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Naples on the southwest tip of Florida. Photography by ablokhin/iStock

Find the Florida Getaway That’s Right for You

Article by Sara Liss 01.29.2019

There’s more to these beachy shores than just fun in the sun. Look beyond the cerulean-colored waves for vibrant cities that offer unexpected charms for every type of visitor.

Both wild and polished, glossy and rustic, South Florida destinations offer something for everyone. And while it’s clear almost all visitors come primarily for the beaches and year-round sunshine, there’s more to these coastal locales than sun and sand. Whether it’s a cosmopolitan city flanking the water or a nature-driven escape into the Everglades, these stops warrant a lingering visit beyond the beach.

 

Vintage Shoppers: Orlando

Courtesy of Dechoes Resale

Sure, a visitor could spend an entire week in Orlando without leaving its famous theme parks, but venturing out into the city’s surrounding neighborhoods leads to a treasure trove of vintage shopper delights: from authentic garments dating to the 1920s to unique fashions from the ’80s and ’90s, these quirky boutiques have it all. Etoile (2424 E. Robinson St., etoileboutique.com) in the Milk District stocks clothing such as high-waisted Levi’s, collectible sunglasses and home goods, and even offers on-site tailoring and adjustments. Going 20 years strong, Orlando Vintage (1500 Formosa Ave., Winter Park, orlandovintage.com) is the spot for period pieces and retro items like Letterman jackets from the ’50s and Mad Men-esque women’s suits. Retromended Vintage (930 N. Mills Ave., retromended.com) is a well-curated selection of upscale names like Oscar de la Renta, Christian Dior and Diane von Furstenberg, and Dechoes Resale (2110 Edgewater Dr., dechoesresale.com) is where the fashion-obsessed can score designer finds like Fendi clutches.

 

Culture Connoisseurs: Sarasota

The Rubens gallery at the Ringling Museum of Art.

With its many performing arts centers and festivals and its Ringling Brothers Circus legacy, this Gulf Coast city is known as the cultural capital of Florida. After basking in the beautiful waterfront, you can take in a show at Sarasota Contemporary Dance (Jane B. Cook Theatre, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, sarasotacontemporarydance.org) or the Sarasota Orchestra (709 N. Tamiami Trail, sarasotaorchestra.org), which hosts major soloists like Emanuel Ax and Midori. Of course, the Ringling Museum of Art (5401 Bay Shore Road, ringling.org) is a must-visit with its impressive 55,000-piece collection of global masters, while the contemporary exhibits at the Sarasota Museum of Art (1001 S. Tamiami Trail, www.ringling.edu/museum) offer a nice counterpoint. For a more idyllic experience, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (900 S. Palm Ave., selby.org) is an outdoor wonderland of 15 acres best known for its living collection of more than 6,000 orchids.

 

Cocktail Enthusiasts: Fort Lauderdale

A tipple at Apothecary 330.

Unlike its nightlife-heavy neighbor to the south, Fort Lauderdale has a less-frenetic pace than Miami, but it still enjoys a very healthy craft cocktail scene with speakeasy-style drinking dens and detail-oriented bartenders mining the latest in libation trends. At the 1920s-influenced Stache Drinking Den (109 SW Second Ave., stacheftl.com), try the Slow Drip Slow Jam made with tea-infused rum, pineapple juice, lime and coconut cream. Tucked inside a pizza joint downtown is Apothecary 330 (330 SE Second Ave., apothecary330.com), a hidden, dimly lit homage to rare whiskies and bourbon with modern takes on old-world favorites like the Sazerac, Hemingway daiquiri, NY sour, and, of course, the Old-Fashioned. Rum and its versatility in cocktails are explored at the oceanfront bar Burlock Coast at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale (1 North Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., ritzcarlton.com) in drinks like the McCoy Fizz, which is made with rum, orange juice, ginger syrup and aquafaba.

 

Sporty Types: Naples

The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples.

The shores on this Gulf Coast city are lovely (and please do catch one of the city’s famous sunsets over the water), but venturing inland yields its own rewards. Golf is a major draw here, and you can’t get closer to the action than The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples (2600 Tiburon Dr., ritzcarlton.com): the property offers plenty of rooms with balconies overlooking the Tiburón Golf Course, a 36-hole championship course designed by Greg Norman. Get up close with the wildlife surrounding the city during a Dolphin Watch Cruise (1200 Fifth Ave. S., purenaples.com) that includes a stop at nearby Keewaydin Island for shell collecting. When hunger hits, head to the buzzy, boutique-filled Fifth Avenue for authentic Persian cuisine at Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro (865 Fifth Ave. S., bhabhabistro.com) and end the night with sweet mint tea and baklava.

 

Beach Revelers: Key Biscayne

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Cape Florida Lighthouse. Photography by lucky photographer/Alamy

An exclusive enclave tucked away from the fray of Miami Beach, this hideaway beckons with pristine beaches and a laid-back atmosphere. Flowy, brightly colored caftans are the uniform of choice for beach lovers here, and no store on the island is better stocked than Boheme Boutique (650 Crandon Blvd., modaboheme.com) with its array of saris, scarves and maxi dresses imported from India and Bali. Locals swear by the brunch at Rusty Pelican (3201 Rickenbacker Causeway, therustypelican.com), where sweeping waterfront views set the backdrop for a seafood-influenced spread of Maine Lobster Benedict and Crab Huevos Rancheros. For a toes-in-the-sand dining experience, The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami (455 Grand Bay Dr., ritzcarlton.com) makes it easy with two beachfront restaurants — Cantina Beach, with its regional Mexican specialties and premium tequilas, and Dune Burgers on the Beach, with its gourmet burgers and a DJ on the weekends. Walk off the feast with a trek to the Cape Florida Lighthouse (floridastateparks.org), a local landmark dating back to 1825 and boasting an exciting history of attacks by Seminole Native Americans and almost-near destruction by explosion.

 

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Plan Your Stay in these Destinations


  • Orlando

    Location Orlando, Florida

    Experience A magical destination within 500 acres of natural Florida beauty.

    • Bordered by the Florida Everglades
    • 18-hole Greg Norman-signature golf course
    • Easy access to world-famous attractions
  • Sarasota

    Location Sarasota, Florida

    Experience A waterfront respite in downtown Sarasota.

    • Coastal cuisine and cocktails at Jack Dusty
    • Tom Fazio-designed championship golf course
    • Exclusive use of The Beach Club on Lido Key
  • Fort Lauderdale

    Location Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    Experience A tranquil beach retreat with 1940s glamour.

    • Lush Atlantic Ocean views
    • Sip cocktails by the heated infinity pool
    • Ocean-inspired spa therapies
  • Naples Golf

    Location Naples, Florida

    Experience A Mediterranean-style sanctuary surrounded by protected wetlands.

    • Home to two PGA-level golf courses
    • Country club sophistication and service
    • Private white-sand beaches nearby
  • Key Biscayne

    Location Miami, Florida

    Experience Adventure and relaxation on Miami’s 5-mile island oasis.

    • West Indies Colonial architecture
    • 11 tennis courts designed by Cliff Drysdale
    • Named one of "America's Best Beaches"