From museums to beaches, parks to small towns, Florida hosts many unique spots throughout the 67 counties. Florida Living® explores these locales.
Florida’s Forgotten Towns
Florida has always conjured images of limitless opportunities. Ever since Juan Ponce de León landed on its sandy shores almost 500 years ago, people have waxed poetic about the potential of this great state. History reveals, though, that many business tycoons, dreamers and hucksters failed here. In the latest edition of Jim Warnke’s Ghost Town Locations in Florida, he lists 350 ghost town sites in 65 of the state’s 67 counties. Other lost places, such as Rood in Palm Beach County, escaped his list.
Airboaters of the
“You here for the gar gig” asks a grizzled-face man sitting atop his Bad To the Bone airboat. In his hands is a miniature pitchfork—the weapon of choice to extract gar and mudfish from the St. Johns River. A steady stream of pickups tow their airboats to the launching area and at nightfall, when the gar gig begins, the area will experience a deafening roar that is unique to Florida and the South.
The gar gig is a contest held occasionally for airboaters. Participants pay an entry fee for various categories and the airboaters with the largest or most gar and mudfish wins the “pot.” The event is a way to clean out the trashfish of the St. Johns, but more importantly to the airboaters, it’s a time to get together with family and friends for a cookout, exchange stories, and to experience the airboating life.
New Smyrna Beach
As one of the closest beaches to Central Florida’s well-known tourist attractions, New Smyrna Beach is an ideal travel destination. Visitors revel in the freedom of the beautiful beach, as well as the richness of the town’s historical background, ecological treasures and cultural pleasures.
There’s something strangely compelling about a box of glass eyeballs.
They look at you calmly and unblinkingly, 40 of them, from a display case in the Civil War Soldiers Museum in downtown Pensacola. Once, they provided some semblance of cosmetic normalcy for 40 disfigured veterans of America’s bloodiest conflict.
It’s the presence of such artifacts as these eyes that sets the Civil War Soldiers Museum apart from many other museums focusing on this period. At those other museums, you’ll see the weapons that inflicted the horrible wounds that killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. At this museum, you’ll not only see many of these same weapons but also an unusual collection of instruments Civil War doctors used to try to ease the suffering of soldiers.
The Missions of
Most recognize Spain's importance to our state's history since it ruled Florida longer than any other modern entity—about 236 years. Fewer are aware of the role its missions played in shaping Florida. Spanish missions usually bring to mind the fine pastel masonry or adobe structures extant in California and the Southwest. Although missions were launched earlier here, most Americans still don't associate Florida with missions. This bias may stem from many of the details coming to light only recently after archaeologists began fleshing out historical records. In other words, most of the physical remains of missions lay masked by the sands of time until the past 50 years or so.