This laid-back Old Florida town is just two hours away from International Drive, and it’s packed with amazing beaches, delicious seafood restaurants and manatees. Yep, native manatees flock to this spot in their hundreds every year to escape the cold, and you can even swim with the gentle giants, too. On the tour, you’ll take a boat ride to a special designated area, don a wetsuit and plunge into the river’s warm water for an encounter with the majestic creatures. Although you can’t touch them yourself, they love interactions with humans and will swim around you, wave and sometimes even give you a kiss. There’s also the nearby Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park that has a rehabilitation center for injured and orphaned manatees, plus other wildlife species to spot like hippos, black bears and whooping cranes.
You might know Miami from Will Smith’s nostalgic Nineties hit, but there’s so much more to the vibrant city than meets the eye. Not only is it a flamboyant fusion of Art Deco buildings and super-tanned tourists, there are also distinct Italian, Cuban and Latin American influences throughout. You can grab a traditional Cuban sandwich and enjoy salsa rhythms and merengue music in Little Havana. Or, stop off at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, where you can have a look at a Renaissance-style Italian villa complete with immaculate manicured gardens, fountains and priceless art and antiques on the inside. You can’t miss the packed collection of Art Deco buildings along Ocean Drive – with over 800 for you to spot – plus, of course, the famous South Beach which boasts seven and a half miles of sand. Baywatch was recently filmed here, so if you love film location-spotting on holiday, it’s the place to be.
St Augustine is one of the oldest cities in the US, so if you’re a culture buff, make a beeline for this charming Old Floridian town. It’s the ideal place to have a wander, with its old-style Spanish architecture and hidden shops, restaurants and bars you’ll find down secret alleyways. You’ll even see horse drawn carriages ferrying tourists around town for the authentic experience. There are plenty of museums where you can learn about the history of the town, plus ghost tours, a dedicated Pirate and Treasure Museum, and a Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum for younger kids.
Live music can be heard all over town, from the bars to the open areas at the restaurants, so you can expect a lively atmosphere while you dine and explore. It’s also a great place for shopping, with loads of boutique shops and local stores lining St. George Street, and the St. Augustine Outlets nearby for some discounted designer clothes.
If you want to get a taste of real Florida, travel into the centre of the state to explore the beautiful forests and green-water lakes of Wekiwa Springs. It’s just one hour’s drive from central Orlando, and the perfect place to relax when you need a breather from all the excitement of the theme parks. The freshwater spring here is the best place for a swim, canoe trip and bankside picnic. The waters are crystal clear and a refreshing 22 degrees all year round. And, there are also thirteen miles of trails for you to discover which you can hike or cycle. These take you right into the heart of Florida’s forests where you can spot deer, gopher tortoises, bobcats and even black bears.
If you need a holiday from your holiday, there’s no better way to relax than on the beach. And Clearwater Beach in Florida is one of the best. The pure-white sandy shores go on for miles, so there are lots of spots to stretch out for a long sunbathing session. And, if you want to get stuck into activities, there’s everything from parasailing and kite boarding to inflatable slides and pirate cruises. Plus, windswept bars line the beach so you can grab a bite to eat or a cocktail while watching the incredible sunset. There’s plenty to do in the area once you’ve had your sunbathing fix, too. In nearby St Pete, you’ll find the Dali museum which is home to one of the biggest collections of work by the Spanish artist, and a brand-new Frida Kahlo exhibit featuring over 60 pieces of her work which will run through to April 2018. There’s also the Clearwater Marine Aquarium where you can see some unique aquatic species.
Ready to get out onto the open road?
Browse our Florida holidays or read more about our new American road trip holidays. You might also like to read about the best theme parks in Florida or Disney is launching a new festival and we want to go.
Author: Selina Akhtar
Some of Orlando’s top shopping centres are within easy reach of the Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista.
If you want to see International Drive, the Rosen Shingle Creek is only a five-minute cab ride away. It sits right in the grounds of Rosen Creek Golf Course, too.
The lakefront boasts a prime spot on International Drive, so you’re close to all the restaurants, bars, shops and theme parks.
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