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(2011 - Winter Issue)

Writer: Roberta Sandler

When Ponce de Leon landed here in 1513 and claimed the territory in the name of Spain, he thought he had found the Fountain of Youth.

Alas for de Leon, the fountain remained elusive, however what the explorer unwittingly discovered was a fabulous vacation destination, which continues to entice visitors 500 years later.

With more than 2,000 kilometres of stunning coastline, Florida is the only state to border the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, providing plenty of beautiful beaches, emerald and turquoise waters and seashores teeming with sea oats, massive dunes and abundant wildlife.

Tourist Mecca

Florida is a paradise for fishermen eager to reel in blue marlin, bass, pompano and more, and the waters ripple with gentle West Indies manatees and frolicking bottlenose dolphins. You’ll find that swimming with the dolphins is a populartourist excursion however there’s also scuba diving, snorkelling, jet skiing and parasailing.

With a year-round climate varying from subtropical to tropical, is it any wonder that Florida is nicknamed the Sunshine State and that it’s a top destination for those who long for a respite from stark, cold winters?

Aside from invitingly warm weather, another reason Florida is a tourist mecca is the state’s lush landscape. Palm trees billow in the breeze; royal poinciana trees flaunt their flaming red flowers; and the native pawpaw, swamp fern, birds of paradise and other blooms burst with colour.

Here, nature lovers can tackle hiking and nature trails and canoe or kayak through tranquil lakes, rivers and natural springs.

For history and architecture buffs, Florida promises some astonishing discoveries. Spanish, British, French and Territorial periods as well as Seminole Indian War history are reflected in its re-enactments, museums, 19th-century mansions, hotels, forts and national monuments. Mediterranean, art deco, Tudor, Georgian, classical revival, Queen Anne and other architectural styles abound.

Unbeatable Diversions

Florida’s scenic beauty and entertaining, sun-dappled diversions and indulgences beckon dreamers eager to melt the winter doldrums. Let yourself be seduced.

Whether it’s the pristine sugar-sand beaches of Pensacola and Panama City or the hard-packed beaches of Daytona Beach, shell collecting and swimming along Florida’s shoreline head the list of pleasurable, sun-drenched options.

Theme parks, golf courses, festivals, retail outlets and upscale shopping plazas, performing arts centres, chic and trendy restaurants, rejuvenating spas, luxurious resorts and cosy inns prove Florida is for everyone. It’s unbeatable for family activities and for taking romantic winter walks on the beach beneath a moonlit sky.

Birds are smart; they fly south for the winter. Follow their lead. Welcome to the wonders of the Sunshine State.

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