10 Best Places to Visit in South Florida: Beaches, Cities + Parks

by Jon Miksis
Beautiful beach in Southern FL
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Thinking about a getaway to South Florida in 2024? Keep reading as we dive into what makes this region a must-visit.

Let me tell you, Southern Florida is not just about catching rays on the beach—though it’s got plenty of that golden sunshine. From the vibrant nightlife and art deco glam of Miami’s South Beach to the laid-back charm of the Keys, South Florida offers a slice of paradise for everyone. Not just the beach bums!

Fancy a dance? South Beach’s nightclubs are legendary. Prefer something a bit more relaxed? The tranquil, turquoise waters of the Keys are perfect for snorkeling or just kicking back with a good book. And for you foodies, prepare your taste buds for a thrilling ride—from zesty Cuban sandwiches to the freshest seafood dishes. I’ve been all over South FL, and there’s just so much that keeps pulling me back.

So grab your sunglasses and come along as we uncover the top spots to visit in South Florida this year. Whether you’re looking for family fun, a romantic escape, or a solo adventure, I promise you’ll find plenty to love.

Top places to visit in South Florida Pinterest Photo Pin

1. Miami, Florida

As one of the trendiest cities, not only in Florida but in all of the US, Miami is the cultural and financial hub of South Florida. It is also a top beach destination in Florida. You could easily relax at the beach for days on end, but that wouldn’t do justice for all the other cool things to do in Miami.

The Miami skyline contrasting with the turquoise blue waters.
The Miami skyline contrasting with the turquoise blue waters.

Known for its beaches and water sports, Miami offers visitors with an assortment of aquatic adventures including sailing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. The city also has several urban parks, such as Bayfront Park, Museum Park, and Tropical Park. The weather is beautiful year-round, so you’ll always have a reason to be outside.

Want to see a cool contrast between old and new? The city of Miami has a distinctly contemporary vibe, while Miami Beach is much more subdued and relaxed in comparison.

South Beach is the top attraction among all the Miami beaches, so if you’re looking for a cool place to stay in Florida, this is it. The Art Deco District is located just opposite the beach where you’ll find Ocean Drive, a bustling pedestrian-friendly street with restaurants, bars, hotels, and boutiques.

South Beach is the pulse of Miami's nightlife. This city is among the best places to visit in South Florida
South Beach is the pulse of Miami’s nightlife

Other things to do in Miami, one of the best places to visit in Southern Florida

Miami is a clear favorite for couples in Florida, particularly as a honeymoon destination. Below are some other must-visit spots within Miami:

  • The Brickell Neighborhood and the Miami Design District are known for their high-end stores and posh dining scene.
  • Little Havana and Little Haiti are great places to see Miami’s Caribbean influences up close. Española Way offers more of a European, old world vibe.
  • Overtown Neighborhood is worth exploring for its rich African-American history and amazing food.
  • The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a Mediterranean-style estate on Biscayne Bay that was once the residence of James Deering.
  • The Coconut Grove Neighborhood is famed for its historic homes that are built from coral rock. Visitors will also find peacocks, street entertainers and cozy cafés here.
  • Other cool, cultural attractions include the Jungle Island, Zoo Miami, and Coral Castle.
If you're into European estates, you won't want to miss the Vizcaya Museum in Coral Gables.
If you’re into European estates, you won’t want to miss the Vizcaya Museum in Coral Gables.

In addition, the city of Miami hosts an annual festival called Calle Ocho Music Festival, which is one of the world’s largest Latin music festivals.

From its vibrant fashion scene, sports and entertainment, historic sites, beaches, and visual art centers, everything about Miami is fascinating and worth exploring. It’s no wonder this city is among the best places to visit in South Florida.

Read next: Top Luxury Airbnbs in Miami, Florida

South Beach is one of the top places to stay in Miami, and among the best places to visit in Southern Florida
South Beach is one of the top places to stay in Miami.

2. The Florida Keys

For watersport enthusiasts, it’s hard to find a better vacation spot in South Florida than the Florida Keys. This is the most livable place in South Florida, hands down, and it’s easy to see why!

Made up of 1,700 islands, the Florida Keys offers a relaxing and calming atmosphere, perfect for snorkeling and diving adventures. The colorful reefs surrounding Dry Tortugas National Park are a sight not to be missed! Enjoy delicious seafood while relaxing by the water and taking in the refreshing sea breeze, and you’ll see why this is one of the best places to visit in South Florida.

Top destination in the Florida Keys: Key West

Key West is among the most popular vacation spots within the Florida Keys. Although the Keys isn’t particularly famous for its beaches, the beachside locations within Key West are very appealing.

Located at the southern tip of the continental U.S., Key West has an old world charm to it, mainly through its architecture. Several authors have embraced the romanticism of this town and made it their home, including Robert Frost, Tennessee Williams, and Ernest Hemingway.

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum was the former residence of Ernest Hemingway, a renowned American writer
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum was the former residence of Ernest Hemingway, a renowned American writer

Key West also seamlessly blends different cultures. There are distinct Caribbean influences, most notably in the island’s culinary scene.

One of the top tourist spots in the area is Duval Street, just south of the Key West Historic District. Here, you can explore vibrant restaurants and bars, enjoying zesty Key Lime Pie and catching the sunset from Mallory Square. It’s full of boutiques, souvenir shops, and even a few historic buildings. Other popular attractions nearby include the Shipwreck Museum, Key West Aquarium, and Dry Tortugas National Park. These are some of the best hidden gems you’ll find!

Nothing beats the turquois blue waters in the Florida Keys, one of the top places to visit in South Florida
Nothing beats the turquois blue waters in the Florida Keys.

Whether you’re looking for culture, luxury, or relaxation, the Florida Keys have got you covered as one of the coolest islands in the world!

Read next: Best Airbnb vacation rentals in the Florida Keys

Built in 1825, The Cape Florida Lighthouse in Key Biscayne is one of the most unique sights in the Florida Keys.
Built in 1825, The Cape Florida Lighthouse in Key Biscayne is one of the most unique sights in the Florida Keys.
Brimming with luxury yachts and villas, the Florida Keys is one of the most luxurious destinations in South Florida.
Brimming with luxury yachts and villas, the Florida Keys is one of the most luxurious destinations in South Florida.

3. Naples, Florida

Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Naples is another top destination in South Florida. It’s best known for its golfing and upscale shopping scene, and you’ll also find luxurious resorts and condos tucked along the coastline.

Naples is one of the best places to visit in South Florida
Relax on the beach in Naples and let all of life’s worries subside.

Bask in the sun at Lowdermilk Park, stroll Naples Pier, and spot wildlife at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. There’s so much to see and do here, but you can easily cover most of it in 2-3 days. Here are some other noteworthy sights in and around Naples:

Sun-N-Fun Lagoon: A waterpark perfect for a day of family fun

Naples Beach Brewery: One of the best craft breweries in the area.

The Naples Botanical Garden: 170 acres of lush green vegetation endemic to the tropics.

Venetian Bay: A waterfront village featuring lots of restaurants and boutiques.

5th Avenue South: A popular shopping street extending from downtown Naples to the beach.

Smallwood Store: Located near Naples, this trading post has been transformed into a museum, where you can learn about how fur trading used to take place.

Museum of the Everglades: Just east of Naples, this museum traces the 2,000-year-old history of the region, including that of the Calusa Indians.

Fakahatchee Strand State Park: One of the best hidden gem vacation spots in Florida. Known for its collection of ghost orchids and many other rare and endangered species of plants and animals.

Located on the western side of Florida, Naples is known for having amazing sunsets.
Located on the western side of Florida, Naples is known for its amazing sunsets.

With endless, white sand beaches and crystal-clear water, Naples is a must-see destination in Southern Florida.

Stargazing in Naples, Florida.
Stargazing in Naples, Florida.
Naples is one of the coolest places to visit in South Florida
In Naples, you’ll find luxurious homes and hotels at every turn.

4. Sanibel Island

For those looking to explore the natural beauty of South Florida, Sanibel Island offers the perfect window. With a cool tropical vibe and lots of breathtaking landscapes, Sanibel Island is among the best places to visit, not only in the state of Florida, but in the entire US.

Sanibel Island Lighthouse
Sanibel Island Lighthouse

The island is home to a diverse marine life and is particularly famous for its seashell varieties. There are also many species of birds like egrets, herons, and the American bald eagle, and of course, like everyone else in Florida, you’ll find alligators.

Enjoy the peace and serenity of Captiva Island, hike around J.N Darling National Wildlife Refuge, and go swimming at Bowman’s Beach. You’ll definitely wish you booked a longer stay here.

Pelicans in Sanibel Island, among the top places to visit in South Florida.
Pelicans in Sanibel Island

What makes Sanibel Island stand out among the numerous beaches across Florida is its relaxing and laid back vibe. In the absence of all the hustle and bustle of chain stores and traffic lights, visitors can escape into this dreamy tropical paradise and forget all of life’s worries.

Sanibel Island is one of the best places to visit in South Florida.
Sanibel Island is one of the best places to visit in South Florida.

Read next: Most unique stays in Florida

5. Sarasota, Florida

Located on Florida’s southwestern coastline, Sarasota is another marvelous city worthy of a spot on your bucket list. The city features sandy beaches, noteworthy architecture, and plenty of culturally significant sites.

Sarasota is known for its beautiful art and architecture. It's definitely one of the best places to visit in South Florida
Sarasota is known for its beautiful art and architecture

One of the biggest attractions in Sarasota is its art scene. There are several visual arts and performing centers across the city, along with many theatres. The city proudly hosts an annual film festival focusing on local and international cinema. Another large-scale art event hosted by the city is the Sarasota Chalk Festival, that attracts art-lovers from all over the country. Other notable places to visit in Sarasota include the following

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art: 66- acre museum showcasing an assortment of exquisite art and architecture.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens: 15-acre garden featuring rare plant and animal species, a fun activity for kids and adults.

Siesta Key Beach: Known as one of the top beaches in the U.S.

Myakka River State Park: At 37,000 acres, this is one of Florida’s largest state parks.

With a cool mix of nature and culture, Sarasota is among the best places to visit in Southern Florida.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art houses some of the best artwork in the US.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art houses some of the best artwork in the US.

6. Boca Raton

Boca Raton stands out in South Florida for its luxurious vibe and cultural richness. This city is a paradise for those who love upscale shopping and dining, particularly at the renowned Mizner Park. For beach enthusiasts, Boca Raton offers pristine stretches of sand perfect for a relaxing day or watersports.

What’s Special: Dive into the arts and history at the Boca Raton Museum of Art or catch a live performance at the amphitheater.

Insider Tips: For a quieter beach day, head to Spanish River Park. It’s less crowded and equally beautiful. Parking can be tight, especially on weekends, so arrive early. Whether you’re looking to unwind or explore, Boca Raton blends sophistication with laid-back coastal charm, making it a must-visit.

7. Stuart, Florida

Looking for one of the most underrated places in South Florida? Add Stuart, FL to your bucket list.

Stuart is considered the “Sailfish Capital of the World” and it’s easy to see why with all its fishing charters and sailing activities. The city also offers lots of fun water activities including scuba diving and snorkeling.

Sailing in Stuart, Florida
Sailing in Stuart, Florida

Aside from sailing and other aquatic activities, there are other things you’ll want to explore here. Downtown Stuart is a great place for a stroll, where you can eat, shop, and enjoy the live music in this historic part of the city. If you’d like to learn about the history of Stuart, check out the Stuart Heritage Museum and Road to Victory Military Museum.

If you’re looking for a fun outdoor destination in Southern Florida with a few museums and art galleries, Stuart has you covered.

The Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart, Florida.
The Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart, Florida.

8. Everglades National Park

A round-up of the best places to visit in South Florida wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Everglades National Park.

A snowy egret in Everglades National Park.
A snowy egret in Everglades National Park.

As one of the few national parks on the East Coast, the Everglades is a 1.5-million acre wetland preserve with a variety of flora and fauna. As you maneuver your way through the mangroves and marshes for which this park is known for, you’ll see alligators, crocodiles, and perhaps even a Florida panther and leatherback turtle. Fun fact: The Everglades is the only place on Earth where both alligators and crocodiles coexist!

The Everglades is located just outside of Miami, so I recommend pairing them together in the same trip. Though it’s only an hour away, it truly feels worlds apart with abounding nature and wildlife!

An alligator in the Everglades.
An alligator in the Everglades.

8. Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach are the perfect vacation spots to visit year round.

Manatee Park in Fort Myers, Florida.
Manatee Park in Fort Myers, Florida.

Whether it’s the wonderful shopping, historic sights, or the mouthwatering dishes offered by the local restaurants, Fort Myers has a lot to offer. The following are some of the major attractions that visitors can look forward to in Fort Myers:

  • IMAG History and Science Center: A science and aquarium museum with interactive exhibits covering dinosaurs, Calusa Indians, weather/climate, and wildlife, to name a few.
  • The Thomas Edison & Henry Ford Winter Estates: A museum dedicated to the lives of both men, and a 21-acre botanical garden.
  • Lovers Key State Park: 712 acres of tidal lagoons, barrier islands, and canals. Definitely a place where you’ll want to dip your toes in the water!
  • Bonita Beach: A beautiful beach near Fort Myers with a long boardwalk. As the name suggests, it’s definitely a beautiful spot to check out…es muy bonita!
  • Lee County Manatee Park: A popular place to see manatees up close and go kayaking.

The city’s charm combined with the sun-soaked beaches and historical sites makes Fort Myers and the Fort Myers Beach the perfect destination for a relaxed and fun-filled vacation. Nature lovers and beach goers alike will love this place, and quickly see why it’s among the best places to visit in South Florida.

Fort Myers is a top vacation destination in Southern Florida.
Fort Myers is a top vacation destination in Southern Florida.

9. Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is a true South Florida gem, offering an underwater treasure trove just a stone’s throw from Miami. This park is unique because it’s mostly aquatic—95% of its expanse is water.

Dive into snorkeling or scuba diving to explore vibrant coral reefs and historic shipwrecks. Kayaking along the shoreline gives you a view of mangrove forests and the Miami skyline.

Insider Tips: Bring your own gear if you can, as rentals are available but can be pricier. Check weather conditions before your trip, as winds can influence water clarity and accessibility. Early mornings are best for clearer waters and less crowd.

Whether you’re looking for adventure or tranquility, Biscayne National Park delivers an unforgettable escape.

10. West Palm Beach, Florida

West Palm Beach is a dynamic blend of vibrant street life, chic cultural venues, and lush tropical ambience. It’s the place to be for trendy eateries and vibrant nightlife, especially around Clematis Street and CityPlace. Art lovers are drawn to the Norton Museum of Art, which boasts an impressive collection.

Explore the outdoors along the waterfront or at McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary for a close-up look at local flora and fauna.

Insider Tips: Parking is easier to find and often free in the evenings. Plan your visit during one of the many street festivals or outdoor concerts to really see the city come alive. With its rich mix of activities and relaxing spots, West Palm Beach offers an exciting yet laid-back getaway.

Other top places to visit in South Florida

This list of must-see places in South Florida is by no means exhaustive. So, there are many other spots you’ll want to explore in the Sunshine State. Whether it’s Florida’s very own version of Hollywood or even the “Venice of America,” Fort Lauderdale, you won’t run out of beautiful beaches and endless outdoor activities (and sunshine!) throughout South Florida. This is only the beginning.

For further reading:

Top rentals in Florida

Best off-the-beaten-path destinations in Florida

Top vacation rentals in the Florida Keys

Beautiful destinations in Southern FL
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