Brochure images of tanning flesh and Mickey Mouse give an inaccurate and incomplete picture of Florida. Although the aptly nicknamed "Sunshine State" is indeed devoted to the tourist trade, it's also among the least-understood parts of the US. Away from its overexposed resorts lie forests and rivers, deserted strands filled with wildlife, vibrant cities and primeval swamps.
Florida is the world's favourite holiday destination and draws millions of tourists all year round. The reason for the state's popularity as a vacation destination is largely due to its all year round sunny climate and geographical location. Consisting of a long peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean from the SE corner of the United States, Florida's dramatically uneven coastline is indented with estuaries, inlets, bays, rivers and lagoons, creating ideal enclaves for the location of holiday resorts.
In central Florida the terrain turns green, though it's no rural idyll: this is where you'll find Orlando and Walt Disney World, one of the world's most developed and dedicated tourist destinations.
Miami, the state's biggest city, is a vibrant holiday Mecca, with its soft white sandy beaches and numerous city attractions and colourful neighbourhoods. Miami's famous Art Deco district and Latin American quarter are constantly bustling with visitors, many of them passengers from the hordes of cruise ships that dock in the port. Within easy access from Miami are the Everglades, a marshy grass plain resonating with wildlife and filled with alligators and other marshy wildlife and fauna.
Finally, although Florida has struggled with its reputation for crimes against (and even murders of) tourists, the state's been very successful in reducing such attacks. It's definitely no longer the den of "Miami Vice" it once was, but, as when visiting all big cities, it pays to be wary, especially when off the beaten track.