The beach where your toddler touched the ocean.
That day you met a manatee.
The roller coaster drop when you found religion.
Thanks for sharing your Florida love stories with us.
Generations of Memories, One Shovel of Sand at a Time
When my father pulled that 30-year-old shovel out of the trunk, I wept. I grew up on the Gulf coast of Florida; the Panhandle beaches were our playground. My dad dug holes bigger than my body and excavated massive moats surrounding pitiful sandcastles. Now I had my own family. We lived in Atlanta. And we were visiting for the first time. As my parents, now grandparents, unloaded the car, there for the first time in decades and without discussion was the shovel. I was delighted. I was humbled. I knew what was in store for my daughter.
– Dani DeStafney
It's the People
I love Florida because of the people in this state. The majority have migrated from other areas and it's like a big melting pot of cultures. You can find an amazing variety of restaurants, entertainment venues, and spectacular little mom and pop shops, all featuring specialties from their home states. The people are friendly and outgoing and love to sit and chat with you and tell you about their reasons for wanting to live in this beautiful state. And then of course, there is always the beach and an abundance of outdoor activities year round.
- Rosalie Shapiro
The Colors of Clearwater
I visited Clearwater Beach, FL for the first time last summer. When I arrived, I was amazed with how beautiful it was -- the tall palm trees, the sparkling turquoise water, and the soft sugar-sand were a few of my favorite aspects about the place. I scooped up the sand with my hands and, sifting it, let its powdery consistency drift toward the ground. For the days I spent there, I could never get enough of the warm sunshine and stunning sunsets that would turn the sky electric colors or orange, pink and purple. When I think about Florida now, all I wish is to simply be back in that captivating summer paradise.
- Christina Schuler
Beaches, Sailing, Food and Florida
I'm fortunate to work, live and play in a place I love. I live in Estero, Fla., and work in South Fort Myers, and frequent beaches along the Gulf Coast of Florida. I enjoy dining at some fantastic waterview restaurants, from Fort Myers to Naples, and everywhere in between. My job with a sailing school allows me to explore the many barrier islands, such as Cabbage Key, recognized for its Floridian hospitality. I stroll down Andy Rosse Lane on Captiva Island, and visit Tarpon Lodge on Pine Island. I just enjoyed a wonderful open-air stroll at the Naples Botanical Gardens, and golf courses are wonderful, too.
- Beth Oliver
State of Grace
The sound of summer rain hammering on the roof. Sunsets that make your jaw drop and send your eyebrows to your hairline. The pungent, verdant scent of flowers, humidity, and moist earth mixed into a salty breeze. The stripy shadows created by palm fronds clattering in the wind. Glitter bombs of sunlight on the Intracoastal and ocean. Melodramatic storm clouds showing their muscle and might. Fashion statements of unknown origin that have to be seen to be believed. Sidewalk dining under a full moon, sunrise moments where the world is finally still. And an inimitable mix of diverse cultures, conventions, cronies and colleagues that somehow seems to work in this state of beautiful grace.
- Carey O’Donnell
West Palm Beach, Relaxing and Bustling
In downtown West Palm Beach are there world-renowned chefs are steps away from your office. In downtown West Palm Beach, art and culture be found around every corner. The streets here buzz with innovative companies in buildings rich in history. Downtown West Palm Beach is ever-growing and never boring. In downtown West Palm Beach, can you simultaneously feel the bustle of the city and sip the tranquility of paradise.
– Marie Barascout
My Favourite Florida
I was introduced to the Sunshine State when I was 18, when I visited with my mom. We had so much fun checking out Disney, Cape Canaveral and, of course, the beaches. When I was married my husband and I choose it for our honeymoon. It has now become our once-a-year destination, our favourite place to go. Last year, I discovered Naples. Wow! I now think I love Florida even more. I want to book a trip and go today! I have visited many places around the world, but I feel like Florida is really my second home. Florida has it all, fun, sun and great memories.
– RaDeana Montgomery
As a Canadian, the lure of the year-round Florida warmthis what my daydreams are made of. As a young visitor, I realized quickly there was something special about not only the weather, but also the people, the scenery, the culture and opportunity. For those of us not lucky enough to live there, Florida holds apromise of imagination and escape, mixed with friendliness and beauty.
– Heather Rushton
Volunteering for Love
I found love for turtles in 2013. A plush toy turtle in my hotel room in Jupiter led me to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in nearby Juno Beach –and after I saw a mama turtle laying her eggs early one morning, I became a volunteer at the center. For four months of the year ever since then, I’ve been a volunteer and docent at the LMC, and I’ve accumulated more than 600 hours telling folks from all over the country and the world about turtles!
– Nancy Anderson
From the Gulf to the Center
Growing up in the Florida Keys, I watched the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico every night. But I did not know the diversity and true beauty of the entire Sunshine State until I moved to Ocala. My first weekend, I boated down Silver River with crystal-clear water and a history richer than I could imagine. New to mountain biking, but eager to explore, I hit the internationally recognized Santos Trails regularly. And one of my favorite Saturday outings is the unique Historic Downtown Ocala with historic tours, a quaint square and fantastic local shops and restaurants. Florida is remarkable -- you can be on a tropical island or in the middle of the state and still be in paradise.
– Jessica Marr
United, by Turtles
What unites everyone –staff, visitors and volunteers alike –at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach is love for these beautiful sea turtles. There’s something about these on-the-mend creatures that make people just stare and talk to them. You really can’t control yourself–you actually hear people saying “we’re pulling for you” and “you need to get better!”This amazing place is a must-stop while visiting the Palm Beaches.
– Teri Bello-Valdes
Colors of Florida Contentment
I love Florida because... she has everything anyone needs. A warm welcoming cool ocean breeze along the Gulf Coast, or Miami nightlife. A fun week for the kids in Orlando or cozy couples times in Islamorada. But the thing I love the most, miss the most, and what is drawing me to move back to my adopted home... she is vibrant with color both figuratively and literally.
– Karen J. Moran
Can’t be Crabby in Florida
Florida is very special to me. I have taken my two grandbabies to Navarre Beach for the past six years. It’s our summer trip, and we have so much fun spending time together. It’s our special time. Snorkeling is a blast, and the watergun fight onboard the boat was so much fun! Not to mention the hermit crab race! We can’t wait to go back. Looking for crabs at night is also a favorite. I think my granddaughter was thrilled when a crab ran across her foot! 😆
– Rita Stuart
Happiness is Just a Short Trip to the Beach
Florida has been home since I was 18. I met my husband here, created a family and made St. Petersburg our home. The through-line to my whole story was the beautiful white sand beaches we’re so lucky to have on the west coast. When my family would visit, when friends would come, or on a random weekend, you would find us there. My fondest memory is taking my daughter to the beach for the first time at Anna Maria Island with my mom and mother-in-law. For us, happiness is just a short trip to the beach.
– Dulani Porter
Hours strapped in next to your loud older brother on the car ride echo a lifetime trying to stake out territory in back seats, strollers, and conversations. But finally, we're here, in a place built for us. Outside, hours of parades, pageantry, and curiosities are waiting to be explored. But first, a quiet friend patiently kneels to your level, looks you in the eyes and smiles. You're welcome to laugh, play, and say whatever you'd like. You're both just over the moon that you’ve arrived.
– Stacy Hilton
A Dream of the Dry Tortugas
Dry Tortugas National Park is secluded, accessible only by boat or airplane. It is the place I have been dreaming of for years. The turquoise water, the abundant marine life, the historic Fort Jefferson, and the perfect weather make the trip worthy and unforgettable.
– Yang Han
Unplugging on Don Pedro Island
After years of traveling from Cleveland to Florida to visit me, my parents Fred and Linda had done most of the touristy stuff – from museums to hang gliding. So when they came to celebrate my daughter Norah’s second birthday, we opted for low-key. We rented a house on secluded Don Pedro Island, where we ate breakfast on the porch, collected shells, and stayed up late playing board games. No agenda, no bedtime. To us Ohio natives, the gentle Gulf of Mexico waves, salty air, and sugary white sand felt like a warm hug that embraced our entire family.
– Dalia Colon
Delray Beach State of Mind
As a New York City transplant, most of my days are spent power-walking from A to B on routes sprinkled with daily surprises. Living in close quarters with eight million people causes magic and chaos. A consistent source of happiness for me is visiting home: Delray Beach, The village by the sea where I was born and raised always rejuvenates my soul. A spectacular sunrise, a beautiful beach, a day of great fishing turned tuna dinner, and a night out on Atlantic Avenue with cold drinks, delicious food, and close friends. Any season, any day, Delray is there for me.
- Chloë Evans-Cross
A Visit to Destin Becomes a Lifetime in Florida
Our college gang from Mississippi reached our Destin campground at dusk. We wrestled our tent upright just before a downpour. The tent leaked, turning food to soup. And six hungry, hot and sweaty bodies in a dark, damp tent wasn’t the picnic we’d envisioned. But next morning, we hit the beach. The bottle-green waves boomed to shore like timpani drums. And the sand? It squeaked with every footfall, was brilliant as ground glass, reflecting the sun so efficiently I got sunburn – under my chin. I’ve lived in The Sunshine State ever since.
– Phillip Ward
Robert is Here, and So Am I
The tropical heat of South Florida hits first as I roam the open-air market Robert is Here in Homestead. Next is the heady aroma of mangoes. I thank the weather gods for the steam because that makes the fruit grow lush and heavy on nearby trees. And that’s why I am here. For 60 years, Robert Moehling has sold fruit at this spot and for about 20 I have driven hours from my home to bring back Valencia Prides, Keitts, Florida Reds, Malikkas and, if I am lucky, silky sweet Edwards. Summer isn’t summer without a trip to Robert is Here and a freshly made mango-coconut milkshake to go with the bounty.
– Janet K. Keeler
Sailing to Contentment
I was at peace. The clear blue sky was glorious, a gentle wind filled the sails, pushing the boat silently through the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and the sensation reminded me of a bird gliding on a breeze. We were just off the coast of Marco Island on a beautiful March day, and my wife and I were taking our girls sailing on a catamaran for the first time. It warmed my heart when I looked over and saw my daughter Sasha enjoying herself, hair blowing in the wind, without a care in the world. Now she loves sailing as much as I do.
– Darron Silva
Joy Unleashed on St. George
St. George Island, in the Florida Panhandle, is a reverie of white sand, glass-green ocean, and southern sky. We have walked there often without saying a word, lost in the perfect white noise. But not this trip. Our daughter Olivia was home from two years abroad in the Peace Corps and our rescue boxer was seeing an ocean for the first time. When Indy’s paws touched sand, she sprang like Winnie the Pooh’s pal Tigger. Off they ran: Indy barking and biting the waves; Olivia hanging on for the ride and laughing at the thrill of it all.
– Kevin McGeever
Waiting for Mr. Watson
On the worn plank veranda behind Ted Smallwood’s store, looking across Chokoloskee Bay and the stipple of mangrove islets that explain why they call the southwest coast of Florida the Ten Thousand Islands, I waited for Mr. Watson. Chokoloskee islanders studied this same watery vista that day in 1910, clutching rifles, clustered around this very trading post in ominous expectation of Bloody Ed Watson. (The sugar cane magnate and suspected serial killer was the most infamous of outlaws and outcasts who found refuge in the lawless reaches of the Everglades.) Lost in history, I joined the ghosts of those vigilantes at Smallwood’s, straining to hear Watson’s skiff motoring through Rabbit Key Pass, to his appointment with frontier justice.
– Fred Grimm
St. Augustine, Family Playground
St. Augustine Beach was my playground. Now it belongs to my kids. And my boys take full advantage of its freedom. Living in Saint Augustine means weeknight beach strolls and jumping from off-duty lifeguard stands. It means watching a rehabilitated sea turtle be released back to its ocean home. And making drip castles that get renovated by each day’s changing tide... Crashing waves, a fresh sea breeze, surfing, bike riding… and bathing-suit-approved restaurants serving tasty fish tacos! It’s where everyone wants to vacation - and we get to live it!
– Janice Jones
Flight of Fancy at St. Marks
It was love at first sight. I’m a veteran birder, but nothing has made my heart thump like seeing my first vermilion flycatcher at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. I was taking my new “big girl camera” out for a spin one crisp winter day when the light was clear and perfect, and there he was in the viewfinder - a compact bundle of the most vivid red feathers I’d ever seen. Every winter since, he -- or one of his progeny -- is there, bold and glowing like an airborne ember as he skims the water hunting tiny insects. One day I came back from a hike out on the dikes to find him perched on the spare tire of my Toyota RAV-4, feathers ruffled and pecking at his rival in the back window’s reflection. He cocked a bright black eye at me and waited until I unlocked the driver’s door to fly off.
- Kati Schardl
A Californian’s Love of Florida
We both have oranges, palm trees, and sunny warm weather for the winter holidays. What makes Florida a novelty to explore, visit, and play... Passing iguanas, ibis and herons on bike rides on A1A. Frequent rains that wash and nourish the landscape. Spotting sea turtle nests on beach walks in Palm beach. Kayaking with manatees to our island campsite. Swimming in cold springs with crawfish and in the warm Atlantic Ocean. Beaches and souvenir stands for shell collections. The historic ghostly vibe of St. Augustine. Cuban food and key lime pies. Alligators, all around.
- Krystina Castella
An Unexpected Surprise
I recently visited Vero Beach, expecting to frolic in the sand and surf. Instead, I fell in love with the relaxing sanctuaries and animal conservation efforts found in Indian River County. I had no idea of the number of species living in the Indian River Lagoon. Who knew the threatened gopher tortoise could make a burrow up to 40 feet long and 10 feet deep! Spending time exploring the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the very first of its kind in the U.S, as well as the Environmental Learning Center, helped me to appreciate Florida’s natural beauty.
- Joanne Galko
Share what you love about the Sunshine State.