When I hear the word mythical or legendary, many things come to mind – castles, unknown creatures, and very old, historic places. While the US isn’t old in the sense of centuries old monuments and places like Stonehenge, we still have our share of awe-inspiring and cool places. Florida is no exception. As a native Floridian, I can say there’s more things to do in Florida than just beaches; while our sunny state may often feel like a haven full of only white sand and sparkling oceans, we also have an amazing array of beautiful things to do in Florida that sound like they’re straight out of legends and stories.
8 Mythical & Legendary Things to Do in Florida
The Fountain of Youth
Probably the most legendary of places in Florida is The Fountain of Youth. Located in St. Augustine, Florida, The Fountain of Youth is a spring that is said to restore the youth of anyone who drinks from or bathes in its waters. Stories of such a fountain have been told throughout the world for thousands of years, but the stories are now most heavily associated with Juan Ponce de Leon. The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is located where Ponce de León is traditionally said to have landed in Florida.
Coral Castle is an interesting place. Located in Leisure City, Florida, Coral Castle is a stone structure created by the Latvian-American Edward Leedskalnin. Although not quite a castle, it was originally built in Florida City, Florida in 1923 before he moved it by himself with only a truck 10 miles north to where it is currently located. According to the pamphlets handed out at Coral Castle, Edward was rejected by his 16-year-old fiancé and so he built this “castle” in honor of her. There are many theories on how it was built as no one claims to have seen him work on the castle and considering some of these megalithic stones weigh several tons and Edward, a 5’1″, 100lb. man built it by himself, it’s quite impressive regardless of how it was constructed.
Devil’s Den is located in Williston, Florida. It’s an underground spring located in a dry cave. The water is a constant 72F degrees and on cold mornings you can see steam rising out of it. This steam is what caused early settlers to name this area Devil’s Den since it resembled the smoke rising from a chimney, presumably the chimney of Hell. This spot was also home to many now extinct animal fossils dating back to the Pleistocene Age as well as human remains dated to about 7,500 BC, which can all be seen at The University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park, located in Gainesville, Florida is a 120 foot deep and 500 foot wide sinkhole. It’s shaped like the hopper of a mill and since it was filled with fossilized bones, it got the name Devil’s Millhopper – because it was sending the feed down the hopper all the way to the Devil’s mill at the center of the Earth. There are 12 springs that feed the pond at the bottom of the sinkhole and there’s a boardwalk you can take all the way down to the bottom – of all the things to do in Florida, this one does require some perseverance to reach the bottom since there are a lot of stairs.
Lichgate on High Road
Lichgate on High Road in Tallahassee, Florida was the home of FSU English professor, Laura Jepson. She purchased the property in 1955 and designed this Tudor-style fairytale cottage as her dream home, and also as a way to save the massively beautiful live oak tree on the property. A lichgate is a transition point between life and light – and this was like a place to go between the modern world and one’s very own fairytale. Her home is truly a place to inspire and get a glimpse of magic – and who knows, you may even see a fairy or two while there.
Weeki Wachee Mermaids
Of all the touristy things to do in Florida, watching the Weeki Wachee Mermaids in Spring Hill, Florida is probably one of the most iconic. For almost 60 years now, at what was once the US’s most popular roadside attraction, the mermaids have showcased their underwater ballet for visitors at the park. The spring itself is so deep that the bottom has never been found and it pumps out more than 117 million gallons of crystal clear 74F degree water every day.
Bok Tower Gardens
Bok Tower Gardens, located in Lake Wales, Florida, consists of a 250 acre breathtaking garden along with the 205 ft high Singing Tower and is also a bird sanctuary. The tower is built on Iron Mountain, which is one of the highest points in Florida. It began in 1921 when Edward Bok and his wife wanted to create a bird sanctuary. Bok commissioned the gardens to transform the once barren sandhill into “a spot of beauty second to none in the country.” These gardens are truly magnificent and make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a storybook where a bird will perch on your finger and sing a song.
Florida Cavern State Park
Florida State Cavern Park is located in Marianna, Florida in the Panhandle. These are the only accessible air-filled caves in the state of Florida. This type of cave is rare because as these limestone caverns form over time, they usually stop at the sinkhole stage and do not make it to actual cave formation. Legends have it that many a mythical creature can be found in caves, like gnomes, trolls, and goblins, so it’s best to keep your eyes on alert for these mischievous creatures of lure.
Neptune Memorial Reef
Neptune Memorial Reef is an underwater mausoleum and is about 3 miles off of the coast of Key Biscayne, Florida. It’s a man-made reef, but reef-bulding coral have been identified at the site, making it a true coral reef. Sure this place is a little eery, given that this is where one can be buried at sea, but it looks like the closest thing we have to the Lost City of Atlantis. Definitely a must-see for lovers of legends and the sea.
If you’re ever looking for things to do in Florida that aren’t the usual beaches or theme parks, check out one of these awe-inspiring destinations. It’s like taking a step back in time to the legends and stories that we can only dream of.