A week on a broad beach caressed by an emerald-green sea. Hanging out in funky bars on a tropical island. Testing your golf skills over well-manicured courses at a resort plantation. Partying till the wee hours at trendy nightclubs. • Honeymoons can take almost any form and be enjoyed almost anywhere in the world. That's true for Florida newlyweds as well — but if they're feeling the pinch in this time of economic uncertainty, there's another route: Stick closer to home and take that honeymoon in-state. • Not only will a Florida honeymoon cost less than traipsing off to an exotic island or far-off country, but it can be every bit as romantic and take almost any form a couple might desire. After all, there's a reason why Florida is one of the world's most desirable honeymoon destinations. • Keeping in mind that different folks like different strokes, we've put together 10 in-state honeymoon possibilities, from rustic to super-elegant.
For sun worshippers
In the Santa Rosa Beach/Seaside region of Florida's Panhandle, the sand is blazingly white, the water emerald green, and the shore slopes gently out to sea. Plenty of B&Bs, condos and honeymoon cottages are found here, as well as trendy beachfront complexes, such as Seaside, Rosemary Beach and Watercolor Inn, that cater to honeymooners. Beaches of South Walton Tourist Development Council: toll-free 1-800-822-6877 or www.beachesofsouthwalton.com.
For funky seekers
There's nothing quite like the nightly sunset ritual at the Mallory Square pier in Key West. Fire-eaters swallow fiery swords, mimes pose ramrod still here and there, cats leap through flaming hoops, push-cart vendors offer popcorn and sausage and peppers, and local artisans hawk beads and baubles. If that's not funky enough, the town has plenty of atmospheric bars, tucked-away B&Bs, roaming six-toed cats and a one-of-a-kind cemetery where one epitaph reads "I Told You I Was Sick." Florida Keys and Key West Visitors Bureau: toll-free 1-800-352-5397 or www.fla-keys.com.
Florida has high-end hotels on both coasts, and if you honeymoon during the summer you can get a price break. At the elegant Breakers in Palm Beach, for example, summer rates start at $420 a night
for a premium oceanfront room and include
reduced greens fees, free tennis and other complimentary activities. The Breakers: toll-free
1-888-273-2537 or www.thebreakers.com.
If you really want to get away from it all, you can have an entire 10-acre island to yourself for a week at Seabird Key off Marathon in the Florida Keys for $5,600 to $7,000 a week, including use of a boat. Seabird Key: (305) 669-0044 or www.seabirdkey.com.
For culture vultures
Though its population is only 55,000, Sarasota has cultural facilities that many a larger city envies — its own symphony orchestra, opera, ballet, repertory theater, world-renowned art museum, artist colony and annual film, food and music festivals. Sarasota and Her Islands Convention and Visitors Bureau:
toll-free 1-800-522-9799 or www.sarasotafl.org.
For thrill seekers
Orlando's Walt Disney World, for one, plays host to an estimated 10,000 honeymooners a year, according to Korri McFann, marketing manager for Disney Weddings and Honeymoons. Besides having four gated parks with myriad shows, tours, rides and other activities, Disney also has 33 hotels on property, some with elegant accommodations and luxury pampering. Walt Disney World: (407) 824-4321 or disneyworld.disney.go.com.
For the true naturals
It's a roughing-it kind of adventure, but exploring the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail could appeal to nature-adoring newlyweds. Make your base at one of the new, fully equipped, air-conditioned cabins ($99 a night) in Stephen Foster, Suwannee River or Fanning Springs state parks and do day trips by canoe or bike or hike into the river wilderness. No televisions or telephones in cabins, so honeymooners can devote all their attention to each other. Suwannee River Wilderness Trail: toll-free 1-800-868-9914 or www.floridastateparks.org/wilderness/.
For club hoppers
South Beach is no place like home. It's all-night partying, and you may spot a celeb at trendy clubs like the Forge, Mansion, Mynt, Level or the Sky Bar at the Shore Club. Getting into those spots isn't easy if you aren't on the guest list, but there are lots of other venues. For information, go to www.sobenightsonline.com/clubs.htm.
For history buffs
Enjoy a trip into the past at St. Augustine, America's oldest city. Explore the old Spanish fortress, the Castillo de San Marcos. Poke into the restored
18th century Colonial Spanish Quarter on St. George Street. Take in the funky Lightner Museum and such tourist attractions as the Old Jail, Old School House, the original Ripley's Believe It or Not and the Fountain of Youth. For information, call toll-free 1-800-653-2489 or go to www.getaway4florida.com.
For weekend jocks
Major resorts like the sprawling 1,350-acre Amelia Island Plantation north of Jacksonville have much to offer active sports aficionados. It has four championship golf courses (seven holes directly on the ocean), 23 Har-Tru tennis courts, a spa, fitness center, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and seven miles of bike trails. Romance, golf, tennis and other packages are available. Amelia Plantation:
toll-free 1-888-261-6161 or www.aipfl.com.
For high seas fans
Sail on major cruise ships from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral or Tampa. You can combine a land vacation with one at sea (e.g., Disney Cruise Line, toll-free 1-888-325-2500 or disneycruise.disney.go.com) or simply sail off to the Caribbean for a week (e.g., Princess Cruises, toll-free 1-800-774-6237 or www.princess.com), reveling in all the no-stress dining, entertainment and travel opportunities a cruise offers.
Jay Clarke, the former travel editor of the Miami Herald, is a freelance writer based in Coral Gables.