Travel Guide to Florida

A World of Natural Wonders and Adventures

- BY STEVE WINSTON

Northwest Florida encompasse­s 10 counties, ranging from historical fishing villages in the east to the renowned sugar-white sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Here, where high-rises and crowds don’t exist, walkable small towns with friendly people and interestin­g shops still thrive.

Mother Nature has blessed this region everywhere you look. Play golf on a beautifull­y manicured course in the morning, and paddle or hike through virgin wilderness and unique ecosystems in the afternoon. Roam through towns like Apalachico­la or Marianna, where history lives on in classic old buildings. Or let the gentle breeze embrace you as you lounge on the worldfamou­s beaches of South Walton.

Explore crystal-clear natural springs— 68°F year-round—at Ponce de Leon Springs State Park or Merritt’s Mill Pond by boat or on a snorkeling or swimming excursion. Survey nature from the bluffs at Torreya State Park in Liberty County. In fact, a dozen state parks here offer camping, on both coastal and inland sites, where you can get up close and personal with Florida wildlife.

At Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, explore an amazing subterrane­an system of caves featuring incredible rock formations and green ponds. Hike a beautiful trail to the waterfalls at Falling Waters State Park in Chipley or along any of the two dozen other trails in Northwest Florida.

Observe dolphins rollicking in the Gulf of Mexico surf from the numerous white-sand beaches or sand dunes along the coast, or on board one of many fishing boats or charters. Try your hand at paddleboar­ding, surfboardi­ng, kayaking or rowing.

For divers, there are a half-dozen watery caves and offshore artificial reefs to explore. And fishing, both inland along the tributarie­s of the Apalachico­la and Choctawhat­chee rivers and on the Gulf, has been popular here for generation­s.

Take time to cruise the country roads and discover scenic little towns filled with one-of-a-kind shops and locally owned restaurant­s serving Southern and coastal cuisine. Local specialtie­s include grouper throats, boiled peanuts and oysters. Also capturing the region’s Southern heritage are beautiful old mansions such as the plantation-style Governor A.K. Allison House (circa 1843) in Quincy.

Northwest Florida is packed with stunning natural beauty, amusements for the entire family, restaurant­s featuring down-home cookin’ and plain old-fashioned enjoyment!

 ??  ?? SOUTH WALTON • EXPLORE NORTHWEST FLORIDA
SOUTH WALTON • EXPLORE NORTHWEST FLORIDA
 ??  ?? SUNSET SAIL, ST. ANDREWS BAY • EXPLORE NORTHWEST FLORIDA
SUNSET SAIL, ST. ANDREWS BAY • EXPLORE NORTHWEST FLORIDA

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