Did you know that Florida has hidden gems beyond the typical tourist attractions? While the state is known for its theme parks and beaches, many charming towns and natural wonders are waiting to be explored. In this article, we’ll take you on a journey to twelve beautiful places in Florida that you may not have heard of before.

From mysterious towns to breathtaking wildlife reserves, Florida has something for everyone. Whether you’re a nature lover or simply looking to escape the crowds, these hidden gems will surely surprise and delight you. So pack your bags and get ready to discover a different side of the Sunshine State.

By the way, #12 is by far my favorite.

1. Dry Tortugas National Park – Gulf of Mexico

Dry Tortugas National Park
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If you’re looking for a secluded island getaway, Dry Tortugas National Park is a hidden gem that should not be missed. Although often overlooked, this cluster of isolated islands was designated as a national park by FDR and can only be accessed by seaplane or boat.

The park offers abundant sea life, coral reefs, and tropical birds for divers to explore. Fishing enthusiasts can also enjoy some fantastic catches, while kayakers can take in the stunning emerald and aqua waters. One of the main attractions is Fort Jefferson, a massive coastal stone fortress that was never completed, but still stands as a monument to the past, adding to the park’s intrigue.

2. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens – Gainesville

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
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If you’re in Gainesville, you don’t want to miss out on visiting the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. This botanical garden is located just minutes away from the University of Florida and boasts of being one of the best in the U.S. with 24 different gardens side by side.

The gardens offer a wide range of plant collections, including the largest collection of bamboo trees in Florida, the biggest herb garden in the Southeast, and ponds filled with giant Victorian water lilies. You’ll also find Japanese and rose gardens, as well as an enchanted butterfly garden.

Stroll along the winding paths of live oaks draped in Spanish

3. Devil’s Den Spring – Williston

Devils Den Spring 1
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If you’re an adventure seeker, Devil’s Den Spring in Williston is the perfect destination for you. Despite its intimidating name, Devil’s Den Spring is a popular recreational area located southwest of Gainesville. This prehistoric spring is open to the public and offers a unique opportunity for snorkeling and scuba diving.

The cave was formed when the roof of a subterranean river collapsed, exposing it to the surface. This created an entrance to the mysterious waters below, which are crystal-clear and a constant 72 degrees year-round. Visitors can explore the rock formations, fossils, and stalactites that are over 33 million years old.

4. Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens – Delray Beach

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
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If you’re looking for a Japanese experience outside of Japan, visiting Delray Beach’s Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is a must. The gardens are home to beautiful trees, foliage, ponds, and fountains that create a serene and peaceful atmosphere.

The museum offers various exhibitions that showcase different aspects of Japanese culture, including Japanese Art Deco, tattoo culture, and the art of creating bamboo baskets. Additionally, you can participate in a traditional tea ceremony at the tea room.

5. Coral Castle – Miami

Coral Castle
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If you’re looking for a unique attraction to visit in Miami, Coral Castle is a must-see. Constructed by Ed Leedskalnin over a period of 28 years, this stunning castle is made entirely of coral rock and is considered by some to be the eighth man-made wonder of the world.

Despite the lack of witnesses to Ed’s building techniques, the castle remains one of the most mysterious accomplishments in the world. Ed built the castle under cover of night, without access to modern construction methods, claiming to know “the secret of the pyramids.” The result is a remarkable artificial structure that stands as a testament to Ed’s ingenuit

6. Perdido Key – Pensacola

Perdido Key
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Perdido Key, a barrier island that spans the border between Orange Beach, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida, is a secluded paradise. The island’s name, which means “Lost Key” in Spanish, hints at its unspoiled beauty. The state parks on the island are home to pristine white sand beaches that meet the warm, turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The island’s 16-mile stretch comprises nearly 60% federal or state parkland, making it an ideal location for wildlife to thrive. When you visit, be sure to take part in popular activities such as dolphin boat cruises, golfing, sampling local Gulf seafood, and playing beach sports.

7. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens – Miami

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
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If you’re in Miami, make sure to visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, located just south of downtown Miami on Biscayne Bay. Industrialist James Deering built this estate in 1914, and it is one of the most beautiful estates in Florida.

The 70-room mansion is designed in the Renaissance style and is filled with centuries-old antiques and furnishings from across Europe. The tea room, with its colorful stained glass and marble floors, is a must-see.

Outside, the estate boasts 10 acres of gardens to explore, designed in a layout similar to France’s Versailles. However, the design also incorporates the tropical elements that thrive in southern Florida, including palms and orchids.

8. Falling Waters State Park – Chipley

Falling Waters State Park
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If you’re looking for a break from the beaches of Florida, Falling Waters State Park in Chipley is a must-visit destination. This serene park is home to the highest waterfall in the state, surrounded by lush ferns and a sinkhole. The park also boasts a rich history, with Native American relics from the Seminole Wars found in the numerous sinkholes scattered throughout the park.

Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit, as the park’s springs offer great swimming holes. In addition to swimming, visitors can enjoy hiking, fishing, and camping in the park’s beautiful surroundings.

9. Salvador Dali Museum – St. Petersburg

Salvador Dali Museum
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If you’re a fan of Salvador Dali, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. This museum is home to the largest collection of Dali’s work outside of Europe.

You’ll find a variety of paintings, photographs, prints, and 3D objects on display, all showcasing Dali’s unique and imaginative style. In addition to exploring the museum’s impressive collection, you can also participate in other activities on the campus, such as film screenings and yoga classes.

10. Apalachicola National Forest – Bristol

Apalachicola National Forest
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If you’re looking for a place to experience Florida’s natural beauty, Bristol in Apalachicola National Forest is a great starting point. The forest is home to some of Florida’s most stunning lakes, rivers, and natural springs.

During the spring, the prairies come alive with an array of wildflowers that bloom alongside the Apalachicola River. You can explore the caverns and sinkholes near Leon Springs, and take a scenic drive down the Apalachee Savannahs Scenic Byway for breathtaking views of tropical grasslands. Don’t miss out on the chance to experience the beauty of Bristol in Apalachicola National Forest.

11. Indian River Lagoon – South Melbourne Beach

Indian River Lagoon
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You cannot miss the incredible bioluminescent glow that emanates from the Indian River Lagoon Preserve State Park. The lagoon is situated on a barrier island on the central east coast of Florida and boasts of being the most biologically diverse estuary in North America, making it Florida’s largest lagoon.

During the summer months, visitors are treated to a magical blue glow that rises from the shallow waters of the lagoon. This unique phenomenon is caused by plankton and comb jellies that thrive in the rich environment of the lagoon. These creatures emit light whenever they are disturbed by fish or boats, giving visitors an unforgettable show. The peak bioluminescent season runs from June through October, and the best way to experience this incredible sight is by taking a local kayak tour.

12. Neptune Memorial Reef – Key Biscayne

Neptune Memorial Reef
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If you are in the Key Biscayne area, you should visit the Neptune Memorial Reef. This man-made reef is a popular destination for various groups. These include scuba divers, boaters, students, and marine biologists.

The Neptune Memorial Reef covers over 16 acres of the ocean floor. It is inspired by the legendary city of Atlantis and is the largest of its kind in the world.

Apart from offering an underwater experience, the Neptune Memorial Reef provides a serene memorial for people to send off the ashes of their loved ones. This unique way of memorializing their loved ones creates a sense of “life after life.”

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