on the Galley is worth the price, as long as you come to the table hungry!

The Steakhouse is only open for dinner.  And yes, it’s pretty pricy, even for

Disney.  I do hear that the food is great, though (didn’t try it while I was there with hubby).

Want to grab something on the go?  Try the food court for picking up a snack or quickie meal.

Other options are some of the resorts in the same general area as the Yacht Club — Boardwalk, Disney Swan and Disney Dolphin.  And please, do think about trying one of the character meals — they really are a lot of fun!!!

Both Yacht Club Resorts

Pools and Such

There is a wonderful pirate-themed waterslide  — you can’t miss it as you walk out on the back of the resort.  The waterslide drops you into a theme pool called “Stormalong Bay”.  And while you can swim in the lake, I wouldn’t really suggest it.

There’s a health club of sorts called Shipshape Health Club as well as watercraft rentals, tennis and an arcade.

What are the Rooms Like?

The rooms are nicely sized and have a small sitting area — the room we stayed in is the photo at the top of the page.  While you see a king-size bed in the photo, the rooms typically come with two doubles.  King-bed rooms are first come, first served, and you can’t reserve them ahead of time.  The rooms themselves are around 350 square feet — room to stretch out.

If you’re wanting even more options, there are also suites — the smallest being the “Junior” and the largest the “Presidential”.  There’s also a concierge floor, for those that would like a little extra service.

FYI — this resort is fairly spread out, so do expect a lot of walking.  If that’s an issue, ask if there is a room near to an elevator, to save yourself some steps.

And finally, because this does fall into the deluxe category of Disney’s resorts, do expect to pay more than the moderate or value resorts.  Hint: the prices fall substantially during the off seasons, like much of January and September.

 

Romantic Florida Vacation Spots

Romantic Florida vacation spots are all around the Sunshine State.  They are found at beaches, in resorts, outdoors and even at attractions!  Whether you have a day or a month for your vacation, let’s take a look at some ideas for romance.Romantic Florida Vacation Spots

Florida Keys

The first place to check out is the Florida Keys.  For one, there are a lot of sunset cruises from Key Largo to Key West.  Two, Key West has a lot of B&Bs that offer romance packages.  These can include roses, chocolates, champagne, sunset cruises (of course) massages and more.

The Keys also is a great place for star-gazing.   The light pollution in the middle and lower keys can be minimal, and the weather is usually warm or slightly cool.

Miami and Ft Lauderdale

More crowded than the Keys, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale offer high rise hotels with beach views — glorious for watching sunrises.  Most of the large resorts also offer honeymoon packages as well as weekend romance packages that include things like couples massages and chocolate-covered strawberries.

Disney WeddingWalt Disney World

I know, the last place you’d think of when you think “romantic Florida vacation spots”.  Still, there is romance in the air here!  Naturally, Disney offers honeymoon packages, but for the ultimate, how about a wedding fit for a prince and princess?  Yes, you can book a wedding at Disney, complete with prince and princess attire, a carriage ride and a stay in Cinderella’s castle.  And how about fireworks for the first kiss?

Not into costumes?  Disney has other romantic wedding themes and locations around the Disney property.

Daytona Beach

It’s slogan is “The World’s Most Famous Beach” and there is something to that.  There are also oceanside romance packages.

The beach at Daytona is wide, the waters warm and weddings abound at sunrise.

And of course…there are romance packages at most of the resorts, as well as honeymoon packages.  Champagne and jacuzzis for two are popular packages.

And on the Florida West Coast…

While sunrises are sights to see on the Florida east coast, sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico is part of the Florida west coast.  And since more people tend to be awake at sunset than sunrise, it makes for especially romantic times!

The region from Bonita Beach in the southwest through to just north of Tampa abound with resorts offering weekends made more romance.  It’s the most populated regions of the Florida west coast, and so of course have the most packages available at the resorts.

Don’t count out an area such as Weeki Wachee or Crystal River through, especially if you are the more outdoorsy types.  These two cities are on what is known as Florida’s Nature Coast, and there are opportunities for star-gazing, snorkeling in the crystal-clear springs and also sunset cruises.

The Florida Panhandle

Yes, the Panhandle has romantic Florida vacation spots.  These tend to either be along the coast in places like Panama City Beach or Pensacola.  However, there are other locations that offer opportunities for romance!

How about renting a cabin on the beach?  Grayton Beach State Park has them, if you like a more rustic approach.  Othrewise, there are houses on the beach in Panama City, westward through to Destin and Fort Walton Beach.

B&Bs?  Try Pensacola, then walk along the Gulf Islands Nation Seashore beaches.

Amelia IslandFinally, Northeast Florida

I can’t leave out the area from roughly just north of Daytona, up through the Florida-Georgia border.  Two areas especially stand out here.

First, St. Augustine has loads of quaint B&Bs.  There are also cruises on the Intracoastal Waterway at sunset, plus a gorgeous beach for sunrise walks.  There’s also plenty to do here, with all the small attractions.  Stop by the Fountain of Youth and take a drink from the spring!

Amelia Island is also a place for romance with B&Bs and Inns.  Romance packages abound, and since this area of Florida is under-visited (in my opinion), you have more opportunities for quiet time.  The beaches here are lovely and wide and the island itself is gorgeous, especially in the Spring.

So there you have it — vacation spots around Florida that are made for romance!

Florida Keys Drive, North to South

Florida Keys Vacation SpotThe Florida keys as a vacation spot is both “standard Florida” as well as an escape of everyday life.  I recently took a drive down this island chain, via the Overseas Highway.  I marveled at what had changed…and what had stayed the same from my last visit, roughly 10 years ago.

Key Largo — Enter the Keys

While it’s not really the northernmost island, Key Largo is considered the gateway to the rest of this tropical island chain.  This area changed the most from the last time I ventured down.

Key Largo has always been the most like the mainland, in terms of chain restaurants, chain hotels, and outlet stores.  And, I am sad to say, that this influence is even more pronounced now.  At least in comparison to points south.

Still, there are reminders that this isn’t just a piece of the mainland.  John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one of them — a diving mecca for the world.  Little motels have still survived here and there, as well as tiny restaurants that boast unique Keys-inspired offerings.  So if you can’t make it to points further south, you can still have a great time in Key Largo.

Islamorada — The Keys Begin

It’s not really until we got to Islamorada that the Keys really started looking like what they are — coral and limestone islands in a sea of ultra-clear tropical waters.  Not to say they don’t look that way in Largo…just that you can’t see the waters from the highway.

But starting in Islamorada, the island spiWaters in the Keysrit begins.  There are more unique places to stay, interesting places to eat, and the icon of the Keys, Theater of the Sea.  Not to mention one of the big draws of the islands — the beautiful waters.

There are plenty of places to pull over on the side of the road and mosey over to the water.  The waters are for the most part pretty shallow in these areas, but clear and warm.   Limestone rocks dot the shore, and if you bring some snorkeling gear, you can see sights below the surface — fish, sea grasses, maybe even a lobster or two at certain times of the year.

If you’re looking for sandy beaches, though, you may be in for some withdrawal symptoms.  Anne’s Beach is in the Islamorada area, once of the few natural sand beaches in the Keys.  However, there isn’t all that much of it (sand, that is).  Still, it’s natural and it’s pretty, so it’s worth a stop.

One restaurant worth mentioning in Islamorada is the Green Turtle Inn.  It’s a shadow of its former self, in that the building that used to be the entire restaurant only about 1/3 is still the restaurant proper.  However, if you would like some lobster mac and cheese, it’s definitely the place to stop  (in a word…YUM)!  The catch of the day is also superb, and the Key Lime pie is still as tasty as ever.  Be prepared for a large tab for your meal, though, as it is pricy.  The food is worth it, though.

Further on Down the Chain — Marathon and Beyond

Marathon is roughly the middle of the drive between Largo and Key West.  It boasts an airport (very tiny) as well as chain stores, restaurants and hotels.  It also boasts some places to stay that are not the standard chains, restaurants that prepare seafood in a variety of delicious ways, and some unique places to shop.

Florida Vacation SpotOh, and the waters here are fantastic for boating, snorkeling, diving, fishing…you get the idea.  I must say that Marathon didn’t change a whole lot since my last visit, even though it passed through some hurricanes since then.  The pace is slower here, more like the “Keys time” that I remembered.  Still, if you are hankering for a Big Mac, you can find one, so it’s rather a pleasant mix of mainland and tropics.

The 7 Mile Bridge is what links Marathon, in the Middle Keys, to the Lower Keys.  It’s a wonderful drive over the stretches of waters that vary from green to turquoise to blue and back again.  Plenty of sea birds float the skies or sit on the wires of the phone and electrical lines.  And while the phone and electrical lines aren’t the most scenic, they are necessary.  And, they are only on one side of the bridge.

Bahia Honda Key is on the other side of the bridge, and Bahia Honda State Park takes up a good deal of the island.  Worth a stop if you like beautiful tropical beaches — and this one is natural sand as well.

After Bahia Honda and Big Pine Keys, you’ll come to various small islands, and finally terminate your drive in Key West.  On our trip, we turned around before we got to Key West, since we were only taking a day drive, and the traffic in Key West would have added an hour all by itself.

The Keys as a Florida vacation spot, is a destination very much worth considering, even if it’s just a day trip.  The scenery, the places to stop, the food to eat — they all spell a wonderful place to spend a day, a week or even longer.  Enjoy!