Flordia Travel Advice

Outpost Travel Planner: Florida  

Text by Bob Ramsay and Jean Marmoreo / Photo by Joisey Showaa

The Outpost travel planner with the what, where, when, why and how of all things travel to Florida

When To Go 

Scheduling your trip will depend on the activities you’re interested in, as well as what makes you more uncomfortable: crowds or climate. If you’re interested in canoeing or kayaking, you can head to north Florida in summer and fall, but consider scheduling your trip between late summer and late fall to avoid possible high temperatures and populated waterways. Winter months are the best for visiting southern, inland parks. Not coincidentally, these are also the most crowded and expensive months to visit southern Florida. If you’re heading to the Keys, beware the rainy summer season (which overlaps with hurricane season), but remember that prices climb in the winter months. If you choose to visit Florida during the hurricane season, be sure to properly educate your- self on hurricane safety and precautions. Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency website (www.fema.gov/index. shtm) for current storm information, safety advice and procedures.

Getting There 

Getting to Florida from within North America is easy, WestJet and Air Canada often fly direct to Tampa, Miami and Orlando. Driving to Florida depends on how far away you are and how much time you have. Florida is accessible by car, so if you don’t drive to Florida you may want to consider renting a car upon arrival. If not, bus services, such as Empire Coach Line, connect Florida’s major cities. Reaching Florida by train from major cities like New York and Chicago is also an arrival option.

What to See and Do 

Florida offers something for just about everyone. Family-oriented vacationing points toward Walt Disney World, golf and snorkelling in the Keys, but the 1,700-plus streams and waterways make Florida a great place for hardier water sport adven- tures like kayaking and canoeing. There are great rivers and streams for canoe and kayak expeditions in north-central Florida and the Panhandle. In southwest Florida, in the Fort Myers and Sanibel area, the Great Calusa Blueway is a paddler’s haven. The Blueway is a network of marked waterways, dotted with mangrove islands and open passages. Visit www.great calusablueway.com to map your route, check conditions and find rental gear. Also check out www.fortmyerssanibel.com for info on this region.

The Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Gulf of Mexico on the west provide ample opportunity for deep-sea fishing, scuba diving and windsurfing. If you’re interested in diving you should head to the Florida Keys, home to the only living coral reef in the continental United States. The Southern Florida Windsurfing Association is a non-profit group with a website devot- ed to windsurfing and sailing. For info on rentals and exceptional locations, check out its website, www.sfbsa.com/links.

Florida brims with exotic plants and wildlife, such as alligators, sea turtles, manatees, fish and numerous exotic bird species. In fact, Florida is home to more than half of the plant species found in the United States, making the state a great draw for nature enthusiasts. Take advan- tage of hiking and camping in state and national parks. There are trails for shorter forays, as well as for longer treks (consider the Florida National Scenic Trail, which is almost 2,100 kilometres long). Seasonal scheduling is important, or you could wind up in hot, buggy, unpleasant camping con- ditions. Check out www.floridastateparks. org for info.

Words of warning: there have been recorded cases of West Nile virus in Florida, so take precautions. Keep up- to-date by reading through this state site before you go: http://www.doh.state.fl.us/.

Alligators are populous among Florida’s waterways. Use caution if hiking through swampy areas.

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