Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.
With stunning beaches, vibrant cities, and some of the world’s most-visited theme parks, Florida is one of the most popular destinations in the United States. When you think about popular Florida attractions, theme park resorts like Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando likely come to mind, along with places like the Kennedy Space Center and South Beach, Miami. And if you’ve visited any of the Sunshine State’s hot spots, you know that they can get pretty crowded, so we’ve rounded up 10 hidden gem attractions in Florida without the crowds. Spot manatees in a stunning wildlife refuge, visit beautiful caverns, and explore one of the country’s least-visited national parks — you’ll be surprised to see just how many incredible attractions are overlooked by tourists.
1. Three Sisters Spring at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
Wildlife viewing, hiking trails, bicycling, and guided tours are all available at this beautiful wildlife refuge, but it’s best known as a world-renowned winter sanctuary for manatees. West Indian manatees migrate to the spring’s warm waters every year, so it’s a must-visit if you dream of seeing the sea cows in their natural habitat.
2. Dry Tortugas National Park
One of the nation’s least-visited national parks, Dry Tortugas National Park is well worth visiting if you’re traveling to the Florida Keys. Although Dry Tortugas isn’t a secret to locals or national park lovers, its remote location means you can explore Fort Jefferson, enjoy the beaches, snorkel among the coral reefs, or dive to a shipwreck without the crowds you might find on the Sunshine State’s popular beaches.
3. Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
Sixteen acres of Japanese gardens are Delray Beach’s best hidden gem. This beautiful and serene spot features a world-class bonsai collection, ponds filled with koi, trails, and picnic areas, so you can immerse yourself in nature. You can also learn all about Japanese culture through the clubs and workshops, which include lessons in Japanese ink painting, traditional Japanese music, and more.
4. Devil’s Den
Located in Levy County, Devil’s Den is a prehistoric natural spring that offers diving and snorkeling in crystal clear, 72-degree waters. Fossils dating back to the Pleistocene Age were found in this incredible cave, which got its name from early settlers who thought the steam rising from the den looked like smoke rising from hell.
5. Florida Caverns State Park
Did you know that you can take a cave tour in Florida? At Florida Caverns State Park, you can see the stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, and draperies hiding below the surface in Jackson County in the Panhandle. The park also offers trails, full hookup camping, swimming, and more. Some of the park’s facilities and attractions are currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but check the website for updates.
6. Venetian Pool
This Coral Gables gem isn’t your average public pool. The Venetian Pool was carved out of a coral rock quarry in the 1920s, and today, it’s the largest freshwater pool in the United States (it’s emptied and refilled each day). Swimmers can splash in waterfalls and grottos, and palm trees and porticos make this a scenic place to spend a day in the water. The Venetian Pool hasn’t reopened since it was closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, but check the Coral Gables website for updates.
7. Wacissa Springs County Park
With more than a dozen crystal clear springs to choose from, this park is a dream for swimmers, snorkelers, and boaters. Wacissa Springs County Park is also an ideal place for fishing and wildlife viewing. If you want to spend a couple of days soaking up the great outdoors, you can camp at Goose Pasture Group Campground for up to 10 days.
8. Southwest Florida Ale Trail
Oregon and Vermont receive a lot of praise as the country’s best destinations for beer lovers, but did you know that there’s a brewery trail in Florida? The Southwest Florida Ale Trail connects breweries across four Florida counties, and it even offers a passport you can have stamped at the 19 participating breweries to win prizes. Many of these breweries are just a short distance from the coast, too, making for a great day of beach and beer.
9. Ravine Gardens State Park
This unique park in Palatka offers 60 acres of nature to explore. Suspension bridges cross the park’s ravines over 30 feet above the ground, and there’s a 1.8-mile loop that you can drive, bike, or walk to soak in the incredible views. If you’re an avid hiker, you might prefer the moderately difficult trails that go down into the park’s ravines.
10. Hit the Links on the Florida Historic Golf Trail
Everyone knows Florida has an amazing array of golf courses, and the Florida Historic Golf Trail combines great courses with sports history. The trail provides a mix of famous courses created by renowned golf course architects along with some lesser-known public courses.
Elizabeth Rhodes is an associate digital editor at Travel + Leisure who loves searching for hidden gems on her travels. Follow her adventures on Instagram @elizabetheverywhere.
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