An ancient Spanish monastery, spiritualist camp, castle made entirely of coral, undersea lodge, bat tower, seven mile bridge, Navy SEAL museum and other unique curiosities can all be found in the Sunshine State for those travelers who like to stray off the beaten path. Below are 50 of the most offbeat, weird, bizarre and strange attractions in Florida:
African Queen - Key Largo, Florida The marina at the Holiday Inn Key Largo (Mile Marker 100) is home to the original boat used in the classic 1951 movie, The African Queen, which was directed by legendary director John Huston and starred Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn and Robert Morley.
Ancient Spanish Monastery - North Miami Beach, Florida Built in Segovia, Spain, in 1141, the Spanish Monastery is the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere. Newspaper tycoon, William Randolph Hearst, had the entire monastery dismantled and sent to the United States in the 1920s where it serves today as St. Bernard de Clairvaux Episcopal Church.
Big Cat Rescue - Tampa, Florida The world's largest big cat rescue and sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue is home to lions, tigers, cougars, leopards, bobcats, ocelots, servals, lynx, caracals and other exotic cats. Guided educational tours of Big Cat Rescue are available.
Blue Hole - Big Pine Key, Florida The largest body of fresh water in the Florida Keys, the Blue Hole is an old rock quarry created during the construction of the Florida East Coast Railway, according to legend. Today, the Blue Hole is home to alligators, turtles, fish, ducks and a variety of wading birds. The Blue Hole is located at Mile Marker 30.5 (bayside).
Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum - Jupiter, Florida A monument to actor Burt Reynolds' massive ego, the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum contains a collection of awards and memorabilia from his movie and TV career.
Butterfly World - Coconut Creek, Florida
One of South Florida's top tourist destinations, Butterfly World is the world's largest butterfly aviary - home to more than 80 butterfly species and 5,000 butterflies.
Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp - Cassadaga, Florida A Historic Spiritualist Camp founded in 1894, Cassadaga is the oldest active religious community in the Southeastern United States and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Christ of the Deep - Key Largo, Florida
The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, "America's First Undersea Park," is home to the famous nine-foot-tall bronze "Christ of the Deep" statue, which lies 25 feet beneath the ocean in the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary.
Citrus Tower - Clermont, Florida Although these days you will definitely view more subdivisions than citrus trees, you can still ride the elevator to an observation deck 226 feet above the rolling hills of Clermont for a spectacular glimpse of the surrounding area.
Coral Castle - Homestead, Florida How did one individual endeavor to procure and sculpt more than 1,100 tons of coral rock into a “fantasy world carved out of stone” using only homemade tools? The secrets still lie within Coral Castle, "America's Stonehenge," the bizarre masterpiece of obsessive genius Ed Leedskalnin, which was built over a 28-year period.
Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park - Gainesville, Florida A National Natural Landmark, Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park boasts a 120-foot-deep sinkhole that is accessible from a stairway leading to a lush, "miniature rain forest." The premises include a visitors center and hiking trails.
Dinosaur World - Plant City, Florida A unique outdoor museum, Dinosaur World is billed as the "world's largest dinosaur attraction." Highlights include life-size dinosaur replicas, caves, hands-on activities, fossil dig area, educational exhibits, gift shop and more.
Dry Tortugas National Park - Key West, Florida About 70 miles West of Key West lies Dry Tortugas National Park, which is home to historic Fort Jefferson. Dry Tortugas National Park is accessible only by boat, ferry or seaplane.
Flipper's Grave - Grassy Key, Florida Grassy Key in the Florida Keys is home to the Dolphin Research Center, which also serves as the final resting place for the original "Flipper" (real name: Mitzi), the most famous dolphin in film and TV history. Mitzi is buried in the Center's courtyard.
Gatorland - Orlando, Florida Billed as the "Alligator Capital of the World," Gatorland features such lively shows as the world-famous Gator Jumparoo, Jungle Crocs of the World, Gator Wrestlin' Show and Up Close Animal Encounters, as well as the Gator Gully Splash Park, petting zoo, aviary, train ride and more.
Holy Land Experience - Orlando, Florida A "living, biblical history museum," Holy Land Experience allows visitors to meet interesting biblical characters in authentic costumes, view a fascinating collection of antiquities and explore the ancient architecture of biblical Jerusalem.
Jackie Gleason's Mausoleum - Miami, Florida An immense outdoor mauseoleum at the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in Miami serves as the final resting place for Jackie Gleason, who will always be remembered for his role as Ralph Kramden in "The Honeymooners." The only inscription on the mausoleum is Gleason's signature parting lines: "And Away We Go."
Jesus Film Project - Orlando, Florida The two-hour docudrama, Jesus, has been viewed by approximately 5 billion people around the world since making its debut in 1979. Learn all about the "most widely viewed film in history" at the Jesus Film Project's master studio, which is located at the World Headquarters of Campus Crusade for Christ.
Jules' Undersea Lodge - Key Largo, Florida The only underwater hotel in the United States, Jules' Undersea Lodge lies approximately 30 feet beneath the sea and guests have to scuba dive to reach the two-bedroom habitat.
Jungle Adventures - Christmas, Florida A 20-acre wildlife sanctuary, Jungle Adventures is home to alligators, bears, deer, bobcats, panthers, crocodiles, monkeys, snakes and turtles. View alligator feedings and wildlife shows, take a jungle cruise and visit a Native American Village.
Key West Cemetery - Key West, Florida Opened in 1847, the historic Key West Cemetery is home to a monument for sailors who died during the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in 1898, as well as a number of quirky inscriptions such as "I Told You I Was Sick" and "Devoted Fan of Julio Iglesias."
Monkey Jungle - Miami, Florida Visit Monkey Jungle - "Where Humans are Caged and Monkeys Run Wild!" One of the few protected habitats for endangered primates in the country, Monkey Jungle is home to more than 400 primates that run free on a 30-acre reserve. A total of 30 primate species are represented here such as spider monkeys, colobus, gibbons and guenons.
Monument to the States - Kissimmee, Florida Begun in 1942, the 50-foot-tall Monument to the States lies in downtown Kissimmee and consists of more than 1,500 fossils and rocks from every state, as well as more than 20 countries.
Mulberry Phosphate Museum - Mulberry, Florida Mulberry is known as the "Phosphate Capital of the World" and the Mulberry Phosphate Museum features an incredible colleciton of fossils and exhibits that document the town's role in the phosphate industry.
National Key Deer Refuge - Big Pine Key, Florida A 8,542-acre National Wildlife Refuge that lies on Big Pine Key and No Name Key in the Florida Keys, the National Key Deer Refuge serves as the home of the endangered Key Deer, as well as nearly two dozen other threatened and endangered plant and animal species.
Navy SEAL Museum - Fort Pierce, Florida The Navy SEAL Museum is the world's only museum dedicated exclusively to "the elite warriors of Naval Special Warfare."
Old Jail - St. Augustine, Florida The entire family will enjoy a guided tour through this 1891 jail, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse - St. Augustine, Florida Built in the early 1700s and located near the famous St. Augustine City Gates, the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse contains a variety of unique artifacts and displays.
Paynes Prairie State Park -Micanopy, Florida Paynes Prairie is notable for its outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities such as bison, alligators, cracker horses and cattle, sandhill cranes and more than 270 bird species.
Perky's Bat Tower - Sugarloaf Key, Florida Built in 1929 by Florida Keys entrepreneur, Richter Perky, as a way to attract mosquito-eating bats, Perky's Bat Tower never attracted any bats but today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Potter's Wax Museum - St. Augustine, Florida Billed as "America's first and finest wax museum," Potter's wax museum is nestled in historic St. Augustine and features more than 160 wax figures of such celebrities and historical figures as Albert Einstein, Julius Caesar, Tiger Woods, Princess Diana, Michael Jordan, Johnny Depp and even a bald Britney Spears!
Reptile World Serpentarium - St. Cloud, Florida The Reptile World Serpentarium houses more than 50 species of snakes from all over the world such as the Australian taipan, king cobra and East African green mamba. Venom shows take place twice daily.
Ripley's Believe It Or Not! - Orlando, Florida View such oddities as a Rolls Royce made from a million matchsticks, two-headed calf, shrunken head, four-eyed man, cannibal dinosaur, Mona Lisa made out of toast, Egyptian mummy, Van Gogh portrait made from 3,000 postcards and a piece of the Berlin Wall at the Orlando Odditorium, which appears like it is being slowly devoured by an immense sinkhole!
Ron Jon Surf Shop - Cocoa Beach, Florida Open 24 hours a day, Ron Jon Surf Shop is a massive 52,000-square-foot, multilevel specialty store that features surfboards, clothing and surf-related souvenirs, as well as live music, demonstrations and autograph sessions.
Salvador Dali Museum - St. Petersburg, Florida
Nestled in downtown St. Petersburg (of all places!), the Salvador Dali Museum boasts the most comprehensive collection of permanent works by the famous surrealist painter such as "The Hallucinogenic Toreador" and "The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus."
Seven Mile Bridge - Marathon Key, Florida A masterpiece of engineering, the Seven Mile Bridge was constructed between 1979 and 1982 on the Overseas Highway and serves to connect the Middle Keys (Marathon Key) to the Lower Keys (Little Duck Key). For the record, the actual length of the Seven Mile Bridge is 6.79 miles.
Solomon's Castle - Ona, Florida
Internationally known sculptor, Howard Solomon, created this unique medieval-style fortress to house his extensive artwork. Guided tours of Solomon's Castle are available. The premises also include the Boat in the Moat Restaurant.
Southernmost Point - Key West, Florida A huge buoy-like structure at the corner of Whitehead and South streets in Key West supposedly marks the "Southernmost Point in the United States," which is only 90 miles North of Cuba.
Spook Hill - Lake Wales, Florida Park your car at the bottom of this "gravity-defying hill" in Lake Wales and it will appear to roll up the hill. Is it an optical illusion or some kind of mystical occurrence?
St. Augustine Alligator Farm - St. Augustine, Florida View Maximo the Giant Crocodile (15 feet and 3 inches long, 1,250 pounds) at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, which also features wildlife shows, nature habitats, albino alligators and much more.
Titanic: The Experience - Orlando, Florida The world's first permanent Titanic exhibition features a full-scale re-creation of the Titanic's Grand Staircase and incredible stories of the passengers and crew who survived the tragedy, as well as more than 250 Titanic artifacts and memorabilia from the 1997 Oscar-winning movie, Titanic.
Venetian Pool - Coral Gables, Florida Surrounded by Venetian-style architecture and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Venetian Pool is a 820,000-gallon pool that was carved out of a coral rock quarry in 1923. It features a variety of waterfalls, caves, grottos and a diving platform.
Water Ski Hall of Fame & Museum - Polk City, Florida View the first pair of water skis and other rare artifacts and memorabilia that document the history of waterskiing at the Water Ski Hall of Fame & Museum, which also contains a resource center and audiovisual library.
Weeki Wachee Springs - Weeki Wachee, Florida Established in 1947, Weeki Wachee Springs still features its ever-popular live mermaid shows, as well as a state-of-the-art waterpark called Buccaneer Bay and sightseeing boat tours.
WonderWorks - Orlando, Florida Experience an earthquake, lie on a bed of nails, design your own roller coaster and immerse yourself in virtual reality fun at WonderWorks - "Orlando's only upside-down attraction!"
World Chess Hall of Fame - Miami, Florida Learn about some of the most famous chess players in history such as Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky at the World Chess Hall of Fame, which also features fascinating chess exhibits and artifacts.
World Erotic Art Museum - Miami Beach, Florida The World Erotic Art Museum boasts an extensive collection of more than 4,000 artifacts that comprehensively document the history of eroticism from 200 B.C. until today.
World's Largest Drive-In - Sunrise, Florida Open since 1963, the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop boasts the largest drive-in movie theater and daily flea market in the world.
World's Largest Entertainment McDonald's & PlayPlace - Orlando, Florida In addition to offering a unique menu that includes gourmet sandwiches and desserts, this two-story McDonald's offers a 25,000-square-foot play area, as well as more than 60 arcade games. It is located just off world-famous International Drive.
World's Smallest Police Station - Carrabelle Basically a phone booth, the World's Smallest Police Station was built in the early '60s to accommodate the one police office in Carrabelle, population 1,800. It's worth the photo opportunity if you ever find yourself driving aimlessly through Florida's panhandle.
Westgate Resorts offers spacious, comfortable and affordable accommodations that provide convenient access to Florida attractions. For more information about Westgate Resorts, visit www.westgatedestinations.com.
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