Florida typically means beaches to most people. Beaches are a very clear boundary between land and water.
Here is the land...
Then the beach...
and then the water.
This boundary between land and water is quite blurred in the real Florida. Florida has a gentle way of transitioning from land to water all throughout the state. The beach is just an inexpensive day-trip for locals, and a postcard for the touists.
Real florida is a little ways away from the beaches.
The parts where it gets muggy and hot.
Where the dense forest turns into swamps with no notice.
This gentleness of Florida is quite peaceful really. It is quite the opposite from the fuss a beach requires. My old friend, Jim Draper specializes in painting this real florida.
Read the works of Bill Belleville too... no one writes about Florida nature like he does.
This subtle quality of real Florida is quite elusive. You will miss it if you aren't looking closely. This is probably why it isn't as glamorized as the beaches. I am not even sure if the complex Florida ecosystem can stand much glamor that a beach can.
This is why the Florida Aquarium in Tampa is quite lovely to visit. It has your typical aquarium stuff -- fishes in tanks -- which are nice to see. But it has an entire section devoted to the swamps of florida, and the wildlife there. Ducks, spoonbills, turtles, alligators, and otters.
If you are in the Tampa Bay area, The Aquarium is worth a visit. However, if you are in Florida, leave the beach, drive into a county or state park, get on a hiking trail and check it out for yourself.