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State of Florida
Flag of Florida State seal of Florida
Flag Seal
Nickname(s): The Sunshine State
Motto(s): In God We Trust
State anthem: Florida, Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky
Map of the United States with Florida highlighted
Official language(s) English
Spoken language(s) English 74.54%
Spanish 18.65%
Demonym Floridian
Capital Tallahassee
Largest city Jacksonville
Largest metro area Miami
Area  Ranked 22nd in the U.S.
 - Total 65,755 sq mi
(170,304 km2)
 - Width 361 miles (582 km)
 - Length 447 miles (721 km)
 - % water 17.9
 - Latitude 24° 27′ N to 31° 00' N
 - Longitude 80° 02′ W to 87° 38′ W
Population  Ranked 4th in the U.S.
 - Total 19,317,568 (2012 est)
 -  Density 353.4/sq mi  (136.4/km2)
Ranked 8th in the U.S.
 - Highest point Britton Hill
345 ft (105 m)
 - Mean 100 ft  (30 m)
 - Lowest point Atlantic Ocean
sea level
Before statehood Florida Territory
Admission to Union  March 3, 1845 (27th)
Governor Rick Scott ( R)
Lieutenant Governor Vacant
Legislature Florida Legislature
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house House of Representatives
U.S. Senators Bill Nelson ( D)
Marco Rubio (R)
U.S. House delegation 17 Republicans, 10 Democrats ( list)
Time zones  
 - Peninsula and " Big Bend" region EST: UTC −5/ −4
 - Panhandle west of the Apalachicola River CST: UTC −6/ −5
Abbreviations FL Fla. US-FL
Florida State symbols
Flag of Florida.svg
The Flag of Florida.

Animate insignia
Amphibian Barking tree frog
Bird(s) Northern Mockingbird
Butterfly Zebra Longwing
Fish Florida largemouth bass, Atlantic sailfish
Flower(s) Orange blossom
Mammal(s) Florida panther, Manatee, Bottle-nosed dolphin, Florida Cracker Horse
Reptile American Alligator, Loggerhead turtle
Tree Sabal Palmetto

Inanimate insignia
Beverage Orange juice
Food Key lime pie, Orange
Gemstone Moonstone
Rock agatized Coral
Shell Horse conch
Soil Myakka
Song(s) " Old Folks at Home" ("Way Down Upon The Swanee River")

Route marker(s)
Florida Route Marker

State Quarter
Quarter of Florida
Released in 2004

Lists of United States state insignia
Map of Florida's incorporated municipalities (click for larger version)

Florida ( / ˈ f l ɒr ɪ d ə /) is a state in the southeastern region of the United States, bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. Florida is the 22nd most extensive, the 4th most populous, and the 8th most densely populated of the 50 United States. The state capital is Tallahassee, its largest city is Jacksonville, and the Miami metropolitan area is the largest metropolitan area in the southeastern United States.

Much of Florida is a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Straits of Florida. Its geography is notable for a coastline, omnipresent water and the threat of hurricanes. Florida has the longest coastline in the contiguous United States, encompassing approximately 1,350 miles (2,170 km), and is the only state that borders both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Much of the state is at or near sea level and is characterized by sedimentary soil. The climate varies from subtropical in the north to tropical in the south. Some of its most iconic animals, such as the American alligator, crocodile, Florida panther and the manatee, can be found in the Everglades, one of the most famous national parks in the world.

Since the first European contact was made in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León – who named it La Florida ( [la floˈɾiða] "Flowery Land") upon landing there during the Easter season, Pascua Florida – Florida was a challenge for the European colonial powers before it gained statehood in the United States in 1845. It was a principal location of the Seminole Wars against the Indians, and racial segregation after the American Civil War. Today, it is distinguished by its large Hispanic community, and high population growth, as well as its increasing environmental concerns. Its economy relies mainly on tourism, agriculture, and transportation, which developed in the late 19th century. Florida is also known for its amusement parks, the production of oranges, and the Kennedy Space Centre.

Florida culture is a reflection of influences and multiple inheritance; Native American, European American, Hispanic and African American heritages can be found in the architecture and cuisine. Florida has attracted many writers such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, and continues to attract celebrities and athletes. It is internationally known for golf, tennis, auto racing, and water sports.


Juan Ponce de León
The five flags of Florida from the right, Spain (1565–1763), the Kingdom of Great Britain, Spain (1784–1821), the Confederacy, and the United States. France (flag not shown) also controlled part of Florida.
Bernard Picart copper plate engraving of Florida Indians, Circa 1721 "Ceremonies and Religious Dress of all the People of the World"
A Cracker cowboy, 19th century
The Battle of Olustee during the American Civil War in 1864
Winter in Florida, 1893
Soldiers and crowds in Downtown Miami 20 minutes after surrender during World War II (1945)

Archaeological research indicates that Florida was first inhabited by Paleo-Indians, the first human inhabitants of the Americas, perhaps as early as 14 thousand years ago. The region was continuously inhabited through the Archaic period (to about 2000 BC). After about 500 BC the previously relatively uniform Archaic culture began to coalesce into distinctive local cultures. By the 16th century, the earliest time for which there is a historical record, major Native American groups included the Apalachee (of the Florida Panhandle), the Timucua (of northern and central Florida), the Ais (of the central Atlantic coast), the Tocobaga (of the Tampa Bay area), the Calusa (of southwest Florida) and the Tequesta (of the southeastern coast).

Florida was the first part of what is now the continental United States to be visited by Europeans. The earliest known European explorers came with the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León. According to the "500TH Florida Discovery Council Round Table", on March 3, 1513, Ponce de Leon, organized and equipped three ships which commenced an expedition (with a Crew of 200-including Women and Free Blacks) departing from " Punta Aguada" Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico was the historic 1st gateway to the discovery of Florida which opened the doors to the advanced settlement of the USA. They introduced Christianity, Cattle, Horses, Sheep, the Spanish language and more to the land (Florida) that later became the United States of America, 107 years before the Pilgrims landed. Ponce de León spotted the peninsula on April 2, 1513. According to his chroniclers, Ponce de León named the region La Florida ("flowery land") because it was then the Easter Season, known in Spanish as Pascua Florida (roughly "Flowery Easter"), and because the vegetation was in bloom. It is possible Juan Ponce de León was not the first European to reach Florida, however; reportedly, at least one indigenous tribesman whom he encountered in Florida in 1513 spoke Spanish. From 1513 onward, the land became known as "La Florida", although after 1630 and throughout the 18th century, Tegesta (after the Tequesta tribe) was an alternate name of choice for the Florida peninsula following publication of a map by the Dutch cartographer Hessel Gerritsz in Joannes de Laet's History of the New World.

Over the following century, both the Spanish and French established settlements in Florida with varying degrees of success. In 1559, Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano established a colony at present-day Pensacola, one of the first European attempts at settlement in the continental United States. It was abandoned by 1561 due to hurricanes, famine and warring tribes, and the area was not re-inhabited until the 1690s. French Protestant Huguenots founded Fort Caroline in modern-day Jacksonville in 1564. The following year, the Spanish colony of St. Augustine (San Agustín) was established, and forces from there conquered Fort Caroline that same year. The Spanish maintained tenuous control over the region by converting the local tribes, briefly with Jesuits and later with Franciscan friars.

The area of Spanish Florida diminished with the establishment of English colonies to the north and French colonies to the west. The English weakened Spanish power in the area by supplying their Creek and Yamasee allies with firearms and urging them to raid the Timucuan and Apalachee client-tribes of the Spanish. The English attacked St. Augustine, burning the city and its cathedral to the ground several times, while the citizens hid behind the walls of the Castillo de San Marcos.

Florida was attracting a large number of Africans and African Americans from British-occupied North America who sought freedom from slavery. Once in Florida, the Spanish Crown converted them to Roman Catholicism and gave them freedom. Those ex-slaves settled in a community north of St. Augustine, called Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the first freedom settlement of its kind in what became the United States. Many of those slaves were also welcomed by Creek and Seminole Native Americans who had established settlements there at the invitation of the Spanish government.

Great Britain gained control of Florida and other territory diplomatically in 1763 through the Peace of Paris. The British divided their new acquisitions into East Florida, with its capital at St. Augustine, and West Florida, with its capital at Pensacola. Britain tried to develop the Floridas through the importation of immigrants for labor, but this project ultimately failed. Spain received both Floridas after Britain's defeat by the American colonies and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles in 1783, continuing the division into East and West Florida. They offered land grants to anyone who settled in the colonies, and many Americans moved to them.

After settler attacks on Indian towns, Seminole Indians based in East Florida began raiding Georgia settlements, purportedly at the behest of the Spanish. The United States Army led increasingly frequent incursions into Spanish territory, including the 1817–1818 campaign against the Seminole Indians by Andrew Jackson that became known as the First Seminole War. Following the war, the United States effectively controlled East Florida.

In 1819, by terms of the Adams-Onís Treaty, Spain ceded Florida to the United States in exchange for $5 million and the American renunciation of any claims on Texas that they might have from the Louisiana Purchase.

In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was passed and as settlement increased, pressure grew on the United States government to remove the Indians from their lands in Florida. To the chagrin of Georgia landowners, the Seminoles harbored and integrated runaway blacks, known as the Black Seminoles, and clashes between whites and Indians grew with the influx of new settlers. In 1832, the United States government signed the Treaty of Payne's Landing with some of the Seminole chiefs, promising them lands west of the Mississippi River if they agreed to leave Florida voluntarily. Many of the Seminoles left at this time, while those who remained prepared to defend their claims to the land. The U.S. Army arrived in 1835 to enforce the treaty under pressure from white settlers, and the Second Seminole War began at the end of the year with the Dade Massacre, when Seminoles ambushed and killed or mortally wounded all but one in a group of 110 Army troops, plus Major Dade and seven officers, marching from Fort Brooke (Tampa) to reinforce Fort King (Ocala). Between 900 and 1,500 Seminole Indian warriors employed guerrilla tactics against United States Army troops for seven years until 1842. The U.S. government is estimated to have spent between $20 million and $40 million on the war, at the time an astronomical sum.

The US quarter dollar coin released in 2004, in honour of the state of Florida.

On March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state of the United States of America, although initially its population grew slowly. White settlers continued to encroach on lands used by the Seminoles, and the United States government resolved to make another effort to move the remaining Seminoles to the West. The Third Seminole War lasted from 1855 to 1858, and resulted in the removal of most of the remaining Seminoles. Even after three bloody wars, the U.S. Army failed to force all of the Seminole Indians in Florida to the West. Though most of the Seminoles were forcibly exiled to Creek lands west of the Mississippi, hundreds, including Seminole leader Aripeka (Sam Jones), remained in the Everglades and refused to leave the native homeland of their ancestors. Their descendants remain there to this day.

White settlers began to establish cotton plantations in Florida, which required numerous laborers. By 1860 Florida had only 140,424 people, of whom 44% were enslaved. There were fewer than 1000 free African Americans before the Civil War.

On January 10, 1861, before the start of the American Civil War, Florida declared its secession from the Union; ten days later, the state became a founding member of the Confederate States of America. The war ended in 1865. On June 25, 1868, Florida's congressional representation was restored. After Reconstruction, white Democrats succeeded in regaining power in the state legislature. In 1885 they created a new constitution, followed by statutes through 1889 that effectively disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites over the next several years. Provisions included poll taxes, literacy tests, and residency requirements. Disfranchisement for most African Americans in the state persisted until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s gained federal legislation to protect their suffrage.

Until the mid-20th century, Florida was the least populous Southern state. In 1900 its population was only 528,542, of whom nearly 44% were African American. The boll weevil devastated cotton crops, and early 20th century lynchings and racial violence caused a record number of African Americans to leave the state in the Great Migration to northern and midwestern industrial cities. Forty thousand blacks, roughly one-fifth of their 1900 population, left for better opportunities. Economic prosperity in the 1920s stimulated tourism to Florida. Combined with its sudden elevation in profile was the Florida land boom of the 1920s, which brought a brief period of intense land development. Devastating hurricanes in 1926 and 1928, followed by the stock market crash and Great Depression, brought that period to a halt.

Florida's economy did not fully recover until the buildup for World War II. The climate, tempered by the growing availability of air conditioning, and low cost of living made the state a haven. Migration from the Rust Belt and the Northeast sharply increased the population after the war. In recent decades, more migrants have come for the jobs in a developing economy. With a population of more than 18 million according to the 2010 census, Florida is the most populous state in the Southeastern United States, the second most populous state in the South behind Texas, and the fourth most populous in the United States.


A map of Florida showing county names and boundaries

Much of the state of Florida is situated on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean and the Straits of Florida. Spanning two time zones, it extends to the northwest into a panhandle, extending along the northern Gulf of Mexico. It is bordered on the north by the states of Georgia and Alabama, and on the west, at the end of the panhandle, by Alabama. It is near several Caribbean countries, particularly The Bahamas and Cuba. Florida is one of the largest states east of the Mississippi River, and only Alaska and Michigan are larger in water area.

At 345 feet (105 m) above mean sea level, Britton Hill is the highest point in Florida and the lowest highpoint of any U.S. state. Much of the state south of Orlando is low-lying and fairly level; however, some places, such as Clearwater, feature vistas that rise 50 to 100 ft (15 to 30 m) above the water. Much of Central and North Florida, typically 25 mi (40 km) or more away from the coastline, features rolling hills with elevations ranging from 100 to 250 ft (30 to 76 m). The highest point in peninsular Florida (east and south of the Suwanee River), Sugarloaf Mountain, is a 312-foot (95 m) peak in Lake County.


The state line begins in the Atlantic Ocean, traveling west, south, and north up the thalweg of the Saint Mary's River. At the origin of that river, it then follows a straight line nearly due west and slightly north, to the point where the confluence of the Flint River (from Georgia) and the Chattahoochee River (down the Alabama/Georgia line) used to form Florida's Apalachicola River. (Since Woodruff Dam was built, this point has been under Lake Seminole.) The border with Georgia continues north through the lake for a short distance up the former thalweg of the Chattahoochee, then with Alabama runs due west along latitude 31°N to the Perdido River, then south along its thalweg to the Gulf via Perdido Bay. The water boundary is 3 nautical miles (3.5 mi; 5.6 km) offshore in the Atlantic Ocean and 9 nautical miles (10 mi; 17 km) offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Much of the state is at or near sea level.


Hurricane Andrew bearing down on Florida on August 23, 1992.

The climate of Florida is tempered somewhat by the fact that no part of the state is very distant from the ocean. North of Lake Okeechobee, the prevalent climate is humid subtropical ( Köppen: Cfa), while coastal areas south of the lake (including the Florida Keys) have a true tropical climate (Köppen: Aw). Mean high temperatures for late July are primarily in the low 90s Fahrenheit (32–34 °C). Mean low temperatures for early to mid January range from the low 40s Fahrenheit (4–7 °C) in northern Florida to above 60 °F (16 °C) from Miami on southward. With an average daily temperature of 70.7 °F (21.5 °C), it is the warmest state in the country.

In the summer, high temperatures in the state seldom exceed 100 °F (38 °C). Several record cold maxima have been in the 30s °F (−1 to 4 °C) and record lows have been in the 10s (−12 to −7 °C). These temperatures normally extend at most a few days at a time in the northern and central parts of Florida. Southern Florida, however, rarely encounters freezing temperatures.

The hottest temperature ever recorded in Florida was 109 °F (43 °C), which was set on June 29, 1931 in Monticello. The coldest temperature was −2 °F (−19 °C), on February 13, 1899, just 25 miles (40 km) away, in Tallahassee.

Due to the tropical climate Florida rarely receives snow. However, on very rare occasions, a combination of cold moisture and freezing temperatures can result in snowfall. Frost is more common than snow, occurring several times during the winter months.

Snowball fight on the Florida State Capitol Building in Tallahassee on February 13, 1899

The USDA Plant hardiness zones for the state range from zone 8a (no colder than 10 °F (−12 °C)) in the inland western panhandle to zone 11 (no colder than 40 °F (4 °C)) in the lower Florida Keys.

Florida's nickname is the "Sunshine State", but severe weather is a common occurrence in the state. Central Florida is known as the lightning capital of the United States, as it experiences more lightning strikes than anywhere else in the country. Florida has one of the highest average precipitation levels of any state, in large part because afternoon thunderstorms are common in much of the state from late spring until early autumn. A narrow eastern part of the state including Orlando and Jacksonville receives between 2,400 and 2,800 hours of sunshine annually. The rest of the state, including Miami, receives between 2,800 and 3,200 hours annually.

Florida leads the United States in tornadoes per area (when including waterspouts) but they do not typically reach the intensity of those in the Midwest and Great Plains. Hail often accompanies the most severe thunderstorms.

Hurricanes pose a severe threat during hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to November 30, although some storms have been known to form out of season. Florida is the most hurricane-prone state, with subtropical or tropical water on a lengthy coastline. From 1851 to 2006, Florida has been struck by 114 hurricanes, 37 of them major— category 3 and above. It is rare for a hurricane season to pass without any impact in the state by at least a tropical storm. For category 4 or higher storms which have struck the United States, 83% have either hit Florida or Texas. August to October is the most likely period for a hurricane in Florida.

In 2004, Florida was hit by a record four hurricanes. Hurricanes Charley (August 13), Frances (September 4–5), Ivan (September 16), and Jeanne (September 25–26) cumulatively cost the state's economy $42 billion. Additionally, the four storms caused an estimated $45 billion in damage. In 2005, Hurricane Dennis (July 10) became the fifth storm to strike Florida within eleven months. Later, Hurricane Katrina (August 25) passed through South Florida and Hurricane Rita (September 20) swept through the Florida Keys. Hurricane Wilma (October 24) made landfall near Cape Romano, just south of Marco Island, finishing another very active hurricane season. Wilma is the second most expensive hurricane in Florida history, due in part to a five-year window in which to file claims.

Florida was the site of what was then the costliest weather disaster in U.S. history, Hurricane Andrew, which caused more than $25 billion in damage when it struck on August 24, 1992; it held that distinction until 2005, when Hurricane Katrina surpassed it. Among a long list of other infamous hurricane strikes are the 1926 Miami hurricane, the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Donna in 1960, and Hurricane Opal in 1995. Recent research suggests the number of storms are part of a natural cycle which rises in some years, falls in others.

Average High and Low temperatures for various Florida Cities
City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jacksonville 65/42 68/45 74/50 79/55 86/63 90/70 92/73 91/73 87/69 80/61 74/51 67/44
Key West 75/65 76/66 79/69 82/72 85/76 88/78 89/80 90/80 88/78 85/76 80/71 76/67
Melbourne 72/51 73/53 77/57 81/61 85/67 88/71 90/73 90/73 88/72 83/67 78/60 73/53
Miami 76/60 78/62 80/65 83/68 87/73 89/76 91/77 91/77 89/76 86/73 82/68 78/63
Orlando 71/49 74/52 78/56 83/60 88/66 91/72 92/74 92/74 90/73 85/66 78/59 73/52
Pensacola 61/43 64/46 70/51 76/58 84/66 89/72 90/74 90/74 87/70 80/60 70/50 63/45
Tallahassee 64/39 68/42 74/47 80/52 87/62 91/70 92/72 92/72 89/68 82/57 73/48 66/41
Tampa 70/51 73/54 77/58 81/62 88/69 90/74 90/75 91/76 89/74 85/67 78/60 72/54


American Alligator in the Florida Everglades

Florida is host to many types of wildlife including:

  • Marine Mammals: Bottlenose Dolphin, Short-finned Pilot Whale, North Atlantic Right Whale, West Indian Manatee
  • Mammals: Florida panther, Northern River Otter, Mink, Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, Marsh Rabbit, Raccoon, Striped Skunk, Squirrel, White-tailed deer, Key Deer, Bobcats, Gray Fox, Coyote, Wild Boar, Florida Black Bear, Nine-banded Armadillos
  • Reptiles: Eastern Diamondback and Pygmy Rattlesnakes, Gopher Tortoise, Green and Leatherback Sea Turtles, and Eastern Indigo Snake. In 2012, there were about one million American Alligators and 1,500 Crocodiles.
  • Birds: Bald Eagle, Northern Caracara, Snail Kite, Osprey, White and Brown Pelicans, Sea Gulls, Whooping and Sandhill Cranes, Roseate Spoonbill, Florida Scrub Jay (state endemic), and others. One subspecies of Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, namely subspecies osceola, is found only in the state of Florida. The state is a wintering location for many species of eastern North American birds.
  • Invertebrates: carpenter ants, termites, American cockroach, Africanized bees, the Miami blue butterfly, and the grizzled mantis.

The only known calving area for the Northern Right Whale is off the coasts of Florida and Georgia.

The native bear population has risen from a historic low of 300 in the 1970s, to 3,000 in 2011.

Since their accidental importation from South America into North America in the 1930s, the Red imported fire ant population has increased its territorial range to include most of the Southern United States, including Florida. They are more aggressive than most native ant species and have a painful sting.

A number of non-native snakes and lizards have been released in the wild. In 2010 the state created a hunting season for Burmese and Indian pythons, African rock pythons, green anacondas, and Nile monitor lizards. Green iguanas have also established a firm population in the southern part of the state.

Environmental issues

The beaches of Key Biscayne in Miami

Florida is a low per capita energy user. It is estimated that approximately 4% of energy in the state is generated through renewable resources. Florida's energy production is 6% of the nation's total energy output, while total production of pollutants is lower, with figures of 5.6% for nitrogen oxide, 5.1% for carbon dioxide, and 3.5% for sulfur dioxide.

It is believed that significant petroleum resources are located off Florida's western coast in the Gulf of Mexico, but that region has been closed to exploration since 1981.

Red tide has been an issue on the southwest coast of Florida, as well as other areas. While there has been a great deal of conjecture over the cause of the toxic algae bloom, there is no evidence that it is being caused by pollution or that there has been an increase in the duration or frequency of red tides.

The Florida panther is close to extinction. A record 23 were killed in 2009 predominately by automobile collisions, leaving about 100 individuals in the wild. The Centre for Biological Diversity and others have therefore called for a special protected area for the panther to be established. Manatees are also dying at a rate higher than their reproduction.

Prior to instituting controlled burns, the state forests and pastures burned for months during the dry season. From the 1940s to the 1970s, the state and federal government assumed control of burning that largely prevented uncontrolled fires. In 2010, the state burned a record 2,600,000 acres (11,000 km2).


The recycling rate in Florida is estimated at 28% in 2000. In 2008, The Energy, Climate Change, and Economic Security Act of 2008 set a goal of progressively improving recycling to reach a 75 percent rate by the year 2020.

It directs public entities (schools, state and local public agencies) to report the amount they recycle annually to their counties. Private businesses are encouraged (but not mandated) to report the amount they recycle to their counties. Finally, the section directs DEP to create the Recycling Business Assistance Centre. Under the new law, each county must implement a recyclable materials recycling program that shall have a goal of recycling recyclable solid waste by 40 percent by December 31, 2012, 50 percent by 2014, 60 percent by 2016, 70 percent by 2018, and 75 percent by 2020. The county with the highest recycling rate is Lee County with a 43% recycling rate as of 2008.


Topographic map of Florida

The Florida peninsula is a porous plateau of karst limestone sitting atop bedrock known as the Florida Platform. The emergent portion of the platform was created during the Eocene to Oligocene as the Gulf Trough filled with silts, clays, and sands. Flora and fauna began appearing during the Miocene. No land animals were present in Florida prior to the Miocene.

The largest deposits of potash in the United States are found in Florida.

Extended systems of underwater caves, sinkholes and springs are found throughout the state and supply most of the water used by residents. The limestone is topped with sandy soils deposited as ancient beaches over millions of years as global sea levels rose and fell. During the last glacial period, lower sea levels and a drier climate revealed a much wider peninsula, largely savanna. The Everglades, an enormously wide, very slow-flowing river encompasses the southern tip of the peninsula. Sinkhole damage claims on property in the state exceeded a total of $2 billion from 2006 through 2010.

Earthquakes and tsunamis

Florida is tied for last place as having the fewest earthquakes of any U.S. state. Because Florida is not located near any tectonic plate boundaries, earthquakes are extremely rare, but not totally unknown.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake in Portugal triggered a tsunami that would have struck Central Florida with an estimated 5-foot (1.5 m) wave.

In January, 1879, a shock of Mercalli intensity scale VI occurred near St. Augustine. There were reports of heavy shaking that knocked plaster from walls and articles from shelves. Similar effects were noted at Daytona Beach 50 miles (80 km) south. The tremor was felt as far south as Tampa and as far north as Savannah, Georgia.

In January 1880, Cuba was the centre of two strong earthquakes that sent severe shock waves through the city of Key West.

The shock from the 1886 Charleston, South Carolina, earthquake was felt throughout northern Florida, ringing church bells at St. Augustine and severely jolting other towns along that section of Florida's east coast. Jacksonville residents felt many of the strong aftershocks that occurred in September, October, and November 1886.

In 2006, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake centered about 260 miles (420 km) southwest of Tampa in the Gulf of Mexico sent shock waves through southwest and central Florida. The earthquake was too small to trigger a tsunami and no damage was reported.|



Historical populations
Census Pop.
1830 34,730
1840 54,477 56.9%
1850 87,445 60.5%
1860 140,424 60.6%
1870 187,748 33.7%
1880 269,493 43.5%
1890 391,422 45.2%
1900 528,542 35.0%
1910 752,619 42.4%
1920 968,470 28.7%
1930 1,468,211 51.6%
1940 1,897,414 29.2%
1950 2,771,305 46.1%
1960 4,951,560 78.7%
1970 6,789,443 37.1%
1980 9,746,324 43.6%
1990 12,937,926 32.7%
2000 15,982,378 23.5%
2010 18,801,310 17.6%
Est. 2012 19,317,568 2.7%
Sources: 1910–2010

The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Florida was 19,317,568 on July 1, 2012, a 2.7% increase since the 2010 United States Census. The centre of population of Florida is located in Polk County, in the town of Lake Wales. As of 2009, Florida's population was estimated to be 18,537,969. The state grew 128,814, or 0.7% from 2007. Using the latest population estimates, Florida is the nation's thirtieth-fastest-growing state. During Florida's recent peak growth year of 2005, it was the nation's fifth fastest growing state and grew at an annual rate of 2.2%.

About two-thirds of the population was born in another state, the second highest in the country.

In 2010, illegal immigrants constituted an estimated 5.7% of the population. This was the sixth highest percentage of any state in the country. There were an estimated 675,000 illegal immigrants in the state in 2010.

There were 186,102 military retirees living in the state in 2008.

Racial makeup

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Florida had a population of 18,801,310. In terms of race and ethnicity, the state was:

  • 75.0% White (57.9% Non-Hispanic White alone)
  • 16.0% Black or African American
  • 0.4% American Indian and Alaska Native
  • 2.4% Asian
  • 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
  • 3.6% from Some Other Race
  • 2.5% from Two or More Races
  • Hispanics and Latinos of any race made up 22.5% of the population.

Ancestry groups

The largest reported ancestries in the 2000 Census were German (11.8%), Irish (10.3%), English (9.2%), American (8%), Italian (6.3%), Cuban (5.2%), Puerto Rican (3.0%) French (2.8%), Polish (2.7%) and Scottish (1.8%).

In the 2000 Census, 1,278,586 people in Florida self-identified as having "American" ancestry, most of these people are of English descent and some are of Scots-Irish descent however have families that have been in the state so long, in many cases since the colonial period, that they choose to identify simply as having "American" ancestry or do not in fact know their own ancestry. In the 1980 United States census the largest ancestry group reported in Florida was English with 2,232,514 Floridians citing that they were of English or mostly English ancestry. Their ancestry primarily goes back to the original thirteen colonies and for this reason many of them today simply claim "American" ancestry, though they are of predominately English stock. They were followed by Irish at 1,617,433.

Refugee children from Somalia's Bantu ethnic minority group resettled in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Before the American Civil War, when slavery was legal, and during the Reconstruction era that followed, blacks made up nearly half of the state's population. Their proportion declined over the next century, as many moved north in the Great Migration while large numbers of northern whites moved to the state. In 1970, non-Hispanic whites were nearly 80% of Florida's population. Recently, the state's proportion of black residents has begun to grow again. Today, large concentrations of black residents can be found in northern Florida (notably in Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tallahassee, and Pensacola), the Tampa Bay area, the Orlando area, especially in Orlando and Sanford.

Florida's Hispanic population includes large communities of Cuban Americans in Miami and Tampa, Puerto Ricans in Orlando and Tampa, and Central American migrant workers in inland West-Central and South Florida. The Hispanic community continues to grow more affluent and mobile. As of 2011, 57.0% of Florida's children under the age of 1 belonged to minority groups.

White Americans of all European backgrounds are present in all areas of the state. Those of English and Irish ancestry are present in large numbers in all the urban/suburban areas across the state. Native white Floridians, especially those who have descended from long-time Florida families, affectionately refer to themselves as " Florida crackers". Like whites in most of the other Southern states, they descend mainly from English and Scots-Irish settlers, as well as some other British settlers.

Cities and metropolitan areas

Largest cities in Florida by population
Rank City Year of Incorporation Metropolitan Area Population
(2010 census)
Population Density
(people per mi2)
Land Area
1 Jacksonville 1832 Jacksonville 7005821784000000000821,784 70031062000000000001,062 7002747000000000000747.0
2 Miami 1896 Miami 7005408568000000000408,568 700412140000000000012,140 700135900000000000035.9
3 Tampa 1855 Tampa Bay 7005335709000000000335,709 70032970000000000002,970 7002113400000000000113.4
4 Saint Petersburg 1903 Tampa Bay 7005244769000000000244,769 70033967000000000003,967 700161700000000000061.7
5 Orlando 1885 Orlando 7005238300000000000238,300 70032327000000000002,327 7002102400000000000102.4
6 Hialeah 1925 Miami 7005224669000000000224,669 700411701000000000011,701 700121500000000000021.5
7 Tallahassee 1825 Tallahassee 7005181376000000000181,376 70031809000000000001,809 7002100200000000000100.2
8 Fort Lauderdale 1911 Miami 7005165521000000000165,521 70035222000000000005,222 700134800999990000034.8
9 Port Saint Lucie 1961 Port Saint Lucie 7005164603000000000164,603 70032056000000000002,056 7002114000000000000114.0
10 Pembroke Pines 1960 Miami 7005154750000000000154,750 70034675000000000004,675 700133100000000000033.1
Largest metropolitan areas in Florida
Rank Metropolitan area Population
1 Miami 5,564,635
2 Tampa Bay 2,783,243
3 Orlando 2,134,411
4 Jacksonville 1,345,596
5 North Port–Bradenton 702,281
Map of the metropolitan statistical areas and major cities

The largest metropolitan area in the state as well as the entire southeastern United States is the Miami metropolitan area, with about 5.5 million people. The Tampa Bay Area, with over 2.7 million people, is the second largest; the Orlando metropolitan area, with over 2.1 million people, is the third; and the Jacksonville metropolitan area, with over 1.3 million people, is fourth.

Florida's population density

Florida has twenty Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) defined by the United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Thirty-nine of Florida's sixty-seven counties are in an MSA. Reflecting the distribution of population in Florida, Metropolitan areas in the state are concentrated around the coast of the peninsula. They form a continuous band on the east coast of Florida, stretching from the Jacksonville MSA to the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach MSA, including every county on the east coast, with the exception of Monroe County. There is also a continuous band of MSAs on the west coast of the peninsula from the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater MSA to the Naples-Marco Island MSA, including all of the coastal counties from Hernando County to Collier County. The interior of the northern half of the peninsula also has several MSAs, connecting the east and west coast MSAs. A few MSAs are scattered across the Florida panhandle.


First settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, today, 19% of Floridians speak Spanish, and is the most widely taught second language.

As of 2005, 74.54% of Florida residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a first language, while 18.65% spoke Spanish, and French Creole (almost entirely Haitian Creole) was spoken by 1.73% of the population. In all, 25.45% of Florida's population age 5 and older spoke a language other than English.

Florida's public education system identified over 150 first languages other than English spoken in the homes of students. In 1990, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) won a class action lawsuit against the state Florida Department of Education that required educators to be trained in teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

Article II, Section 9, of the Florida Constitution provides that "English is the official language of the State of Florida." This provision was adopted in 1988 by a vote following an Initiative Petition.


As of the year 2000, the three largest denominational groups in Florida are Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Mainline Protestant.

Florida is mostly Protestant, but Roman Catholicism is the single largest denomination in the state. There is also a sizable Jewish community, located mainly in South Florida; this is the largest Jewish population in the South and the third largest in the country behind New York and California. Florida's current religious affiliations are shown in the table below:


Florida Capitol buildings.

The basic structure, duties, function, and operations of the government of the state of Florida are defined and established by the Florida Constitution, which establishes the basic law of the state and guarantees various rights and freedoms of the people. The state government consists of three separate branches: judicial, executive, and legislative. The legislature enacts bills, which, if signed by the governor, become law.

The Florida Legislature comprises the Florida Senate, which has 40 members, and the Florida House of Representatives, which has 120 members. The current Governor of Florida is Rick Scott. The Florida Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and six Justices.

Florida has 67 counties. Some reference materials may show only 66 because Duval County is consolidated with the City of Jacksonville. There are 379 cities in Florida (out of 411) that report regularly to the Florida Department of Revenue, but there are other incorporated municipalities that do not. The state government's primary source of revenue is sales tax. Florida does not impose a personal income tax. The primary revenue source for cities and counties is property tax.

Political history

From 1885 to 1889, the State Legislature passed statutes with provisions that restricted voting by blacks and poor whites. These groups had threatened white Democratic power with a populist coalition. As blacks and poor whites were stripped from voter rolls, white Democrats consolidated power in a one-party state, as happened across the South. In 1900 African Americans comprised 44% of the state's population. This was the same proportion as before the Civil War, but they were effectively disfranchised. From 1877 to 1948, Florida voted for the Democratic candidate for president in every election except for the 1928 election.

The Florida Supreme Court

In response to segregation, disfranchisement and agricultural depression, many African Americans migrated from Florida to northern cities in the Great Migration, in waves from 1910–1940, and again starting in the later 1940s. They moved for jobs, better education for their children and the chance to vote and participate in society. Given migration of other groups into Florida, by 1960 the proportion of African Americans in the state had declined to 18%.

Since 1952, although a majority of voters are registered Democrats, the state has voted for the Republican presidential candidate in every election except for the 1964, 1976, and 1996 elections, when the Democrat was from the South, and the 2008 election, which was the first time since Franklin D. Roosevelt that Florida had voted for a Northern Democrat. The first post-reconstruction Republican congressional representative was elected in 1954. The state's first post-reconstruction Republican senator was elected in 1968, two years after the first post-reconstruction Republican governor.

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democratic
2012 49.13% 4,162,174 50.01% 4,236,032
2008 48.22% 4,045,624 50.96% 4,282,074
2004 52.10% 3,964,522 47.09% 3,583,544
2000 48.85% 2,912,790 48.84% 2,912,253
1996 42.32% 2,244,536 48.02% 2,546,870
1992 40.89% 2,173,310 39.00% 2,072,698
1988 60.87% 2,618,885 38.51% 1,656,701
1984 65.32% 2,730,350 34.66% 1,448,816
1980 55.52% 2,046,951 38.50% 1,419,475
1976 46.64% 1,469,531 51.93% 1,636,000
1972 71.91% 1,857,759 27.80% 718,117
1968 40.53% 886,804 30.93% 676,794
1964 48.85% 905,941 51.15% 948,540
1960 51.51% 795,476 48.49% 748,700

In 1998, Democrats were most dominant in areas of the state with a high percentage of racial minorities as well as transplanted white liberals who primarily came from the northeastern United States. South Florida and the Miami metropolitan area was a good example, as it had a particularly high level of both racial minorities and white liberals. Because of this, the area has been one of the most Democratic areas of the state. The Daytona Beach area has been, to a lesser extent, somewhat similar to South Florida demographically and the city of Orlando had a large Hispanic population, which often favored Democrats. Republicans remain dominant throughout much of the rest of Florida particularly in the more rural and suburban areas, as is the case throughout the Deep South.

The fast growing I-4 corridor area, which runs through Central Florida and connects the cities of Daytona Beach, Orlando, and Tampa/ St. Petersburg, had a fairly similar number of both Republican and Democratic voters. The area is often seen as a merging point of the conservative northern portion of the state and the liberal southern portion making it the biggest swing area in the state. In recent times, whichever way the I-4 corridor area, containing 40% of Florida voters, votes has often determined who will win the state of Florida in presidential elections.

The Democratic Party has maintained an edge in voter registration, both statewide and in 40 of the 67 counties, including Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County, the state's three most populous counties.

There were 800 federal corruption convictions from 1988 to 2007, more than any other state.

Recent elections

In 2000, George W. Bush won the U.S. Presidential election by a margin of 271–266 in the Electoral College. Of the 271 electoral votes for Bush, 25 were cast by electors from Florida. Reapportionment following the 2000 United States Census gave the state two more seats in the House of Representatives.

Despite the Democratic advantage in registration, as of 2008, Republicans controlled the governorship and most other statewide elective offices; both houses of the state legislature; and 15 of the state's 25 seats in the House of Representatives. Florida has been listed as a swing state in Presidential elections since 1950, voting for the losing candidate once in that period of time. In the closely contested 2000 election the state played a pivotal role.

In 2008, delegates of both the Republican Florida primary election and Democratic Florida primary election were stripped of half of their votes when the conventions met in August due to violation of both parties' national rules.

In the 2010 elections, Republicans solidified their dominance state-wide, by winning the governor's mansion, maintaining firm majorities in both houses of the state legislature. They won four previously Democratic-held seats to create a 19–6 Republican majority delegation representing Florida in the federal House of Representatives. As a result of the 2010 United States Census, Florida will gain two House of Representative seats in 2012.


All potable water resources have been controlled by the state government through five regional water authorities since 1972.

The state repealed mandatory auto inspection in 1981.

In 1972, the state made personal injury protection auto insurance mandatory for drivers, becoming the second in the nation to enact a no-fault insurance law. The ease of receiving payments under this law is seen as precipitating a major increase in insurance fraud. Auto insurance fraud was the highest in the nation in 2011, estimated at close to $1 billion. Fraud is particularly centered in the Miami-Dade metropolitan and Tampa areas.

Law enforcement

Florida was ranked the fifth most dangerous state in 2009. Ranking was based on the record of serious felonies committed in 2008. The state was the sixth highest scammed state in 2010. It ranked first in mortgage fraud in 2009.

In 2009, 44% of highway fatalities involved alcohol. Florida is one of seven states that prohibit the open carry of handguns. This law was passed in 1987.


There were 2.7 million Medicaid patients in Florida in 2009. The governor has proposed adding $2.6 billion to care for the expected 300,000 additional patients in 2011. The cost of caring for 2.3 million clients in 2010 was $18.8 billion. This is nearly 30% of Florida's budget. Medicaid paid for 60% of all births in Florida in 2009. The state has a program for those not covered by Medicaid.

Some people suffer from various allergies from plants at varying seasons including pollen from oak trees and juniper shrubs.


While many houses and commercial buildings look similar to those elsewhere in the country, the state has appropriated some unique styles in some section of the state including Spanish revival, Florida vernacular, and Mediterranean Revival Style.


Launch of Space Shuttle Columbia from the Kennedy Space Centre
The Port of Miami is the world's largest cruise ship port, and is the headquarters of many of the world's largest cruise companies.
The Brickell Financial District in Miami contains the largest concentration of international banks in the United States.
South Florida's climate is ideal for growing sugarcane.

Historically, the economy of Florida was dependent on agricultural products such as citrus, sugar, cotton and cattle. In the twentieth century, tourism, industry, construction, international banking, biomedical and life sciences, healthcare research, simulation training, aerospace and defense, and commercial space travel have contributed to the state's economic development.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Florida in 2010 was $748 billion. Its GDP is the fourth largest economy in the United States. In 2010, it became the fourth largest exporter of trade goods. The major contributors to the state's gross output in 2007 were general services, financial services, trade, transportation and public utilities, manufacturing and construction respectively. In 2010–11, the state budget was $70.5 billion, having reached a high of $73.8 billion in 2006–07. Chief Executive Magazine name Florida the third "Best State for Business" in 2011.

The economy is driven almost entirely by its nineteen metropolitan areas. In 2004, they had a combined total of 95.7% of the state's domestic product.

Personal income

Preliminary data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that in 2011, per capita personal income was $39,563, ranking 27th in the nation.

The state was one of the few states to not have a state minimum wage law of its own and was therefore obliged to follow federal minimum wage law. This changed in 2004, when voters passed a constitutional amendment establishing a state minimum wage and (unique among minimum wage laws) mandating that it be adjusted for inflation annually. As of January 1, 2012, the calculated Florida minimum wage for non-tipped positions is $7.67, and $4.65 for tipped positions, this is higher than the federal rate of $7.25, so the state rate controlled.

Florida is one of the seven states that do not impose a personal income tax.

According to a study by Experian, Florida has 4 cities in the top 25 cities in the country with the most credit card debt.

There were 2.4 million Floridians living in poverty in 2008. 18.4% of children 18 and younger were living in poverty. Miami is the sixth poorest big city in the United States.

The state also had the second-highest credit card delinquency rate, with 1.45% of cardholders in the state more than 90 days delinquent on one or more credit cards.

In 2010, over 2.5 million Floridians were on food stamps, up from 1.2 million in 2007. To qualify, Floridians must make less than 133% of the federal poverty level, which would be under $29,000 for a family of four.

Real estate

In the early 20th century, land speculators discovered Florida, and businessmen such as Henry Plant and Henry Flagler developed railroad systems, which led people to move in, drawn by the weather and local economies. From then on, tourism boomed, fueling a cycle of development that overwhelmed a great deal of farmland.

Because of the collective effect on the insurance industry of the hurricane claims of 2004, homeowners insurance has risen 40% to 60% and deductibles have risen.

At the end of the third quarter in 2008, Florida had the highest mortgage delinquency rate in the country, with 7.8% of mortgages delinquent at least 60 days. A 2009 list of national housing markets that were hard hit in the real estate crash included a disproportionate number in Florida. The early 21st century building boom left Florida with 300,000 vacant homes in 2009, according to state figures. In 2009, the US Census Bureau estimated that Floridians spent an average 49.1% of personal income on housing-related costs, the third highest percentage in the country.

In the third quarter of 2009, there were 278,189 delinquent loans, 80,327 foreclosures. Sales of existing homes for February 2010 was 11,890, up 21% from the same month in 2009. Only two metropolitan areas showed a decrease in homes sold: Panama City and Brevard County. The average sales price for an existing house was $131,000, 7% decrease from the prior year.


As of February 2011, the state's unemployment rate was 11.5%.

In 2009, there were 89,706 federal workers employed within the state.

In 2012, government was a top employer in all counties in the state. This was mainly due to the prevalence of teachers, whose school boards employ nearly 1 out of every 30 workers in the state. The military was the top employer in three counties.

Agriculture and fishing

Historically, Florida's economy was based upon cattle farming and agriculture (especially sugarcane, citrus, tomatoes, and strawberries).

The second largest industry is agriculture. Citrus fruit, especially oranges, are a major part of the economy, and Florida produces the majority of citrus fruit grown in the United States. In 2006, 67% of all citrus, 74% of oranges, 58% of tangerines, and 54% of grapefruit were grown in Florida. About 95% of commercial orange production in the state is destined for processing (mostly as orange juice, the official state beverage). Citrus canker continues to be an issue of concern. Other products include sugarcane, strawberries, tomatoes and celery. The state is the largest producer of sweet corn and green beans for the country.

The Everglades Agricultural Area is a major centre for agriculture. The environmental impact of agriculture, especially water pollution, is a major issue in Florida today.

In 2009, fishing was a $6 billion industry, employing 60,000 jobs for sports and commercial purposes.


Phosphate mining, concentrated in the Bone Valley, is the state's third-largest industry. The state produces about 75% of the phosphate required by farmers in the United States and 25% of the world supply, with about 95% used for agriculture (90% for fertilizer and 5% for livestock feed supplements) and 5% used for other products.


Since the arrival of the NASA Merritt Island launch sites on Cape Canaveral (most notably Kennedy Space Centre) in 1962, Florida has developed a sizable aerospace industry.

Another major economic engine in Florida is the United States Military. There are currently 24 military bases in the state, housing three Unified Combatant Commands; United States Central Command in Tampa, United States Southern Command in Doral, and United States Special Operations Command in Tampa. There are 109,390 U.S. military personnel currently stationed in Florida, contributing, directly and indirectly, $52 billion a year to the state's economy.


The Miami Civic Centre has the second-largest concentration of medical and research facilities in the United States.

After the watershed events of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the state of Florida began investing in economic development through the Office of Trade, Tourism, and Economic Development. Governor Jeb Bush realized that watershed events such as Andrew negatively impacted Florida's backbone industry of tourism severely. The office was directed to target Medical/Bio-Sciences among others. Three years later, The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) announced it had chosen Florida for its' newest expansion. In 2003, TSRI announced plans to establish a major science centre in Palm Beach, a 364,000 square feet (33,800 m2) facility on 100 acres (40 ha), which TSRI planned to occupy in 2006.

At the same time that Scripps started operations in Florida, Tavistock Group, an investment firm that held 7,000 acres (2,800 ha) of land immediately South East of Orlando International Airport began formulating new possibilities for its land use after the decline in tourism to the state. Tavistock decided to use part of the land to establish a Bio-Sciences cluster. In 2005, the state of Florida along with Tavistock Group and the University of Central Florida agreed that Tavistock would donate 50 acres (20 ha) and $12.5 Million (which the state would match for a total of $25 Million) to start the UCF College of Medicine and the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. The UCF College of Medicine won approval from the State Board of Governors in 2006. That decision was key to attracting Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute to Central Florida. Tavistock then donated another 50 acres (20 ha) and $17.5 Million to Sanford-Burnham which allowed Sanford-Burnham's East Coast expansion. In February and March 2007, Nemours and the The V/A(respectively) announced Lake Nona as the site of two new hospitals.

Other prospective tenants of the Lake Nona Medical City included M.D. Anderson Cancer Centre, the University of Florida research centre, and Valencia Community College.

It was determined in 2008 from a study done by Arduin, Laffer and Moore Econometrics that the Lake Nona Medical City cluster has in two years reached 80% of the Milken Numbers which were based on the commitments made by the economic development statements. The study then released new projections for the 10 year period which included 30,000 jobs created and a $7.6 Billion economic impact.


Tourism makes up the largest sector of the state economy. Warm weather and hundreds of miles of beaches attract about 60 million visitors to the state every year. Florida was the top destination state in 2011. 42% of poll respondents living in the Northeast United States said they planned on visiting Florida over spring break.

Amusement parks, especially in the Orlando area, make up a significant portion of tourism. The Walt Disney World Resort is the largest vacation resort in the world, consisting of four theme parks and more than 20 hotels in Lake Buena Vista, Florida; it, and Universal Orlando Resort, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, and other major parks drive state tourism. Many beach towns are also popular tourist destinations, particularly in the winter months. 23.2 million tourists visited Florida beaches in 2000, spending $21.9 billion.

The public has a right to beach access under the public trust doctrine. However, some areas have access effectively blocked by private owners for a long distance.


Florida ranks 45th out of 50 states in total energy consumption per capita, despite the heavy reliance on commercial and residential air conditioning. This includes coal, natural gas, petroleum, and retail electricity sales.


Florida's public primary and secondary schools are administered by the Florida Department of Education.

State University System

The State University System of Florida was founded in 1905, and is governed by the Florida Board of Governors. During the 2010 academic year, 312,216 students attended one of these member institutions.

Private universities

Florida's first private university, Stetson University, was founded in 1883. The Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida is an association of 28 private, educational institutions in the state. This Association reported that their member institutions served over 121,000 students in the fall of 2006.



27% of Floridians exclusively own cell phones for communication; no landline. Nationally, figures vary from 13–35%, with the higher percentages an indication of lower income.


The Miami Metrorail is the state's only rapid transit system. About 15% of Miamians use public transit daily.

Public transit

Miami's public transportation is served by Miami-Dade Transit that runs Metrorail, a heavy rail rapid transit system, Metromover, a people mover train system in Downtown Miami, and Metrobus, Miami's bus system. Metrorail runs throughout Miami-Dade County and has two lines and 23 stations connecting to Downtown Miami's Metromover and Tri-Rail. Metromover has three lines and 21 stations throughout Downtown Miami. Outside of Miami-Dade County, public transit in the Miami metropolitan area is served by Broward County Transit and Palm Tran; intercounty commuter rail service is provided by Tri-Rail, with 18 stations including the region's three international airports.

Orlando utilizes the LYNX bus system as well as a downtown bus service called LYMMO, and has attempted to plan a local light rail service for years. A commuter rail service – SunRail – has been approved by all concerning counties and is in final planning stages.

Tampa and its surrounding area use the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority system ( "HART"). In addition, downtown Tampa has continuous trolley services in the form of a heritage trolley powered by Tampa Electric Company. Pinellas County and St. Petersburg provide similar services through the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority or "PSTA". The beaches of Pinellas County also have a continuous trolley bus. Downtown St. Petersburg has a trolley system.

Largest public transit systems in Florida (2012, Q1)
Rank City Weekday
passenger ridership
 % of population
on transit
Modes of transit
1 Miami 367,000 2,554,776 14.4% Tri-Rail (commuter rail), Miami Metrorail (heavy rail), Metromover (people mover) & Metrobus
2 Fort Lauderdale 147,718 1,748,066 8.5% Tri-Rail (commuter rail) & BCT bus
3 Orlando 93,200 2,134,411 4.4% LYNX bus
4 Gainesville 50,500 125,326 40.3% RTS bus
5 Tampa 50,400 1,229,226 4.1% HART bus & TECO Line Streetcar
6 West Palm Beach 45,100 1,320,134 3.4% Tri-Rail (commuter rail) & Palm Tran (bus)
7 Saint Petersburg 42,500 916,542 4.6% PSTA bus
8 Jacksonville 41,500 821,784 5.0% JTA bus & Skyway (people mover)
9 Tallahassee 22,400 181,376 12.4% StarMetro bus


Florida's interstates, state highways and U.S. Highways are maintained by the Florida Department of Transportation. Florida's interstate highway system contains 1,473 mi (2,371 km) of highway, and there are 9,934 mi (15,987 km) of non-interstate highway in the state, such as Florida state highways and U.S. Highways.

In 2011, there were about 9,000 retail gas stations in the state. On an average day, Floridians consume 21 million gallons of gasoline, ranking it third in national use.

Motorists have the 45th worst rate of car insurance in the country. 24% are uninsured. Drivers between 15 and 19 years of age averaged 364 car crashes a year per ten thousand licensed Florida drivers in 2010. Drivers 70 and older averaged 95 per 10,000 during the same time frame. A spokesperson for the non-profit Insurance Institute said that "Older drivers are more of a threat to themselves."

State highways are numbered according to convention. The first digits of state highways are numbered with the first digit indicating what area of the state the road is in, from 1 in the north and east to 9 in the south and west. Major north-south state roads generally have one- or two-digit odd route numbers that increase from east to west, while major east-west state roads generally have one- or two-digit even route numbers that increase from north to south. Roads of secondary importance usually have three-digit route numbers. The first digit x of their route number is the same as the first digit of the road with two-digit number x0 to the immediate north. The three-digit route numbers also increase from north to south for even numbers and east to west for odd numbers.

Following this convention, State Road 907, or Alton Rd. on Miami Beach, is farther east than State Road 997, which is Krome Ave, or the farthest west north-south road in Miami-Dade County. One notable exception to the convention is State Road 826, or the Palmetto Expressway (pictured at the right heading north) which, although even numbered, is signed north-south. State roads can have anywhere from one to four digits depending on the importance and location of the road. County roads often follow this same system.

Prior to the construction of routes under the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, Florida began construction of a long cross-state toll road, Florida's Turnpike. The first section, from Fort Pierce south to the Golden Glades Interchange was completed in 1957. After a second section north through Orlando to Wildwood (near present-day The Villages), and a southward extension around Miami to Homestead, it was finished in 1974.

A Law introduced on the 1st Jan 2013 required all non US drivers to possess an International Driving Licence to drive within the state. The Florida Department for Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issued a statement on the 14th February 2013 announcing that the law would not be enforced.

Florida's primary interstate routes include:

  • I-4.svg I-4, which bisects the state, connecting Tampa, Lakeland, Orlando, and Daytona Beach, connecting with I-95 in Daytona Beach and I-75 in Tampa.
  • I-10.svg I-10, which traverses the panhandle, connecting Jacksonville, Lake City, Tallahassee and Pensacola, with junctions with I-95 in Jacksonville and I-75 in Lake City.
  • I-75.svg I-75, which enters the state near Lake City (45 miles (72 km) west of Jacksonville) and continues southward through Gainesville, Ocala, Tampa's eastern suburbs, Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples, where it crosses the " Alligator Alley" as a toll road to Fort Lauderdale before turning southward and terminating in Hialeah/ Miami Lakes having junctions with I-10 in Lake City and I-4 in Tampa.
  • I-95.svg I-95, which enters the state near Jacksonville and continues along the Atlantic Coast through Daytona Beach Melbourne/Titusville, Palm Bay, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, Port Saint Lucie, Stuart, West Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale before terminating in Downtown Miami, with junctions with I-10 in Jacksonville and I-4 in Daytona Beach.

Intercity rail

Amtrak connects all major cities in Florida. This West Palm Beach Station serves Amtrak and Tri-Rail commuter rail service.

Florida is served by Amtrak, operating numerous lines throughout, connecting the state's largest cities to points north in the United States and Canada. The busiest Amtrak train stations in Florida in 2011 were: Sanford (259,944), Orlando (179,142), Tampa Union Station (140,785), Miami (94,556), and Jacksonville (74,733). Sanford, in Greater Orlando, is the southern terminus of the Amtrak Auto Train, which originates at Lorton, Virginia, south of Washington, D.C.. Orlando is also the eastern terminus of the Sunset Limited, which travels across the southern United States via New Orleans, Houston, and San Antonio to its western terminus of Los Angeles. Florida is served by two additional Amtrak trains (the Silver Star and the Silver Meteor), which operate between New York City and Miami. Miami Central Station, the city's new union station is under construction, and is expected to be completed in 2013.

The Miami metropolitan area is connected by Tri-rail, a 70.9 miles (114.1 km) long line with 18 stations which operates on Amtrak rails.

The Florida Department of Transportation was preparing to build a high speed rail between Tampa, Lakeland and Orlando. This was to be the first phase of the Florida High Speed Rail system. Soil work began in July 2010 and construction of the line was slated to begin in 2011, with the initial Tampa-Orlando phase completed by 2014. The second phase, would have extended the line to Miami. Governor Scott, however, refused federal funds and the project has been canceled.


Miami International Airport is the world's 10th-largest cargo airport, and the state's busiest airport.

Major international airports in Florida which processed more than 15 million passengers each in 2010 are Miami International Airport (35,698,025), Orlando International Airport (34,877,899), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (22,412,627) and Tampa International Airport (16,645,765).

Secondary airports, with annual passenger traffic exceeding 5 million each in 2010, include Southwest Florida International Airport (Fort Myers) (7,514,316), Palm Beach International Airport (West Palm Beach) (5,887,723), and Jacksonville International Airport (5,601,500).

Florida's extensive coastline made it a perceived target during World War II, so the government built airstrips throughout the state; today, approximately 400 airports are still in service. According to the National Drug Intelligence Centre, Florida has 131 public airports, and more than 700 private airports, airstrips, heliports, and seaplane bases.


Florida has three NFL teams, two MLB teams, two NBA teams, and two NHL teams. Florida gained its first permanent major-league professional sports team in 1966 when the American Football League added the Miami Dolphins. The state of Florida has given professional sports franchises some subsidies in the form of tax breaks since 1991.

About half of all Major League Baseball teams conduct spring training in the state, with teams informally organized into the " Grapefruit League". Throughout MLB history, other teams have held spring training in Florida.

Golf, tennis, and auto racing are popular. NASCAR (headquartered in Daytona Beach) begins all three of its major Series in Florida at Daytona International Speedway, and ends all three Series in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The PGA of America is headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens while the LPGA is headquartered in Daytona Beach.

Minor league baseball, football, basketball, ice hockey, soccer and indoor football teams are based in Florida. Three of the Arena Football League's teams are in Florida.

Florida's universities have a number of collegiate sport teams.

Club League Venue Championships
Miami Dolphins National Football League Sun Life Stadium (Miami Gardens) 2 ( 1972, 1973)
Miami Heat National Basketball Association American Airlines Arena (Miami) 2 ( 2006, 2012)
Miami Marlins Major League Baseball Marlins Park (Miami) 2 ( 1997, 2003)
Florida Panthers National Hockey League BankAtlantic Centre ( Sunrise) 0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers National Football League Raymond James Stadium (Tampa) 1 ( 2003)
Tampa Bay Rays Major League Baseball Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg) 0
Tampa Bay Lightning National Hockey League Tampa Bay Times Forum (Tampa) 1 ( 2004)
Orlando Magic National Basketball Association Amway Centre (Orlando) 0
Jacksonville Jaguars National Football League EverBank Field (Jacksonville) 0

Auto-racing tracks

  • Daytona International Speedway
  • Homestead-Miami Speedway
  • Sebring International Raceway
  • Streets of St. Petersburg
  • Walt Disney World Speedway
  • Palm Beach International Raceway

Sister states

Sister jurisdiction Country Year
Languedoc-Roussillon France France 1989
Taiwan Province Taiwan Taiwan, R.O.C. 1992
Wakayama Prefecture Japan Japan 1995
Western Cape South Africa South Africa 1995
Nueva Esparta Venezuela Venezuela 1999
Kyonggi South Korea South Korea 2000
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