PLACES WITHIN 3 HOURS OF
On Florida’s Southwest Coast, Sarasota offers the best of both worlds, with a combination of big-city living and close access to pristine natural areas and beautiful islands.
Enjoy Sarasota’s world-class arts and culture scene with tickets to a ballet or theater performance and visit the museums and galleries. No trip to Sarasota would be complete without a stop at the John & Mabel Ringling Museum of Art, where visitors can see vast collections and works from the old masters and contemporary artists alike, explore the gardens and the circus museum, and tour Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringlings’ 36,000-square-foot seaside mansion.
For some retail therapy, head to one of Sarasota’s bustling shopping districts, and explore the central downtown area, where colorful bungalows house shops, bakeries, galleries, and more. Choose from seemingly endless places to eat, from upscale dining to award-winning food trucks, and check out the Sarasota nightlife when the sun goes down.
Be sure to spend time outdoors at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, the pristine white-sand beaches of nearby Gulf islands, and parks including Myakka River State Park, where visitors can hike, bike, paddle, camp, fish, and take boat tours.
One of the oldest and largest state parks, Myakka protects one of the state's most diverse natural areas. The Myakka River, designated as a Florida Wild and Scenic River, flows through 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and pinelands. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing from a boardwalk that stretches out over the Upper Myakka Lake, then take to the treetops with a stroll along the canopy walkway. The park´s river and two lakes provide ample opportunities for boating, freshwater fishing, canoeing, and kayaking; a boat ramp provides access to Upper Myakka Lake. Hikers can explore trails that cross large expanses of rare Florida dry prairie. Scenic lake tours are offered daily on the world´s two largest airboats. Safari tram tours of the park´s backcountry are offered from mid-December through May. Full-facility campgrounds and primitive campsites are available. Five palm log cabins, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, have been modernized for comfortable lodging.
Miami is one of the state's – and the world’s – most popular vacation spots. Though destinations often are said to offer something for everyone, the Miami area does indeed offer multiple enticements for all:
The lures of deep-sea fishing and golf and tennis.
Boat shows and auto racing.
Art festivals and outdoor food and wine extravaganzas.
The island of Palm Beach is home to legendary resorts, exquisite mansions and historic landmarks, including Henry Flagler's former residence, now the Flagler Museum.
Lined with stately palm trees, the shopping nirvana of Worth Avenue is known worldwide.
Palm Beach Island's Gilded Age architecture will captivate, as will the chic restaurants and a winter highlight, the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival.
Golf here affords views along the Atlantic Ocean, the Intracoastal Waterway and Lake Worth Lagoon.
Palm Beach has a way of making any visitor feel privileged.
As one of the few places where visitors can snorkel with manatees, water and boating activities abound. Fish from a charter boat off the Gulf, a kayak on Kings Bay, or the pier at Fort Island Gulf Beach. To learn more about the local flora and fauna, take a family-friendly eco-tour on a pontoon boat at Crystal River Preserve State Park.
A stay in Crystal River wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Three Sisters Springs, a group of clear freshwater springs within the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. This enchanting swimming, snorkeling, and paddling spot is where visitors can see wintering manatees that come to the springs to stay warm when temperatures in the Gulf drop. Off the water, Crystal River Archaeological State Park offers a look into Florida’s history with pre-Columbian burial mounds and other sites that visitors can see and learn about.
Heaped with sugary white sand, Fort Myers Beach is a popular destination for visitors eager to engage in watersports such as parasailing and kayaking – or just as eager to simply relax on the inviting beach.
Fort Myers Beach sits on a little barrier island, about seven miles long, and the beach is fabulous – wide, gradually sloping, and thick with the area's justifiably famed sand.
Fort Myers Beach has accommodations in all price ranges and lots to do.
You can go on a dolphin eco-tour via waverunner, or on a fishing charter.
The Slough (pronounced "slew") is over 3,500 acres of wetland preserve. It is home to a diverstiy of plants and animals, a number of which are endangered. Otters, alligators, wading birds, turtles and more can be seen from the mile long boardwalk trail. Migratory birds are visible in the spring and fall seasons.
This is the perfect location for people interested in educational programs and recreational activites that create minimal disturbance to wildlife. Volunteer led guided walks expose the visitors to the hidden beauties of this uniques ecosystem.
Built between 1914 and 1922 as the winter home of farming manufacturer James Deering, Vizcaya is one of the most intact remaining examples from the Gilded Age, when the nation’s most successful entrepreneur-built estates were inspired by the stately homes of Europe. Vizcaya features a Main House filled with a decorative art collection, 10 acres of formal gardens, a rockland hammock (native forest), mangrove shore, and a historic village that is being restored to tell Vizcaya’s full story and provide additional spaces for programs and community outreach, including those on agriculture.
Vizcaya has been a community hub since it opened to the public in 1953; it welcomes 300,000 visitors annually. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a National Historic Landmark that preserves its cultural and environmental resources to engage people in connecting with the past, understanding the present and shaping the future.
The legendary River of Grass is one of the wonders of the world, a vast subtropical wilderness that has been declared a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and Wetland of International Importance. There are many ways to experience the Florida Everglades National Park – here are nine entry points.
You haven’t really seen Hardee County until you’ve seen Highway 17. Actually, you can’t really see Hardee County unless you’re on Highway 17 because the county’s only U.S. highway is the road that connects Zolfo Springs, Wauchula, and Bowling Green -- which happen to be the only three towns in Hardee County.
The lack of development doesn’t mean you should avoid going. In fact, that’s one reason you should go. Here are a few things to do in Hardee County.