Too often we categorize Florida as the land of Disney theme parks and partying on South Beach. Well yes, these things exist and they’re widely enjoyed, but what about the natural side of Florida? After all, it is a massive state packed with jungles, lakes, gorgeous coastline, and the 1.5 million-acre Everglades National Park, so don’t let yourself think it’s all city fun. The bottom line is that Florida is full of natural wonders and sticking to the urban tourist attractions would be doing your vacation a disservice.
So how do you decide what to see in the Sunshine State? And, how do you see it? Travel accommodations site AllTheRooms is here with a guide that will help you escape the city and take a walk on Florida’s wild side.
Being comfortable and being out in nature are two things usually seen as mutually exclusive. It’s assumed that being in nature means being uncomfortable, especially in a warm, humid state like Florida.
We would counter this idea with the concept of glamping. What is glamping, you ask? The word is an amalgamation of ‘glamorous’ and ‘camping’. Having trouble picturing this? Think well-shaded tents with mosquito nets, air-conditioning or heavy-duty fans, big comfortable beds, gourmet food, and direct access to Florida’s wilderness.
You skip the mess of setting up your own tent and suffering unbearable humidity that will have you waking up drenched in sweat. You leave all that behind and essentially take a hotel into the jungle. Sounds good, right?
How to Pick a Glamping Site
So you want to see Florida’s natural wonders and you want to do it by way of glamping. So how do you find Florida’s best glamping sites? The best is to do an AllTheRooms search for accommodations in the area you’re planning on visiting and then narrowing your search to bungalows, cabins, farmstays and other types of accommodations that fall into the gamping category. Just click “type of property” and check a few boxes to narrow it down.
One of the best glamping sites in Florida is Trail Lakes Campground — a throwback “old Florida” glamping location in the Everglades. If rolling out of a comfortable bed in an elevated hut and then hopping into a fan boat sounds like your type of adventure, then this place is for you.
Further north along the Gulf Coast in Citrus County you can stay in a WiFi-equipped tipi, eat a gourmet breakfast and explore protected wildlife areas nearby.
Another option in north Florida is Griffin’s Ranch, a collection of rustic cabins right down the road from Ocala National Forest. Nothing is more country Florida than going to bed in a cabin surrounded by Spanish moss-covered trees and listening to the sounds of the forest. We highly recommend it.
We’ve already raved about the Everglades, but we’re going to do it again. Trust us, the praise is deserved. Less than an hour from Miami, the Everglades is a massive protected wetland area on the tip of South Florida that’s home to some of the state’s most exotic wildlife, perhaps most notably, the American Alligator. A fast cruise on a fan boat is the way to go when it comes to touring the area. Just keep your head on a swivel for gators and other wildlife.
Ocala National Forest
An hour and a half north of the chaos and tourist traps of Orlando lies the peaceful and almost mystical Ocala National Forest. Roughly 700 square miles of Spanish Moss-covered Florida forest and winding fluorescent blue waterways make this place seem like something out of a movie. Grab a canoe and explore on the water or set up a tent and explore the area on foot. Either way, it’s a gem. Once again, keep your head on a swivel or wildlife such as gators, bears and even manatees.
The Florida Reef
For the scuba crowd out there, the Florida Reef should be number one. Arcing from Miami out along the Florida Keys, the reef offers world-class diving and a mindblowing variety of marine life. Recognized as the third-largest barrier reef in the world, it’s the last line before the seafloor plunges to greater depths south of the Keys.
Devil’s Den Spring
Keeping the diving theme going, if you’ve had enough of open water diving you can always explore some underwater caves. After just a few minutes underwater, following your guide from cave to cave will make you feel like you’ve left planet earth. You can also snorkel in the main area if the full diving experience doesn’t make sense for the family.
This beach on Sanibel Island off the coast of Fort Myers is heaven for seashell collectors. You can walk the beach for hours marveling at the variety of shells that find their way to the shore. For our money, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better collecting place in the United States. Along with the incredible seashells, you’ll find a spotless white-sand beach and calm waters perfect for families looking to cool down and have a day in the sun.
As a side note, a great way to get out into Florida’s outdoors is to volunteer. There are plenty of opportunities for those looking to get out there and lend a helping hand. Another way is to focus on the city you plan to visit. For example, if you’re headed to Tampa Bay, you can do a more specific search for volunteer activities in that area. Not only will you get some fresh air, you’ll chip into a good cause.
About the author: Alistair is a journalist by trade currently learning the ropes in Medellin, Colombia. Although the football to futbol transition is off to a rough start, the rest of the equation is balancing out well. If he wasn’t an AllTheRooms content writer, he would almost certainly be neck-deep in the Medellin reggaeton scene.
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