Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Beyond The Theme Parks And Orlando Holiday Villas

Central Florida so well known for the Disney World, Sea World and other theme parks that these amazingly popular man-made entertainments attract millions of tourists each year to fill the countless hotels, motels and Orlando holiday villas.

And in between daily visits to the theme parks, taking a rest from the rigors of the Magic Kingdom and relaxing by their private screened pool is a welcome contrast for those families lucky enough to be renting Orlando holiday villas.

But some visitors who have explored the theme parks in previous vacations can become bored with Mickey Mouse. Hard to believe, but it does happen! They want ever more variety and they begin to think about other parts of Florida to explore.

After all, the climate is great all of the year round so what about the beaches, national parks and other areas? Well, if you're prepared to take a road trip for a couple of hours (or more in some cases) you have many great choices - for example:
  • Gulf Coast beaches

    Some of my most favorite beaches are on the coast between St Petersburg Beach and Clearwater Beach. The journey from Orlando takes up to two hours, but it's completely worth it. I usually drive to St Petersburg Beach and head south along Gulf Boulevard - most of the beaches are private and therefore not accessible, but there are many public beaches with parking availability, rest rooms and nearby shops or restaurants. The sands are almost white, the Gulf of Mexico water is a gorgeous color and you will usually find pelicans, seagulls and other wildlife to amuse you. Take lots of sunscreen and something to give you some shade, or rent recliners and sunshades.
  • The Everglades National Park

    If you're prepared for a road trip of three to four hours, why not travel to south west Florida (Naples / Fort Myers) to explore the Everglades National Park. It covers more than 1.5 million acres and it a melting pot of nature and wildlife: it has more than seven hundred different tropical and temperate plants, about three hundred different species of birds plus alligators, turtles, manatees, fish, Florida panther, snakes and other animals. Take an airboat ride and skim across the sawgrass just like in the opening scenes of CSI Miami.
  • Miami

    If you're looking for a city that's teeming with life and hustle and bustle, Miami is it. It is a four-hour journey down the Florida Turnpike, at the end of which you can explore the frantic activity on South Beach, enjoy the shops and restaurants in Coconut Grove or seek out other beaches such as Key Biscayne. Stick to these tourist areas and away from some of the less desirable localities. For something different, find Old Cutler Road and marvel at the glorious banyan tress along the road and in the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens.
  • The Florida Keys

    Beyond Miami are the Keys, starting with Key Largo and going all the way along to Key West. From Miami to Key West will take two or three hours, depending on the volume of traffic. Each Key has it's own characteristics, starting with the John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo (snorkelling or scuba diving anyone?) through the developments in Islamorada and Marathon, over the Seven Mile Bridge and finally finishing at Key West. If you make it that far, enjoy the beaches and the swimming but you absolutely must explore Duval Street. Try the Hogs Breath Saloon marguerritas, enjoy the atmosphere in Sloppy Joe's but mainly just take in the sights and sounds of the laid back crowds who throng there.
So there you have it - the sea, beaches, nature and partying in Miami and the Keys. Don't go home from Florida and complain that there's only Mickey Mouse to see!

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