25 Things to Do in South Florida
By Janet Benoir – October 20, 2023
South Florida is a treasure trove of diverse experiences, offering something for everyone. With its sun-soaked shores and vibrant culture, the region is the perfect destination for beach lovers, history buffs, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. From Miami to the Florida Keys, countless attractions and breathtaking landscapes await those who choose to explore this enchanting corner of the Sunshine State.
As a South Florida resident for four years, I’ve taken the time to personally uncover the best activities the region has to offer. Whether you find yourself in Southeast Florida, Southwest Florida, or the Florida Keys, you’re bound to discover something you’ll cherish during your time spent here. And, with a warm tropical climate year-round, any time is the right time to delve into the amazing attractions Florida has in store for you.
Everglades National Park
When visiting South Florida, you cannot miss exploring Everglades National Park. This unique park covers 1.5 million acres of wetland and protects numerous endangered and rare species. As you venture into the park, make sure to take an airboat tour through the marshes and swamps for an up-close view of alligators and other wildlife.
Once you’re done with the airboat tour, there are several nature trails for you to trek, like the Anhinga Trail or the Gumbo Limbo Trail. The Everglades also offers opportunities for guided tram tours and bird watching. With so much to see and do in the vast expanse of the Everglades National Park, your time in South Florida will be well spent.
In Key West, you can explore its vibrant history and culture. Begin by strolling down Duval Street, the heart of the island, lined with charming shops, bustling bars, and delicious eateries. Don’t miss out on visiting the Southernmost Point of the Continental US, marked by a unique buoy, which makes for an iconic photo opportunity.
Take some time to appreciate the area’s natural beauty by snorkeling or diving at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. You can also embark on a sunset cruise or fishing expedition to fully experience the breathtaking surroundings. For a dose of history and culture, tour the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum or the astonishing Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. In Key West, there’s no shortage of memorable experiences to be had.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park, located in South Florida, offers a unique experience for visitors. With its crystal-clear waters, pristine coral reefs, and stunning vistas, it’s a must-see destination for anyone exploring the region. To truly immerse yourself in this natural paradise, you should consider taking a guided tour by boat or seaplane, which will provide you with the opportunity to marvel at the area’s wildlife and historical sites.
Once you arrive, indulging in some snorkeling or diving should be high on your list of activities. The park is home to a diverse range of marine life, so make sure to bring your underwater camera. Additionally, exploring the historic Fort Jefferson is a fascinating way to learn about the park’s unique history. Bring along a comfortable pair of walking shoes and a sense of adventure as you traverse this remarkable site.
Coral Reef in Key Largo
Key Largo is home to one of the most breathtaking sights in South Florida: its coral reefs. As you explore this underwater paradise, you’ll be amazed by the vibrant colors and diverse marine life. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities that allow you to get up close to the incredible corals, tropical fish, and other marine species.
Diving enthusiasts can visit John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which is the first undersea park in the United States, offering a variety of experiences for all skill levels. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned diver, the crystal-clear waters of Key Largo provide an unforgettable adventure into the beauty of the coral reef ecosystem.
Mangrove Forests in Key Largo
While exploring South Florida, you should definitely take the time to visit the mangrove forests in Key Largo. These unique ecosystems, flourishing with diverse wildlife, serve as a sanctuary for many species, including fish, birds, and marine mammals. As you wander through the enchanting landscape, admire the extensive roots that stretch out from the trees, intertwining and forming dense networks that act as natural nurseries and storm barriers.
To experience the beauty of the mangroves up close, consider kayaking or paddleboarding through the tranquil waterways. If you’re adventurous, guided eco-tours are also available, offering a more in-depth look at the natural intricacies of this delicate environment. As you navigate the winding channels, take in the sights and sounds of this remarkable ecosystem, and appreciate the vital role it plays in South Florida’s rich biodiversity.
Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada
While exploring South Florida, a must-visit destination is Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada. This marina offers a variety of exciting activities to indulge in and create unforgettable memories. With its idyllic location in the Florida Keys, the place is ideal for both relaxation and adventure.
Rent a boat to explore the beautiful islands and crystal-clear waters of Islamorada, or embark on a thrilling fishing trip with one of the experienced local captains. For a more up-close experience with marine life, you can try snorkeling or diving in the alluring coral reefs. Don’t forget to participate in the unique and popular activity of feeding the tarpon at the marina itself.
Art Deco District in Miami Beach
While exploring South Florida, make sure to visit the renowned Art Deco District in Miami Beach. This area, known for its colorful and distinctive architecture, has been meticulously preserved to showcase the rich heritage of the 1920s to 1940s. Immerse yourself in the architectural gems that boast symmetrical lines, geometric patterns, and vibrant colors – characteristics of the Art Deco style.
As you stroll through the streets of the Art Deco District, take note of the various exquisite buildings such as the iconic Colony Hotel and the Breakwater Hotel. Additionally, Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue offer an abundance of dining and shopping options to enjoy during your journey through this historic district. So, be prepared to experience the vintage charm and glamour of Miami Beach at its finest.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami
When you’re in South Florida, one place you shouldn’t miss is the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, located in Miami. This stunning attraction is both a museum and a historical landmark, with European-style architecture amidst picturesque gardens. As you tour the area, you’ll be captivated by the lavish rooms, opulent decor, and the breathtaking waterfront views.
While you’re exploring Vizcaya, make sure to pay attention to its Italian Renaissance-inspired gardens, replete with beautiful sculptures, fountains, and lush greenery. A perfect spot for photos to remember your visit, this section of the estate offers a serene ambiance for leisurely strolls. By visiting Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, you’re taking a step back in time and immersing yourself in an enchanting piece of South Florida history.
Venetian Pool in Coral Gables
One extraordinary location for a day trip in South Florida is the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. As the United States’ largest freshwater pool, this historic site offers a unique and refreshing experience. Surrounded by beautiful Mediterranean architecture, the pool provides a stunning aesthetic that transports you to another time and place. With its waterfalls and lush tropical foliage, you’ll find it hard not to be captivated by the environment.
During your visit, you have the opportunity to swim in the crystal clear waters, relax on the sun deck, or enjoy a leisurely lunch at the poolside café. The Venetian Pool boasts an ideal destination for families, couples, and solo travelers alike. In addition, it’s conveniently located near other attractions in Coral Gables, making it an easy and worthwhile stop as you explore the vibrant South Florida region.
Versailles in Little Havana
While exploring South Florida, you can’t miss the opportunity to experience the rich Cuban culture in Little Havana. One remarkable stop is Versailles, a renowned Cuban restaurant that offers delectable traditional dishes attracting both locals and tourists alike. As you step inside, you’ll appreciate the iconic mirrored walls and chandeliers that create an opulent atmosphere reminiscent of the real Palace of Versailles.
As you savor the mouthwatering flavors of their cuisine, don’t forget to try their renowned Cuban coffee and sumptuous pastries. Soak in the incredible ambiance, engage in conversations with locals, and learn more about Cuba’s fascinating history and influence right in the heart of South Florida. In addition to satisfying your taste buds, your visit to Versailles in Little Havana will also provide valuable cultural insights, making it an essential destination.
Jungle Island in Miami
Jungle Island, situated in Miami, is a popular destination for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. This lush oasis offers a variety of attractions to suit your interests. You can marvel at the beauty of rare exotic birds, and immerse yourself in the vibrant world of tropical plants and animals. Don’t forget to try out the thrilling zip line and skydiving simulation that will get your adrenaline pumping.
While visiting Jungle Island, take advantage of the opportunities to interact with fascinating creatures up close. Attend unforgettable animal shows and engage in hands-on encounters with lemurs, kangaroos, and sloths, to name a few. Wander the winding trails and feel the serenity of nature that surrounds you, making it the perfect place to spend a day in South Florida.
Biscayne National Park
While exploring South Florida, you cannot miss the opportunity to visit Biscayne National Park. Covering an area of 172,971 acres, this national treasure offers various recreational activities to indulge in. From pristine coral reefs and fascinating wildlife to a rich historical past, this park offers an unforgettable experience.
Begin your journey by snorkeling or diving into the vibrant coral reef ecosystems, where you will discover a remarkable variety of marine life. Kayaking and canoeing through the mangrove forests give you a chance to observe the area’s unique flora and fauna. For history enthusiasts, explore the park’s captivating Heritage Trail for a glimpse of Florida’s maritime past, which includes shipwrecks and historical shoreline sites.
Lighthouse on Key Biscayne
One must-see attraction in South Florida is the historic lighthouse on Key Biscayne. This iconic structure stands tall as a shining beacon, guiding marine life and mesmerizing visitors alike. As you explore the island, make your way to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, where the lighthouse is situated. There, you can marvel at the stunning architecture, culminating in the impressive 95-foot tall tower.
To elevate your experience further, join one of the guided tours available, which will provide invaluable insight into the lighthouse’s rich history and significance. During your visit, take advantage of the picturesque surroundings by strolling along the pristine beach or enjoying a peaceful picnic. Embrace the beauty of Key Biscayne, and let the captivating lighthouse illuminate your South Florida adventure.
Shelling on Marco Island
While exploring South Florida, one activity you should not miss is shelling on Marco Island. This picturesque island offers pristine beaches adorned with unique and colorful seashells. As you stroll along the shoreline, be prepared to discover a wide variety of shells, including conchs, whelks, scallops, and many more.
To make the most out of your shelling experience, plan to visit these beaches during low tide when the greatest number of shells are exposed. Additionally, don’t forget to bring a mesh bag or container to store your shell treasures, sunscreen for protection, and a hat for shade. By engaging in this tranquil activity, you’ll get to enjoy the beauty of Marco Island and create unforgettable memories.
The South Florida Coast
In South Florida, you can embark on a memorable sailing adventure along the coast. With the warm waters, picturesque scenery, and diverse marine life, it’s an experience you don’t want to miss. Hop on a chartered sailboat, and enjoy a leisurely cruise, or perhaps join a sailing tour to explore the hidden gems of the coastline.
Some popular destinations for sailing in South Florida include Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and the Florida Keys. While cruising, you might spot dolphins, sea turtles, and other fascinating creatures. Remember to bring your camera for those unforgettable moments, and don’t forget the sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun!
Las Olas Blvd in Fort Lauderdale
As you stroll along the vibrant Las Olas Blvd in Fort Lauderdale, you’ll find an array of exciting things to do. This bustling street is the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s art, shopping, dining, and nightlife scene. Spend your day exploring unique shops and galleries, indulging in mouth-watering cuisine, and discovering the cultural side of South Florida at local art shows and museums.
In the evening, Las Olas Blvd comes alive with bustling bars and lounges where you can relax and enjoy your night. Experience live music, chic nightclubs, and casual watering holes, all within walking distance of the picturesque waterfront. So make sure to include Las Olas Blvd in Fort Lauderdale as one of your must-see destinations during your South Florida visit.
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens in Fort Lauderdale
When planning a trip to South Florida, make sure to include a visit to the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens in your itinerary. Located in Fort Lauderdale, this historic estate provides a captivating experience and a glimpse into the past. As you explore the grounds, you’ll be amazed by the preserved architecture, surrounding natural beauty, and the unique collection of art.
Begin with a guided tour of the house where you’ll learn about the history of the Bartlett family, original owners of the property, and their influence on the estate’s development. Then, wander through the lush gardens, which feature an orchid house, tropical landscaping, and various wildlife inhabitants.
Flamingo Gardens in Davie
If you’re looking for a memorable and educational experience in South Florida, Flamingo Gardens in Davie should be on your list. This beautiful, well-maintained botanical garden and wildlife sanctuary offers a unique opportunity to explore the natural beauty of South Florida and learn about its native plants and animals. As you stroll through the gardens, you’ll be surrounded by lush landscaping, lovely flower beds, and a peaceful atmosphere.
The highlight of Flamingo Gardens is undoubtedly its impressive collection of exotic and native species, including flamingos, alligators, bobcats, and peacocks. Don’t forget to visit the on-site aviary, where you can marvel at the free-flying birds. Additionally, you can hop aboard the narrated tram tour for an insightful ride through the gardens, giving you an intimate look at the diverse ecosystems that make this attraction a must-visit destination.
Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor in Dania Beach
When visiting South Florida, don’t miss out on Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor in Dania Beach. This renowned ice cream parlor offers a unique experience with its nostalgic atmosphere and a wide variety of mouth-watering ice cream flavors. You’ll also find a large array of toppings, homemade cookies, and ice cream sundaes, sure to please your taste buds.
While enjoying delicious ice cream, you can admire the vast collection of vintage Americana memorabilia that decorates Jaxson’s interior. It’s a throwback to simpler times, giving you a well-rounded experience that goes beyond just satisfying your sweet tooth. So, add Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor to your list of must-visit spots while exploring the vibrant South Florida region.
Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens
If you’re visiting South Florida, be sure to explore the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. This serene oasis offers you the chance to experience authentic Japanese culture while roaming through its breathtaking gardens.
The Museum houses various exhibits, showcasing traditional Japanese art and artifacts. Meanwhile, the gardens mimic famous landscapes in Japan, providing you with picturesque spots to unwind. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of Japanese culture, right in the heart of South Florida.
Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach
While exploring South Florida, be sure to visit the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach. This marine conservation institution not only focuses on rehabilitating sea turtles but also offers educational and interactive exhibits. Discover fascinating facts about sea turtle species, their nesting habits, and the ecosystems they inhabit. Additionally, observe and learn about the center’s current turtle patients in their outdoor hospital.
The Loggerhead Marinelife Center also holds engaging programs, such as guided tours and workshops. Take part in a Beach Cleanup event or a Hatchling Release program, where you get a chance to observe baby turtles making their way to the ocean. By visiting this unique attraction, you’re not only enriching your knowledge about marine life but also supporting the center’s mission to promote conservation and protect these majestic creatures.
Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach
Located in Riviera Beach, the famous Blue Heron Bridge offers a unique experience for anyone visiting South Florida. Known for its stunning views and vibrant marine life, this spot is a must-see for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike.
You can explore the diverse underwater world through snorkeling or scuba diving, with several dive shops in the area offering rental equipment and guidance. Besides aquatic exploration, you may also enjoy fishing, birdwatching, or simply walking along the scenic Blue Heron Bridge. Make sure to add this exciting destination to your South Florida itinerary.
Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach
If you’re looking for a unique adventure in South Florida, consider visiting Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach. This drive-through wildlife preserve offers an immersive experience where you can observe over 1,000 animals from around the world, including lions, giraffes, and zebras. As you drive your vehicle through the preserve, you will have the opportunity to learn about various species and their natural habitats, making this an educational and exciting experience.
In addition to the wild animal encounters, Lion Country Safari also features a walk-through safari park with more than 100 species of animals. This area includes petting zoos, camel rides, and even opportunities to feed some of the animals. To make your visit even more enjoyable, the park also offers amenities like a water play area, a carousel ride, and dining options.
Botanical Gardens in Naples
While exploring South Florida, a must-visit destination is the lush botanical gardens in Naples. These gardens offer you a serene escape full of natural beauty and diverse plant life. As you stroll through the various sections, you’ll be amazed at the array of flora, including local and exotic species.
One of the most well-known botanical gardens in Naples is the Naples Botanical Garden. This 170-acre paradise is not only visually stunning, but it also promotes environmental education and conservation. Here, you can take part in guided tours or simply wander on your own, taking in the sights and fragrances of the lovely blooms and foliage.
Sun Splash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral
If you’re looking for a fun and refreshing experience in South Florida, visiting Sun Splash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral should be on your list. This waterpark offers numerous attractions for the whole family to enjoy, including thrilling waterslides, a relaxing lazy river, and interactive water play areas for kids.
As you explore the park, be sure to try out their adventurous rides such as the Cape Fear slide that takes you through darkness, or the Electric Slide for a high-speed experience. Alternatively, find your inner peace as you float down the calming lazy river. With a variety of options, Sun Splash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral guarantees a delightful day for you and your family in South Florida.