1. Go back in time at the Pirate & Treasure Museum
The wildly entertaining Pirate & Treasure Museum in St Augustine opens a window into the golden age of piracy with a combination of interactive exhibits and precious original documents and artefacts. This high-tech tribute to the buccaneers of the Caribbean is packed with pirate memorabilia, and you even get the chance to fire a cannon (electronically). Kids will love the treasure-hunt.
Pirates Museum by Moultrie Creek Flickr (cc license)
2. Meet dolphins in the Florida Keys
For narrated behaviour sessions and educational presentations on these remarkable – and still barely understood – mammals, head to the Dolphin Research Center. This reserve in the Florida Keys provides a home to 23 dolphins and other sea mammals that cannot be re-released into the wild. Dolphins here also participate in therapeutic programmes for people with disabilities and recovering soldiers, displaying exceptional patience and gentleness from their residence in a natural seawater lagoon.
3. Spot alligators in the Everglades
Seeing alligators lazing in the sun a few feet away is well worth the long drive out. The “keepers of the Everglades”, alligators are visible throughout the national park, particularly along the Anhinga Trail during the winter, where they’re often splayed out looking like plastic props. They’re notoriously lazy, but give them a wide berth, as they can be extremely swift if provoked.
4. Hit the beach on Sanibel Island
The most family-friendly Gulf coast island has sandy beaches, fun restaurants and lots of colourful shells to collect. Despite being mobbed by tourists in high season, Sanibel also manages to retain much of its old Florida charm and boasts plenty of enticing attractions away from the sands including a wildlife refuge and some interesting museums.
Sanibel, Florida by Douglas LeMoine on Flickr (cc license)
5. Catch a circus performance in Sarasota
America’s circus capital hosts touring companies in spring and autumn, and it’s well worth catching a performance if you’re here during the season. The Walker Bros Circus is one of the most fun while you can catch the community’s youth performers, from 10- to 17-years-old, at Sailor Circus.