|Florida is the most southeastern state of
the USA. The state capital is Tallahassee. Florida’s population is16
Miami: Population: 600,000 in the City of Miami, and in Greater Miami 2.1
million. Half of Miami's population is Hispanic.
11 million tourists visit the city every year.
Everglades: Everglades National Park is known for both temperate and
tropical plant communities, including sawgrass prairies, mangrove and
||At one time, Florida, “The Sunshine State”, was the holiday haunt of the
well-heeled and famous. In the late 1800s, as investments were made in
hotels and railways, tourism in Florida began to flourish. The railways and
the arrival of motor vehicles made Florida accessible for people from far
away. Thousands of tourists flocked to Florida in the early 1900s, putting
it firmly on the tourist map. To holiday in Florida was however still
expensive and many visitors brought their own provisions. These travellers
were dubbed “tin-can tourists”.
Tourism expanded considerably with the dawn
of airline travel in the 1930s, and today Florida is a popular holiday
destination for people from all over the world. The state has basically two
seasons, wet and dry. Most visitors come in the winter for the warmth and
sunshine. The summer (May to October) is hot and sticky, with rain storms
most afternoons and mosquitoes more abundant. However Disney’s ‘Magic
Kingdom’ and other theme parks around Orlando have managed to make Florida
more of a year round destination.
The Keys: Florida Keys is a 120 mile long chain of islands about an hour
from Miami by car. These paradise islands are linked to the mainland by the
Florida Turnpike at Key Largo, and from there all the way to Key West the
scenic highway has been designated “An All-American Road”, the only one in
Florida. Not surprisingly most activities around these beautiful islands
centre on the sea, with boating, scuba diving and game fishing pre-eminent.
It is claimed that more world records for game fish have been established
among the Keys than anywhere else in the world. The writer Ernest Hemingway
was a resident on Key West who managed to combine writing with his passion
for fishing in his novel “The Old Man and the Sea”. His home for ten years
is now open to the public.
The Panhandle: In the north west of Florida a narrow 200 mile long strip of
land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico has long been known
as “The Panhandle” because of its shape on the map. Previously an area of
farming, forestry and industry, mass tourism became more important in the
second half of the 20th century, until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off
Pensacola Beach threatened the tourism and fishing industries. However the
‘Emerald Coast’ of The Panhandle is still known for its sparkling beaches
and quaint beach towns. In addition to the many water-based activities,
nightlife is a speciality of the Panhandle, including the largest night club
in the US, the Club La Vela.
Florida: the hurricane state?
Hurricanes and Florida used to go together – up to 2005, 114 hurricanes
had hit Florida in the previous 160 years. BUT Florida then went over
ten seasons without a hurricane hitting land in the state, and the one
that did hit in 2016 was soon downgraded to a tropical storm. During the
decade from 2005, 66 Atlantic Hurricanes passed the so-called hurricane
state by – hence the question mark in the title. However, it is still
true that more hurricanes hit Florida than any other state of the USA.
What is a hurricane?
During mid-August to late October, energy from warm tropical oceans with
surface temperatures above 26.5 degrees Celsius causes disturbances
known as tropical depressions. These are giant spiralling storms with
wind speeds above 74 miles (119 km) an hour, spinning round a low
pressure centre known as the eye of the storm. All people can do to
protect themselves is get out of the storm’s way, either by evacuating
the threatened area or going to a shelter, which is why forecasting and
classification is so important.
What is the difference between a hurricane, a cyclone, a typhoon and a
The first three are just alternative names used in various parts of the
world for the same thing. A tornado is rather different: it is a column
of rapidly spinning air, associated with thunder storms mostly in the
great plains states like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Tornados
can do a lot of damage: the strongest category tornado will take
buildings off their foundations and deposit debris miles away. There are
two different speeds that need to be considered: the wind speed of the
rotation, and the forward movement of the tornado across the ground. In
most tornados the rotation wind speed is less than 110 mph (180 km/h),
and forward speed is under 70mph (112 km/h). However the most violent
tornado ever measured had a wind speed of over 300 mph (484 km/h) at
Bridge Creek-Moore in Oklahoma. The record for the longest path of a
tornado is 219 miles (352km) recorded in the Tri-State tornado of 1925.
To travel that far took the tornado three and a half hours, at the
relatively slow speed (compared to the rotation) of 73mph (117km/h).
How are hurricanes measured?
Hurricanes are classified according to their wind speed: 5 is the
highest category, having wind speeds above 155 miles per hour; category
1 means winds between 74 and 95 mph/ The stronger the wind, the more
damage it is going to do. The calculation of wind strength is partly
carried out by flying special planes with electronic equipment through
the eye of the storm.
And where do they get their names?
From 1953 until 1978, hurricanes were only given women’s names, for some
reason, but since 1979 men’s and women’s names have alternated. The
names are chosen by the World Meteorological Organization, and they go
in alphabetical order, so the first four Atlantic hurricanes of 2015,
for example, were Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny and Erica. The names of
the worst hurricanes (measured by the damage they do) are not used
again; the others can come round again after six years.
Some of the worst hurricanes in recent years have been category 4
Andrew, in 1992, and category 4 Charley in 2004. The last bad hurricane
to affect Florida was Wilma in 2005, which was category 3.
What are the main dangers?
If you are by the sea coast, the biggest danger could be from a storm
surge in the form of a wave up to 20 feet (6 metres) higher than usual;
these surges cause 90% of the human deaths from hurricanes. Then there
are the strong winds, which could blow you over or cause you to be hit
by flying debris. Houses often collapse onto their occupants and trees
can be blown down and cars turned over. A hurricane can dump over two
trillion gallons of water onto the land in a single day, causing floods
What to do in a hurricane
Hurricane forecasting in Florida is now fairly sophisticated so you will
usually get a warning and may be told by the authorities to evacuate the
area. You should stay away from the coast and low-lying areas, and leave
mobile homes and go to shelters provided. Most people in hurricane-prone
areas like Florida will have evacuation routes planned and an emergency
kit which they can grab on leaving home. This should contain canned food
and bottled water, a radio with good batteries and one or more torches,
some clothes and money, and a first aid kit.
Miami, in the south east of the state of Florida is a major city and
international hub. A lot of Cubans settled there after the
Castro/Guevara revolution in Cuba, and the influence of that Caribbean
island is evident in the city. Most tourists, however, head for the more
glamorous Miami Beach, which not only has art deco buildings and beaches
of white sand, but also famous hotels, some of them the last word in
luxury, right by the sea.
The Loews Miami Beach Hotel on South Beach, for example, is a beachfront
Art Deco hotel in an 18 storey tower for a wide range of guests,
including business men and families with children and even pets, who
have their own special room service (there is a charge). Also on South
Beach is the Dorchester Hotel and Suites – a famous name, but this one
is only 3-star. It is situated in the heart of Miami Beach, but the
shore is only a 4 minute walk away. There are 127 rooms and a café,
fitness room and launderette for guest use.
Then on Ocean Drive, still in the Art Deco area, there is the Celino
Hotel which advertises sporting activities, but doesn’t allow pets. In
addition to their outdoor pool and fitness centre, they have negotiated
reduced rates at a nearby health club. Water skiing, surfing,
snorkelling, sailing and windsurfing can all be arranged, and there is
access to a nearby golf course. Also on Ocean Drive, at the northern
end, is the renovated historic hotel called The Betsy. Its 61 rooms are
just two minutes’ walk from the beach, and if you don’t feel like
walking that far there are great views of the ocean from the rooftop
lounge. This is America: you will find orchids in your room and a steak
house in the hotel lobby. Another hotel in the Art Deco part is Casa
Claridges in Faena Miami Beach, housed in a grand, colonial style
building with Mediterranean themed décor. The 51 rooms have Spanish
tiles on the floor and some rooms have a balcony. Executive Studios have
a bed for a child and a Queen Room has two queen sized beds. Other
choices are a Queen Studio Suite, King Room and Large King Room.
The Colony Hotel and Cabana Club occupies a landmark building in Delray
Beach. This is a historic Florida Hotel, built in 1926, but guests will
find there is nothing out of date about the facilities in its 70 rooms,
which are a mixture of singles and doubles. This is in an area of bars
and restaurants, so not the place to choose if you wish to avoid the
nightlife. During the day free access to the private beach for hotel
guests is through the Cabana Club. The family-run hotel prides itself on
being Green, and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. Another
well-known Miami Beach hotel, The Shelborne Beach Resort, has been owned
and run by the same family for over 70 years. Recently refurbished to
take it up-market, it features crystal chandeliers in the lobby, and
rooms decorated in black, white and grey, with the TV concealed in a
mirror wall. There are 20 apartments and studios to choose from.
Just minutes from downtown Miami itself you will find a totally
different environment on Key Biscayne, a five mile long island forming
part of a protective barrier to the Florida mainland. Here on this
tropical island stands the luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel, with miles of
golden beaches and activities for recreation when relaxation becomes a
little too much on its own. The choice of rooms includes Ocean Front
View and King or Double with Partial Ocean View.
On another of the islands, Key West, there are two more historic hotels,
the Marquesa Hotel and the Key Lime Inn. The Marquesa is a converted
1884 property of 4 buildings of clapboard and outside staircases with
balconies leading to the rooms. The lush garden has two swimming pools.
The great news is that you don’t need your car: everything is within
walking distance. The boutique hotel called Key Lime Inn is equally
historic in the centre of the Old Town. Its 37 rooms designed for
couples are in several buildings dated 1854 in the tropical gardens, and
the large heated pool is surrounded by palm trees. This is the hotel
that offers a quiet retreat for guests looking for some peace.
Another well-known hotel but with lots of options for activity is the
276 room Biltmore in the historic resort of Coral Gables. Their list of
sports facilities is impressive: floodlit tennis courts, a fitness
centre, an outdoor pool and an 18-hole golf course, all set in 150 acres
(60 hectares) of the hotel’s own tropical grounds. The Edgewater Hotel
is a small 2-star B+B with 15 rooms in a historic building in the resort
of Winter Garden. All the rooms are air conditioned and with cable TV,
and the hotel offers free parking. There is a choice of Standard, King
and Queen Rooms, and some family rooms. Don’t be misled by the hotel’s
name: Winter Garden is not on the coast and the hotel has no pool.
Monica is quite a popular girls’ name in Spanish, and The Casa Monica
Resort and Spa in St Augustine is described by many travellers as
‘beautiful’. It is also historic, which is not an epithet that many
girls would welcome having applied to them! The architecture is in the
Moorish style, and dates back to 1888. There is a heated outdoor pool,
and guests in the 124 rooms are served a Spanish style menu in the
hotel’s Casa Monica Restaurant. For snacks and drinks there is the Café
Cordova and Cobalt cocktail lounge. Most attractions are a short drive
Finally, one of the grandest-looking hotel complexes in Miami is the
Trump National Doral, a resort with something of the grandeur of The
White House about its architecture. No fewer than 4 golf courses and 3
restaurants serve the guests in its 613 rooms. There’s an outdoor pool
with a 125 foot (38 metre) slide, and even the Spa is big at 48,000 sq
ft (14,630 sq metres).