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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > Florida

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Florida Weather, climate and geography

Weather and climate

Best time to visit

Summers throughout the state are long, warm and fairly humid. Winters are mild with periodic invasions of cool to occasionally cold air. Coastal areas in all sections of Florida average slightly warmer temperatures in winter and cooler ones in summer. However, tropical storms in Florida are frequent throughout the summer months – the state is said to be as the thunderstorm capital of the US. However, tornadoes are rather rarer. Northwestern coastal areas are more prone to high rainfall and those looking for drier parts of the stay should try southwestern coastal areas of the state or keep to the interior.

Required clothing

Lightweight cotton and sun hats are recommended for summer, though air conditioning in many public places can push indoor temperatures down to what feel like Arctic levels. Light jackets are fine for cooler evenings and winter in South and Central Florida, while heavier coats may come in handy occasionally during winter in North Florida.

Geography

Much of Florida occupies a relatively flat peninsula extending 725km (447 miles) between the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Straits, with the remainder extending west along the northern coast of the Gulf. The states of Georgia and Alabama border Florida to the north, with a portion of Alabama bordering the state at the western tip of the Panhandle. The islands of the Bahamas (Bimini being the closest) lie a mere 81km (53 miles) due west of the state and the island of Cuba is 145km (90 miles) south of Key West.

The state boasts 13,560km (8,426 miles) of coastline, 1,066km (663 miles) of which are beaches, and more than 17,700km (11,000 miles) of rivers, streams and waterways. The Saint Johns River is the state’s longest river, running northward for 500km (310 miles) from the Saint Johns Marsh in Indian River County to its outlet with the Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville. Florida’s largest lake is Lake Okeechobee at 1,175 sq km (739 sq miles), making it the second largest freshwater lake within the contiguous (ie 'lower 48') United States. With a total area of 155,164 sq km, Florida ranks 23nd among the 50 states in size. Most of the state south of Orlando is low-lying and flat, while inland areas of North and Central Florida contain rolling hills. Florida’s highest point is Britton Hill, near the Alabama border in Walton County, at 106m (345ft) above mean sea level, the lowest highpoint of any US state.

Florida, like most other states, is divided into smaller administrative units called counties. These counties number 67 in total. According to 2010 census figures, Miami-Dade County is the most populous (2,496,435 residents) and Liberty County the least populous (8,365 residents). The largest county in area is Palm Beach County whilst the smallest is Union County. The largest cities in Florida by population, according to the 2010 census, are Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa. The largest metropolitan areas in Florida (city proper and suburbs combined) by population are Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Tampa-Saint Petersburg and Orlando.

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