For our honeymoon, we knew that we wanted constant sunshine, a safe environment, excellent food and luxurious hotels with plenty to visit nearby. Florida fitted the bill perfectly! Whilst we would have loved to have time to visit the theme parks, this was a relatively short trip, so I’ve put together a guide of what to see in Florida besides theme parks.
Our first hotel of choice was The Biltmore Hotel, in Coral Gables. It’s a luxury resort set in 150 acres of land, including an 18 hole championship golf course. It was constructed in 1926 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996. Coral Gables itself was one of the first ever planned communities, with a Mediterranean Revival style, wide tree-lined avenues and ornate fountains.
At one point the Biltmore’s pool was the largest in the world and it’s swimming instructor was none other than Johnny Weissmuller before starring in Tarzan.
A few minutes walk from our hotel, The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables has to be the nicest public swimming pool that I’ve ever come across. If we hadn’t have had such an amazing pool at our hotel, I would definitely have come for a dip. You can pay a small fee and just walk round as we did.
And now for a bit of culture – Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a truly beautiful museum in the very trendy area of Coconut Grove, Miami. It’s an Italian Renaissance mansion built in the 1920s, with a stunning jetty overlooking Biscayne Bay – one of our favourite cultural attractions to see in Florida.
Moving on to the Downtown area of Miami, if this striking building looks familiar, that’s because it featured in the opening credits of Miami Vice. The Atlantis Condominium on Brickell Avenue has a spiral staircase, jacuzzi and palm tree in its middle.
Miami’s Art Deco buildings look even more spectacular by night and this one was particularly distinctive. I’d love to return to capture their splendour on film, now that I have a camera that works really well in low light.
The place really comes to life and the many beachside lounge bars are at their best – we went to the Delano, the Shore Club and also popped into the Loews.
There are quite a few tours of the Everglades out there – we chose the one in Sawgrass as we’d read good reviews about it. We certainly managed to see quite a few alligators and crocodiles. Just bear in mind that the air boats can’t go right into the heart of the Everglades, since they’re noisy, so if you really want to get up close to the wildlife, a canoe trip is best. I’ve always wanted to go on an airboat, having seen so many films featuring them, and it was great fun. I’d advise that you take a waterproof, we got drenched at one point.
The Everglades National Park is actually the only eco-system in the world where alligators and crocodiles live side by side. Alligators only thrive in fresh water because they can’t digest salt, however crocodiles can live in both salt and fresh water. In the Everglades, fresh water from the Florida Bay meets the salt water of the Gulf of Mexico so both species live there together. Do remember to cover yourself in anti-mosquito repellent, we used some but I still got lots of bites!
The Breakers Palm Beach was our next port of call. It’s another historic hotel resort, in fact you can even take a guided tour if you’re not staying there. Decorated in an Italian Renaissance style, it was the brainchild of oil and railroad magnate Henry Flagler. In 1896, Flagler built a hotel called The Palm Beach Inn and guests started to request rooms “over by the breakers.” When Flagler redoubled the hotel’s size, he renamed it The Breakers.
These life-sized sculptures of children and a pig sticking its nose into a trough are to be found in Gucci Courtyard, just off Worth Avenue. I’d love to know who the artist is.
Charming Sea Gull Cottage is the oldest house in Palm Beach and as you can see, it has been beautifully restored.
A few minutes walk from the Breakers is the Flagler Museum, also created by Henry Flagler as a wedding present for his third wife and completed in 1902.
The interiors are really impressive, and it is also a National Historic Landmark, well worth a visit.
Fort Lauderdale is another Florida city that is well worth a trip, with lovely beaches and beautiful canals lined with palm trees.
Those canalside houses are quite something!
The Wreck Bar at the B Ocean has porthole views through to the hotel’s swimming pool and was featured in a scene from Analyze This with Robert de Niro and Billy Crystal. In fact someone swum past whilst we were having a drink there.
So many fond memories, I can’t believe how much there is to see in Florida.
Have you ever visited Florida – what should we see on our next trip?