Tired of theme parks? Check out these weird, bizarre, strange, unexplained, and offbeat Florida destinations perfect for day trips around the Sunshine State.


5 Offbeat Florida Destinations-3

There is nothing we love more than cruising the backroads of our amazing planet. And although we have roamed far and wide both here at home and abroad, there is no place we know better than our home state of Florida. For this post, we thought we would share some of the more eclectic, strange, and even spooky places we have encountered on our drives around the Sunshine State.


Solomon’s Castle


Solomon's Castle

Jerry introduced me to Solomon’s Castle on one of those spur of the moment day trips we take every once in a while. Located in Ona, Florida, this wild and wacky work of art is pretty much as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get. Artist and sculptor Howard Solomon, whose primary medium is discarded materials, started building this eclectic structure in 1972. Case in point, the exterior siding of this castle is discarded aluminum printing plates from a local newspaper, which can be blinding depending on time of day and angle of the sun. Adjacent to the castle is the Boat in the Moat restaurant where we enjoyed a fine lunch. Later we toured the grounds and found a diverse collection of unexpected art, including Solomon’s interpretation of the Alamo

Although the restaurant and grounds are open to the public, castle tours between 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM are $10.00 for adults and $4.00 for children. The property is closed on Mondays and during the months of July, August, and September. Credit cards are not accepted.

Boat in the Moat Restaurant

The Boat in the Moat Restaurant.

 

Outdoor Dining at Boat in the Moat Restaurant

Outdoor dining.

 

The Alamo at Solomon's Castle

The Alamo facade.

 


Spook Hill


Spook Hill Sign

I remember hearing about Spook Hill as a child, but I never got to see it for myself until a couple of years ago. Spook Hill is actually a section of 5th Street in Lake Wales, Florida, where an optical illusion makes cars put in neutral appear to roll uphill. A roadside sign tells one of of several folk legends behind the phenomenon as well as directions how to stop on the painted white line, put your car in neutral, and watch it roll uphill.

Perhaps the best part of visiting Spook Hill is that it is free! Spook Hill is located about three miles from Bok Tower Gardens, a lovely historical Florida attraction.

The Spook Hill Starting Line

The starting line.

 

 


Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp


Cassadaga Exit Sign

You may have seen the HBO documentary No One Dies in Lily Dale about the world’s largest concentration of mediums, people who claim to communicate with the dead, who make their home in this unique colony located south of Buffalo, New York. But did you know Lily Dale has a southern counterpart? The historical community of Cassadaga, Florida, was founded in 1894 by medium George P. Colby after journeying south from New York.

Today the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp encompasses a neighborhood of historical homes, a hotel, healing center, temple, Sinatra’s Italian restaurant, and a bookstore/gift shop. Guided day and nighttime tours are offered several times during the week. During the tour, the guide points out the second floor doors to nowhere on the historical homes. These were originally built for the spirits to enter and exit during séances. Today most second floor external doors have been converted to windows. Visitors can schedule readings with psychics and mediums for a fee and attend services at various times.

Although I am a spiritual person and open to spiritual experiences, I am also a skeptic regarding supernatural manifestations. I did, however, enjoy our visit from a historical perspective and would definitely visit Cassadaga again.

Cassadaga Tour

Jerry waiting for the tour to begin.

 

Cassadaga Door to Nowhere

Second floor converted door to nowhere.

 

Cassadaga Hotel

The Cassadaga Hotel and Sinatra’s Restaurant.

 

Cassadage Events

Typical Schedule of Events

 


Koreshan State Historic Site


Koreshan Inverted Earth

Another community with roots in New York was also established in 1894 when Cyrus Teed founded New Jerusalem, a utopian commune, in Estero, Florida. Koreshan Unity, or Koreshanity, taught, among other things, that the universe existed within a hollow sphere. The inner core group of Koreshans did not marry and practiced celibacy. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that any religious sect, such as the Koreshans and Shakers, that promotes celibacy among followers sets itself up for extinction. And ultimately, that is what happened. Membership began to decline following Teed’s death in 1908.

In 1961, the last surviving follower ceded most of the property to the state of Florida to become the Koreshan State Historic Site. Several historical buildings remain on the property, including member cottages and meeting hall. Park entrance is $5.00 per car, and the optional ranger-guided tour fee is $2.00 for adults and $1.00 for children.

Koreshan Teaching

A Koreshan teaching.

 

Koreshan Unity Settlement

 

Koreshan Damkholer Cottage

The Damkholer Cottage, a typical Florida Cracker cabin.

 

 


The Dalí Museum


Dalí Museum

The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, celebrates the life and work of Spanish artist Salvador Dalí with the largest collection of his work outside of Europe. To describe Dalí as offbeat would be an understatement. In fact the museum web site refers to his “off-kilter style and unique perspective.” Dalí is known not only for his surreal paintings, but also for his eccentric and often bizarre behavior throughout his life. Although the museum features room after room of Salvador Dalí’s work, don’t plan on seeing any melting clocks. His most famous painting The Persistence of Memory hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. (Sidenote: We got the same story when we visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam recently. The Starry Night also hangs in the MOMA.)

But not to worry, there are plenty of incredible works to engage and intrigue you for hours. In fact, I am still contemplating the painting Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea. How does a painting of a nude woman looking at the sea turn into a portrait of Abraham Lincoln when viewed from twenty meters or when reflected from a mirror up close? Although regular adult tickets will cost you $21.00, you might consider visiting after 5:00 PM on Thursdays when you can get in for ten bucks. Either way, you will get your money’s worth, which is more than I can say for my city water bill . . . .

Dalí Museum

The  museum architecture mirrors Dalí’s surreal works.

 

Dalí Museum

Dalí’s work is reflected on the museum grounds.

 

Dalí Museum Interior Architecture

Interior architecture at the Dalí.

 

Howard Dalí Museum

Sorry for the serious face. I really WAS happy to be there . . . .

 

Jerry Andy Warhol Dalí Museum

Jerry & Andy

So, if you’re tired of theme parks and commercial fare, check out these weird, bizarre, strange, unexplained, and offbeat Florida destinations perfectly suited for day trip destinations all around the Sunshine State.


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Tired of theme parks? Check out these weird, bizarre, strange, unexplained, and offbeat Florida destinations perfect for day trips around the Sunshine State.


We Would Love to Hear From You!


Jerry and I enjoy dialogue with our readers, especially when they share their favorite offbeat destinations. So where is the strangest or most bizarre place you have ever visited? We would love to hear all the gory details! We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!


Helpful Links


Solomon’s Castle

Spook Hill

Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp

Koreshan State Historical Site

The Dalí Museum

 

Howard Blount is founder and co-owner of the travel blog BackroadPlanet.com. He has traveled internationally since boyhood and lived abroad in Mexico, Chile, and Paraguay. Now his passion is navigating the roads-less-traveled of this amazing planet in search of anything rare and remote. On the stuffy side, “Mr. Blount” has been a writer, consultant, and published author with the likes of Simon & Schuster and McGraw-Hill. Although his road trips are financed by his day job as a middle school teacher, Howard would much rather be doing anything that includes mountains, waterfalls, dachshunds, gospel choirs, books, restored classic movies on Blu-ray, HDTV, autumn, sandhill cranes, hot springs, Florida springs, rain and other gloomy weather, log cabins, cracker shacks, abandoned sites, unearthed history, genealogy, museums, documentaries, To Kill a Mockingbird, scenic and historical sites, castles, cathedrals, the Civil War, cold sheets, National and State Park Passports, quotes, the Rambos, Dionne Warwick, Steely Dan, Doobies, Diet Pepsi, Fish City Grill, anything Apple, all things British, Jesus, and lists. And on a random note, Howard is a fourth cousin once removed to Truman Capote.

 

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