The Sunshine State attracts more than 130 million visitors per year, and a big part of the appeal is its natural (and manmade) beauty. From tropical islands to thick forests to astoundingly clear freshwater springs, there are a lot of beautiful places to visit in Florida. Luckily, with warm weather and ample sun year-round, there’s no bad time to visit.
As a fourth-generation Floridian, this writer is well aware of the state’s treasures, both popular and lesser-known, and I’m happy to spread the love.
We also asked Florida blogger Amanda Conkel of The Wandering Conk for her favorite spots around the state and tapped Dana Young, president and CEO of Visit Florida, for her insight. As a sixth-generation Floridian born and raised in Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee, Young knows a thing or two about Florida tourism and the state’s most beautiful spots.
Here are 26 beautiful places in Florida, from national parks to island towns.
Related: The Best Times to Visit Florida
Three Sisters Springs
There are a lot of stunning springs in Florida, but Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River holds a special place in this Floridian travel writer’s heart as the site of many fond memories of scalloping in the summer and swimming with manatees in the winter. The springs, accessible only via private boat or kayak, provide refuge to more than 150 manatees during cold snaps. Book a clear kayak tour with my friends at Get Up And Go Kayaking Crystal River for the full experience.
Miami Beach Art Deco Historic District
Of course, South Beach is one of the most beautiful places in Florida, but Miami Beach’s historic art deco district is worth exploring off-sand.
Famous for the plethora of pastel art deco dreams and as the former home of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace (you can stay or book a table for dinner at his mansion), the Art Deco Historic District has the largest concentration of this classic 1920s and 1930s architectural style in the nation and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979. A walking tour is the best way to take in a sampling of the 800 designated historic buildings.
Named for the giant bleached oak skeletons lining this mile-long stretch of sand in Big Talbot Island State Park, Boneyard Beach is a must-visit detour from nearby Jacksonville. Between the driftwood “sculptures” and the 30-foot bluffs along the shoreline, you may find yourself wondering if you’ve been transported out of Florida entirely.
Everglades National Park
There are few places in the world as wild and ecologically significant as Everglades National Park, which is why this 1.5-million-acre subtropical wilderness is one of the best places to visit in Florida. This biologically diverse landscape homes hundreds of species of birds and probably more alligators than you ever hoped to see. Take it all in on an airboat tour.
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
Delray Beach might be the last place you’d expect to find a veritable portal to Japan, but that’s exactly what awaits at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. With humble beginnings as a Japanese farming colony more than a century ago, Morikami today spans 200 acres of nature trails and pine forests, with 16 groomed acres of Japanese gardens, strolling paths, a world-class bonsai collection, and koi ponds surrounding the two museum buildings.
With Spanish Renaissance architecture, more than 450 years of history, and tons of things to do, St. Augustine is one of Florida’s most beautiful cities — and with its Tiffany glass windows and ornate murals, the Flagler College campus is an outstanding centerpiece.
“As the longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the U.S., St. Augustine is filled with historical landmarks and architecture,” Young adds. “Some cultural highlights include Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth and Castillo de San Marcos, as well as outdoor adventures including kayaking, fishing, and eco-tours.”
Conkel agrees, recommending a visit between November and January to see St. Augustine at its most magical — during Nights of Lights. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” she says. “Each building, rooftop, and street is even more magical than before. Throughout Nights of Lights, they have lit-up boat parades and other weekly events.”
Walt Disney World — During the Holidays
Yes, we all know that Walt Disney World is built to be picture-perfect — it’s the “Most Magical Place on Earth,” after all — but to see Disney in all its glory, go when the parks are all decked out for the holidays. Highlights include Halloween, Christmas, and the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival when the spring flowers are in full bloom.
If there’s a cooler-looking building in Florida than The Dalí, I’d like to know about it. While the contents of the Salvador Dalí Museum are plenty interesting, the exterior architecture — a free-form geodesic glass bubble erupting from 18-inch-thick walls — is worth a visit in its own right. Plus, you can stay at another one of Florida’s most beautiful places, The Vinoy — a pretty-in-pink historic hotel — while you’re in St. Petersburg.
Dry Tortugas National Park
A national park that’s 99 percent underwater, 70 miles from civilization, and accessible only by seaplane or boat? Only in Florida. Pay a visit to Dry Tortugas National Park and prepare to be amazed.
Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo
Whether you’re there to glamp in a covered wagon or boot-scoot-boogie at the Saturday night rodeo, the largest dude ranch east of the Mississippi is a glimpse at the beauty of Old Florida, with massive live oak trees, swampland, and wide-open spaces.
I’m admittedly biased, but I firmly believe the Palm Beaches represent the most beautiful parts of Florida, and nowhere is this spirit captured more elegantly than The Breakers, a Gilded Age jewel stretching 140 acres along the Atlantic shoreline of Palm Beach. From the ornate lobby to the perfectly manicured grounds, the entire historic resort is a visual feast.
“Kayaking the Weeki Wachee River from Weeki Wachee State Park is my number one recommendation when visiting Florida,” Conkel says. “The water is consistently the most perfect blue-green color year-round, and it’s an easy and relaxing activity because you essentially float down the river with the current. You’ll usually see a few manatees and tons of fish. It’s a great activity any time of year as the water is a constant 72 degrees.”
Whatever you do, don’t miss the live mermaid show on a visit to Weeki Wachee — a fantastical tradition since 1947. Mermaid shows take place at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily. Seating is first-come, first-served.
The West Palm Beach Green Market
There’s a reason the West Palm Beach Green Market is repeatedly ranked among the best farmers markets in the nation — with 125 fresh and funky vendors, this scenically situated market is a weekly pitstop for locals and a must-do itinerary item for visitors. Out-of-towners can also take a food tour of the market, and if you go at Christmastime, look out for a 35-foot sand tree capping off the festivities. (Need somewhere to stay? My West Palm Beach Airbnb is located nearby.)
Sunrise Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral
Anyone familiar with the Space Coast may be raising an eyebrow at its inclusion on a list of the most beautiful places in Florida, but a sunrise launch from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station or Kennedy Space Center will take your breath away. Bundling up on the beach to marvel at a rocket blasting through a colorful sky is truly an only-in-Florida experience.
There are a lot of beautiful places and unique things to do in the Florida Keys (America’s only private island resort, anyone?), but Key West rightfully tops most visitors’ lists.
“Located at the southernmost point in the U.S., Key West is known for its lively nightlife, historic sites, conch-style architecture, and water sports,” says Young. “As the sun sets, Mallory Square welcomes jugglers, musicians, and acrobats, and the streets are filled with famous pubs and restaurants serving some island specialties.”
Go during the low season for the best prices and lightest crowds.
Bok Tower Gardens
Located atop Iron Mountain, one of the highest points of Florida at 295 feet above sea level, Bok Tower Gardens spans 250 acres of contemplative garden and bird sanctuary. This central Florida gem was established in the 1920s and remains devoted to the mission of Edward Bok today: “Wherever your lives may be cast, make the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.” The singing tower, the centerpiece of the gardens, offers a rare chance to hear a carillon in action.
Blowing Rocks Preserve
Conkel considers Blowing Rocks Preserve, located in quiet Hobe Sound, a hidden gem of Florida. “Here you’ll find the coast lined with Anastasia limestone,” she says. “During high tide, the ocean creates a show as it blows up through the rocks. At low tide, you can walk on the shoreline underneath the limestone cliffs. It’s something you don’t typically see in Florida. When visiting, be sure to take a stroll on the Dune Trail through the tunnel of sea grapes.”
While most Florida tourists head to nearby Orlando for the theme parks, Ocala (which recently debuted an $800-million resort) has plenty to offer outdoor enthusiasts.
“Ocala and Marion County boast miles of untainted nature, making it a great destination to experience natural wonders, outdoor adventure, world-class sporting facilities, and culture,” Young says. “Visitors can take in the sights as they kayak, camp, go tubing, hike, bike, or zipline through canyons — yes, Florida actually has canyons!”
She adds, “Officially named the Horse Capital of the World, Ocala is home to more horses than anywhere else in the country, producing some of the finest champions in the sport. It’s also home to national and international equestrian events and competitions, including multiple competition series at the World Equestrian Center.”
Don’t miss the nearby Devil’s Den historic spring for another beautiful central Florida spot.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
Most people go to Miami for the beaches and nightlife, but Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is well worth a visit. This National Historic Landmark is a 1916 waterfront estate with 32 rooms and 10 acres of formal gardens, a trip to the Gilded Age just minutes from downtown Miami.
“Located along Florida’s Gulf Coast, Destin is an ideal destination for the whole family, as it has various family-friendly resorts and vacation homes to choose from,” Young shares. “Destin is home to some of the world’s most beautiful and unique beaches, known for its soft, sugar-white sand and glistening emerald waters.”
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
“The Ringling Museum in Sarasota is a sight to see,” according to Conkel. “Between the bayfront gardens, Ca’d’Zan, and the actual museum, you can spend an entire day there and not see everything. My favorite time of year to visit is toward the end of spring when the rose garden and multitude of flowers are in bloom.”
For another beautiful Florida spot, drive an hour south to Boca Grande, named America’s best small beach town by T+L in 2023.
Straddling the Florida–Georgia border, the Okefenokee Swamp spans 438,000 acres of shallow, peat-filled wetland and is home to many threatened and endangered species — plus a population of around 15,000 alligators.
“With a mix of historic landmarks, a vibrant culture infused with Hispanic flavors, lively districts, year-round pro sports offerings, and a thriving culinary scene, there’s something here in Tampa for everyone,” Young, a Tampa resident herself, shares. “Experience cigar rolling or a flamenco show in Ybor City; visit the parks, restaurants, and bars alongside Tampa Riverwalk; ride a thrill-coaster at Busch Gardens; or simply treat your tastebuds to one of the city’s numerous Michelin-recognized culinary options.”
There’s a reason Tampa is listed as one of the best places to live in Florida.
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
Located in northern Florida, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is most famous for its picturesque oak hammock, reflection ponds, and formal gardens, which house impressive displays of both native and non-native plants. Make sure to leave time to stroll the park’s Atlantic shoreline, which is marked by coquina rock formations and tidal pools.
McKee Botanical Gardens
Home to restored architectural treasures and 10,000 native and tropical plants — including fly-trapping pelican flowers, an award-winning orchid collection, and one of Florida’s largest and most celebrated collections of water lilies — McKee Botanical Gardens in Vero Beach is a must-see for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. If you have little ones in tow, make sure to leave plenty of time to explore the whimsical Children’s Garden.
Anna Maria Island
“Anna Maria Island is a quaint beach town with sugar sand and the clearest water you can imagine,” Conkel shares. “If you set your chairs in the sand near Bean Point, you can be sure to spot several manatees, and I love that the transportation of choice on the island is by golf cart. Bounce around the cutest restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and boutiques — it’s truly like living the island life.” Plus, you’re basically guaranteed to see dolphins.