Secret Florida: 9 Places You Never Knew You Needed to See
Some of the weirdest, wackiest, under the radar places in Florida.
Florida is quite the destination–sometimes controversial, sometimes just plain weird, it’s hard not to hold a special place in your heart for the strange state. This is especially true when it comes to all of the wacky and…interesting…spots it holds. These ten treasures are the under-the-radar, completely out of this world gems the state houses.
Swap Shop Flea Market and Drive-in Theatre
WHERE: Fort Lauderdale
I’m not totally sure what’s going on here, because I’m pretty sure it’s “everything.” The Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop and Drive-In Theater is a huge facility, containing an 88-acre flea market, farmer’s market, a drive-in movie theater, a video arcade, and a…Ferrari museum, for some reason, as well, which, okay, sure! Why not–it’s free. This place is at least five places combined into one thing, making it automatically worth a visit simply for that reason alone. But on top of that, all five things are fun things. There are also locations in Tampa and Lake Worth, however, they are not as massive (and do not contain all of the things advertised above) as the Fort Lauderdale location.
Secret Woods Nature Center
WHERE: Fort Lauderdale
Let’s face it, if something has “secret woods” in the title, it’s going to be a good thing worthy of your time–that’s just science. Take a little journey through the everglades in this urban wilderness area (the first of its kind in Florida, established in 1978) hidden under mangroves and located in between the 5- and the 595-interstates (not a place you might expect to find a secret woods, but here we are). The Secret Woods Nature Center has trails for hiking and walking through (secret?) nature, as well as a full nature exhibit, butterfly garden, and reptile habitat.
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The Treaty Oak
Located in the Southbank area, this huge tree, which looks more like the Mind Flayer from Stranger Things than it does an “actual tree”, is truly a sight to behold. It is thought to be around 250 years old and, in 1995, was preserved thanks to the city and its residents. It is kept in good condition by preservation efforts to this day, and the area surrounding it is referred to as Treaty Oak Park by locals. This is one big, important, squid-looking tree.
The Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
A tiny rainforest in the middle of Florida, this state park is a little wonderland of lush green environment, containing a sinkhole called the Devil’s Millhopper. You can descend into this 120-foot hole via ramps and stairs, and when you finally reach the bottom, you’ll look upon a bunch of fossils and remains (bones) in a muddy grave. The sinkhole is a wonder in and of itself, as streams line the limestone walls, disappearing and reappearing as you venture downward.
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The Coral Castle Museum is a sculpture garden built entirely by one man, Ed Leedskalnin, over nearly 30 years (1923 to 1951). There are over 1,100 tons of coral rock, carved into various shapes and sizes. It is said that no one ever saw Ed carving these sculptures, adding a bit of mystery to the park, because, truly, how did one man do all of this? Regardless, that’s what happened, and since Ed isn’t around to tell you about it himself anymore, today you can take an audio-based tour giving you all the details of these carved rocks that were oh-so-treasured by the man who spent 28 years making them.
WHERE: Coral Gables
This grand swimming pool is the only one of its kind on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s emptied and refilled every single day with naturally filtered water, making it the biggest freshwater pool in the whole country. Constructed in 1923 out of a coral rock quarry, this 820,000-gallon pool is the gem of Coral Gables, and is typically open to the public (albeit closed currently due to COVID-19). Additionally, the pool has a couple of waterfalls flanking it, as well as grotto-like caves and two lookout towers.
St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum
WHERE: St. Augustine
You won’t find this much pirate memorabilia in one place anywhere else. The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum is one of the most legitimate and largest collections of pirate artifacts in the world. The museum is about 5000-square-feet, but there’s more to experience here than just thousands of incredible pirate treasures–there’s also a lovely outdoor courtyard as well as an upper deck boasting views of the Matanzas River and the Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th-century fort right across the street. Go for the pirate artifacts and stay for the beautiful outdoor scenery.