Bok Tower Gardens is one of Florida’s best-kept secrets, and it’s less than an hour’s drive from Disney and Universal territory. Prize-winning author Edward Bok turned his love of nature into a real-life wildlife haven in the 1920s when he started building this retreat. He wanted to create a place that would “touch the soul with its beauty and quiet”, and the setting certainly ticks that box. The path-threaded site’s surrounded by colourful orange groves, and has endangered plants, wild flowers and natural ponds in its midst. Plus, the design was dreamt up by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr – the same man who created New York’s iconic Central Park.
Animal lovers can clap eyes on 126 different species of bird, and it’s not uncommon to see a gopher tortoise ambling across the lawns. The main attraction, though, is Bok’s impressive singing tower. This 200-foot Gothic structure has a shimmering bronze door and animals carved into its marble exterior. It’s also home to a 60-bell carillon – a piano-like instrument which casts ethereal music across the gardens a couple of times a day.
Elsewhere in the grounds you can tour a Mediterranean mansion, stroll around the oak tree groves, and soak up views from one of the highest points in the state – the Sunset Overlook.
Mermaid shows, waterslides, river cruises – Weeki Wachee covers the lot. Draw a straight line from Orlando to Florida’s west coast, and you’ll reach this place just before the Pacific Ocean comes into view. The natural spring’s been turned into a half-natural, half-new attraction. There are flumes swirling into the main body of water, plus smaller creeks and streams that are ideal for kayaking and wildlife-spotting.
Its name translates as “Little Spring” or “Winding River”, and in the 1940s the turquoise waters first played host to its trademark underwater shows. Today, you can watch ‘mermaids’ drift around the depths of the main lagoon from the comfort of a submerged viewing theatre. The show’s so popular that Kelly Clarkson even featured it in her chart-topping hit ‘Stronger’.
Clearwater Beach has got a trophy cabinet that’s chock-full of prizes. TripAdvisor’s placed it among the best beaches in the world for 2018, and it’s number one in the USA. And once you set foot on the much-loved sands, you’ll see exactly why it’s so popular.
The powdery waterfront’s closer to chalk-coloured than your standard sunbathing sweep, and feels like an extension of the Caribbean’s dove-white shorelines. Head to Pier 60 for a gander at the street magicians and quirky stalls strung along the boardwalk, or pop to the marina for boat and jet-skiing trips across Clearwater Bay. If you’ve got some downtime left over, design your own t-shirt or browse beachwear at one of the nearby surf shops, or grab a grouper sandwich – made up of breaded white fish – close to the sand.
Pop to Daytona Beach, and you’ll find the city has its own set of Willy Wonkas – minus the musical assistants and perilous attractions, of course. South Beach Street, on the cusp of the Halifax River, is home to the Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory. It’s a quaint Aladdin’s cave of confectionary, and has been selling chocolatey snacks to locals for more than 80 years.
Join one of the free tours to see how everything’s made, and you’ll get a couple of tasty samples thrown in at the end. And when it comes to take-home treats, the options range from caramel and pecan honeybees to crispy bacon and ridged crisps smothered in chocolate.
This corner of Florida boasts the highest percentage of Greek-Americans in the entire nation, and the city’s got a real European feel. The Greektown District is on the USA’s National Register of Historic Places, with pretty churches and authentic restaurants dishing up Mediterranean cuisine.
Aptly-named Dodecanese Avenue is the main thoroughfare, and there are plenty of places celebrating Tarpon Springs’ history of sponge fishing. Greek divers donned heavy, old-fashioned suits to harvest the natural sponges from deep off the Pacific Coast. These days the trade’s less archaic, but the Greek way of life’s still going as strong as ever.
It’s easy to see Ponce Inlet’s standout attraction before you’ve even come close to reaching it. This peaceful area, just south of Daytona Beach, features the tallest lighthouse in the state – a whopping 175 feet tall.
When you’re not snapping pictures of the century-old tower, you can visit a museum at its base that tells the story of its history. There’s also a marine science centre nearby with interactive exhibits, where you can learn a thing or two about Florida’s sea life. When you’ve had your fill of culture, the east coast’s standout sands are about five minutes’ drive away, too.
You’re in the thick of the action when you stay at Avanti Palms Resort. International Drive’s out the front, and you’re close to the interstate for road trips further afield.
The snow-white sands of are right outside the front doors of this hotel. Lively Pier 60 and its surrounding restaurants is close by, too.
The Grove Resort and Spa is set in the lake-spotted landscape on the outskirts of Orlando, so puts you within easy reach of the state’s lesser-known things to do.
Our top deals tailored to you, straight to your inbox Sign up for offers
More from TUI
About TUI MyTUI app Cookies Notice Privacy Notice Terms & Conditions Credit card fees Media Centre Travel Jobs Affiliates Discover Lakes & Mountains Discover Weddings App Store for Ios Google Play Store Travel Money Holiday Budget Calculator TUI Group TUI Credit Card First Choice Holiday Brochures Travel After Brexit Holiday Weather
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office and National Travel Health Network and Centre have up-to-date advice on staying safe and healthy abroad.
For the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information check www.gov.uk/travelaware and follow @FCOtravel and Facebook.com/FCOtravel
More information is available by checking /destinations/info/travel-aware
Keep informed of current travel health news by visiting www.travelhealthpro.org.uk.
The advice can change so check regularly for updates
All the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Some of the flights on this website are also financially protected by the ATOL scheme, but ATOL protection does not apply to all flights. This website will provide you with information on the protection that applies in the case of each flight before you make your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.caa.co.uk. ATOL protection does not apply to the other holiday and travel services listed on this website.