A Very Brief History of Florida Tourism

The great Gulfarium in Ft. Walton Beach

Below are links to the five eras of Florida tourism in timeline form. Each timeline segment begins with an quick overview that gives an idea as to why and how Florida developed. Detailing Florida’s development post-Civil War to the present, the timeline lists the opening and closing dates of tourist attractions, the establishment of federal and state parks and other information that is relevant to tourism in the state.

It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s fairly comprehensive. All dates were checked as best as possible but there could be errors. As you’ll see, the fifth era – 1971 to the present – is much longer than the rest. This is when development moved forward at an exponential pace. It also begs the question as to whether the era should be subdivided, but it’s hard to see a significant change that warrants an additional era when you’re looking at something so recent. Also, it’s true to say that in the 1970s Walt Disney World drove Florida development and it continues to do so today.

1870s – 1919: Florida’s First Steps Into Tourism (Gilding the Orange)

1920 – 1946: Florida’s Discovery by the Average American (The Rise of Tin Can Tourism)

1946 – 1959: Florida’s Golden Age of Tourism (Mermaids & Dolphins & Mammoths, oh My!)

1960 – 1971: Florida’s Tourism Comes of Age (A Change is Gonna Come)

1971 – Present: Florida’s Big Park Tourism (The Vacation Destination of the World)