Florida is a land of sunshine and sandy beaches, palm trees, and crystal blue water. It’s also home to some of the most sought-after destinations globally, from Miami Beach to Walt Disney World Resort. But despite its many visitors, Florida has more than just tourist attractions—it has a diverse population with a rich culture that reflects the state’s history as an immigrant gateway.
Florida has more than 20 million residents spread out over more than ten geographically diverse counties. So whether you want to experience sun-soaked beaches or dense jungles filled with wildlife like crocodiles and alligators, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful Southern state.
Here are our top 15 picks for counties you should visit when visiting Florida:
1. Miami-Dade County (Miami)
Home of South Beach and the Art Deco District, Miami is best known for its vibrant culture and distinct neighborhoods. Visitors can experience everything from high-end cuisine to some of the best nightlife in the country.
The county is also home to unique attractions like the Miami Seaquarium, Jungle Island, and Crandon Park Zoo. With so many iconic landmarks within a few miles of each other, it would be a shame to miss out on visiting this bustling area.
The population of Miami-Dade County was 2,693,117 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Miami was $43,200 as of 2021.
2. Orange County (Orlando)
Home to Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando, Orange County is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The area is known for its theme parks and family-friendly attractions, but it also has many adults.
Downtown Orlando is packed with bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, while the surrounding area features plenty of golf courses and nature preserves.
The population of Orange County was 2,509,831 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Orlando was $40,600 as of 2021.
3. Hillsborough County (Tampa)
Located on Florida’s west coast, Hillsborough County is home to Tampa Bay and the city of St. Petersburg. It’s the perfect destination for those who love the water, as it’s nearly 150 miles of coastline are home to beautiful beaches and luxurious homes alike.
Known as “Tampa Bay,” this area is dotted with museums, performance venues, and luxury spas—and lots of sunny weather all year round.
The population of Hillsborough County was 1,778,225 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Tampa was $44,000 as of 2021.
4. Monroe County (Cudjoe Key)
Located off mainland Florida on a small island chain called the Florida Keys, Monroe County has some unique attractions that visitors worldwide flock to see every year. Perhaps most popular is the stunning array of tropical plants and wildlife, viewed at popular spots like Monkey Jungle and the Key West Aquarium.
The low humidity and balmy weather combined with a laid-back culture make this area uniquely attractive for those who enjoy relaxing vacations.
The population of Monroe County was 73,090 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Cudjoe Key was $65,200 as of 2021.
5. Duval County (Jacksonville)
Located on Florida’s Atlantic coast between St. Johns River mouth and Amelia Island, Jacksonville is another hot spot for tourists looking to explore Florida’s many attractions. Beaches are always within reach since they surround most parts of the city except for the downtown area.
Historic neighborhoods like Springfield make this city a must-visit for those looking to explore the history of Florida, while nature lovers are sure to fall in love with Fort Clinch State Park.
The population of Duval County was 821,784 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Jacksonville was $38,100 as of 2021.
6. St Johns County (Jacksonville)
Just north of Duval county is St Johns, which has some beautiful beaches and many coastal attractions. Visitors here will find more than 100 miles worth of gorgeous coastline stretching towards Amelia Island—home to several golf courses and resorts.
St Augustine L, Castillo de San Marcos, and Anastasia State Park are popular tourist destinations in this county, known for their Spanish moss-draped oaks and well-preserved history.
The population of St. Johns County was 283,745 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Jacksonville was $38,100 as of 2021.
7. Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach)
Located on Florida’s east coast, Palm Beach County is home to the city of West Palm Beach and several other popular beach towns. Its location makes it a perfect spot for those who love the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, which runs parallel to the coastline for miles.
The area is also known for its luxury resorts and high-end shopping, making it a popular destination for those who want to enjoy Florida’s best.
The population of Palm Beach County was 2,016,835 as of 2021.
The cost of living in West Palm Beach was $46,800 in 2021.
8. Osceola County (Kissimmee)
Just south of Orlando in Osceola County, home to the city of Kissimmee and several other popular tourist destinations. With nearly two dozen theme parks, including Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, it’s no wonder that this area sees so many visitors each year.
In addition to its world-famous attractions, Osceola County also offers plenty of nature preserves and outdoor activities for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The population of Osceola County was 391,119 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Kissimmee was $35,700 as of 2021.
9. Bay County (Panama City Beach)
Situated on Florida’s Panhandle just west of Tallahassee is Bay County, home to the famous beach town of Panama City Beach. This area is known for its white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and abundance of nightlife options.
In addition to its world-famous beaches, Bay County also offers plenty of family-friendly attractions, including Shipwreck Island Waterpark and Gulf World Marine Park.
The population of Bay County was 218,123 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Panama City Beach was $37,100 as of 2021.
10. Brevard County (Melbourne)
Located on Florida’s east coast midway between Orlando and Miami is Brevard County, home to Melbourne and several other popular tourist destinations. In addition, this area is known for its Space Coast heritage, which you can learn more about at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
In addition to its history, Brevard County is also known for its natural beauty, with miles of unspoiled beaches and numerous nature preserves.
The population of Brevard County was 610,002 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Melbourne was $40,800 as of 2021.
11. Polk County (Lakeland)
Located in the center of Florida is Polk County, home to Lakeland and several other popular tourist destinations. This area is known for its picturesque lakes and rolling hills, making it a popular spot for those who love the outdoors.
In addition to its natural beauty, Polk County is also home to various theme parks, including Legoland Florida and Bok Tower Gardens.
The population of Polk County was 602,547 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Lakeland was $36,000 as of 2021.
12. Marion County (Ocala)
Located in north Florida near the Atlantic coast is Marion County, home to Ocala and several other popular tourist destinations. This area is known for its natural springs, with Silver Springs State Park among the most well-known in the state.
In addition to its natural attractions, many visitors are also drawn to this area by its rich history, which you can learn more about at the Fort King Museum.
The population of Marion County was 749,715 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Ocala was $35,000 as of 2021.
13. Nassau County (Yulee)
Nassau County is located just south of Jacksonville along the Atlantic coast and is home to the city of Yulee. This area may not be as widely known as cities like Orlando and Miami, but it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.
In addition to its rich history, Nassau County offers several family-friendly attractions, including Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park and the Wildside Safari Park.
The population of Nassau County was 70,572 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Yulee was $35,800 as of 2021.
14. Putnam County (Palatka)
Located southeast of Jacksonville along Florida’s east coast is Putnam County, home to the city of Palatka and several other popular tourist destinations. In addition, this area is known for its riverfront area, which includes the Putnam County Courthouse and walking trails along the St. Johns River.
In addition to its rich history, Putnam County also offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking and camping at Jennings State Forest and fishing at Lake George.
The population of Putnam County was 138,988 as of 2021.
The cost of living in Palatka was $33,400 as of 2021.
15. Union County (Lake Butler)
Located in north-central Florida, just east of Gainesville, is Union County, home to the city of Lake Butler and several other popular tourist destinations. This area is known for its natural beauty, with one-of-a-kind landscapes perfect.