Ask any longtime resident of Florida how they feel about their state, and you’re almost sure to receive a conflicted answer. At first, the resident will doubtlessly reel off a litany of complaints about development, over-development, and over-over-development. And then they’ll get a gleam in their eyes; they’ll lean in a little closer — as if they’re about to tell you a treasured secret — and they’ll tell you about a spot off a nearby river, along a beautiful beach, or right among the buzzing electricity of the city. This spot, they’ll say, could only be found in a place like Florida.
And it’s places like that, wonderful spots so numerous that it seems nearly every resident has their own private collection, that continue to make Florida one of the most unique places in all of the United States, if not the world.
Florida’s history has long been one of people laying odds that the allure of a tropical paradise in the continental United States will remain endlessly attractive. And throughout its history, the people that laid those odds have been right more often than they’ve been wrong. From Henry Flagler constructing railways down the Atlantic coast and setting up opulent hotels along the way that would eventually give rise to the cities of Palm Beach and Miami , to Walt Disney furtively buying up marshland south of the once-sleepy town of Orlando , Florida’s development as a state has been inextricably intertwined with its attractiveness as a tourist destination.
It’s remarkable that, even as suburbs and strip malls seem destined to take over the state, there are always — no matter where you are — expansive and extensive examples of Florida’s wild and natural beauty.
Look beneath Florida’s modern issues to see what has drawn people to the Sunshine State for centuries. Sitting on the beach watching the sun rise above the Atlantic off Anastasia Island with nothing but the squawks of gulls and the waves disturbing the peace, one can imagine the Spanish galleons coming over the horizon. The sense of boundless opportunity, the awe-inspiring natural beauty, the numerous opportunities for recreation and relaxation, the sun, the sand, the swamps — Florida still inspires even the most hard-hearted soul with its beguiling promise: a promise of a paradise the way it ought to be.