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November 09, 2010

An ancient Spanish monastery, spiritualist camp, castle made entirely of coral, undersea lodge, bat tower, seven mile bridge, Navy SEAL museum and other unique curiosities can all be found in the Sunshine State for those travelers who like to stray off the beaten path. Below are 50 of the most offbeat attractions in Florida:

African Queen – Key Largo, Florida

The marina at the Holiday Inn Key Largo (Mile Marker 100) is home to the original boat used in the classic 1951 movie, The African Queen, which was directed by legendary director John Huston and starred Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Huston and Robert Morley.

Ancient Spanish Monastery – North Miami Beach, Florida

Built in Segovia, Spain, in 1141, the Spanish Monastery is the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere. Newspaper tycoon, William Randolph Hearst, had the entire monastery dismantled and sent to the United States in the 1920s where it serves today as St. Bernard de Clairvaux Episcopal Church.

Big Cat Rescue – Tampa, Florida

The world’s largest big cat rescue and sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue is home to lions, tigers, cougars, leopards, bobcats, ocelots, servals, lynx, caracals and other exotic cats. Guided educational tours of Big Cat Rescue are available.

Blue Hole – Big Pine Key, Florida

The largest body of fresh water in the Florida Keys, the Blue Hole is an old rock quarry created during the construction of the Florida East Coast Railway, according to legend. Today, the Blue Hole is home to alligators, turtles, fish, ducks and a variety of wading birds. The Blue Hole is located at Mile Marker 30.5 (bayside).

Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum – Jupiter, Florida

A monument to actor Burt Reynolds’ massive ego, the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum contains a collection of awards and memorabilia from his movie and TV career.

Butterfly World – Coconut Creek, Florida

One of South Florida’s top tourist destinations, Butterfly World is the world’s largest butterfly aviary – home to more than 80 butterfly species and 5,000 butterflies.

Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp – Cassadaga, Florida

A Historic Spiritualist Camp founded in 1894, Cassadaga is the oldest active religious community in the Southeastern United States and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Christ of the Deep – Key Largo, Florida

The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, “America’s First Undersea Park,” is home to the famous nine-foot-tall bronze “Christ of the Deep” statue, which lies 25 feet beneath the ocean in the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary.

Citrus Tower – Clermont, Florida

Although these days you will definitely view more subdivisions than citrus trees, you can still ride the elevator to an observation deck 226 feet above the rolling hills of Clermont for a spectacular glimpse of the surrounding area.

Coral Castle – Homestead, Florida

How did one individual endeavor to procure and sculpt more than 1,100 tons of coral rock into a “fantasy world carved out of stone” using only homemade tools? The secrets still lie within Coral Castle, “America’s Stonehenge,” the bizarre masterpiece of obsessive genius Ed Leedskalnin, which was built over a 28-year period.

Creations Pop Culture Museum – Delray Beach, Florida

A variety of incredible exhibits await you at Creations Pop Culture Museum, which features tons of Hollywood movie and TV memorabilia.

Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park – Gainesville, Florida

A National Natural Landmark, Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park boasts a 120-foot-deep sinkhole that is accessible from a stairway leading to a lush, “miniature rain forest.” The premises include a visitors center and hiking trails.

Dinosaur World – Plant City, Florida

A unique outdoor museum, Dinosaur World is billed as the “world’s largest dinosaur attraction.” Highlights include life-size dinosaur replicas, caves, hands-on activities, fossil dig area, educational exhibits, gift shop and more.

Dry Tortugas National Park – Key West, Florida

About 70 miles West of Key West lies Dry Tortugas National Park, which is home to historic Fort Jefferson. Dry Tortugas National Park is accessible only by boat, ferry or seaplane.

Flipper’s Grave – Grassy Key, Florida

Grassy Key in the Florida Keys is home to the Dolphin Research Center, which also serves as the final resting place for the original “Flipper” (real name: Mitzi), the most famous dolphin in film and TV history. Mitzi is buried in the Center’s courtyard.

Gatorland – Orlando, Florida

Billed as the “Alligator Capital of the World,” Gatorland features such lively shows as the world-famous Gator Jumparoo, Jungle Crocs of the World, Gator Wrestlin’ Show and Up Close Animal Encounters, as well as the Gator Gully Splash Park, petting zoo, aviary, train ride and more.

Holy Land Experience – Orlando, Florida

A “living, biblical history museum,” Holy Land Experience allows visitors to meet interesting biblical characters in authentic costumes, view a fascinating collection of antiquities and expore the ancient architecture of biblical Jerusalem.

Jackie Gleason’s Mausoleum – Miami, Florida

An immense outdoor mauseoleum at the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in Miami serves as the final resting place for Jackie Gleason, who will always be remembered for his role as Ralph Kramden in “The Honeymooners.” The only inscription on the mausoleum is Gleason’s signature parting lines: “And Away We Go.”

Jesus Film Project – Orlando, Florida

The two-hour docudrama, Jesus, has been viewed by approximately 5 billion people around the world since making its debut in 1979. Learn all about the “most widely viewed film in history” at the Jesus Film Project’s master studio, which is located at the World Headquarters of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Jules’ Undersea Lodge – Key Largo, Florida

The only underwater hotel in the United States, Jules’ Undersea Lodge lies approximately 30 feet beneath the sea and guests have to scuba dive to reach the two-bedroom habitat.

Jungle Adventures – Christmas, Florida

A 20-acre wildlife sanctuary, Jungle Adventures is home to alligators, bears, deer, bobcats, panthers, crocodiles, monkeys, snakes and turtles. View alligator feedings and wildlife shows, take a jungle cruise and visit a Native American Village.

Key West Cemetery – Key West, Florida

Opened in 1847, the historic Key West Cemetery is home to a monument for sailors who died during the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in 1898, as well as a number of quirky inscriptions such as “I Told You I Was Sick” and “Devoted Fan of Julio Iglesias.”

Monkey Jungle – Miami, Florida

Visit Monkey Jungle – “Where Humans are Caged and Monkeys Run Wild!” One of the few protected habitats for endangered primates in the country, Monkey Jungle is home to more than 400 primates that run free on a 30-acre reserve. A total of 30 primate species are represented here such as spider monkeys, colobus, gibbons and guenons.

Monument to the States – Kissimmee, Florida

Begun in 1942, the 50-foot-tall Monument to the States lies in downtown Kissimmee and consists of more than 1,500 fossils and rocks from every state, as well as more than 20 countries.

Mulberry Phosphate Museum – Mulberry, Florida

Mulberry is known as the “Phosphate Capital of the World” and the Mulberry Phosphate Museum features an incredible colleciton of fossils and exhibits that document the town’s role in the phosphate industry.

National Key Deer Refuge – Big Pine Key, Florida

A 8,542-acre National Wildlife Refuge that lies on Big Pine Key and No Name Key in the Florida Keys, the National Key Deer Refuge serves as the home of the endangered Key Deer, as well as nearly two dozen other threatened and endangered plant and animal species.

Navy SEAL Museum – Fort Pierce, Florida

The Navy SEAL Museum is the world’s only museum dedicated exclusively to “the elite warriors of Naval Special Warfare.”

Old Jail – St. Augustine, Florida

The entire family will enjoy a guided tour through this 1891 jail, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse – St. Augustine, Florida

Built in the early 1700s and located near the famous St. Augustine City Gates, the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse contains a variety of unique artifacts and displays.

Perky’s Bat Tower – Sugarloaf Key, Florida

Built in 1929 by Florida Keys entrepreneur, Richter Perky, as a way to attract mosquito-eating bats, Perky’s Bat Tower never attracted any bats but today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Potter’s Wax Museum – St. Augustine, Florida

Billed as “America’s first and finest wax museum,” Potter’s wax museum is nestled in historic St. Augustine and features more than 160 wax figures of such celebrities and historical figures as Albert Einstein, Julius Caesar, Tiger Woods, Princess Diana, Michael Jordan, Johnny Depp and even a bald Britney Spears!

Reptile World Serpentarium – St. Cloud, Florida

The Reptile World Serpentarium houses more than 50 species of snakes from all over the world such

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