pierGreater Fort Lauderdale CVB

By Donna Carter

The Sunshine State has certainly earned bragging rights for the countless attributes that make it the leading vacation destination for sun-seeking Canadians. As the saying goes, “when you’ve got it flaunt it” and Florida has plenty to flaunt: perpetual sunshine, a sub-tropical climate, endless beaches and a vast repertoire of unsurpassed entertainment including the world’s most famous theme parks. This travel guide highlights a wealth of attractions – new and established – as well as vacation ideas and useful information for planning a trip there.

Sun, Sea & Sand

First, let’s talk beaches. There are at least 850 of them spread over 2,880 kilometres of coastline and no two are exactly the same. Take your pick from family-friendly to high activity, glitzy, peaceful, secluded or the beaches on Sanibel Island widely known as one of the best shelling venues on the planet. Looking for an eco friendly beach? Head to the Atlantic coast’s protected shore at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge – the most important nesting spot for loggerhead sea turtles in the Western Hemisphere. Then, of course, there’s the legendary South Florida Keys largely made up of one sandy beach after another.

Must See, Must Do

Beyond the beaches there is an endless inventory of activities including awesome golf. With more than 1,400 courses there is everything from championship tracks to hundreds of value-based clubs and teaching academies. The state also boasts the World Golf Hall of Fame and World Golf Village at the historic city of St. Augustine. Florida is likewise home to the LPGA and its two trophy courses at Daytona Beach, a city famous for its International Speedway that attracts car race enthusiasts from around the globe.

Florida’s Space Coast is also one of the state’s top attractions. Located on the mid-Atlantic coast, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is immensely entertaining for adults and children alike. It’s a place where people can learn, touch and see everything related to astronauts and space travel. This family-friendly complex offers a number of virtual experiences including walking on the moon, driving across Mars, plus other simulated adventures related to space exploration.

Fun For All

If you had to pick one thing the Sunshine State is best known for it would be its world famous theme parks. Gathered around the central Florida city of Orlando, Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld virtually define the meaning of the word entertainment. Busch Gardens at Tampa Bay is one of the state’s premier wildlife parks and entertainment complexes but it’s certainly not alone. Across the state there are numerous marine and wildlife parks such as Butterfly World, Monkey Jungle, Gatorland and Lion Country Safari. Among the newest park additions is LEGOLAND south of Orlando where it features 50 rides, live entertainment and thousands of LEGO MODELS.

Head For Water

In a state surrounded by water and possessing thousands of miles of inland lakes and waterways, it’s a no-brainer that water sports are one of Florida’s big attractions. With considerable justification the state is promoted as “the fishing capital of the world” where anglers have endless opportunities for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. It’s said that more sailfish and marlin are caught in the upper Panhandle waters off Destin than any place else on the planet. Have the urge to go deep-sea fishing? Charters are widely available and usually include bait, tackle and fishing licences. Also, dedicated anglers can expect to be captivated by the Fishing Hall of Fame near Fort Lauderdale – a facility that consistently gets rave reviews. There’s everything from oodles of interactive exhibits, life-size replica’s of world-famous catches and historic memorabilia.

Beyond fishing, the state’s water world likewise provides thrilling opportunities for scuba diving and snorkelling. Among the various popular sites are the waters off the Florida Keys where underwater reefs and sunken shipwrecks are abundant. Serious scuba enthusiasts will be attracted by cave diving in Northcentral Florida, where the area boasts the most beautiful underwater caves in the country. A latter day activity that has recently taken off is paddleboarding on inland waterways and coastal waters. There are plenty of statewide outfitters and tour companies offering paddleboarding as well as kayaking and canoe trips that can be done either independently or with a guide.

Art & Culture

It should not be forgotten that Florida has a strong and well-developed arts and culture scene – music, theatre, opera and museums – a selection that gets better by the year. One example is the recent opening of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg that contains the largest collection of the surrealist painter’s works outside of Spain. There are, in fact, museums across the state including the remarkable living history museum at St. Augustine.

Get Set, Go

Factor in a wealth of eco tourism, some of the best bird watching venues in the world, intriguing historic sites, together with a smorgasbord of great dining and thousands of holiday resorts and hotels, it’s little wonder Canadians have been flocking to the Sunshine State since the 1950s. For a trip there this year, this guide will help you choose where to go, what to do and what to see.