When we think of Florida, we often imagine Miami or Orlando and its theme parks, maybe beaches and shopping too. But Florida is much more than all that. On this new post I want to take you to know than Miami and Orlando. From the history of St. Augustine to the beaches of Vero Beach without forgetting an amazing trip through the Florida Keys. Here I show you my top 5 cities not to miss in Florida.

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top 5 cities not to miss in Florida
An old photo at the 7 Mile Bridge, but it’s with Ana when we started AccesoTotal29 in Florida 🙂

On this post, apart from the video at the end with more details, you will find some links in the names of sights that will take you either to the map or to the place’s page to purchase tickets or other extra information. I also share a little more about some of my experiences that I don’t add in the video. And of course, there are many more places to explore in Florida, for example I still don’t know very well the area known as “Panhandle” which is to the northwest, where Panama City, Pensacola and Destin are located, which has always been on my bucket list, so I don’t mention anything about that area until I manage to visit and well… I will create another Top 5 :).

St. Augustine

Known as the oldest city in the United States. St. Augustine is located on the northeast coast of Florida and its cobblestone streets along with Spanish colonial architecture will transport you to another time.

I love visiting this city, I find it beautiful and very pleasant to walk through the Historic Center. For example, on a regular Saturday we leave early with our dogs from Orlando to stroll throughout the area especially exploring St. George Street. There we enjoy the walk, sometimes visiting some businesses, especially a hat shop “Panama Hat Co of St Augustine” which is great and I cannot miss to visit an candy store with sweets from around the world “Passport Sweets“. And for local chocolates, don’t miss Whetstone Chocolates where you can also take a tour to learn more about those chocolates.

There are plenty of fun bars and restaurants in the area. Columbia Restaurant, for example, although you can find it in several cities (the original is in Tampa Bay in Ybor City) it is a Spanish restaurant that has been in Florida (Ybor specifically) since 1905. Another restaurant that I tried on a last visit was Prohibition Kitchen It was very good and inside it is interesting that will make you feel in the time when alcohol was prohibited.

They also like to explore!

Another spot to visit, outside the Old City, is the St. Augustine Lighthouse. If that is your plan, wear closed shoes to climb the lighthouse. I thought it was a fun experience, but the views from there towards the Old Town are not very good, the views are better towards the bay plus the museum in there is good.

View towards Matanzas Bay and Bridge of Lions

My trip always consists of starting in the St. Augustine and St. Johns County Visitor Information Center (go in and enjoy the free exhibition) to later head towards St. George Street. I continue my stroll to Plaza de la Constitución, nearby is Flagler College which is a beauty (they also offer tours inside) and the City Hall which I think is a beauty, inside and outside. Then I continue to Avilés Street, to later go, slowly, between small streets, to Menendez Avenue and enjoy the stroll along the Matanzas River until I reach the Castillo de San Marcos.

top 5 cities not to miss in Florida

It really doesn’t matter how many times you visit this place, there is always something new and different to discover. I love St. Augustine and I never get bored of it. I hope you can visit soon and share with us your opinions about this town.

Florida Keys

Next stop is the Florida Keys, from Key Largo to Key West. Known for crystal clear waters and vibrant coral reefs, the area is perfect for snorkeling and diving.

I always recommend not to fly directly to Key West, it is much better to take a car and drive through all the keys. This is one of those trips where the journey is really important, the destination is equally important, I love Key West, but the views along the way will take your breath away.

Islamorada Fish Company

In Key Largo I recommend to visit John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The place is stunning and perfect to explore. Here you can take a tour to learn more about the area in their glass-bottom boats to observe the corals. You also have the option of renting a boat. There are some trails, it has a small beach and even a small cafe with food and drinks.

On my last trip I stopped at Rowell’s Waterfront Park which I had never visited before. I found it really nice since it has ample parking lot and services, along with a space for swimming. The water is not the most crystal clear you will find, but I also liked the idea that it is dog friendly – since I always think about my furry babies -.

Once you pass Key Largo is Tavernier and there, also on my last trip, I stopped at Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory where we tried some delicious Key Lime Pie, which is typical of the area. I love everything Key Lime, I have tried ice creams, margaritas and obviously the pies which are delicious. Here we bought Key Lime Pie and some other treats.

Rain Barrel Village is easy to know where it is since a giant lobster (they call it Betsy) is by the entrance of the place. It is a little more than the typical souvenir store, since there are several extra things that can almost make it an exhibition point and in the back there are other stores with clothing, art and a few food stands along with some tables.

In Islamorada my favorite point to stop is where the Postcard Inn Beach Resort and Marina is since it has a beautiful view, a restaurant and even a tiki bar. Right next door is Theater of the Sea which is very popular.

Another very famous place to stop is Robbie’s of Islamorada. It can be difficult to park here, but once you do, you will find a restaurant, a market area with crafts and from there you can also take some boat tours or rent kayaks. It is also very common to feed the tarpon that swim through the area.

Then in Marathon, before crossing the famous 7 Mile Bridge, my favorite beach in the area is Sombrero Beach.

After you cross the 7 Mile Bridge, in 1 hour or so you reach Key West, Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S.A., famous for its colorful houses and vibrant nightlife on Duval Street.

Among places to visit, don’t miss The Hemingway Home and Museum, Truman Little White House, Mallory Square, Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S.A., among my favorite points. Also a delicious dessert at Mattheessen’s Homemade or a coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen and not forgetting a delicious Key Lime Pie at Kermit’s Key Lime Pie Shop.

St. Petersburg

This city was my first home in Florida and I still love it. I love it! The beaches are beautiful, the center is super entertaining and beautiful, the people are very friendly.

St. Petersburg is located on the west coast of Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico, in the area known as Tampa Bay.

View from Sirata Hotel in St. Pete Beach

Between beaches, don’t hesitate to visit St. Pete Beach and Fort de Soto Park. Here, on this other post I tell you more details about Fort de Soto. The only bad thing about the St. Pete Beach area is the traffic that can be unbearable due to the amount of people visiting and only little space for cars, but if you are staying in the area it is easy to forget about the car, so go for a walk or use the Suncoast Beach TrolleySM that can take you to Clearwater.

In Downtown, which I love to stroll around, you’ll find lots of good restaurants, bars and several museums. Obviously the most emblematic of the area is the Salvador Dalí Museum, which is a must-see for lovers of surrealist art.

Downtown area is filled with colorful murals and charming boutiques too. Also in Downtown don’t miss exploring The Pier which has more entertainment and beautiful views.

Another impressive place to visit is the Sunken Gardens with beautiful gardens and various animals such as flamingos and other birds.

Although it is not exactly in St. Petersburg, but I have to mention since it is very close, in Madeira Beach do not hesitate to visit John’s Pass. It has some restaurants in front of the bay, some shops and you can take a boat tour, from fishing to enjoying the sunset from the sea. Right there, you can cross the street and get to John’s Pass Park and enjoy the beach right there.

As a day trip from St. Petersburg, a great option is Tarpon Springs. It is a small town that will make you feel like you are in Greece. It has a lot of Greek restaurants, shops and even a Greek supermarket and is a legacy of the Greek sponge divers who settled there at the beginning of the 20th century.

Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs

And obviously nearby, Tampa is very famous with many places to visit including Busch Gardens with excellent roller coasters.

Vero Beach

Located on the east coast of Florida, Vero Beach is an ideal place for lovers of tranquility and nature. With pristine beaches and a relaxed atmosphere, it is the perfect place to disconnect from daily stress. Since we visited the first time, this is our favorite spot to disconnect from everything and not far from home. The beach is beautiful, and I don’t really like waves, I prefer calm beaches (like St. Pete Beach), but the crystal clear water makes me forget about the waves. And I feel like the waves aren’t as ‘wild’ as I think they are in Daytona Beach, for example.

We usually stay in the area of Sexton Plaza, since we park the car at the hotel and stroll around the area. With good restaurants, bars and shops it is super easy to forget about driving.

For lunch or dinner options there are really good ones. Among our favorites are Mulligan’s Beach House, Francesca’s Italian Kitchen and Waldo’s Restaurant, but we really haven’t had a bad experience at any in the area.

Although you will need to drive from Sexton Plaza to visit the beautiful McKee Botanical Garden, a tropical oasis with winding trails and waterfalls that you can’t miss. In my other blog dedicated to Florida, Todo Sobre Florida, there is a post about that must see place.

About 15 minutes north of Sexton Plaza you’ll fine Disney’s Vero Beach Resort which is also another beauty. If you want to visit, I recommend making a reservation for breakfast or dinner at Wind & Waves Grill. Saturday breakfasts include meeting Pluto and Goofy.

Don’t miss our other post with video about Vero Beach here.

Sarasota

Another beautiful city that is located on the Gulf of Mexico. Sarasota is a place that combines spectacular beaches with a rich cultural scene. When I was living in St. Petersburg I sometimes went to Sarasota for the day, but staying in the city is definitely worth it.

Lido Beach
Manatees in Lido Beach. Remember you can’t touch them or bother them or anything, keep your distance.

We once stayed in a retro hotel that felt like we were in the 50s, plus it has a great Tiki Bar on site. Golden Host Resort Sarasota has some vintage decor that fits perfectly with Bahi Hut, one of the oldest tikis in Florida. Very comfortable, pleasant and good prices to spend 1 or 2 nights.

Apart from the beautiful beach that you find in Lido Beach, do not hesitate to visit the The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art when you are in Sarasota. What amazed me the most was Ca’ d’Zan, which is a beautiful house located right in front of the bay.

If you want to do a day trip from Sarasota, Anna Maria Island is a good option. It is beautiful, although small and can get very crowded, so if it is a weekend or high season, you may find a lot of traffic in the area.

Coquina Beach, between Anna Maria Island and Sarasota

I still have to see many places in Florida and there are many places that are beautiful and worth visiting. Even in plans for 2024 we have several new points, so perhaps later I will make another post about more incredible places in Florida.

Again, I invite you to visit my other blog that I dedicate 100% to this state. With more tips, must-see places, parks and much more.

I hope you enjoy the video and those places inspire you to explore beyond what is known in Florida. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more travel content and helpful tips!

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