The seven wonders of the modern world are all stunning sites, including The Great Wall of China and the ancient city of Petra. While those are all extremely well-known landmarks, let's consider a state that is not typically in the running when thinking of modern world wonders: Florida. If someone were to name the Seven Wonders of Florida, what would they be? There are actually a lot of natural beauties in the Sunshine State; it was difficult to narrow it down to just seven. Here, our picks for the Seven Wonders of Florida.
The Overseas Highway
The Overseas Highway, the southernmost leg of U.S. Highway 1 and sometimes called the Highway That Goes to Sea, is a modern wonder. The road, that follows a trail originally blazed in 1912 by Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad, stretches from Miami to Key West.
The railway ceased operation after severe damage to the infrastructure in a 1935 hurricane. Construction of the highway began in the late 1930s. Its foundation included some of the original railway spans as well as the coral bedrock of individual keys and specially constructed columns.
When it was completed in 1938, the highway marked the beginning of an incredible adventure for the North American motorist who travel 113 miles of roadway and cross 42 bridges to get from Miami to the southernmost point in the continental U.S. -- Key West. In 1982, 37 bridges were replaced with wider spans, including the well-known Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon.
In 2002 the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail was added, which includes the Grassy Key Bikeway. The Heritage Trail is a paved recreational path along old Flagler railroad bridges and the Florida Department of Transportation right-of-way that features crossways between bayside and oceanside.
Today, motorists can travel the highway in less than four hours from Miami. However, drivers should allow time to experience the natural beauty of the ever-changing scenery of the seas and wilderness bordering the roadway, and the wonderful sunrises and sunsets.
Florida's Coral Reefs
The only state in the continental United States to have extensive shallow coral reef formations near its coasts is Florida. Formed some five to seven thousand years ago, reef growth is slow -- some estimates range from one to sixteen feet every thousand years.
The architects of reef formation are stony corals -- the elaborate limestone skeletons that form the reef backbone are constructed when polyps, the living portion of the coral, extracts calcium from seawater and combine it with carbon dioxide. Actually, reef corals are a lot more complicated. Classified as animals, corals are a complex of microscopic plants that live within the animal tissues. Both benefit from each other by a rather complicated combination of photosynthesis that the plants provide and waste that the animals provide. What is important is that the plants, called zooxanthellae, are responsible for much of the beautiful color seen in reef corals.
Besides being environmentally important by providing shelter, food and breeding sites for numerous plants and animals, coral reefs provide natural storm protection for Florida's coasts. They are also very important to southeast Florida's economy by bringing millions of dollars of revenue from recreational and commercial fishing.
The tropical setting around Florida's reefs draws millions of visitors each year. It is a wonderful experience to glide through the water and see these beautiful formations teaming with colorful corals and sea life.
Bok Tower stands tall in quiet dignity on the highest elevation in Central Florida and reflects the inspiration of one man's vision. Edward Bok never forgot the words of his grandmother, "Make the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it." Bok indeed left his mark on the world with his magnificent "singing" tower.
The story of Bok's life, presented in photos and historical memorabilia, is gathered in an award-winning exhibit hall near the entrance to what is now known as Bok Sanctuary. The exhibits give you a historical perspective on the life of this successful editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Permanent exhibits display documents that provide an insight into this talented individual.
The gray and pink marble and coquina stone tower were a construction feat for the late 1920s. The 205-foot tower was designed by Milton B. Medary. When designing the tower, Medary drew his inspiration from the Gothic towers and churches of Europe, but it was Edward Bok's love of nature that inspired the tower's decorative motifs. Although it was constructed to house the Carillon, it is the centerpiece for the beautiful gardens.
Today, Bok's gift to the American people is one of the most beautiful places in Florida and one of the few places that has been left untouched by the march of time and the unchecked growth of Central Florida.
Everglades National Park
The Everglades is America's only subtropical wilderness and a place where few dare to venture. While it is often pictured by many as a huge swamp only inhabited by large alligators and snakes, it really should be considered more of a forest, with many forms of wildlife and birds in their natural habitat.
Pictures of airboats skimming along shallow, grassy waterways are ubiquitous with the area. Even though that remains the most popular method to tour this vast untouched wilderness, there are many more ways to experience the Everglades. One can get up-close-and-personal with the Everglades at Everglades National Park. The park offers adventures in camping, boating, biking, hiking, and fishing. Plus, there are many commercial tours also available, including large "swamp buggy" tours, boat tours and even walking tours.
However you see it, it is definitely a wonderful experience with a variety of intriguing activities that are sure to appeal to visitors of all ages.
Kennedy Space Center
Established on July 1, 1962, as NASA's Launch Operations Center, the Kennedy Space Center was renamed in honor of the nation's 35th president, following his death. John F. Kennedy inspired and challenged the agency with his vision to land astronauts on the moon within that decade.
Since its beginning, the Kennedy Space Center has led our nation on a history-making course bound for the unknown adventures of space. It is from this Florida soil that NASA has launched rockets, heroic astronauts and futuristic spacecraft on missions to Earth's orbit, the moon and the vast universe beyond.
Through bold success and trying tragedy the Kennedy Space Center continues today to explore all the wonders of the universe.
The Skyway Bridge
An architectural wonder, the Skyway Bridge is located south of St. Petersburg and spans Tampa Bay, connecting Pinellas and Manatee counties. The bridge was modeled after the Brotonne Bridge over the Seine River in France and is Florida’s first suspension bridge. It is 4.1 miles long and the roadway soars 183 feet above Tampa Bay.
It is the third bridge to connect St. Petersburg and Bradenton. Twin spans previously carried traffic two lanes in each direction. The southbound span was hit by an empty freighter on May 9, 1980, and a nearly 700-foot center span of the bridge collapsed into Tampa Bay. Thirty-five people plunged to their deaths that fateful morning. Bad weather and poor visibility were blamed for the accident. The old bridge was dismantled and its approaches have been converted into the state’s longest fishing piers.
The new bridge’s cables, resembling an inverted fan, are painted yellow and illuminated at night — a wonderful reflection of the Sunshine State.
Historic St. Augustine
St. Augustine is where you'll discover that old can be wonderfully interesting. Standing as a tribute to its past, St. Augustine has survived five centuries of history -- more than 435 years -- to stand as this nation's oldest city.
St. Augustine's history began with exploration 42 years before the English colonized Jamestown and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Ponce de Leon hoped the Indian Spring he discovered was his Fountain of Youth. Today you can explore the excavations of the original colony.
This is a community that takes pride in its past. In the late 1950s, an ongoing effort to preserve and restore many historical structures began. Its "living history" includes remains and structures from each of the centuries including a seventeenth-century fortress and eighteenth-century buildings. Sprawling giant architectural structures from the nineteenth-century, when Henry Flagler launched the "Gilded Age" of hotels and railroads, still stand in wonderful splendor.