Florida is a beautiful state with many wonderful things to do. The southeastern coastal state offers subtropical weather, sandy beaches, wildlife and alluring scenery. There is much to like here.
South Florida takes this a step further, adding unique ecosystems and a different vibe. With so much to see, where should you spend your time?
We cover 5 unique things to do in south Florida. Additional activities for each area are listed so you can make the most of your time. Get ready for adventure in south Florida.
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Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is a surreal ecosystem teeming with wildlife. Many sections of the park can be explored on foot. Some areas allow you to take a tram tour or ride a bike. The most exciting way to experience the river of grass is by airboat.
Taking an airboat tour is a wild ride. One minute you are slowly gliding on the water’s surface with a close view of alligators, turtles and birds. The next minute, you are zigzagging at full throttle through sections of tall grass in search of more wildlife. It is an adrenaline rush!
This ride feels very different from your typical motorboat. It is something you must experience for yourself.
There are currently three approved vendors for airboat tours in Everglades National Park:
These are all located in the Shark Valley region of the park. Use the website links above to verify rates and hours. Plan to make reservations ahead of time to secure your spot(s).
We went with Everglades Safari Park. This was such a great experience. The ride is a blast! We saw plenty of birds and alligators on our tour.
Things to do in Everglades National Park
There are many other things to do in Everglades National Park while visiting. See our complete guide to Everglades National Park to plan your trip. We give you insight to all areas of the park complete with activities.
Some of the other top things to do are:
- Birdwatching – The Everglades is a birder’s paradise. Seeing such a variety of birds is a sheer delight. Observing the unique behaviors for each type of bird can be comical. I especially loved watching the purple gallinule. This little guy used his beak to pull lily pads closer so he could walk on water.
- Wildlife observing – Exploring the park on foot, you can spot a myriad of wildlife. Alligator and turtle sightings are common. If you head to the southern section of the park, you may also find crocodiles and manatees.
- Kayaking – If you are looking for a challenge, try your hand at kayaking through a maze of mangrove islands. The scenery is beautiful. There are chances for wildlife sightings. This is a great way to explore the western part of the park.
Watch our Everglades video to see the park and wildlife for yourself.
Myakka River State Park
Looking for something different? Go to Myakka River State Park in Sarasota. Try the Myakka Canopy Walkway & Tower.
The canopy walkway is a swinging bridge 25 feet off the ground. You will walk 100 feet through a lush hammock of beautiful oak trees.
Then you can climb over 100 steps to the top of a tower with an observation deck. At 74 feet, you are literally above the treetops. The view is spectacular!
The canopy walkway will have you feeling like a kid again as you make your way across the swinging bridge. The observation deck allows you to see the entire park from above. You can see birds flying below you. This is a treetop adventure you will never forget.
Things to do in Myakka River State Park
There are many other activities at Myakka River State Park:
- Birdwatching – Myakka River is also a birder’s paradise. We were blown away by the number and variety of birds here. We were delighted to watch roseate spoonbills methodically running their beaks back and forth through the water searching for food. There were herons, anhingas and ibises. We were blessed to see sandhill cranes with distinctive red hearts on their foreheads. If you enjoy birdwatching, Myakka will feel like heaven.
- Observing wildlife – Myakka River State Park has plenty of other wildlife. Common sightings include: otter, deer, turtle and alligator. The big draw for most people is alligators. This place has plenty of them.
- Hike to Deep Hole – Looking for something more challenging? Make the 4.4 mile round trip hike to Deep Hole. This creepy area is crawling with alligators and vultures. You may be scared out of your wits! Note that this hike requires a special permit.
For more details on all of these activities, see our guide to Myakka River State Park to plan your adventure.
SHARK TOOTH HUNTING
Venice Beach has been dubbed the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World.” This beautiful beach is known far and wide by shark tooth collectors. Try your hand at shark tooth hunting. Maybe you will find a massive tooth from a megalodon.
I had combed beaches for shells, but never for shark teeth. I found the experience to be fun. It is certainly something different to do.
The prospect of finding shark teeth is exciting. The process is really more like panning for gold than looking for shells. Your chances of success are far better than panning for gold!
I admittedly am a novice. I managed to find 9 baby shark teeth without having a clue what I was doing.
Our friend, John quickly found between twenty and thirty shark teeth of respectable size. The next day he went back to Venice Beach and found a massive tooth. You can see the tooth and the shark tooth hunting process in our south Florida road trip video.
Your best tool is a Florida sand shovel, which you can find here on Amazon. You may hear it jokingly called a Florida snow shovel. It is essentially a basket on the end of a pole.
You simply use the Florida sand shovel to scoop up a basket of water, sand and shells. When you lift the basket, the water and some of the sand is sifted out. Then you empty the remaining contents on the beach and sort through it for shark teeth.
Things to do at Venice Beach
Popular activities at Venice Beach include:
- Relaxing on the beach.
- Walking along the beach.
- Swimming in the ocean.
- Fishing on Venice Fishing Pier.
- Watching a beautiful sunset.
After your beach day, be sure to grab a bite to eat in Venice. There are plenty of seafood restaurants in the area.
If you are looking for something other than seafood, we have two fantastic places for you.
- Benny Bada Bing – This is a family owned and operated restaurant that serves delicious Italian food. The primary focus is pizza and pasta, but they have plenty of other options. The portion sizes are large. The staff is friendly and helpful. The restaurant walls are decked with pictures from The Sopranos. The place has a cool vibe and great food.
- Darrell’s Restaurant – This is a casual joint with southern dining. They have wings, burgers, sandwiches and smoked BBQ. The portions are ample. Don’t overlook the sides. They are divine. The sweet potatoes melt in your mouth. Your belt will already be stretched to its limits, but the desserts are amazing as well.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is located in Key Largo. It has been described as an underwater playground.
Snorkeling tours are one of the most popular attractions at the park. You can float on the water’s surface with a clear view of coral reefs and lively sea creatures.
The world beneath the surface is magical. It is hard to comprehend that such a beautiful and delicate ecosystem exists beyond our normal view. It is breathtaking! I was overcome with a deep appreciation for my own life.
Things to do at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
There are many other things to do at this wonderful park.
- Hang out on the beach – There are small beach sections where you can tan, read, relax, play, etc.
- Hiking – You can hike along shaded trails enjoying nature.
- Glass bottom boat tour – If snorkeling is not your thing, you can take a glass bottom boat tour. This way, you get the same view without getting wet.
- Kayaking – You can kayak through alternating areas of mangroves and open water.
This really is a nice park. I find that people headed to Key West often overlook the other Florida Keys. These other islands have plenty to offer. Seeing the coral reefs in this area is an absolute treat. I think you will find the experience rewarding.
CAFE CON LECHE
Cuban Coffee Queen in Key West
Head down to Key West and stop at the Cuban Coffee Queen. Grab a cup of Cuban coffee with steamed milk. This fabulous drink is better known as a cafe con leche. It has a bold, but smooth and sweet flavor. In a word, it is delicious!
With your caffeine boost, you are now ready to tackle all that Key West has to offer. And, it is a lot!
Things to do in Key West
- Visit the southernmost point marker – Yes, it is touristy. However, you have come this far. You have to do it. Take a picture at the southernmost point in the continental United States. Be prepared to wait in line for this memorable photo op.
- Eat a slice of key lime pie There are many places here that have key lime pie. They are all good. Looking for pie with a twist? Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe offers a chocolate-dipped slice on a stick. If you love meringue, Blue Heaven boasts about their “Mile High Key Lime Pie.” Heaven indeed!
- Look for wild roosters – Key West is known for wild roosters running around town. They have become the unofficial mascot for the area. If you explore the town, you should not have any trouble finding a few wild roosters. Be sure to respect their space.
- Eat a crepe – Most people tend to focus on eating key lime pie. Be sure to eat a crepe at La Creperie French Cafe. The cafe has indoor and outdoor seating. They offer a variety of sweet and savory crepes. To say the crepes are delectable is an understatement. You can sip a mimosa and enjoy a mouthwatering crepe while you soak in the view.
- Tour the town – You can hit the shops and bars. There are plenty of both. Other popular places in Key West include:
- Hemingway Home and Museum
- Truman Little White House
- Key West Lighthouse
- Key West Shipwreck Museum
- Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
- Watch a sunset from Mallory Square – Two hours before sunset each night, Mallory Square comes to life. People gather as street performers, artists and food vendors fill the streets. Watching sunset is a celebration. Everyone cheers as the sun fades and night arrives. Yes, it is a bit corny. But, you are looking for unique experiences, right?
If you are searching for more details on activities in Key West, I highly recommend A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. Amanda Williams is an award-winning travel blogger. She provides tremendous insight and a list of 24 things to do in Key West. Her post is fabulous! Do yourself a favor and check it out.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO SOUTH FLORIDA
South Florida offers beautiful beaches and parks, gorgeous sunsets, subtropical weather, unusual wildlife and fun activities. Use our list of 5 unique things to do in South Florida to start planning your trip.
Featured image credit: Miles with McConkey
About the author
Scott McConkey is a nationally syndicated travel writer and the founder of Miles with McConkey, where he provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, and inspiration. His travel articles have been seen in The Associated Press wire, ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, MSN, and many more. He and his wife, Julie, left the corporate world after nearly 30 years for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year has evolved into a second act. She creates visual content while he utilizes the written word. Their goal is to create content inspiring others to travel more and live their best lives now.