Florida is a big state. So big that you could literally put several other states inside Florida. To drive from the southernmost point in Key West to the city of Pensacola in Florida’s northwest it would take you 12.5 hours and 832 miles! It would be shorter to drive from Florida to Philadelphia if that puts it in perspective.
At Florida Travel Blog and other major media, we have to break the state down into regions for a better understanding of distance, geography and culture. The forests of northern Florida are nothing like the sandy shores of southwest Florida.
What Are The Parts of Florida We Call Regions
Parts are parts, right? Well not quite. Regions are parts of Florida. Some are very distinct with borders that are obvious. Other regions, or parts, may be a little harder to distinguish.
For instance, the Florida Keys are unique islands that have easily defined boundaries Those outer limits have been defined by water and tradition as Key Largo to Key West. Whereas Central Florida has no finite dimensions or borders. This part of Florida can be bigger or smaller depending on the perspective of the writer.
A town like Vero Beach on the east coast can be described as being in either Northeast Florida or Southeast. There are no magic borders here.
Regions Do Make a Difference
If you are house hunting, traveling a long distance, or trying to describe a weather event, regions or parts of Florida make a difference. People know that Central Florida is reasonably safe from the worst winds of a hurricane. If someone has a sensitivity to heat, Southeast Florida or Southwest Florida can be ruled out.
The Gulf coastal towns on Florida’s Southwest Coast generally have lighter seas than towns on the Southeast Coast and Northeast Coast. Temperatures in Northwest Florida are always several degrees lower than in southern Florida regions.
Lifestyle is a little slower in North Central Florida than in Southeast Florida. Traffic in Southwest Florida is not as congested as in Southeast Florida. Home prices in North Central Florida are less than in Northeast Florida.
These and many more differences lead to variations in how residents, media, and visitors perceive different parts of Florida. A reference to a region most frequently is a general statement as opposed to a specific adjective. about a particular city in Florida.
The Regions in Florida
Each region as outlined on the map has characteristics different from their neighboring region(s). Some may be subtle and others may contrast significantly.
Many of the major cities in Florida are pointed out on the map. In our descriptions, we have outlined more information about what you can find in each region.
Many times referred to as the “panhandle”, this fascinating region borders two other states, Alabama and Georgia. The largest city is Pensacola just across the bay from Elberta and Lillian, Alabama. Other Major metropolitan areas in this region include Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City, Panama City Beach and Port St. Joe. These big towns are not the stars of the region in our opinion.
There is a 28-mile stretch of a state-designated Florida Scenic Highway called 30-A. Scenic Highway 30-A, along the Gulf Coast, has a collection of some of the best beaches in Florida along with some of the best small towns in Florida. In the northern part of this region, there are springs, forests, and state parks on both sides of I-10 that runs through the region.
Most of the population and tourism are within a couple miles of the Gulf Coast of this region. Destin most likely gets the most tourist traffic.
The Northwest may be very close to midwest America with forests and fauna that have some similarities not found in other regions in Florida.
North Central Region
It could be argued that the North Central region of Florida is the heart of the state. Of course, Tallahassee, the capital of Florida is here but many other historical elements have occurred in this region.
Many of the towns and villages in the North Central region were initially inhabited by Native Americans. Places like Apalachicola, Tallahassee, Chattahoochee, Miccosukee and many more were Indian villages or names derived from them.
Towns like Monticello, Madison, Quincy and Branford have illustrious stories about Civil War heroics. Some of the Native Americans near Gulf Coast towns helped early settlers find ways to survive by fishing and later exporting lumber, turpentine and salt.
If you plan a visit to this scenic and rustic area you must visit places like Sochoppy, Carrabelle, Alligator Point, Panacea, Fish Creek and Steinhatchee. With names like those, you have to smile. They are as interesting as the people who live there is a lifestyle not often seen anymore. This are along the coast is also referred to as the “big bend”.
Of all the regions in Florida, there is no part of Florida that has more historical significance than the Northeast. St. Augustine, the oldest settlement in the country, has more attractions that date back to the 1700s than anywhere else in the state.
This region also has the largest city in the state of Florida, Jacksonville. Plus the Northeast Region has the most interesting island, Amelia Island.
Perhaps the most enhancing feature for most people is the 300 miles plus of shoreline and beaches along the Atlantic Ocean.
The eye-catching drive along A1A that hugs the coast is one of the best stretches of road in Florida. Places like the Palm Coast, Ormond Beach, Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, and Fernandina Beach are well-known destinations in Florida.
The major attraction in the Northeast is the entire area surrounding the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. The collective coastal designation for the islands is now called the Space Coast.
Despite all the famous places, names, islands and attractions, the Central Region in Florida gets more tourist traffic in Florida than all the other regions combined.
Orlando is the most visited destination in the country with 74 million people heading there in 2022. Of those, over 17 million went to Disney World. Tourist travel for the entire state of Florida was 137.6 million people in 2022.
As you can see from the figures above Orlando got well over half the total visitors coming to Florida. That is not to say visitors didn’t visit other parts of the state, they just started in Orlando.
Places like Kissimmee, Winter Haven, and Ocala got their share of traffic. Attractions like Universal Studios, Bok Tower. World Equestrian Center and Sebring bring people from around the world.
One of the largest communities in the Central Region, with only Orlando having more residents, is The Villages. Known as the fastest-growing community in the country, this unique retirement center of neighborhoods they call “villages” is an attraction to people from around the country.
Almost half of the total population of Florida lives in this region. Major cities along the coast include Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah, Port St. Lucie and Jupiter.
Four of the largest cities by population in Florida are in this region. In fact, the metropolitan area of Miami has over 6.14 million people. That is more than 31 of the nation’s states!
Needless to say the Southeast Region in Florida gets millions of visitors. Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale and the Everglades get a significant portion of tourists.
We cannot discount the impact of two of the largest cruise ports in the world are here. Miami and Fort Lauderdale see millions of passengers headed to worldwide destinations.
Perhaps, the passenger traffic of the cruise ships contributes to the fact that two of the busiest airports in the world are here. Miami and Fort Lauderdale International Airports combined see over 80 million passengers annually.
Many of the world’s most fabulous resorts are in this region in Florida. That includes some of the most famous names like Four Season, Ritz-Carlton, Fontainebleau, and The Miami Beach Edition – all luxury resorts.
Florida Keys Region
Many people do not consider the Florida Keys a separate region in Florida. Florida Travel Blog has documented the differences between the Keys and other parts of Florida many times but here is the short list of the unique factors;
- The Florida Keys are a chain of islands running about 125 miles southwest of the mainland. No other island(s) are that far from land.
- As islands, the Keys are completely surrounded by two different bodies of water on each side – the Gulf to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south.
- The Florida Keys have different flora, fauna and wildlife than the mainland.
- Of the 800 plus “Keys”(islands), only 42 bridges exist linking a relatively few of the islands.
- The history of the Keys is much different than that of the mainland. It is very possible that European explorers found and explored the Keys well before the continental United States.
- The way we find things in the Florida Keys is different. There is a mile marker system that identifies almost everything. Here are 133 identifying mile markers and the explanation of the system.
The names of the Florida Keys linked together include Key Largo, Tavernier, Islamorada, Indian Key, Craig Key, Duck Key, Marathon, Big Pine Key, Sugarloaf Key, Stock Island and Key West. These are the larger islands linked by bridges. The largest bridge is the seven-mile bridge on the western part of Marathon.
Of all the regions of Florida, the Southwest has many of the names you here about places to live and retire. Names like Ft. Myers, Naples, Venice, Sarasota, and Bradenton are always in the retirement community conversations.
Why do people want to retire in southwest Florida? There is no simple answer but some of the reasons are;
- Developers have targeted this area for inexpensive land to create subdivisions and lots.
- The Gulf Coast has many amenities for watersports like boating, sailing, fishing, kayaking and similar water-dependent activities.
- For the most part, these coastal areas are devoid of the big high-rise cities people want to get away from.
- Temperature is tropical year-round.
- The highway system is superb and not as congested as other parts of Florida.
In addition to the highlights above the Southwest Region of Florida has a plethora of attractions up and down the Gulf Coast. From the beautiful shores of Marco Island to the quaint Anna Maria Island there are some of the most highly-rated beaches in the country.
West Central Region
The West Central Region in Florida may be the most interesting. It may have many of the characteristics of each of the other regions in a more compact and less dense setting.
West Central Region has business center like Miami with Tampa. It has visitor-preferred spots like Central Florida with Busch Gardens and Weeki Wachee, plus some of the country’s most visited beaches like Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach.
The north part of the West Central Region has some of the characteristics of the Southwest Region with retirement communities like New Port Richey, Wesley Chapel, Temple Terrace and many more.
Crystal River area has some of the best fishing and remote wetlands like the Everglades and the Florida Keys.
Finally, this region has the same Gulf Coast as the Northwest with small towns like Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, Homosassa Springs and Gulfport that have the same appeal.
As a recent accolade, Tampa was recently named as the best city to retire in according to Leisure and Travel Magazine.
What is the Best Region in Florida
The answer to that question is much like we started. Florida is a huge state. These 8 regions in Florida can be misleading when looking at the Map of Regions in Florida.
An image doesn’t give us a perspective of distance. Therefore, what is the best region in Florida depends on what factors you choose.
Combine you preferences for waterfront or no, tropical heat or no, metropolitan feel or no, rural or no, retirement or young professionals, etc., etc.
It could be that each family, couple, or individual would have a different answer.
Where to Find Other Information About the Regions in Florida
Florida Travel Blog has hundreds of posts documenting locations in all the regions. We are one of the few Florida travel blogs that do not cover Disney and Universal. There are thousands of websites full of data about the Orlando theme parks.
We do cover coast to coast and the tip of the panhandle to the end of the Keys in Florida.
To find more specifics about the regions in the Keys or the cities therein, look to the bottom of the page for the search feature. You can also see many article titles in the dropdown boxes on the menus at the top of the page.
Originally published at https://floridatravel.blog/what-are-the-regions-in-florida-map-of-regions/