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5 Reasons Why Central Florida is the Sunshine State's Sweetest Spot

  • By Christopher da Costa
  • Published 12 September 2023
  • Revised 13 September 2023
5 Reasons Why Central Florida is the Sunshine State's Sweetest Spot
  • By Christopher da Costa
  • Published 12 September 2023
  • Revised 13 September 2023
5 Reasons Why Central Florida is the Sunshine State's Sweetest Spot
  • By Christopher da Costa
  • Published 12 September 2023
  • Revised 13 September 2023
When picturing Central Florida, you can be forgiven for automatically thinking of rip-roaring roller coasters and a certain big-eared mouse with bright yellow shoes, both of which reside in Orlando, the home of two of the world’s most famous theme parks: Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort.

Yet there is much more to discover in this beautiful region beyond the draw of being the ‘theme park capital of the world’. Central Florida roughly comprises the area between Cape Canaveral and Daytona Beach on the east coast and Tampa on the west coast, and everything in-between. It is an area of great natural beauty despite the hundreds of resorts and attractions clustered in Orlando and Kissimmee.

This is Florida's sweet spot. Located within easy reach of the action yet just far enough away for privacy and peace of mind.

Are you ready to find your happy place?

Let's dive into the not-so-hidden gems of Central Florida and the epicentre of family fun...

Prime Location 

Being in a central position in the Sunshine State means it is easy to access the panhandle to the north with its charming cities and rich history, as well as the sophisticated port towns and the Latin and Caribbean vibes of the south. Multi-centre holidays are increasingly popular and offer a fabulous way in which to experience vastly different regions in Florida. With so much to see and do, no two holidays here will be the same!

Orlando and Tampa are undoubtedly the biggest cities in Central Florida, with only a 90-minute drive separating them. And as you drive west on the I-4 you’ll pass Haines City, Winter Haven, and Lakeland on your way to the Gulf Coast gem of Tampa, with award-winning beaches slightly further on in St Pete’s and Clearwater. Eastwards will take you to the Atlantic Coast, where Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach will captivate and enthral with their picturesque sunsets and flawless beaches.

Fewer Crowds

Naturally, the theme parks draw the largest crowds, which means there are often fewer people at the smaller and less well-known attractions in Central Florida, even during the prime holiday seasons. And as with tourist-heavy destinations, many dreamy hotspots that are overlooked in favour of the more popular sites – try to plan visits on weekdays, especially during the summer to avoid the masses.

Situated along the I-4 corridor, Bonnet Springs Park in Lakeland spans 168 acres of wide-open public spaces. Conveniently accessible from Tampa and Orlando, this park offers an array of attractions for visitors of all ages. Stroll along the captivating 25-foot-high Crenshaw Canopy Walk, embark on an adventure in The Kiwanis Cares for Kids Treehouse, and stimulate young minds at the engaging Florida Children's Museum. The best part? Admission is completely free, ensuring a delightful experience for the entire family.

The enchanting Bok Tower Gardens covers 250 acres of lush landscapes an hour south of Orlando. The garden's centrepiece is the awe-inspiring Bok Tower, looming 205 feet high. This Art Deco masterpiece houses a carillon that fills the air with melodic bell concerts for 30 minutes daily at 1 pm and 3 pm. The recent addition of Hammock Hollow Children's Garden provides an ideal opportunity for kids to interact with nature, complete with water features, bridges, tunnels, and a play area shaped like a friendly snake. 

Loads of Accommodation Options

Rental villas, condos, townhomes and hotels are abundant in the area – more than 7,000 in fact – and with so much choice, you will easily find the perfect accommodation type for you and your family whether it’s on the budget or luxury end of the scale.

Villas often feature their own private pools and come in varying size and quality from 3 to 14 bedrooms, so they’re ideal for large groups and multiple families travelling together. While self-catering condos are smaller without pools but enjoy access to resort amenities, just like a hotel.

For an elevated stay, Solterra Resort delivers stylish villa homes and sought-after amenities, while budget-friendly Calabay Parc is a serene basis for those seeking peace and quiet. Central Florida's newest villa community, Windsor Island, caters to families and large groups, offering a wealth of superb onsite leisure and entertainment amenities.

Wide Open Spaces

The Central Florida region is relatively flat and offers boundless open spaces, including more than 500 beautiful freshwater lakes for fishing and swimming, as well as hundreds of miles of walking and running trails ready to be explored.

There are many state parks and reserves that boast wildlife you won't see anywhere else, including the 1,300-acre Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, encompassing freshwater marshes, hardwood swamps, oak hammocks, and creeks and lakes. Named one of the Top 50 Places to See Wildlife by USA Today,  you may spot bobcats, alligators and more than 200 species of bird. 

A Taste of ‘Real’ Florida 

Getting out of the chaos and sometimes surreal world of Orlando affords a slower pace and a more authentic flavour of Central Florida. Drive just one hour south of the city to Polk County and book a stay in a piece of unblemished Florida wilderness. The Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo is a true dude ranch experience with horseback riding, award-winning Saturday night rodeos and luxury glamping and camping to boot. With 1,700 vast acres overlooking Kissimmee River, this is a true slice of rural America.

Florida is well-known for its citrus fruits – oranges in particular – and if you travel a little off-the-beaten-track to the very northeast of Polk County in Haines City you can visit Ridge Island Groves and pick delicious oranges, blueberries and peaches between June and October. If manual labour on holiday isn’t your vibe, then simply shopping for marmalade, classic Florida OJ, and souvenirs, plus see how citrus fruits are picked and packed before they’re ready to buy!

This is just a taste of what Central Florida holidays have to offer. For more inspiration, just get in touch with our Travel Experts.

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