There are two steps to planning a vacation in Florida after the hurricanes: knowing when it’s safe to travel and where you should go. This has become a very popular topic because so many people own second homes and vacation homes there.
When the hurricane hits your state, you must flee. How do you know what to take? Where are you supposed to go? When do you get back? Well, if you’re moving to Florida after Irma, here’s what you should know:
Hurricane Irma One of the largest and most powerful hurricanes in recorded history caused catastrophic damage to the entire state of Florida. The massive storm followed in the wake of Hurricane Harvey that slammed into Texas, Louisiana and other parts of southern U.S., leaving a trail of death and devastation in its wake. Average winds during its duration are 135 mph. The storm’s eye reached as far inland as Homestead, Florida, some 30 miles south of Miami.
Need to get away from cold Chicago weather? There are plenty of choices. We’ll go over some great places that are all within driving distance from Chicago. You can avoid the airports and take a dive into Florida’s natural wonders and hospitality.
Vacation In Florida After Irma
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10 Best Places to Visit in Florida
When most people think of Florida, they think of sunshine, theme parks, orange juice and alligators. But this former Spanish colony, which became the 27th state to enter the Union, is much more than that.
Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, it has mile upon mile of white sand beaches. This is the US state where you’ll find Miami and its immediate neighbor Miami Beach – both famous for their Art Deco architecture, Cuban culture, and beaches, of course.
More sun, sea, and sand can be had in the south, where the Florida Keys fling themselves for around 120 miles along the Florida Straits. Come here for more beaches, scuba diving, snorkeling, and the potential for one of the most picturesque road trips ever, thanks to the feat of engineering that is the Overseas Highway.
There’s also Cape Canaveral, home of NASA, but then again there’s Orlando, too – famous for its sheer amount of amusement parks, including Disney World. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Florida:
10. Panama City Beach[SEE MAP]
Panama City Beach on the Florida panhandle offers 27 miles (43 km) of white sand beaches on the Emerald Coast. The beach is a popular destination for residents of the southern United States as well as tens of thousands of high school and college students on spring break.
Besides having fun in the sun in the emerald green waters, this town of just over 12,000 permanent residents offers sports fishing on the gulf, plenty of golfing, marine parks including one for alligators, amusement and water parks …in short, something for everyone in the family.
Best Places to Visit in Florida
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9. Naples[SEE MAP]
Naples may have had rustic beginnings, but today this Gulf of Mexico city is one of the wealthiest cities in the United States, with houses selling for more than $40 million. As on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, development along the shoreline has been kept residential.
It got its name because the bay it’s located on was said to be prettier than the Bay of Naples in Italy. Besides its beautiful city beach, the nearby wildlife refuges make it a popular tourist destination.
These include Everglades National Park, Florida Panther National Wildlife Reserve and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary that has a 2.5-mile long boardwalk meandering through it. Naples also has vibrant arts and shopping districts.
8. Sanibel Island[SEE MAP]
Sanibel Island is located just off Fort Myers in the Gulf of Mexico. It is connected to the mainland by a causeway. It is known as a quiet, natural travel destination, well-suited for families.
Wildlife refuges take up more than half of this long narrow island, whose beaches are also popular as places to hunt for shells. This island of less than 7,000 permanent residents may have harbored pirates in the days of yore, if local legends are to be believed.
Aside from beachcombing and looking for wildlife, attractions include a highly-rated historical museum, a botanical garden, a lighthouse and an arts center.
7. Fort Lauderdale[SEE MAP]
No longer the Spring Break destination of popular imagination, Fort Lauderdale is today a sophisticated cultural center with an increasingly upmarket social scene. Located on the Atlantic Ocean about 23 miles (37 km) north of Miami Beach it is also known as the “Venice of America” due to its expansive canal system.
The city has an impressive tourist infrastructure with plenty of hotels, golf courses, marinas and museums. The city’s Port Everglades is one of the busiest cruise-ship ports in the world, with megaships departing daily for the Caribbean, Mexico and beyond.
The most popular section of the city beach is called “The Strip” with eating and drinking establishments that run along the land side of the beach road.
6. Clearwater Beach[SEE MAP]
Boasting miles of white sandy beaches, Clearwater Beach is separated by the city of Clearwater by the Intracoastal Waterway. USA Today readers in 2013 named it Florida’s Best Beach Town. Besides laying in the white sand and swimming in the clear water there are also many activities offered such as fishing, sailing, kayaking, and dolphin tours. A lot of people get married on the beaches here.
A spot popular with visitors is Pier 60, a long fishing pier that hosts a playground, snack bar and day-long entertainers. At night, you can buy crafts from local artisans.
Stroll along Beach Walk where you’ll find drinking fountains and showers to wash the sand off you. If you come alive when the sun goes down, Clearwater Beach has a lively night scene.
5. Everglades[SEE MAP]
One of the country’s best natural treasures, the Everglades feature a unique combination of ecosystems that include swamps, sub-tropical jungles, saw-grass prairies and the largest mangrove complex in the Western Hemisphere.
Located in South Florida, much of the Everglades are protected within the Everglades National Park and provide shelter to a wide variety of birds, fish, animals and reptiles, including endangered species like the West Indian manatee, the American crocodile and the Florida panther.
One of the largest national parks in the USA, the Everglades National Park features four different visitor centers that provide education about the Everglades as well as a variety of tours and outstanding experiences.
Among the most popular of these is the Shark Valley Visitor Center, which in addition to educational displays, offers tram tours with opportunities to spot wildlife such as alligators, turtles, deer and herons. Also located at Shark Valley is an observation tower that presents fantastic views.
From the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, visitors can arrange boat tours to the Ten Thousand Islands, a labyrinth of mangrove islands, viewing manatees, dolphins and pelicans along the way. Also from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, visitors can rent canoes and kayaks to explore the Everglades on self-guided tours.
The visitor centers of Ernest Coe and Flamingo also offer ranger-led tours and programs. An air boat tour is one of the most exciting ways to experience the Everglades. What’s more, numerous hiking trails, biking trails and fishing are also available within the national park.