Florida, known for its year round sunny and warm climate, is a popular state for vacationing and retirement.
The State of Florida is a peninsula, which means it is surrounded on three sides by water: the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Straits of Florida.
Show off your knowledge about Florida’s geography with these fun and amazing facts.
Florida is the only state that borders both the the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Land and Topography
How long is Florida’s coastline?
How long is Florida’s coastline? Depending on how you measure the coastline (thanks to a phenomenon called the coastline paradox, the exact length of the coastline varies.
Per the Congressional Research Service, the coastline of Florida is 1,350 miles (2,170 km) measured from one end of the state, around the peninsula to the other end. This doesn’t include the coastline of the state’s many barrier islands.
Of that coastline, 825 miles (1,327 km) is made up of sandy beaches. Beach access is widespread in Florida with no part of Florida being more than 60 miles (96 km) from a beach.
NOAA’s shoreline measurements also has Florida as the contiguous state with the longest shoreline at 8,436 miles.
More than two-thirds of Florida’s extensive coastline is made up of sandy beaches. Florida’s beaches are important for Florida’s tourism economy and are also home to a diverse range of wildlife and flora found nowhere else in the United States.
Famous beaches in Florida
Florida is home to some of the most famous beaches in the United States (US). Nicknamed America’s Riviera, Miami’s South Beach is famous for its nightlife. Panama City Beach is often referred to as the “Spring Break Capital” and is a popular beach designation for college students. Daytona Beach’s hard-packed sand gave made it into a designation for beachside motorsport racing. Before the Daytona International Speedway was built in 1959, the Daytona Beach Road Course was host to races for over 50 years.
Florida has the lowest average topography of any state. Much of the state lies at or near sea level elevation.
The highest point in Florida is Britton Hill with an elevation of 345 feet. Britton Hill is located in Walton County near the Alabama border.
Climate and Weather
Florida has a temperate climate, with most areas experiencing daytime temperatures averaging in the 60s and 70s degree Fahrenheit (F) during the winter months.
Weather that falls below freezing (32 degrees F) is very rare.
The most widespread snow event in Florida occurred on January 19, 1977, when Miami Beach experienced snowfall for the first and only time in recorded history.
Hurricanes in Florida
According to NOAA, 40% of all US-bound hurricanes hit Florida. With its long coastline and proximity to the warmer ocean waters that fuel tropical storms, Florida is a prime target for these natural disasters.
With 4,510 islands that are 4 hectares or larger, Florida has the second-highest number of islands, after Alaska.
Water and Florida
Florida is a peninsula which means it’s surrounded by water on three sides.
In addition to the ocean, Florida is home to many lakes. Lake Okeechobee, also known as Florida’s Inland Sea, is the largest freshwater lake in the state.
Florida’s coastal sandy beaches and dunes are an important ecological system for hundreds of animals and plants in Florida. According to Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, there are over thirty rare animals native to Florida’s beaches.
Five species of sea turtles nest on Florida’s beaches: Loggerhead, Leatherback, Kemp Ridley’s, Hawksbill, and the Green Turtle.
Florida manatees are a threatened species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is the only refuge specifically created to protect the Florida Manatee.
Crystal River is also the only place in North America where you can take a swim with manatees.
Florida is the only state in the US that has extensive shallow coral reef formations found along its coast.
Coral, which is classified as an animal, creates a unique habitat that is home to many species such as the spiny lobster. Tiny plants live within coral to form a symbiotic relationship. These photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae, are what give corals their brilliant colors.
The Florida Keys are formed by an exposed ancient coral reef and few miles seaward of the Florida Keys is the Florida Reef, the only living coral barrier reef in the US. The Florida Reef is the third largest coral barrier reef after the Great Barrier Reef and the Belize Barrier Reef.
Burmese python – an invasive species in Florida
The invasive python problem in Florida is a complex ecological issue. The Burmese python, Python bivittatus, was introduced to the Florida Everglades, likely through the exotic pet trade, and has since established a breeding population. This species has no natural predators in Florida, leading to uncontrolled growth in its population.
The python preys on a wide variety of native species, including mammals, birds, and other reptiles, leading to significant disturbances in the local food web. Ecological models have revealed declines in native species populations as a result of the python’s predation. Management of this invasive species has proven difficult because of the challenge in spotting this well camouflaged species in Florida’s ecosystems. Various methods including hunting, trapping, and biological control are being explored to mitigate the issue.
Of the 19.6 million people live in Florida, about 15 million of them live in coastal areas in the state. That’s about 76.5% of the population.
Sun Tan Lotion
Here’s a quirky fact not directly related to Florida’s geography:
With its miles and miles of beaches, it is no surprise that the first widely used sun tan lotion was developed in Miami Beach. Florida pharmacist Benjamin Green invented the first suntan cream in 1944. His suntan was called Red Vet Pet and the patent was later sold to Coppertone.
This article was originally written on October 3, 2020 and has since been updated.
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