12 of Florida's Best Kept Secrets: Summer of Fun
This summer was Jess and Tyer’s Summer of Fun where my friend Tyler and I made a solid commitment to venture out through our home state of Florida every Sunday and explore. We visited beaches, springs, and theme parks. We kayaked, canoed, snorkeled, and floated through Florida one Sunday at a time. If you live in Florida and are looking for something to do, or you will be visiting soon and want to know the ins and outs of what Florida has to offer, here is the list of everything we did, I hope we can point you in the right direction!
Sebastian Inlet State Park is a great place to take a day trip or a weekend camping trip in Central Florida. In the park there is a regular beach access and access to the inlet. The inlet is great for fishing, the water is calm and mostly shallow so it’s also a good spot for kids. My friend and I like to go out there with a big float and hang out in the water all day. There is a restaurant that has great food, but we try to save some money and pack a cooler with snacks and drinks for the day. Once they get to capacity they stop letting people in, but a good rule of thumb is to be there by 10 AM to make sure you get in, and have the $8 admission fee per car.
Kelly Rock Springs located in Apopka is the perfect summer activity here in Florida. It’s a crystal clear, natural lazy river, and is 70 degrees fahrenheit year round. Admission is $6 per vehicle and also will fill to capacity so the earlier you get there the better. You can buy lunch at the cafe in the park or save some money and pack your own, you can also rent tubes outside of the park or bring your own, just make sure it’s within regulations (read my guide to Rock Springs here). I bought one at wal-mart for $6 and have been able to use it all summer long.
Disney Springs is the new Downtown Disney. Parking and admission is free and there are shops, bars, restaurants, and live performers at night. They have a sweet T-Rex themed restaurant, food trucks, a Christmas store that will make you feel like it’s winter no matter what time of year it is, and tons of shopping.
One of my favorite places in Florida. Head south to West Palm Beach and hop on a water taxi ($12 round trip) to Peanut Island for a day of snorkeling and laying out in the sun. The island is secluded so you definitely want to have a lunch packed and have everything you need for the day. Bring your mask and snorkel and swim around the rocks off the shore and catch a glimpse of all the rainbow colored tropical fish in the clear blue water!
Every summer Cocoa Beach Riverfront Park hosts concerts you can buy tickets for or if you have a boat people pull right up on the river and listen to the music from there. The concerts are at night so you can start your day at Cocoa Beach and cross over the causeway to the park later on and end the day there. Whether it’s a band I usually listen to or not, I always have a great time at the concert!
Key West is a 6 hour drive from where we live in Melbourne so we took a weekend to go to the keys for my birthday in June! Key West has the Florida Reef which is the only living coral barrier reef in the US and the third largest in the world! There is a company called Fury that offers a ton of snorkeling trips and makes it easy for anyone to get some time to snorkel at the reef. Key West is a small town and the perfect place to replace your car for a bicycle and experience island life for the weekend!
Busch Gardens is Tampa’s theme park and home to over 8 roller coasters and animals like elephants, cheetahs, tigers, monkeys. Step into another world when you step into a different country themed section of the park and eat at any of their restaurants. If there is one thing Florida is well known for it’s theme parks, and Busch Gardens is one of the top parks when you’re looking for the best roller coasters!
What was once a 1930’s private theme park turned State Park in the 90’s, Rainbow Springs is a beautiful spring on the Rainbow River near the West coast of Florida. You can swim here, kayak, or canoe and be sure to have a great time. Tubes and inflatable floats are not allowed here, but pool noodles are and you will definitely want to bring one.
See the sunrise and sunset in one day
There aren’t many places that you can see the sun rise on one coast and set on another, but in Florida you can. Get to an East coast beach like the one we live at in Melbourne by sunrise, grab a cup of coffee and hop in the car for a mini road trip to a West coast beach on the gulf with clear, flat waters, like Siesta Key or Clearwater Beach and stick around to watch the sunset that night.
Old Town in located in Kissimmee, FL and is basically like a year 'round fair. They've got a ferris wheel, family fun center for kids, bungee jumping attractions like the slingshot, a haunted house, and a lot more. I wouldn't necessarily see myself spending the whole day here, but it's definitely worth checking out!
Seven Sisters Springs
Seven Sisters Springs is for the truly committed. This spring is unique because you can swim into underwater caves, jumping in at one spot and swimming out of another. Rent kayaks and kayak up the Chassahowitzka River, against the river and through some pretty tough spots and try to find some of the other hidden springs. They will be beautiful when you find them, but it won’t be easy, and you’ll seriously need the bug spray!
Blowing Rocks Preserve
Blowing Rocks Preserve is a beautiful beach near Jupiter Florida that almost doesn’t seem real. After you walk through the tunnel of mangroves you will arrive at a beach with the giant rocks you can climb on and through that will feel like you’re at a California beach instead.
Some of these places are world renown Florida destinations (read: Key West and Theme Parks) but a lot of these other places you may not have heard of and are amazing. Taking some time to explore places in your home state can be so worthwhile, or at least worth the two hour drive to get there. This summer we not only got to see so much more of Florida than we have in years, we also saw what a difference it makes to just go. To take action and see the places we’ve read about, to take a break from binge watching The Office for the 100,000th time, and get outside and see something real. Committing to the Summer of Fun was the best thing we could have done, it gave us a summer filled with laughter and adventure, and that’s what the best summers are made of.