While we like to think of Florida as a real-life paradise, not everyone is aware of the magnitude of its beauty. And because our state is so large, even many Floridians are unaware of scenic landmarks in other parts of the state. Here are some of the most unimaginably beautiful places you need to add to your bucket list.
1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one of the best places in Florida to see our living reef and all kinds of marine life. Even if you can’t or don’t want to get in the water, it’s still possible to explore this magical world with a glass-bottom boat tour.
2. Grayton Beach State Park, Santa Rosa Beach
Grayton Beach State Park, located in the Panhandle, is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in America, and the nearby forests provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure.
3. Siesta Beach, Siesta Key
This gorgeous beach on Florida's west coast has topped many lists of the most beautiful beaches in the U.S. Siesta Beach has some of the finest white powder sand in the world. Not only is it a beautiful sight, it keeps your feet cool on the hottest days.
4. Falling Waters State Park, Chipley
The centerpiece of this scenic park in northwest Florida is the tallest waterfall in the state (which has very few), at over 70 feet. Visitors enjoy fishing, swimming, and hiking. Call ahead to make sure the waterfall is at its most impressive, which is usually after a heavy rainfall.
5. Devil's Den, Willison
Devil's Den has an ethereal beauty that reminds you how lucky we are to live in our state. This unique prehistoric spring is covered by a karst window that lets in a stream of sunlight, like a spotlight into the clear, blue water below. Visitors must be scuba diving or snorkeling to explore here.
6. Fort De Soto Park, Pinellas County
Fort De Soto consists of five offshore keys near St. Petersburg, Florida. The park is steeped in history, attracting Native Americans, Spanish explorers, and soldiers in the Civil War History aside, visitors should not forget the park's celebrated beaches.
7. Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon
Although the scenic waterfalls at Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon are actually man-made, that doesn't make them any less picturesque. The historic brick paths and lush scenery make this state park a photographer's dream come true.
8. Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales
This fairy-tale tower looks like it might be holding a damsel in distress, but it is actually one of Central Florida's oldest and most beautiful tourist attractions.
9. Madison Blue Spring State Park, Lee
Visitors here can swim in a crystal clear spring in a limestone basin on the west bank of the Withlacoochee. Scenic woodlands surround this perfect summer picnic spot. There is also an extensive underwater cave system for those certified in cave diving.
10. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin
This lovely beach sits on the crystal green waters of the Gulf of Mexico north of Clearwater Beach. It also tops best beaches lists, and features shelling, boating, fishing, hiking, and snorkeling.
11. Venetian Pool, Coral Gables
It's no surprise that the country's largest freshwater swimming pool would be right here in Florida, yet many people have no idea it exists. Even though it was built back in the 1920s, the Venetian Pool is still a fun place to spend the day. It's also the only swimming pool listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
12. Blue Grotto Dive Resort, Williston
If you've ever wanted to give diving a try, this gorgeous spring near Gainesville is a good place to start. It is not only the largest clear-water cavern in the area, but also one of the safest. All you need is an Open Water Diving Certification to explore this natural wonder. Snorkelers and swimmers are also allowed in the spring if they are accompanied by divers.
How many of these places have you checked off your Florida bucket list? What would you add?