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Jul 21, 2016

6 min. read

Most drivers bound for Florida make a beeline for the Sunshine State, eager to bask in its balmy temperatures and relax on its sprawling beaches. But if you have the luxury of time and a hankering for exploration, check out some of these fascinating sites.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Stretches of sand dunes and ocean pull visitors to the Outer Banks. The history of pirates, shipwrecks and colonial settlers is told at Roanoke Island Festival Park. The windy coastline drew the Wright Brothers, who accomplished man’s first powered flight at Kitty Hawk. The seaside village of Ocracoke is a snapshot of a time gone by. Lighthouses mark shoal-infested waters nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” And everywhere you go, fresh seafood fills dinner plates.

Charleston, South Carolina

Before the Civil War, Charleston was one of America’s largest ports—trading rice, indigo and cotton. The wealth of that era left its impression. Walk or take a carriage ride past the Battery’s gracious antebellum homes and Rainbow Row’s pastel-hued townhouses. Explore the haunted Provost dungeon at the pre-revolutionary Old Exchange and shop for sweetgrass baskets at artisan booths in the historic Charleston City Market.

Beaufort, South Carolina

Live oaks draped with Spanish moss frame Beaufort’s streets and soaring antebellum homes make the town a favourite for film locations (The Big ChillThe Prince of TidesForrest Gump). The more than 300-year-old town is a hub of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, a cultural region along the state’s coast. Walk or take a downtown carriage tour, eat shrimp at three meals a day, meander along the beach and climb the lighthouse at Hunting Island, or immerse yourself in the history and art of the Gullah people, the descendants of slaves who once worked on the rice plantations and cotton.

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

Just off the Georgian coast, Cumberland Island is carefully protected by the National Park Service. There is ferry access only and visitors are limited to 300 per day. The island was once a working farm and winter getaway for wealthy families from the north. Today, building remains offer a glimpse into privileged lifestyles. Much of the island is wilderness—marshland, beaches and a maritime forest of palms and gigantic live oaks.

Knoxville, Tennessee

Pet-friendly Knoxville is the perfect spot for travellers and their dogs to stretch their legs. Follow the Cradle of Country Music downtown walking tour to discover how the city influenced Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and the Everly Brothers. Then sit a spell at the Visitor Center, home of the famed WDVX Blue Plate Special, a free noontime live radio show of Americana, country and bluegrass.

If you’re a foodie, sample some of these local delicacies on your next road trip to Florida.

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