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THE GREAT currency exchange rate and a flood of cheap flights are expected to lure record numbers of British holidaymakers across the Atlantic to New York and beyond this summer.
American cities are bracing themselves for a boom in bargain-hunting Britons.
From jeans and designer wear to top notch restaurants and five-star hotels, a wide range of purchases in New York are likely to be cheaper than in London or Lisbon, with holidaymakers finding themselves paying as little as half the European price.
This newfound popularity bucks the trend of a downward turn in US-bound Europeans in recent years. Since September 11, 2001, the US has lost an estimated 152 billion pounds sterling in revenue from foreign visitors, with stringent security procedures leading to a decline in Europeans travelling across the Atlantic. However, the US has always been good value in terms of restaurants and shopping, but now you’re guaranteed to get more for your money. And you are also likely to be able to get good prices on flights. And, as reported last week, transatlantic fares could fall even further in coming years with no-frills airlines such as Ryanair entering the market.
If you’re tempted to book a holiday to the States why not consider Florida?
Palm trees and pools, glitzy shopping and nightlife by the sea – when we think about a trip to Florida most of us think of visiting Latin-flavoured Miami, the huge Orlando theme parks or the tourist-magnet beaches. But there’s much to discover in the unspoiled areas of the state. Here are some of the many highlights to be found ‘off the beaten track’.
This region of northern Florida is typified by State Road 2, aka Hog and Hominy Road. Here you’ll see old, steam-driven grist mills and old style general stores. Among its highlights is the old Chautauqua town of DeFuniak Springs with its Victorian architecture. In Falling Waters State Park, the state’s highest waterfall pours upside down into a sinkhole so that you have to stand and look down at it, not up.
The Big Bend
Big Bend is already being marketed as the Nature Coast, and its four northern counties are distinguished by an absence of tourist features but the best in natural features. Levy is horse country, and it has some of the most beautiful unknown beaches, such as on the islands off Cedar Key, a hip artists’ town. In Dixie, you can hike or bike along exquisite canopied trails. Over in Steinhatchee, an old fishing town in Taylor, there is still a thriving shrimp industry, while Taylor itself and neighbouring Wakulla contain part of the 68,000-acre St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge complete with 274 bird species.
Gainesville and towns south
Within half an hour of the most sophisticated small city in Florida – Gainesville is home to the University of Florida – lies a crescent of exceptionally attractive small towns. Micanopy is known for its antiques and has the best antiquarian bookstore in the state. Cross Creek, where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote The Yearling, is also worth exploring, as is Evinston, where you’ll find the family-run 1906 Wood & Swink General Store.
Highway A1A through Nassau and Duval counties
This part of the long, north to south road enjoys magnificent views over the sea, salt marsh or both and traverses three state parks. Take a walk along paths that cut through the sand dunes to the salt marsh inlets and you’ll see all kinds of wildlife, including the occasional manatee.
Deland, Lake Helen, Cassadaga
On the St. Johns River, just 30 minutes west of Daytona Beach, is DeLand, home of Stetson University. The town has three historic districts. On the west side of town, you can take a cruise through the Ocala National Forest. Tiny, undeveloped Lake Helen and nearby Cassadaga are also great places to include in your tour – picturesque, quirky and fun.
Lakeland boasts a botanical masterpiece, Hollis Gardens, which reproduces botanically every part of the state and Lake Mirror, the town’s jewel, with it’s gorgeously ornamented lakefront from the 1920s, complete with a walkway all the way around. Finally, fans of Frank Lloyd Wright shouldn’t miss the campus of Florida Southern College, the architect’s largest single installation in the world.
The six small towns in the county that contain St. Petersburg /Clearwater are distinctive destinations. The stylish town of Pass-a-Grille, near to St. Petersburg, is topped by the old and very grand Don Cesar Hotel. Gulfport, to the east, is a relaxing haven and, Safety Harbor, famed for its spa, is a wonderful town to explore on foot. To the north, Dunedin’s old railroad bed has been turned into the nearly 40-mile Pinellas Trail, used by one million people a year. Finally, the trail leads up to Tarpon Springs, an old Greek fishing community still redolent with character.
Hopefully that has whetted your appetite for a trip to the less well known areas of Florida – call your travel agent for flight and accommodation options.