I doubt there are many places on planet Earth that feel quite like Florida city. This is the southernmost city in the United States, not on an island.
Florida City is the final stop before US 1 takes to the water and visits the Keys. By the highway are shopping centers, charming roadside attractions, eateries, and plenty of lodging.
The feeling that you’re at the very edge of civilization is even stronger because this is also the southern gateway to the Everglades, while Biscayne National Park can be accessed to the east.
It’s the kind of spot where you can do an airboat tour, followed by some outlet shopping, and an afternoon of snorkeling.
1. Everglades National Park
Driving west on the Ingraham Highway, you’ll come across an understated sign announcing your entrance to the Everglades National Park.
I’m not sure anyone can pass this point and not feel a little thrill. You’re now in the largest tropical wilderness, and the third largest national park in the contiguous United States.
The next stop is the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, which I’ll come to a little later in this list. From here you can continue driving to the far southern tip of Florida at Flamingo.
More local, the trailhead for the Pinelands area is about 15 minutes by road from Florida City, and has a vast, undisturbed slash pine environment to be explored.
Open from November to the end of April, the Lone Key Pine Campground here is run by Flamingo Adventures. Another local stop, ideal for anyone pushed for time, is the Royal Palm Information Station and Bookstore, offering enlightening ranger-led walks and talks.
2. Florida Keys Outlet Marketplace
This outlet mall is an opportunity for travelers to the Keys and Everglades to grab some bargains.
A typical open-air center, the Florida Keys Outlet Mall has Mediterranean Revival architecture, little formal gardens, and swaying palms.
In this setting you can browse more than 50 individual outlets selling everything from housewares and kids’ stuff, clothes, and accessories.
A few of the brands I saw were Nike, Under Armor, Guess, Converse, Skechers, Puma, Levi’s, American Eagle, and Crocs. The dining selection was a little limited when I came, but there’s a lot of options up and down US 1.
3. Florida Pioneer Museum
Not to be confused with the similarly named museum in Dade City, this museum tells the story of the people who settled South Dade at the turn of the 20th century.
The building itself is testament to this history. This is a cottage built in 1904 by the Florida East Coast Railway during its expansion south to Key West. It was home to the station agent, and was turned into a museum in 1962.
The interior is furnished as it would have been in the early 20th century. Among the objects on show are tools such as kitchen equipment, agricultural tools, early telephones, and an Edison phonograph.
I was especially absorbed by the display of Native American artifacts, while there are also compelling exhibits for the railroad.
4. Downtown Homestead
You could ride or walk the South Dade Trail, and get to a vibrant old downtown in a matter of minutes. Homestead’s central business district was first developed in the 1920s, and had recently been given a facelift when I took a look.
What I found was an attractive Historic District, with shopping, dining, walkability, and a smattering of historic buildings. A cornerstone is the beautiful Seminole Theater. This venue dates to 1921, but was given a Streamline Moderne design in the late 1930s.
The building is now a performing arts hub, in the heart of downtown. There’s outdoor entertainment at the picturesque Losner Park here, as well as movies at the ten-screen ShowBiz Cinemas multiplex.
5. Robert is Here
Moments west in Homestead, this family-owned fruit stand has been on the map since 1960. Over time the business has evolved into a full-fledged attraction, where families can stretch their legs.
Robert is Here still sells a variety of produce, along with specialty items like honey, guac, BBQ sauce, and salsas.
For me, the milkshake/smoothie counter would be worth the stop alone. These are made on the spot and are free of any kind of artificial flavors or coloring.
There’s a petting zoo too, with cows, goats, chickens, and tortoises, and you can purchase feed for these tame animals.
6. Biscayne National Park
Accessed a few miles east of Florida City, Biscayne National Park is one of South Florida’s great natural properties, made up almost entirely of ocean and barrier reefs.
Much of the mainland shoreline is a maze of inlets and mangrove forests that are vital to protecting the coast from erosion. They’re home to a fantastic variety of animal species as well, and can be explored in the company of expert naturalists.
Due to its aquatic nature, the park is best experienced on a guided visit, whether you’re paddling, fishing, snorkeling, or diving. There’s a massive choice of options available, departing from Homestead Marina.
7. Homestead-Miami Speedway
Though not quite as famous as Daytona Speedway, this 1.5-mile oval is still a famed NASCAR Cup Series stop. Race fans from all over the country head here for October’s Dixie Vodka 400.
It’s the culmination of NASCAR Weekend, and is preceded on the Saturday by decisive NASCAR Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series events.
If you can snag a ticket, this is a truly remarkable racing experience, but there’s almost always something happening at Homestead Miami-Speedway. When I went to press there were nearly 300 days of events and activities.
Another reason to come is to take the wheel on a NASCAR Racing Experience, or enjoy high-speed action on a smaller scale at the AMR Motorplex karting facility.
8. Fruit & Spice Park
Devoted to agricultural cultivars, this botanical garden is the only one of its kind in the United States.
On nearly 40 acres the Fruit & Spice Park grows more than 500 varieties of exotic fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices.
One of many things I adore about this place is that you can try the park’s produce. Picking from the trees is not allowed, but you’re free to try anything that has recently fallen.
For instance, at the peak of mango season, around July, the ground is littered with perfect rip fruit. My tip is to bring a knife and paper towels.
You can take part in a range of guided tours, while there’s also a shop selling tropical snacks, plant seeds, and items for the home.
9. Everglades Alligator Farm
South of Florida City at the entrance to the national park, there’s an attraction dating back more than 40 years.
Everglades Alligator Farm specializes in airboat rides in the Everglades, while keeping some 2,000 alligators. This is touted as South Florida’s oldest and largest alligator farm. One detail I like is that they don’t kill or sell alligators for meat.
There are shows throughout the day, showing off alligator handling skills. I also took part in an on-site tour, feeding gators and holding a three-footer.
Airboat rides are available with a package ticket, and you’ll get to zoom through the sawgrass for around half an hour. You can also opt for an extended private tour, and these are recommended for large groups.
10. Homestead Bayfront Park
In Florida City you’re minutes from not one but two national parks. A short drive east will bring you to the shores of Biscayne Bay.
Homestead Bayfront Park is next to the park headquarters, and the marina here is the springboard for diving expeditions and eco-cruises.
As well as being a gateway, the park is a stunning hangout. There’s a man-made atoll pool on the bay, and refreshed by the tides. Traced by a white sandy beach, this is a pocket-sized piece of tropical paradise.
Head for the Dante Fascell Visitor Center to plan your adventure, while the La Playa Grill is a lively beachside seafood spot.
11. Everglades Outpost
This non-profit wildlife sanctuary takes in injured and sick animals to rehabilitate them and return them back to the wild. Meanwhile, animals that can’t be released—including a lot of exotic species—are given homes here.
So visiting the Everglades Outpost you’ll see animal conservation in action, while getting a rare up-close look at South Florida’s most famous species.
You can visit for a guided tour, meeting a few of the animals, and finding out about stories and needs. I saw a panther, a zebra, parrots, a camel, a lemur, and several wolves.
There are also public demonstrations, where you might get to feed alligators or hold non-venomous snakes.
12. Exit One Taproom
The continental United States’ southernmost taproom is in Florida City, and opened for business in 2018.
The first thing I noticed about Exit One Taproom was the mind-boggling choice, with 50 bottled and canned craft beers, and another 19 on tap.
These come from mostly local, small-batch breweries. The aim of Exit One Taproom is to celebrate these unique beers, and share their stories with guests.
Exit One Taproom is affiliated with the local Prison Pals brewery, based in Oakland Park, FL. A few of the beers on draft during my visit were King and Queen (IPAs), Verano (Pink Lager), a choice of Sours, and Mothers Milk Imperial Stout, which I loved.
There are plenty of board games in the taproom, as well as a pool tables, while food trucks show up most nights.
13. Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
An excellent first port of call in the Everglades, this visitor center is 15 minutes from Florida, at the Homestead entrance to the national park.
Open 365 days a year, this is where you can attune yourself to the Everglades, and everything they offer. The center has educational displays about the national park’s many habitats, as well as educational films, brochures, and a lot more.
Best of all are the park rangers, happy to share information, from directions to the safest way to spot alligators.
You can also pick up important supplies—I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure you have insect repellent, and this is available here.
14. The Coral Castle Museum
Another essential attraction in nearby Homestead is a mysterious ensemble of carvings made by one local man, the Latvian-American, Edward Leedskalnin (1887-1951).
Some of the coral blocks used to construct the castle weigh multiple tons. So nobody’s quite sure how the man moved them, especially since he is thought to have worked alone.
Of course, in these circumstances it’s common for people to claim he had divine or extraterrestrial help. Still, I can’t deny that it’s an amazing place that’s worthy of a few hours of your time.
A standout feature is the perfectly balanced revolving gate, weighing nine tons, but turning with a light push.
15. Mayor Roscoe Warren Municipal Park
The largest public park in the area is this pleasing green space a couple of minutes away in Homestead.
Mayor Roscoe Warren Municipal Park is a well-appointed active space, with amenities for volleyball, basketball, and soccer.
Perhaps most impressive is the children’s playground, which is unusually large. Meanwhile, weaving throughout the grounds is a paved trail, with a series of exercise stations.
I saw at least half a dozen picnic shelters here, as well as grills for cookouts. Also special was the dog park, which had agility equipment and was divided between larger and smaller dogs.