The State of Florida in the Southeastern USA has one of the most beautiful collections of wildlife, ecosystems, beaches and weather patterns. We just returned from circling the state and enjoyed the diversity of the Gulf Coast of Florida immensely.
Starting in Everglades National Park, we encountered alligators and manatees while exploring the largest swamp in the United States. There were grasslands with winding streams and mangrove forests, there were cypress swamps, bays, islands... When we left the swamps and waterways of the Everglades, touring up the Gulf Coast was perfect for our family's travel style. We chose to travel via campervan which proved to be perfect for exploring Florida.
The beaches of Naples and Fort Myers were a treasure trove of shells for beach combing with constant wildlife encounters, including dolphins and shorebirds playing all around us. Heading north to St Petersburg and Tampa, we found more beautiful beaches, this time with manatees swimming nearby and coming really close to us while we played in the water.
To add some non-nature to our trip we visited the town of Tarpon Springs, Florida which actually has the largest population of Greek-Americans in the country. This was great for introducing our kids to all kinds of new foods and having a break from the constant splashing in the sunshine (not that that's a bad thing). Greek people love to dance apparently, so we got into the spirit too, which was more fun than we expected.
Following this little diversion, we headed inland to the springs areas. Our first natural spring to visit was Rainbow Springs, which was aptly named for sure, as the water was the most beautiful crystal bluish-green with red and orange grasses, flowers and palm jungles lining the Rainbow River's banks.
Crystal Springs and Crystal River were also really amazing to visit, as we got to snorkel at the keyhole headspring and see manatees underwater and up close. The kids loved it!
Homosassa Springs was our last one to visit, with countless schools of fish hanging out at the vent of the headspring and manatees swimming nearby. There is an underwater room at the headspring which allows a totally different experience and had the kids ooing and ahhing constantly.
All of this is a part of Florida's Gulf Coast and together make for an ideal destination for slow or family travel. We loved it and cannot wait to return!