From the Panhandle to the Keys, Florida overflows with natural and man-made beauty. While they’re certainly lovely in photographs, pictures just can’t do these places justice. Here are 12 places in Florida that are so beautiful you must see for yourself, as soon as possible:
1. Gulf Islands National Seashore
This well-preserved stretch of shore along the Gulf's barrier islands in Northwest Florida has some of the whitest sands and clearest turquoise water you've ever seen.
2. Solomon's Castle, Ona
In the middle of nowhere in swampy Central Florida, one man single-handedly built a castle from reclaimed materials and filled it with is amazing (and often hilarious) artwork. It's not quite "roadside," but it's a very unique attraction that will appeal to art lovers and dreamers of all ages.
3. Everglades National Park
In the Everglades you'll find 1.5 million acres of unmatched subtropical wilderness. The park protects rare plants and animals you won't find anywhere else in the country.
4. Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales
This historic site has drawn visitors to Central Florida since long before it became the theme park capital of the country. The ornate Gothic Revival tower is built on a hill and surrounded by lush gardens. Not only is it a sight to behold, its 60-bell carillon plays daily recitals for visitors.
5. Overseas Highway, Florida Keys
The Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West started as the Overseas Railway, an unbelievable feat at the time of its construction in the early 1900s. It only operated for a little over 20 years before a hurricane caused irreparable damage. It was sold to the state and converted into a very narrow highway. In the 1980s, it was replaced by the current Overseas Highway that runs alongside pieces of the old structure.
6. Dry Tortugas National Park
On an isolated island about 60 miles from Key West, accessible only by boat or seaplane, sits the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. Fort Jefferson sits surrounded by beautiful blue water as far as the eye can see, making it a favorite location for modern-day adventurers and photographers.
7. Devil's Den, Williston
This otherworldy scene was captured inside Devil's Den, a karst window in Williston (near Gainesville). It's basically an ethereal underground swimming hole with a natural skylight. Only snorkelers and scuba divers are allowed inside, so come prepared or get the necessary training on-site.
8. Coral Castle, Homestead
This mysterious looks like a Floridian Stonehenge. It's all the more impressive when you discover that the multi-ton structures were sourced, carved and arranged by just one man, who was around five feet tall and weighed around 100 pounds. The castle was meant to be a monument to a lost love.
9. Ancient Spanish Monastery, North Miami Beach
It's a real treat to be able to tour a real medieval monastery without leaving your state. The monastery was purchased by newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst in 1925, dismantled and held shipped to America in more than ten thousands crates. It wouldn't be until decades later that they were finally reassembled in North Miami Beach as an attraction. The structure is now owned by the Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, and it hosts regular services, weddings, and other events.
10. Ocala National Forest
This park in Central Florida contains many of Florida's most beautiful springs and a wide range of native animals, including the most Florida black bears in any one place.
A set of stilt houses sits in shallow water about a mile south of Cape Florida. Constructed in the '30s, the houses were once an offshore party town for Miami's wealthy and well-connected citizens. They are now preserved by Biscayne National Park.
12. Torreya State Park, Bristol
If we didn't know better, we'd think this wasn't Florida. Visitors can actually hike to scenic bluffs looking out over hardwood forests at this park in Northwest Florida,