Last week, we shared our favorite must-sees in Central Florida. For this edition of our summer bucket list, we are keeping it close to home. South Florida is packed with amazing places to visit. Here are 7 of our favorite must-dos in South Florida.
1. Camp on a remote tropical island in The Dry Tortugas
The Keys has something for everyone. It’s scenic, historic, fun and charming, all rolled into one. But, out favorite place to visit is Dry Tortuga National Park. The history and absolute beauty make for an unforgettable trip. It is about 70 miles away from Key West and only accessible by boat. This 100-square mile park is home to historic Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, and incredible coral reefs.
The ferry ride over is not cheap. Expect to pay $175 per adult and $125 for kids. Ferry tickets include breakfast and lunch. If you go, spend the extra $15 per night to camp for at least one night. And, do not miss the daily tours of the fort. It is the largest masonry building in the Western Hemisphere (made with over 16 million bricks).
Keep in mind that since you are seventy miles away from the keys, you may feel quite isolated after the ferry leaves. But, there is nothing like having your own private island for a night or two. Dry Tortuga is surrounded by reefs, wrecks and all kinds of sea life. While camping, don’t forget to glance up at the amazing night sky and kick up the sand in the dark to experience the glow of the bioluminescent organisms.
2. Relive the Roaring 20’s with a swim in the Venetian Pool
Originally a rock quarry, in 1923 this abandoned property was made into America’s largest freshwater swimming pool. The Venetian Pool holds about 820,000 gallons of crystal clear freshwater that is pumped in from artesian wells. In it you will find a waterfall, a grotto, and ornamental coral formations. In order to keep the water crystal clear, the pool is drained and refilled daily. The water is recycled back into the aquifer using natural ground filtration. Even better than the swim is exploring the incredible history of this pool through the careful placed photos. Admission rates are seasonal and range from $5-$13 depending on age and the time of year.
3. Take a Walk Through an Ancient Spanish Monastery
This Spanish Cistercian monastery was constructed in the 12th century. It is one of the oldest buildings in the Western Hemisphere. Built in 1133 in the town of Sacramenia (Segovia) in Northern Spain it was occupied by monks for over 700 years. In 1925, the monastery was shipped to New York City stone by stone, packed in more than 11,000 wooden crates, and numbered for identification. It was then transported to Miami and finally reassembled in North Miami Beach. From its stunning architecture to its breathtaking grounds, a stroll through this now local treasure is a site to see. Admission is $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for students and seniors.
4. Airboat through the Everglades National Park
It’s a Floridian’s right of passage to explore the Everglades. Get up close and personal with some of Florida’s fiercest animals and enjoy the pure beauty of nature as you ride on one of the many airboat tours offered throughout the area. As you float across the swampy grassland, watch alligators rise to the surface and view a variety of Florida wildlife on a thrilling adventure you won’t soon forget. A trip to the Everglades will help you see why preservation of our natural ecosystem is so important and give you a new appreciation for the place we call home.
5. Learn to Surf, Skim, or Paddleboard
We could not have a South Florida bucket list without our favorite Saturday morning event. Island Water Sports has been providing free lessons on Deerfield Beach every Saturday morning for the past 30 years. It’s our way of promoting a fun and active surf community. All experience and age levels are welcome as long as you can swim. Plus we provide all the equipment, but you’re more than welcome to bring your own. Register online or in store today!
6. Explore a Cuban Missile Crisis Bunker on Peanut Island
This unique eighty acre tropical park is situated in the Intracoastal Waterway near the Lake Worth Inlet. Whether you are a boater, fisherman, love snorkeling, kayaker or paddle boarder, Peanut Island is a great day or overnight trip. This man-made island is the result of dredging but has become a haven for sea life.
On the SW corner of the island you will find a large, shaded Observation Deck that offers panoramic views of the Lake Worth Lagoon, the nearby port facilities, and surrounding communities. You will also find a museum at the former U.S. Coast Guard Facility located on the south-side of Peanut Island where you can tour the historic John F. Kennedy Bunker that was constructed to serve as a temporary command post during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960’s. Ferry’s run about $12 round trip to get to the island. You can also reach the island by boat, kayak or paddleboard.
7. See a Florida Panther at Busch’s Wildlife Sanctuary
Busch’s Wildlife Sanctuary is located in North West Palm. Their website sums it up perfectly…
“Busch Wildlife Sanctuary…more than just a place to see animals, it’s a real wildlife adventure!”
It is a nature center and wildlife hospital where visitors learn about Florida’s wildlife and our natural environments. You will explore native habitats like pine flat woods, oak hammocks, and cypress wetlands. View eagle, panthers, crocodiles, bears, otters and more. And it’s free! The Busch Wildlife Sanctuary’s wildlife rescue and rehabilitation program provides comprehensive medical care to over 5,000 sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals each year. The ultimate goal of the Sanctuary’s rehabilitation efforts is to return recovered patients to their natural habitats so they can become an integral part of the environment once again. Nearly 90% of the animals treated at the Sanctuary’s wildlife hospital have suffered from some type of human related injury. They hope to educate people so we can better take care of these animals that we share this amazing state with.
Before you head out for the next adventure with your friends, make sure to stop by Island Water Sports for all the essentials.