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Florida Bargains

Beyond the Tourist Lines


Perhaps you've visited Florida several times. You've been to all the tourist spots. You want warmth and perhaps solitude. Maybe you just want to see something new.

The good news is that such trips can save you money. Some of Florida's best bargains are in smaller cities, where businesses don't get as much attention and national advertising. They're hungry for a slice of the tourism pie, and they're dealing.

One such place is Hutchinson Island, about an hour's drive north of West Palm Beach. Here you'll notice fewer high-rises, great fishing and diving, and a slower pace than in Orlando or Miami. Public beaches here sometimes rate among the nation's best. You'll find smaller lodgings and even one of America's two Club Med resorts in this area. For information on deals in the area, visit Point-Travel's page for the Treasure Coast.

Tarpon Springs is a fun place to lose track of time. Greek settlers came here and developed a sponge harvesting industry from local waters. Boat trips include a demonstration of this fascinating business, and nearby restaurants offer some excellent Greek cuisine. Within an hour's drive, you can spend a day in Ybor City, the heart of Tampa's Cuban community. Watch experts hand-roll cigars and sample Cuban coffee. You'll see very few turnstyles and long lines in either place.

St. Augustine is a bit more touristy, but it offers history lovers the chance to visit America's oldest city. Winter is a great time to visit the Castillo de San Marcos, the fort that guarded this settlement. Summer visits tend to be very hot and tiring.

Anglers love to visit the Lake Okeechobee area. This huge lake is the "water heart of the Everglades" and home to some of the nation's best bass fishing. Anyone looking for solitude should come here, but beware of striking out on the lake without a guide. Storms can make this relatively shallow lake extremely dangerous in no time flat.

Some consider the panhandle beaches too cold in winter. To each his own. But you'll find rates are extremely reasonable in these places. Sandestin resort offers specials varying with availability and dates chosen.

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