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Florida Geography

The state of Florida is set on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Straits of Florida. The state extends to the northwest into a panhandle along the northern Gulf of Mexico and spans two time zones. It shares boundaries with the states of Georgia and Alabama on the north, Alabama on the west, and the Atlantic Ocean on the south and east. Florida is located near some Caribbean countries, particularly, Cuba. The state’s extensive coastline made it a vulnerable target during World War II and so there were several government airstrips built throughout the state. Of these, about 400 airports are still in service.

Florida spans over 53,997 square miles of land area and over 11,761 square miles of water which is home to a diverse range of aquatic animals. The long coastline of the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s western fringe has several world-famous beaches and lakes. The Atlantic Ocean in the east and the Straits of Florida to the south make it a beautiful peninsula. The landscape comprises three geographical land areas: the Atlantic Coastal Plain, the East Gulf Coastal Plain and the Florida Uplands. The eastern part is home to several coral reefs and sand islands while Southern Florida has a large swampy region that includes the Everglades and numerous islands known as the Florida Keys, the largest among which is Key Largo.

Time Zones

The Eastern part of Florida (which includes all the major towns and cities) fall in the Eastern Time Zone, which is 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-5).
The Western part of the Florida panhandle falls in the Central Time Zone, which is 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-6).

Gulf of Mexico

The northern and western shores of the state of Florida are lapped by the tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This particular stretch of the state is home to several beaches, coral reefs, the Everglades, and islands called the Florida Keys. The Gulf of Mexico region can be divided into North Central Gulf Coast, which is home to Clearwater Beach; South Central Gulf Coast, with the historic Fort Myers; and the South Gulf Coast, a beautiful sun-drenched holiday destination complete with stunning beaches, cosmopolitan cities, exciting eco- parks and excellent shopping and nightlife opportunities. The outstanding natural environs support one of the most diverse selections of flora and fauna to be found anywhere in the USA. The region offers a range of outdoor activities such as surfing and scuba-diving to sailing and fishing. There are several marine, bird and wildlife reserves to explore.

The Atlantic Coast

The Atlantic Coast of Florida can roughly be divided into two regions: the North Atlantic Coast and the South Atlantic Coast. The North Atlantic Coast of Florida spreads from Amelia Island to Cocoa beach and includes some of Florida’s finest and largest cities such as St Augustine and Jacksonville. The South Atlantic Coast of Florida comprises three regions including Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. The area consists of three beautiful sub-tropical beaches of West Palm Beach, Key West, Miami and more. From exploring the vast areas of the Everglades to deep sea diving on Hollywood beach and in the Keys, the Atlantic Coast offers a host of outdoor and indoor entertainment and recreational activities.

Beaches in Florida

With big city beaches, remote island getaways and family-friendly shores, Florida promises a beach for every visitor. Clearwater Beach enjoys a well-deserved reputation of being one of America’s finest beaches. Spread along a 3-mile stretch of the Pinellas Peninsula on the Gulf Coast, Clearwater Beach straddles the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the west and Tampa Bay to the east. Naples Beach has rolling waves on one side and the gleaming mansions that make up Millionaires’ Row on the other. Then there is Sanibel beach which is a prime spot along Florida’s coastline for gathering perfectly intact shells in every shape and size. Siesta Key Beach is perfect for strolling and shell-collecting while Atlantic Beach with its soft and white sand is just a short drive from Jacksonville. Key West offers some of Florida’s most beautiful spots, with wide stretches of sugary sand and tranquil waters while Palm Beach is without doubt, the crown jewel of Florida.

The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a coral archipelago located in the southeast region of Florida. They extend from the south eastern tip of the Florida peninsula to Key West, the westernmost part of the inhabited islands. The islands lie along the Florida Straits and they divide the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the west. They also define one edge of Florida Bay. More than 95% of the land area is located in Monroe County though a small portion extends northeast into Miami-Dade County, such as Totten Key. The city of Key West is the county seat of Monroe County, which encompasses the Everglades National Park and the Keys islands from Key Largo to the Dry Tortugas.

Lakes in Florida

The lakes in Florida are crucial to the economy of the state and play an important role in recreation, navigation, irrigation, and flood control. The state has over 7,700 lakes. Florida has both natural and artificial lakes. Some of the lakes formed by geological processes like erosion, fluvial development, and depressions in ancient sea-bed include Lake Okeechobee, Lake Yale, Lake Monroe, and Dune Lake. Some natural lakes have been physically altered for purposes such as irrigation, navigation, flood control, and drainage facilities. These lakes are called artificial lakes. Most of the lakes in Florida are artificial – some of the major ones include Lake George, Dead Lake, Lake Apopka, Lake Harney, Lake Istokpoga, Lake Kissimmee, and Lake Seminole.

Rivers in Florida

Florida has a network of nearly 1700 rivers and streams. Ranging from a few feet to several miles wide, these rivers make their way through the limestone bedrock and define Florida’s distinctive karst topography. They are the lifeline for many of the state’s swamps, marshes, lagoons, and estuaries. Florida’s rivers transport sediments and nutrients essential for wetland habitats and the native plants and animals that depend on them. They also moderate the salinity of brackish environments and offer a warm winter refuge for migratory and local wildlife. Besides, the rivers also offer water enthusiasts a wide range of recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, boating and canoeing, scuba diving, fossil and wildlife observation.

The Everglades

The Everglades are a natural region of subtropical wetlands in the southern part of Florida. This two million acre wetland ecosystem stretches from central Florida near Orlando to Florida Bay in the south. Lake Okeechobee overflows during the wet season and forms a slow moving shallow river dominated by sawgrass marsh. The river flows southward across a limestone shelf to Florida Bay at the southern end of the state and along the way it passes through diverse habitats, including cypress swamps, wet prairie and mangroves, until it reaches Everglades National Park and eventually Florida Bay. The Everglades is world famous for its extraordinary wildlife which includes Florida panthers, crocodiles, manatees, and a huge host of birds such as roseate spoonbills, egrets, and wood storks.