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Florida Attractions without the Theme Parks

Posted on July 26, 2019 by Sally Dowling
Family snorkelling at spring in Crystal River Florida USA

If you have ticked off all of Florida’s numerous fabulous theme parks, it’s worth looking for a holiday without Minnie and Mickey.

With plenty of flights from the UK to Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami there are bargains to be had. Florida may surprise you with all it has to offer.


National monuments, historic lighthouses and museums are dotted throughout the state.
One of my favourites is the Edison Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers. The nearest thing to our National Trust, this historic estate is where great friends Thomas Edison and Henry Ford spent their winters.

As well as the homes you can visit the glorious gardens and the fascinating Edison Botanic Research Laboratory.

Take to the Water

Kayaking is very popular, and most areas of the state have rivers and waterways you can explore. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park offers kayaking and boat trips along the Weeki Wachee River, with the added attraction of a world-famous mermaid show to ‘wow’ all the family.

The beaches hardly need to be mentioned – they are so famous. Long sandy stretches and warm waters attract sun worshippers from all over the world. Every water sport is on offer with the Atlantic coast having great waves for surfing. You can learn to ride the waves at the famous Ron Jon Surf School on Cocoa Beach. Be prepared for every bone in your body to ache the following day!

The warm waters around Florida makes it easy to spot dolphin. Head to south west Florida and the barrier island of Captiva. Here you can enjoy a memorable boat trip with Captiva Cruises where you may be lucky to enjoy these playful animals coming alongside to greet you. You could also spot white pelicans, ospreys and bald eagles along the way.

Manatee are strange creatures and can be hard to find. They tend to head for warm water and the best place to see them is at the Manatee Observation and Education Centre in Fort Pierce. Manatee also enjoy feeding in the warm waters of Three Sisters Springs on the Crystal River. Check out the website for details of how you can swim with them, or take a kayak and paddle along the backwaters.

The Great Outdoors

You will find miles of hiking trails throughout the state, along the coast, through swamps and in remote national parks, so pack your walking boots.

Play a round of golf on one of the many pristine courses throughout Florida and you will probably spot an alligator or two. Give them a wide berth as they love to bask around the ponds and lakes. Or head off to Corkscrew swamp, just outside Fort Myers, and you can walk the boardwalk trail and may be lucky to see some real monsters.

If you enjoy birdwatching then Ocala National Forest, north of Orlando, is a great place. Meanwhile back on the coast, along the pristine beaches, you will often see pelicans flying in formation and the elegant Roseatte Spoonbills that live among the mangrove swamps.

Finally, no trip to Florida is complete without a visit to Everglades National Park in the south of Florida. It’s a world heritage site and protected area; home to manatee, alligators and the elusive American panther. There are numerous activities available including guided tours and ranger-led programmes.

All this and not a roller coaster in sight! Remember your USA travel insurance to include Florida in your travel plans. If you’re looking to escape the cold and top up your tan, take a look at our winter sun destination guide.

by Sally Dowling

Sally has had a long and exciting career in the travel industry and now enjoys freelance travel writing and guest blogging. She is a regular contributor to, a popular travel and review website for the over 50s. Sally likes to seek out lesser known areas of popular destinations and to stay in small family run hotels. It gives her great pleasure to recommend somewhere that she has enjoyed so that others can share the experience. You can follow her travels on her blog