Use Your Vacation Rental as a Home Base to Explore Hidden Florida
No doubt, Florida has more tourist destinations than just about anywhere. Between Disney World, Universal Studios, Miami, the Florida Panhandle, Clearwater and Tampa/St. Pete's, Marco and Sanibel Islands and much more, there's an endless number of attractions. And while all the beaches, theme parks and activities are great, try taking time to explore hidden Florida on your next trip. These are areas off the beaten path. Us your vacation rental as a home base and head out for day trips. These are places where the locals go, where you'll be far from the crowds. There places where you'll feel like you can get to know the real Florida.
The Florida Panhandle.
Take a day away from the beach and head up to DeFuniak Springs
to see some lovely Victorian architecture and home to an active Chautauqua society. Chautauqua's were spiritual, social and educational camps popular in the 19th century. IF you want to see more of how the Florida Panhandle used to be prior to development, follow Highway 90, the main stretch through the Florida Panhandle before Interstate 10. You'll go through many quaint old towns. Or, try State Road 2, also called Hogs and Hominy road. This is a bit further north towards the Georgia border. And be sure to check out Falling Waters State Park, the location of the state’s tallest waterfall, though "longest" might be a better word for it since it falls into a sinkhole.
Nature Coast, or The Big Bend
. This is the area just east and south of the Panhandle -- its shores are along the Gulf of Mexico and it curves towards the much more populated areas of Tampa & St. Pete's. It's considered North Central Florida
. You'll find very few tourist destinations along this stretch of four counties. It's a dream for people seeking Florida's natural beauty. There are deep crystal clear springs, some with underground caverns, perfect for scuba diving. Much of this area has remained unchanged from its original appearance. You'll find isolated, seemingly undiscovered beaches and the hip artists' town of Cedar Key
, old fishing villages, and the 68,000 acre St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, with nearly 300 different bird species.
Highway A1A Through Nassau and Duval Counties
. Start in Amelia Island north of Jacksonville and head south to St. Augustine. Along the way, you'll see mostly the sea, and that's the point. Stop frequently to walk among the sand dunes. Perhaps bring fishing poles and try your luck. Collect driftwood and leave a little time to enjoy an evening in St. Augustine (or Amelia Island if you decided to start south and head north).
Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail
. Here's a kayakers dream. The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail is 190 miles of marked kayak (and canoe) trails that works its way through an area next to some of Florida's best known beaches--Sanibel, Fort Myers and Captiva. Kayakers and canoeists will find a maze of estuaries filled with mangroves, wildlife, and not powerboats. Don't worry about getting lost. The Blueway is well-marked with signs. Free maps are available at locations near the Paddling Trail--outfitters, retail stores, parks, a variety of places. Just ask a local if you can't find one. If you've never kayaked before, don't worry. You can learn how in about 15 minutes. Then, get ready to see a side of Florida you've never seen before.