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Florida - the Sunshine State on the east coast of the USA

It's an eternal cliché. Florida is the retirement paradise where numerous retirees spend their retirement. Sounds boring? But it is not. Because the state in the southeast of the USA not only offers sunny, warm vacation days, but also attractions for all age groups and interests.

Table of Contents
Florida in numbers, data and facts | Geographical location and extent of the sunshine state | Tickets for attractions and activities | Weather and Climate in Florida | Limestone shapes the geological structure of the sunshine state | Florida population | The 10 Biggest Cities in Florida | Florida for tourists | Tour Florida by rental car | Florida's Economy and Infrastructure | Florida's history

Rent a boat in Florida | Edison & Ford Winter Estates | Florida beaches | Fort Lauderdale | Fort Myers | Jacksonville | Miami | Miami Beach | Orlando | Sarasota | St. Petersburg Clearwater | Tallahassee | Tampa | Theme parks

The peninsula of the same name owes its name to its Spanish explorers, who arrived there at Easter. Because Pascua Florida means Easter in Spanish.

Florida in numbers, data and facts

  • surface: 170,304 km2
  • Residents: 20,984,400 (2017 estimated)
  • Member of the USA since: March 3, 1845
  • Time zone: UTC-5 EST (west of the Apalachicola River: UTC-6)
  • Highest elevation: Britton Hill (105 meters)
  • Deepest point: Atlantic (0 meters)
  • Average height: 30 meters
  • Capital: Tallahassee
  • Emblem animal: Florida panther (puma)
  • flag: Red St. Andrew's Cross on a white background with the Florida seal in the center
  • State motto: In God We Trust


Geographical location and extent of the sunshine state

Florida consists of the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Panhandle as a portion of the mainland. The Florida Keys, a chain of islands connected by 42 bridges, connect to the southern end. The southernmost end of the Key West island chain is only 140 kilometers from Cuba and represents the southernmost point of the continental USA.

The Sunshine State is thus the southernmost state in the USA after Hawaii and is not too far from the Caribbean with popular holiday destinations such as the Bahamas, Cuba and Haiti, so that some AIDA Caribbean cruises not only head for Havana, but also Florida.

The southern state is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the west coast and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. Neighboring states are Georgia in the north and Alabama in the northwest. All in all, Florida is 260 kilometers wide and 800 kilometers long, making it 22nd among all states in terms of area. Water bodies make up almost 18 percent of the federal territory.

Tickets for attractions and activities

Tickets for attractions and activities in Florida can be found at www.getyourguide.de.

Weather and climate in Florida

The paradise for retirees can be divided into two climate zones. In the northeast there is a subtropical climate, in the center and south of the state tropical climate. As a result, Florida is often very humid, especially in summer. In addition, the sunshine state is often hit by sometimes violent hurricanes between June and November. Hurricane Katrina caused the greatest material damage to date in August 2005. The hurricane moved with wind speeds of 250 to 300 km / h over Florida, among other places. Many retirees therefore only spend the winter in Florida when the temperatures are comfortably warm at around 25 ° C, according to the climate table. Winter is considered the best season for many travelers. Snow is very rare in Florida. However, there are always floods.


According to the climate table, Jacksonville has an average temperature of 26.3 ° C, with July and August being the warmest with around 33 ° C during the day and a night temperature of 23 ° C. The coldest month is January with day temperatures of 18 ° C and night temperatures of 6 ° C. Visitors enjoy most hours of sunshine in May, and most rainy days can be expected in September. The water is warmest in August at around 30 ° C.

Key West

The climate table for Key West shows an average temperature of 28.2 ° C during the day and an average night temperature of 22.1 ° C. The highest temperatures are measured at 32 ° C in July and August. The most hours of sunshine per day are from April to June. The lowest temperatures are expected in January at 24 ° C and 18 ° C, while most precipitation falls in September. In Key West, too, the water is warmest with 30 ° C in August.


In Miami, the average annual temperature is 28.6 ° C. The night temperature is 20.2 ° C. According to the climate table, maximum temperatures are reached in August. In July and August the night temperature does not drop below 25 ° C. The lowest temperatures of 24 ° C during the day and 15 ° C at night are to be expected in January. You can look forward to ten hours of sunshine in Miami from April to June, with most rainy days in August. The water temperature this month is around 31 ° C.


Orlando, the amusement paradise, has an annual average temperature of 28.1 ° C and an average nighttime temperature of 16.6 ° C. The lowest temperatures are measured at 23 ° C during the day and 11 ° C at night in December. The highest temperatures are reached in July and August (33 ° C). Most hours of sunshine can be expected in April and May (10), according to the climate table with 13, most rainy days are in June.

Limestone shapes the geological structure of the sunshine state

The Florida continental shelf is a 700-kilometer-long bulge on the North American continent. The Florida peninsula is the part of this bulge that can be seen above sea level.

The deep subsoil of this structure consists of Precambrian volcanic rocks, sedimentary rocks from the Devonian and later volcanic rocks from the Triassic and Jurassic. The defining structure is the limestone. This is predominantly very porous and contains the central groundwater reservoir in Florida, which is of great importance for the drinking water supply. However, when the sea level rises, salt water penetrates these reservoirs, rendering them worthless for the production of drinking water. Due to the rising sea level, drainage ditches are also losing their gradient towards the sea, so that floodplains can often no longer be drained.

Florida population

The state on the east coast is the third most populous state in the United States after California and Texas. In 2013, 78.1% of residents were white, 16.7% African-American, 2.7% Asian-American, 0.5% Native American, and 0.1% Shark Waiian and / or Pacific Islander. 23.6% of the population said they were Hispanics or Latinos. The Hispanics make up most of the immigrants alongside the Snow Belt retirees.

Up until the 1950s, Florida was a state that was heavily influenced by the Democrats and in which the Republicans had a hard time against the Democratic majority. Due to the influx of many people from the northeast who vote Republican, among other things, the Republicans are now on the rise in Florida. Florida is now considered an important swing state between Republicans and Democrats in presidential elections. The southern tip of Florida is a particularly contested area in elections.

The majority of the Floridians are Protestant. Among other things, there are many Methodist churches in Florida. However, the proportion of Catholics in the Sunshine State is increasing, primarily due to the immigration of Cubans from the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries. At 4 percent, Jews also make up a relatively large proportion of the religious population.

There are few large cities in central Florida. Most of the people live on the coast.

The 10 largest cities in Florida

  1. Jacksonville (821,784)
  2. Miami (399,457)
  3. Tampa (335,709)
  4. Saint Petersburg (244,769)
  5. Orlando (238,300)
  6. Hialeah (224,669)
  7. Tallahassee (181,376)
  8. Fort Lauderdale (165,521)
  9. Port St. Lucie (164,603)
  10. Pembroke Pines (154,750)

Figures according to the 2010 Census.

Florida for tourists

Florida is still a relatively young state and is home to comparatively few classic sights. Nevertheless there is a lot that can be experienced and explored in addition to the sun and beach vacation in Florida.

For example, there is St. Augustine, the oldest settlement in the USA that has been continuously settled by Europeans, or the picturesque Art Deco district on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach in which over 900 buildings from the 1930s and 1940s are waiting to be discovered. Not to mention the numerous museums, art galleries, technology and automobile museums, Cape Canaveral and the many top-class amusement parks, cultural monuments and national parks.

25 kilometers north of downtown Miami, the third largest shopping mall in the USA is waiting for a visit and in many places there are high quality restaurants that will make the hearts of seafood fans beat faster.

The Cape Canaveral spaceport

Cape Canaveral, NASA's space center, is certainly one of the most famous attractions in Florida and became famous for the establishment of the Patrik Air Force Base in 1940. Back then, the cornerstone for space exploration was laid here, 80 kilometers from Orlando, and all space missions are still coordinated from there today.

Visitors to Cape Canaveral can learn more about the Apollo missions, the building of the Saturn 5 rocket and rocket launches in general, and experience the Kennedy Space Center, the Visitor Center and Star Trek Live in lectures and film screenings in the Space Center, which consists of five main parts.

Florida - Excursions to the most famous amusement parks in the USA

Anyone who talks about Florida must also talk about amusement parks. Because there are the most famous amusement parks in the USA, including such high-profile as Universal Studios, the Islands of Adventure, Busch Gardens Africa, Seaworld and the Walt Disney World Resort with the Animal Kingdom, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

Must-see cultural monuments in Florida

Florida has a total of two National Monuments, two National Memorials, a National Heritage Area, 46 National Historic Landmarks and a total of 1773 buildings and sites that are registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

Including about:

  • the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument,
  • the Fort Matanzas National Monument,
  • the De Soto National Memorial,
  • the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee,
  • the Fort Caroline National Memorial and
  • the Gullah / Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.

National parks and natural landmarks in Florida

In Florida, those interested will find three national parks, a National Preserve, an Ecological and Historic Preserve, two National Seashores and a further eighteen National Natural Landmarks that are well worth a visit.

These include the following national parks and natural monuments:

Wildlife viewing in Florida

Even if Florida's coastal strips are built over in many places and the originality has largely been lost in the course of time, there are still many opportunities in the state on the east coast, especially inland, to enjoy nature and animals such as alligators and manatees to observe. If you want to see the flamingos, the unofficial heraldic animal of Florida and a popular souvenir in plastic form, in the original, you should take a hike on the Snake Bight Trail in the Everglades National Park or visit one of the amusement parks.

Alligators watch in the Everglades

The Everglades are arguably the most famous wetland in Florida, if not the United States, and extend over a large part of the south over an area of ​​several thousand square kilometers embedded in Everglades National Park. The vast naturally formed marshland that stretches from Lake Okeechobee to southwest Florida is best explored on a guided tour by propeller boat. In the water, which is sometimes only fifteen to twenty centimeters deep, you can see not only free-living alligators, but also hundreds of species of fish and birds, turtles and snakes.

Watch manatees in Crystal River

Florida is a great place to see manatees. You can find manatees wherever the water is nice and warm, especially in Homosassa and Three Sisters Springs in Chrystal River. There the water stays at over 24 ° C all year round, which is why the manatees find perfect conditions there. Especially in the high season from November to March in Florida, manatees can be seen by the hundreds in their natural habitat all day long in warm places.

Sun and beach vacation in Florida

Anyone thinking about sun and beach holidays in Florida can hardly ignore Fort Lauderdale. The Venice of the USA is located on a network of waterways that extend over a total of 400 kilometers. The modern city with its long, clean sandy beaches, its water taxis, hotels, restaurants and shops is perfect for unadulterated bathing fun, watching the sunset on the beach and practicing all kinds of water sports. The sea water on the Gold Coast is also pleasant for swimming, especially in winter, when the humidness of summer has given way.

Some of the most recommended beaches in Florida are:

  • Miami Beach,
  • Vero Beach,
  • Haulover Beach,
  • Fort Lauderdale Beach,
  • St. Augustine,
  • Sanibel Island,
  • West Palm Beach,
  • Captive Island,
  • Marco Island,
  • Clearwater Beach / Sand Key,
  • and Delray Beach.

Often wrongly overlooked: North Florida

North Florida was once the center of the state and many traces from days gone by can still be seen there today. There is St. Augustine on the one hand, but the capital Tallahassee also has its charm and there are many mansions, historic battlefields and more to discover in North Florida. Also in north Florida is the sunshine state's most populous city, Jacksonville.

Panama City Beach shows a completely different side with many culinary delights and its great beach promenade. Unlike in the south, which is populated by tourists, you can still find really idyllic, picturesque spots by the sea here in North Florida. Cities like the green Gainesville, Wakulla Springs, Crawfordville and Apalachicola can also be perfectly included in a round trip by rental car through North Florida.

Travel to Florida by rental car

The USA is an absolute motorist country. Almost every route is covered by car and pedestrians are almost a rarity. While in cities like New York City you can get from A to B easily without a rental car, in Florida you reach your limits very quickly here. And even in the big cities like Miami or Orlando. So if you not only want to linger on the beach and in the hotel, but also want to go on excursions in the surrounding area, you cannot actually avoid booking a rental car.

Road trips through the sunshine state are a very special experience. For this you should plan at least fourteen days to be able to admire Florida in all its facets. How about a detour to the Everglades or the colorful facades of Key West? Admire the sunrise in Miami and the endless sandy beaches of Amelia Island? This and more is possible during a round trip.

You should keep this in mind when booking a rental car in Florida

It is worth booking the car with the car rental company from Germany before you start your journey. On the one hand, this brings advantages for European customers in terms of insurance and, on the other hand, you have time to read through the car rental contract calmly and avoid being spontaneously sold services that you don't actually need.

There are various options for insurance. We recommend taking out fully comprehensive insurance with reduced liability (CDW), which also applies to accidents you have caused yourself. But theft insurance (LDW) and the increase in the liability coverage to one million US dollars (LIS) also contribute to a relaxed holiday experience. In addition, it may be advisable to take out passenger and luggage insurance.

A comparison of providers is worthwhile in order to determine the provider with the best price / performance ratio among the car rental companies.

Click here for a selection of the best rental cars for your Florida trip

Sometimes an unnecessary cost trap - Florida's toll system

In Florida, in addition to the free interstates paved with a noticeable number of advertising signs, there are also toll roads, so-called "Toll Roads". One of them is the two-lane turnpike. These routes are provided with barriers where the fee can be paid directly (but hardly in cash). Many car rental companies, however, work with the pay-by-plate system, in which the toll is charged via the license plate.The license plate is recorded when passing through each barrier and the toll fees are finally billed when the rental car is returned. A system that is easy to use at first glance, but it is relatively expensive due to the additional fees charged by many car rental companies.

An alternative to this is the "Sunpass". This is a prepaid vignette that is offered in two versions. While the Sunpass Mini can only be used in one vehicle, the Sunpass Portable can be used in different rental cars. These vignette systems are charged with a certain dollar amount and charged when passing a barrier. There are no additional fees for the pay-by-plate service and you also get a 25 percent discount. Florida's Express Lanes on interstates and toll roads can only be used with the Sunpass or a similar transponder.

The Sunpass can be purchased in Publix supermarkets, CVS Pharmacy, AAA, Navaro Discount Pharmacy, Sedano’s and Amscot - The Money Superstore. In addition, some rental car providers also offer the Sunpass directly in their packages.

Driving on toll roads with the rental car: yes or no?

When putting together a route for the road trip, there are many ways in which toll roads can be avoided. One example of this is the Tamiami Trail, which stretches from Miami to Tampa. However, if you completely avoid toll roads on the route, you may miss out on one or the other unforgettable experience. For example, the trip over the beautiful Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Florida is only possible for a fee.

Particularities when driving in Florida

In general, in Florida, you have to be prepared for the fact that in all likelihood you will get an automatic rental car. Manual transmissions are as good as nonexistent with the providers. In addition, there are traffic rules in Florida that are sometimes unusual for Europeans. Holidaymakers often have to get used to the relaxed and quiet driving style typical of the sunshine state, especially in South Florida. The roads are mostly straight and often multi-lane in built-up areas.

We have put together the most important features and tips for you here:

  • Traffic is on the right in Florida.
  • In Florida, seat belts are compulsory for drivers and passengers. Children up to the age of four need a child seat.
  • Turning right is generally allowed at traffic lights, even if the traffic light is red, unless a right turn is explicitly prohibited by a corresponding sign.
  • The order of the arriving vehicles must be observed at stop signs with the note "4-Way". Whoever reaches the intersection first is allowed to drive first.
  • In Florida, overtaking is permitted on the right and left lane on multi-lane roads.
  • Speed ​​limits should be strictly adhered to in Florida if you want to avoid trouble with the traffic police. A speed of 104 to 112 km / h is generally permitted on highways, around 88 km / h (55 mph) can be driven in urban areas, while in towns and cities speeds between around 48 and 72 km / h ( 30 to 45 mph) are allowed. In the vicinity of schools, you are often only allowed to drive at 15 mph.
  • Stopping school buses may not be overtaken when the pupils get on and off. This also applies to oncoming traffic if the lanes are not separated by a traffic island. Warning signs with a yellow flashing light often indicate a school bus.
  • The traffic police in Florida are very attentive and punish violations with force. If the police are following you with a flashing light, stop at the next opportunity and stay in the car with your hands on the steering wheel. You should always have your driver's license and vehicle documents with you.
  • Drunk driving can result in jail time. The very next day the person concerned is brought before the local judge, who sets a deposit amount Important: Open alcoholic beverages, whether full or empty, may NOT be carried inside the car, not even by passengers. Basically, alcohol may ONLY be transported in the trunk.
  • Pedestrians have absolute priority in Florida. It is expected to stop at crosswalks.
  • Amusement parks, shopping malls, and supermarkets have large, free parking spaces. Parking in the center or on the beaches is usually chargeable and excessive parking time is extremely expensive. There is an absolute no-stopping on the curb and in the tow-away zones. In general, markings on the curbs indicate where you can stop. While red markings are absolutely prohibited, yellow markings mark loading zones for delivery vans. Areas marked in yellow and black are reserved as loading zones for trucks, fields marked in blue are parking spaces for the disabled. While getting on and off is allowed in areas with white marking, you may stop in green areas for a maximum of ten minutes. There is an absolute no-stopping at hydrants. You should always keep a distance of at least three meters from these.
  • At petrol stations, you can either pay in advance in cash at the cash register or with a credit card directly at the petrol pump. Sometimes, however, German credit cards don't work at American petrol stations. If you have paid at the cash register for more than fits in the tank, you will get the remaining money back.
  • If you break down outside of built-up areas, put your vehicle completely on the hard shoulder. When you open the hood, vehicles passing by on the route know that they need help.
  • On the interstates there are message boards along the route that provide information about seatbelts, possible traffic jams, route changes and the estimated travel time to certain locations. They are also used to display "alerts" that search for specific vehicles together with a license plate or a description of a person. If the vehicle is seen, the telephone number given should be called. There are different "alerts". While "Silver Alerts" indicate a missing person, "Blue Alerts" show that a police officer was shot or shot. The "Amber Alert" indicates a child abduction.
  • HOV lanes on the interstates may only be used if there are at least two people in the rental car.
  • Blue signs with white hurricanes indicate so-called “evacuation roads”. These are safe roads that lead inland in the event of a hurricane.

Florida's economy and infrastructure

Florida is an interesting destination for vacationers from all over the world and is becoming a permanent or temporary retirement home for many retirees from the United States and expats. In addition, the Port of Miami and Port Canaveral in Florida are two of the largest cruise ports in the world.

In addition to the travelers and the fact that the most important launch site for NASA and the US Air Force is located there, the state makes money by growing fruits. Florida is particularly known for citrus fruits (50 percent of US consumption) and its many orange plantations. There are also many banks. All in all, Florida achieved the fourth highest economic output of all US states with an economic output of 926 billion US dollars (2016).

Florida's history

The state's history is one of shifting rule during the period when the Spanish, British and French vied for their colonies in the New World. After various peoples were at home in Florida over 14,000 years ago, the Spanish navigator and explorer Juan Ponce de León discovered the peninsula in 1513 and named it Pascua Florida, which means Easter time in Spanish. Pascua Florida Day is still held as a public holiday in early April.

A few years later, in 1565, the Spaniard Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded St. Augustine in the then Spanish colony of Florida, which is still the oldest European settlement in the USA. A period of changing rulers followed until Florida was handed over from the Spanish to the British in 1763 after the end of the Seven Years' War. Of these, it became the 27th state to go to the USA in 1854, but left the Union again in 1860/61 at the beginning of the civil war as an ally of the other southern states. After the defeat, Florida was accepted back into the Union in the course of Reconstruction in 1877.

After Miami Beach was founded in 1915, there was a real construction boom in the 20s of the last century with a sharp increase in population. And when Disney World was opened in 1971, the rise to a tourist magnet was unstoppable.