Florida is an enigma, a state whose reputation is synonymous with “Florida Man”, alligators, and theme parks.
… So of course, it should come as no surprise that there are a LOT of interesting facts about Florida that will simultaneously shock, baffle, and amuse you.
From life-changing inventions to bizarre record-breaking stats, this post is full of the most baffling, hilarious, and downright strange Florida fun facts I could find.
I hope you enjoy them!
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1. In 2020, there were almost 1,000 people moving to Florida each day
With its sandy beaches and infinite sunshine, it might not surprise you to learn that (back in 2020), there was a time when almost 1000 people were moving to Florida every single day.
Yup, according to MSN, the virus that shall not be named created an “unprecedented demand” in the state for luxury home sales… leading to a significant up-tick in new arrivals.
2. Panthers are indigenous to Florida
When it comes to wildlife, people mostly think of different kinds of animals that populate Florida—animals of a scalier variety.
However, the National Park Service offers a surprising fact: there is actually a Florida panther indigenous to the state.
As if they didn’t have enough to worry about.
Once a staple of the Southeastern United States, there are currently less than 100 Florida panthers in South Florida today due to a bounty that was put on them in 1832.
3. Florida is the flattest state in America
When people think about the flattest state in America, they probably think Illinois. Or maybe they think Kansas, or even Nebraska.
The truth is Florida actually holds the title of the flattest state in America. Which is kind of like holding the title for being the whitest sheet of printer paper… but it’s an accolade nonetheless!
4. Florida is the only place on the planet where crocodiles and alligators live together
Florida is renowned for its coasts and a climate that borders on prehistoric.
In South Florida, you are witnessing an anomaly. This is the only area in the world alligators and crocodiles cohabitate a region together.
And, while that sounds good on paper, it’s probably a little terrifying to know you have both creatures to worry about.
But regardless—crocodiles are surprisingly docile, and this is just one characteristic of Florida that gives it some truly, unrivaled character.
5. Jacksonville, Florida is the largest city in the United States
When it comes to big cities, places like New York City and Los Angeles commonly top the list. And, while size is relative, Jacksonville is still an unassuming titleholder.
ThoughtCo reveals that, in the continental US, Jacksonville is by far the largest city.
Clocking in at 840 square miles (75.6 square km), includes includes all of Duval County and Baldwin, Florida.
While its population size isn’t the most impressive, the sheer area it covers makes it by far the largest city in the continental United States.
Plus, it have the largest network of urban parks at over 300.
It’s the little things that sustain people. So being first in something goes a long way!
6. Florida is where the refrigerator was invented
Florida isn’t known for being breezy and cool, so it’s likely no surprise that the refrigerator was actually invented here.
Exploring Florida and LiveScience detail how in 1851, American doctor John Gorrie built and patented a machine that produced ice, which he used to keep patients cool… hence his reputation as “father of refrigeration and AC”.
However, it should be noted who actually invented what is a point of contention… much like the ice cream cone debacle, which you can read about in my Missouri Facts post.
Regardless, as a scientist and doctor, Dr Gorrie would go on to treat tropical diseases and conduct significant humanitarian work.
7. Saint Augustine, Florida is the oldest European settlement in North America
In terms of American history, cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City have a monopoly. Especially for early history.
However, Visit Florida reveals Florida is far more historically significant than many people would suspect.
Founded in 1565 by Don Bedro Menendeze de Aviles of Spain, St. Augustine is the “longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the United States.”
It’s even commonly recognized as the nation’s oldest city.
More interestingly, historians have started speculating that the first Thanksgiving actually transpired in St. Augustine.
A feast held approximately 50 years before the pilgrims are said to have shared a meal with Native American tribes, Spanish colonialists are thought to have done the same.
But their meal was a little different. Consisting of shellfish, alligator, tortoise, and wild turkey, one can only imagine how this would change the trajectory of tradition forever!
8. Florida has the highest rate of lightning strikes per capita in the United States
Now, if there’s one state that sounds like it would be the lightning strike leader of the United States, Florida has to be it.
Something about that just makes sense.
However, it’s still an interesting fact that Florida has the highest rate of lightning strikes per capita in the United States.
ABC Action News explains there are some pretty simple answers as to why. Firstly, they say, Florida is fourth in population and has considerable lightning.
Most importantly, Florida’s location and climate make it a prime target. Being surrounded by warm water makes conditions perfect for disaster to strike (literally).
With the lightning strikes peaking during June, July, and August, it’s certainly a concern many have to think of.
9. Florida is where the world’s first scheduled passenger service airline flew
When you think Florida, you probably don’t think “aviation benchmarks.” However, Space.com offers a surprising look into Florida pivotal role in aviation development!
On January 1st, 1914, the world’s first scheduled passenger airline service took flight and operated between Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Three-quarters of a year before World War I would kick off and change the landscape of the world forever, this flight inaugurated a new era of travel.
Piloted by Tony Jannus, the first passenger was former Mayor of St. Petersburg, Abram C. Pheil. In just 23 minutes, they’d traversed 21 miles.
Tony Jannus proved to be the perfect man for the job as his reputation was that of “a fearless daredevil and admirer of women.”
Then considered a “flying boat,” commuting would truly never be the same.
10. The moonstone, Florida’s official state gem, isn’t found naturally in the state
Every state has a special story behind its designated state bird, state flower, and state whatever. The story of Florida’s official state gem is no different.
According to Florida’s Department of State, in 1970, the moonstone was designated the official state gem, despite the fact that this stone isn’t found naturally in Florida or on the moon.
But the reason was simple: back on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed on the moon aboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft, a flight launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County.
And, so, Florida wanted to commemorate their role in this “giant step for mankind,” by making moonstone (made of mineral feldspar) the official state gem.
11. Florida is home to the Dive Capital of the World
When considering the best places to dive, people probably often think of Hawaii, Thailand, or another tropical paradise.
However, as The Daily Meal describes, Florida’s Key Largo is actually widely believed to be the diving capital of the world. And for good reason.
The Florida Keys are breathtaking islands that offer incredible diving opportunities. Key Largo for instance runs from mile marker 90 to 112, and offers a whole submerged world for divers to explore!
Between the sunken ships, statues, and coral reefs, it’s truly the stuff myths and legends are made of.
12. Sarasota, Florida is home to one of the only Amish beach resorts in the world
As Sarasota Magazine explains, Sarasota is truly a destination for some of the most unique tourists anywhere – including the technology-eschewing Amish, thousands of which flock to Pinecraft (Sarasota’s Amish area) every year in search of some R&R.
In Pinecraft, spacious hotels like the Carlisle Inn offer a resort experience complete with embroidery workshops, beards, and bonnets, and more typical resort amenities like big beautiful pools.
13. “Boca Raton,” Florida means rat’s mouth
There are plenty cities with strange names that have stranger origins, however, Boca Raton is clearly one of the more unfortunately named.
According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, the name Boca Raton is derived from boca de ratones, a Spanish term for “rat’s mouth.”
This name appeared on early maps of the region because of the sharp, pointed rocks that gnawed ships’ cables… and the name has stuck ever since.
14. Florida is home to the world’s smallest post office
While it may seem a little strange, it should come as no surprise that Florida is home to the world’s smallest post office.
The United States Postal Service describes the site in Ochopee, Florida. At 61.3 square feet, it was once used a storage facility, but became the town’s post office after the original burnt down in 1953.
Retooled from storing irrigation pipes for a neighboring tomato farm, it’s now a working post office, and a record-breaking one at that.
15. A Florida man owns the largest collection of fossilized poop in the world
While you don’t find fossils in Florida, that doesn’t mean people don’t bring them in.
And, in what is almost unsurprising, The Miami Herald reports Florida is home to the largest collection of fossilized poop in the world.
With over 1,277 pieces culled from eight different countries and 15 different states, this unique collection is now housed in the South Florida Museum, but the original collector is Jacksonville resident George Frandsen, who started collecting coprolites (fossilized poop) as a freshman in university.
As for why, Frandsen acknowledges that it’s humorous, but these fossils offer invaluable insights into the lives and diets of those near-mythological creatures… so it’s not all just for laughs.
16. In Florida, once a year, thousands of Floridians stand at the state line and toss dead fish into Alabama
For those wondering what Florida did to earn its reputation, this kind of thing is a great illustration. Because, ultimately, you’re only as good as you treat your neighbors.
And, according to the Associated Press, Floridians aren’t exactly the best neighbors.
Known as the Mullet Toss, this is something of a celebration on Perdido Key. Contestants in the Mullet Toss throw dead fish across the state line into Alabama.
With tens of thousands of people attending the event, it’s difficult to imagine how much fish they’re hurling across state lines… but needless to say, this is one tradition I’ll likely be skipping.
17. The Florida Keys declared independence in 1982…for two minutes
It wouldn’t be Florida without some wackiness like this, but yes indeed, according to Gulf Live, in 1982, the Florida Keys actually seceded and declared independence.
Precipitated by Border Patrol initiatives to stymie immigration and drug trafficking by installing a road block, locals vehemently protested these measures.
So, on April 28, 1982 Key West mayor, Dennis Wardlow declared independence from the United States.
Dennis Wardlow was anointed the Prime Minister of the newly established state, the Conch Republic. And, in the most Florida move ever, they even declared war on the US.
Ultimately, they went out with a fizzle instead of a boom. While residents enjoyed playing pretend, the roadblock was discontinued and order was quickly restored.
And by quickly, I mean two minutes.
NOTE: This isn’t the only rousing tale of temporary independence in the US. Check out my California facts post for more.
18. Carrabelle, Florida is home to the world’s smallest police station
People get hung up on the size of things. People care about the size of their cities—the size of their populations—and the sheer amount of milestones they achieved.
However, as the City of Carrabelle Police Department describes, that just means places like their police station can easily find their claim to fame.
On March 10, 1963, the world’s smallest police station was constructed. The size? A single phone booth.
Having started as a single call box, they initially had problems with tourists making unauthorized long distance calls on the phone and so they moved the callbox to another location.
Nonetheless, the calls persisted, and officers reported getting drenched whenever answering calls in the rain.
So, to solve both issues, it was relocated in front of Burda’s Pharmacy. Of course, people still snuck in. And, eventually, the dial was removed all together.
Which goes to show you: we truly can’t have nice things.
19. Florida is (allegedly) home to a mythical creature called the Skunk Ape
In a state that feels like its own world, it only makes sense they would also have their own mythical creatures.
The Smithsonian Magazine describes that Florida is actually home to a mythical creature known as a skunk ape.
Basically an Everglades version of Bigfoot, it’s reported to have a “pungent odor,” which explains the nickname.
Reports of seeing a docile, large creature covered in hair are shockingly common, similar to reports of Bigfoot sightings in other parts of the country, like Washington, where it’s even illegal to hunt Sasquatch.
And, while scientists unanimously agree that there is no Skunk Ape, it’s still an interesting myth some people can’t let go.
20. Florida set the record for most consecutive days of sunshine
This record seems a little unfair considering the climate, but still, it’s worth noting that Florida is the true “Sunshine State.”
National Geographic explains that St. Petersburg Florida boasts a staggering average of 361 days of sunshine in the world.
More impressively, it has the Guinness World Record for most recorded days of consecutive sunshine. The record was 768 between February, 1967 to March, 1969.
Did I miss any of your favorite fun facts about Florida?
Let me know in the comments! I’d love to add more to this list!