Boca Grande, situated on Gasparilla Island, is known for its breathtaking scenery and epic fishing adventures. Celebrities flock to this tranquil fishing village during winter, while summer offers sightings of the impressive tarpon and sunbathing iguanas. It’s also home to the circa 1912 Gasparilla Inn (the-gasparilla-inn.com) – one of the longest surviving resort hotels in Florida.
Whether lounging on the beach, cycling through the village, or indulging in coastal cuisine at South Beach Bar and Grille (southbeachbarandgrill.com) Boca Grande has something for everyone. At nearby Gasparilla State Park (home of the 1890 Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and museum)*, anglers can enjoy thrilling offshore charters or try their luck from kayaks, piers, or by surf fishing.
Exploring the area by bike along the 6.5-mile Boca Grande Bike Path allows you to discover historic sites and lighthouses. Sandy beaches offer leisurely strolls and shelling opportunities, while guided paddle boarding through the mangroves completes a perfect day.
Dotted by picturesque lakes, Lakeland’s name is no surprise. It is also known as “Swan City” for the scores of swans, descended from Queen Elizabeth II’s gift of a pair from her own Royal Flock in the 1950s. See them in the center of town on Lake Morton!
Although Lakeland is nearly eclipsed by the nearby mega theme parks, this quiet Central Florida city offers a host of experiences that would more than fill a day or two.
Explore the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at Florida Southern College. Launch tomorrow’s astronauts, pilots, and engineers with a visit to The Florida Air Museum (floridaairmuseum.org) – Florida’s “Official Aviation Museum and Education Center.” You can keep the science coming at Exploration V Children's Museum (explorationsv.com) or go wild at Safari Wilderness Ranch (safariwilderness.com) where exotic game roams across its 260 acres.
Satisfy your appetite with fragrant bites from Café Roti (facebook.com/phillip.theard/) and delight your sweet tooth with artful cupcakes at Cake Makers Studio (cakemakersstudio.com). Taste upscale Spanish-Cuban-Modern fusion cuisine by Chef Marcos Fernandez at Nineteen61 (nineteen61.com).
DeLand and its surroundings enjoy a rich history. There’s a vibrant Main Street full of shops and restaurants, as well as Stetson University. Downtown DeLand offers a foodie haven with over 24 restaurants featuring various cuisines.
Nearby Sanford has Lake Monroe, St. Johns River, and the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens (centralfloridazoo.org). Visit Blue Spring State Park, home of the largest spring in the St. Johns River basin, or explore the nearby spiritualist community of Cassadaga (cassadaga.org) – a 125-year-old Victorian-era village where mediums and healers reside.
Dunedin has a relaxed and funky vibe, offering a charming experience. Spend a day exploring the bustling Main Street filled with quaint boutiques and popular watering holes.
Enjoy the mix of activities that Dunedin offers, including sipping coffee at a sidewalk café, browsing shops, or taking a brisk walk, run, or bike ride along the 38-mile Pinellas Trail that intersects Main Street. When evening comes, there are numerous pubs and microbreweries serving local craft beer nearby.
Downtown Dunedin also offers a variety of lunch spots, including the dog-friendly patio of The Living Room (thelivingroomonmain.com). In fact, this dog-friendly community is affectionately known as "Dogedin" due to its love for furry friends.
Beautiful and secluded beaches await on Honeymoon and Caladesi islands, accessible by a drivable causeway or ferry, respectively. As one of the oldest towns on the west coast, Dunedin is rich in history and Scottish pioneer heritage, showcased at the Dunedin Museum (dunedinmuseum.org).
Micanopy, pronounced mik-ə-NO-pea, is a peaceful town south of Gainesville that preserves its 1823 origins with oak-shaded streets and a Southern charm enriched by antique shops, outdoor cafes, and more. Check out the Old Florida Café (facebook.com/OldFloridaCafeMicanopy/), which offers delicious yet affordable fare, including the highly praised Reuben sandwich and Florida-style Cuban.
Micanopy's main street, Cholokka Boulevard - once an important Indian trading route, - now attracts visitors with its antique shops and rustic storefronts. And, for a glimpse into Native American history, the Tuscawilla Preserve (.alachuaconservationtrust.org/tuscawilla-preserve-guide) features a 0.8-mile hiking loop where you can follow in the footsteps of the native Timucuan Indians and discover the Alachua Tradition burial mound—an archaeological gem dating back to AD 750-1565.
Just beyond Micanopy’s boundaries is Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, providing miles of hiking trails that showcase its unique landscape and abundant wildlife, including wild horses and bison that roam freely—an extraordinary sight. The 50-foot observation tower near the visitor center offers a breathtaking panoramic view.
A short drive north leads to the vibrant college town of Gainesville, but for a historical experience, visit the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park. Here, you can explore the cracker-style homestead of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
More than 24 restaurants – ranging from American, Italian and Greek to Latin, Thai and Japanese – make downtown DeLand a foodie haven.