The High Life: Top Spots for Panoramic Views of Florida
By Jodi Mailander Farrell
Florida may be one of the flattest states in the union, but you can still experience the high life from its many tall buildings, natural high points, lighthouses and historic landmarks.
Claim your spot in the clouds at one of these high perches to catch Florida’s full wow factor.
Area 31, Miami
Eight of the 10 tallest buildings in Florida are in Miami, including the 64-story Four Seasons Hotel, which will soon turn over its supreme skyscraper crown to the 85-story Panorama Tower. One of the best places to view the city’s changing skyline is Area 31, a seafood restaurant on the 16th floor of the Epic Hotel shown in the photo above. The high hot spot provides breathtaking, panoramic views of downtown and Biscayne Bay. Ask for a terrace table. 270 Biscayne Blvd. Way, Miami; 305-424-5234, area31restaurant.com.
The Wheel at ICON Park in Orlando is the tallest observational wheel on the East Coast, offering 360-degree unobstructed views of Orlando theme parks, downtown and, on a clear day, the Kennedy Space Center. The 400-foot-tall “Ferris wheel,” opened in 2015, has 30 slow and steady ski lift capsules that hold 15 people each. The 20-minute experience includes a pre-flight, 3D film. 8375 International Dr., Orlando; 407-601-7907.
Top Spa at La Concha, Key West
La Concha Hotel & Spa is the tallest building in downtown Key West’s Historic District. Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and other famous writers and artists have lingered here since the hotel’s opening in 1926. The rooftop spa offers panoramic views of the island and its famous sunsets, along with a pool, tapas dining and a complimentary glass of wine with your massage, facial or other treatment. Private Spa Suites start at $145. 430 Duval St., Key West; 305-296-2991, laconchakeywest.com.
Shark Valley Observation Tower, Everglades National Park
Halfway along the 15-mile Tram Road loop in western Miami-Dade County’s Shark Valley region of Everglades National Park, an observation tower rewards hikers, cyclists and tram riders with a spectacular view into the sawgrass marsh. Designed by South Florida architect Edward M. Ghezzi, the 1984 tower spirals 50 feet upward. It has a wheelchair-accessible ramp to the top. Once on top, the River of Grass in all its glory spreads out as far as you can see, offering occasional sightings of alligators, river otters and water birds. Rent bicycles and book tram tours at the Shark Valley Tram Tour Company. Shark Valley Visitor Center, 36000 S.W. 8th St., Miami; 305-221-8776, nps.gov/ever
Ponce De Leon Inlet Lighthouse, Ponce Inlet
On the tip of Ponce Inlet, south of Daytona Beach, the Ponce De Leon Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Florida and the third-tallest lighthouse in the United States. The equivalent of a 17-story building, the 175-foot lighthouse has been active since 1887. Visitors can climb the National Historic Landmark’s 203 steps to catch magnificent views of the beach, surrounding inland waterways and, on a clear day, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center 40 miles away. 4931 S. Peninsula Dr., Ponce Inlet; 386-761-1821, ponceinlet.org.
Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Tampa Bay
The Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge spans four miles across Tampa Bay, connecting St. Petersburg and Terra Ceia. Made of steel and concrete, it was designed by Figg & Muller Engineering Group (which also designed the Key’s Seven Mile Bridge). The 430-foot-tall bridge passes through the waters of three counties. Its height, length and modern architectural design make the bridge a popular spot for filming automobile commercials – and catching beautiful views of the bay. Skyway Fishing Pier State Park, 4905 34th St. South, St. Petersburg; 727-865-0668, floridastateparks.org/park/Skyway.
Britton Hill, Lakewood
Britton Hill is the highest natural point in the state, with a summit elevation of 345 feet above mean sea level. Located in the western part of the Florida Panhandle, and surrounded by farms and forests, it’s marked by a small park called Lakewood Park, with a monument, trails and information board – worth a bucket-list visit if you want to hit the high point in every state. 2759 N. County Highway 285, DeFuniak Springs