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Liah McPherson | 07.28.2018

Water sports, wildlife, islands and inland springs. Over 1,300 miles of coastline and more beaches than any other state in the continental U.S. Love the water? Want to take a road trip? Welcome to Florida.

Continuing the road trip through Northwest Florida, our journey heads south along the Gulf Coast before crossing to the Atlantic and ending in the Florida Keys. Along the way you’ll have opportunities to fish, kayak, snorkel and enjoy the warm, clear water of South Florida.

Clearwater Beach

Rated one of the best beaches in the nation, Clearwater Beach is known for its pristine water and soft, fine sand. There are many shops, restaurants and water sports rental centers right along the beach, and the town itself has a laid-back surfy vibe. Be sure to check out Pier 60 to catch an awesome sunset and shop for handmade goods.

Point O’ Rocks

Hidden around the corner from a populated beach is a little cove with tide pools and ancient reef breaks. There is a small sandy area surrounded by rocky coastline to explore. This is a great spot to find some seclusion and even do a little snorkeling!

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum

A great stop for history buffs and photographers, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse offers guided tours and the opportunity to get a unique look at the surrounding area and waterways. Built in 1860, the lighthouse has 105 steps and is surrounded by 120 acres of protected land where you can hike beneath banyan trees.

Phil Foster State Park

Commonly referred to as “Blue Heron Bridge,” Phil Foster State Park is a marine park located beneath a tall bridge (Blue Heron) in the inner coastal waterway of Riviera Beach. Because of its vicinity to an ocean inlet, the water here turns crystal clear at high tide. Scuba diving, snorkeling and freediving here is world class, and there are tons of unique species; you can see eagle rays, seahorses, turtles, octopus and rare reef fish. People flock from all over the world to dive this site, so don’t miss it!

Curry Hammock State Park

This little beach park is a great picnic spot on your way through the Florida Keys. The water here nice for swimming and snorkeling, and it remains shallow for a long ways out. Curry Hammock also has a campground with restroom facilities, kayak rentals, covered picnic tables and a playground, so it’s a fun place to visit for all ages.

Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge

The Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge ranges from Marathon to Key West. Encompassing miles upon miles of beautiful coastal habitat, it was designated in 1938 to protect local species. True to its name, the refuge is abundant with unique birds and other wildlife. There are many locations to launch boats or kayaks, and paddling is one of the best ways to observe wildlife and explore the mangrove habitats of the Florida Keys.

Smathers Beach

One of Key West’s prettiest beaches, Smathers Beach stretches out for a mile and a half along the Atlantic Coast. This beach is easily accessible with free parking, and it has restroom and shower facilities. The shallow water, beach volleyball courts and snorkeling draw in lots of visitors, so if you want solitude, aim to visit earlier in the morning on a weekday.

Dry Tortugas National Park

One of America’s most unique national parks, the Dry Tortugas are isolated and otherworldly in their beauty. Pristine beaches, wildlife, history and camping can all be enjoyed and are well worth the time to get here. Due to the park’s isolation, amenities are scarce and mainly available from the ferry that runs daily. Most visitors take the ferry or their own boat to get to these islands, which are 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. For those who want to arrive quickly and enjoy the tropical landscape from the air, seaplanes fly daily as well.


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