Moving to Florida for my internship gave me the freedom to explore on my own. Every weekend provided an opportunity to go and seek out a different part of Florida, whether it was visiting the Art Deco district in Miami or biking through the Everglades. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it can provide a glimpse into what there is to do in the Sunshine State.
Something to note is that with the exception of Harry Potter World, most of my suggestions will be for Southern Florida (the circled area in the above picture) as I was based out of Boca Raton. While there are plenty of outdoor activities, shopping, fine dining, and bars to check out in the area, this post focuses mainly on adventures outdoors and breweries. To be honest, the food scene left me a little disappointed so I won’t be writing about any restaurants, but I can tell you that the Chipotles here are top-notch (they’ll always give you that extra guac).
What to See in Florida
Here is a list of activities ordered from North to South.
Harry Potter World!!! (Orlando, FL)
This topic warranted its own post, which you can find here.
This park offers a variety of activities like biking, kayaking, and canoeing. The longest trail is about 1.5 miles but many of the trails criss cross each other so it’s easy to make your ride/hike as long or as short as you want. Along the way, I spotted deer, herons, and the ever present lizards. I didn’t get a chance to see gators, but maybe next time!
- Bike rentals are a flat fee of $12 and must be returned by 5:00 pm.
- Summers in Florida can be brutal. Bring plenty of water, food, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, and your camera to capture all the natural beauty!
9060 Indiantown Road
Jupiter, FL 33478
This beach has warm waters, soft sand, and a pier you can pay $1 to walk down or $4 to fish on. It’s close to Jupiter so it could be a great way to wind down the day after exploring a park like Riverbend Park.
- There’s a huge, free parking lot right across from the beach so you don’t have to worry about parking.
1760-1770 Ocean Dr
Juno Beach, FL 33408
Unnamed beach in Boca Raton
This is my favorite spot in all of Florida, to the point where I almost didn’t want to share. This family-friendly beach is usually not that crowded and if you’re looking for some peaceful vibes, this is the place for you. When it does attract a crowd, the beachgoers consist of families, couples, teenagers, and singles walking their dogs.
- To get to this beach, follow Spanish River Blvd all the way east. Parking will be available on the street right across from the beach.
- Pro-tip: Buy something (snacks, water, sunscreen, a surfboard..) at Walgreens on 3900 N Federal Hwy and walk a couple blocks to the beach to save money on parking!
- Best time to go: I like coming in the evening when the hot, hot Florida sun isn’t as bad. 7pm is my beach time because you get to enjoy the beach without sweating your sunscreen off and the tourists are usually taking off for dinner.
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center
At the nature center, you can learn about different types of turtles in the local area as well as current turtle research and conservation efforts. There are turtles undergoing rehab after eating too much plastic or getting hit by boat propellors. There are also fully mature turtles swimming in large pools, waiting to get released after research has been completed. These stations are manned by friendly employees who are more than happy to share their knowledge or answer any questions you may have about Gumbo Limbo. During my visit, I learned that the temperature of the nest determines the sex of the turtle. Warmer temperatures means females and colder temperatures mean males, hence the mnemonic trick of “hot chicks and cool dudes.”
Visiting the center piqued my interest in turtles. Since volunteering was out (you had to commit for a minimum of 6 months and my internship only lasted for 2.5 months), I chose to attend a hatchling release. Before going out to the beach, the guide first teaches you about the different types of turtles found in the local beaches and how they clearly mark and protect these nests. They discuss natural predators (foxes are apparently a widespread problem) as well as how bright, unshielded lights can disorient the turtles when making their way back to the ocean. This is why street lamp use along the beach is forbidden from March to October. After learning more about these beautiful sea creatures, we caravanned to the beach and slowly started releasing the hatchlings onto the shore, waiting for them to swim back home. We lined up the hatchlings in a straight horizontal line, as if they were about to race. Just like humans, some quickly headed towards the water, while others required a bit more encouragement by getting doused by the ocean waves.
As we were watching (and cheering) as the hatchlings made their way to the water, our guide suddenly said, “Everyone quiet and don’t move.” Emerging from the waves was a fully mature, 300 pound female greenback. She had come to nest. Surprisingly, she wasn’t scared by us (turtles are skittish creatures), and she continued to make her way up the shore, heading to the sand dunes (maybe she thought we were rocks). Having learned about the nesting process only moments earlier, we all felt extremely lucky that we had a chance to experience this in person.
Tip: If you plan on going to a hatchling release, I would highly, highly recommend making reservations early. The spots tend to fill up weeks in advance. However, if you aren’t in a position to do so, it could also be worth it to try calling the center to see if there’s any last-minute cancellations.
1801 N Ocean Blvd
Boca Raton, FL 33432
Mon-Sat: 9 am – 4 pm
Sun: 12 pm – 4 pm
This is a solid beach with your standard bars, restaurants, and a pier. Similar to other beaches in Southern Florida, you can pay $1 to access the pier and $4 to go fishing off of it. I paid $1 to walk it and got to see other people’s catch and talked to one guy about his technique in fishing. It is easy to see why people say fishing is peaceful, watching him methodically throw out the line and reel it back in to attract more fish was hypnotizing. The crowd is younger and there is parking available, but be prepared to pay for it.
200 NE 21st Ave
Deerfield Beach, FL 33441
One of my goals is to visit every single national park, so I knew I had to check out the Everglades. I chose Shark Valley because it was one of the closest visitor centers to where I lived and because it also had bicycle rentals. This is the sea of grass I biked along:
Along the way, I raced with a dragonfly, saw a Drake lookalike, and caught a gator suntanning in the glades. The trail itself is beautiful and you have the opportunity to see lots of wildlife. The park ranger also said that in January – March, you can see gators EVERYWHERE.
- The biking loop is 14 miles long and at the halfway point, there is an observation tower where you can feel like Simba on Pride Rock overlooking your magical kingdom.
- Renting a bike is $9/hr. The bikes are not in the best condition, so if you have your own with you, I highly recommend bringing it.
- The trail takes about 1.5-3 hours depending on how fast you bike and if you plan on spending time at the observation tower. I stopped plenty of times to take pics and also visited the observation tower, which took me a total of 2 hours.
36000 SW 8th St
Miami, FL 33194
Open 8:30am – 5pm mid-December to mid-April
Open 9am – 5pm mid-April to mid-December
See what you can do in Miami in this separate post.
Key West is a fun weekend escape! You can find more here.
Food and Drink
Due South Brewery
Upon recommendation from a Yelp member that I met at a Yelp Elite event, I decided to check out the local brewery, Due South. Their beers are featured at restaurants in the Palm Beach County area of Florida and I wanted to see the brewery itself.
I tried two of their beers (just two because I suck at drinking now):
1. Bodacious Blonde Belgian – delicious ($5 for 16 oz)
2. Mexican Standoff – a little too spicy for me ($5.50 for 12 oz)
It features a wide, expansive space and wasn’t too crowded when I went. Be warned though, AC is limited to fans overhead. This may be a smart business ploy to get you to buy more beer, and from what I saw, a pretty effective one. I also got a couple of welcome bites from mosquito friends, so keep an eye out for those.
- They also offer tours and the times can be found on their website.
- There is a credit card minimum of $10.
2900 High Ridge Rd
Boynton Beach, FL 33426
Tues-Thurs 12pm – 10pm
Fri-Sat 12pm – 11pm
Sun 12pm – 8pm
Oakland Park, FL 33334