Top Hidden Gems Of Central Florida: Underrated Destinations To Explore

Central Florida isn’t just home to the world-famous theme parks in Orlando. The region is teeming with natural wonders, historical landmarks, and charming small towns that are often overlooked by tourists. In this article, we’ve rounded up the top hidden gems of Central Florida that are worth exploring.

Ocala National Forest

One of the best-kept secrets of Central Florida is the Ocala National Forest, the southernmost forest in the continental United States. Spanning over 600 square miles, the forest offers plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and swimming in the crystal-clear springs. The Juniper Springs Recreation Area is a particularly popular spot, featuring a natural swimming hole, a historic millhouse, and picturesque trails.

Mount Dora

Nestled on the shores of Lake Dora, the quaint town of Mount Dora is often overlooked by visitors to Central Florida. However, this charming destination is worth a day trip or weekend getaway. Stroll along the tree-lined streets, browse the antique shops, and savor the local cuisine at the numerous restaurants and cafes. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a sunset cruise on the lake, or a scenic train ride on the historic Royal Palm Railway.

Bok Tower Gardens

Located in Lake Wales, Bok Tower Gardens is a National Historic Landmark that boasts 250 acres of lush gardens, meandering pathways, and a 205-foot neo-Gothic tower that houses a carillon with 60 bells. Take a guided tour of the gardens, attend a concert or lecture, or partake in the seasonal events, such as the Spring Bloom Festival or the Holiday Home Tour.

Crystal River

Crystal River is a hidden gem of Central Florida that’s famous for one thing: manatees. The gentle sea cows flock to the warm waters of the Crystal River in the winter months, providing a unique opportunity for visitors to swim, snorkel, or kayak alongside them. The town is also home to other outdoor activities, such as fishing, boating, and biking. Make sure to visit the Three Sisters Springs, a natural sanctuary and boardwalk that offers a glimpse into the natural beauty of the area.

DeLand

DeLand is a historic town that’s often overshadowed by its neighboring city, Daytona Beach. However, this college town is rich in culture, architecture, and attractions. Stroll along the tree-lined streets, explore the many art galleries and museums, or attend a concert or play at the Stetson University School of Music. DeLand is also home to the DeLeon Springs State Park, where visitors can swim, tube, and hike in the scenic surroundings.

Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park is a true hidden gem of Central Florida that offers a glimpse into the state’s natural beauty and history. The park boasts crystal-clear springs, lush forests, and the famous glass-bottom boats that provide a unique perspective on the underwater world. Visitors can also hike, bike, or paddle along the many trails and waterways, or learn about the park’s history at the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center.

Conclusion

Central Florida is much more than just theme parks and beaches. The region is home to a wealth of hidden gems that offer a diverse range of attractions, from natural wonders and historic landmarks to charming small towns and outdoor adventures. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, make sure to add these underrated destinations to your must-see list.

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