Florida is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. With a population of over 21 million, Florida is the third-most populous and the 22nd-most extensive of the 50 United States. The state is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Straits of Florida.
The state's capital is Tallahassee and its most populous municipality is Jacksonville. The Miami metropolitan area, with a population of almost 6.2 million, is the most populous urban area in Florida and the seventh-most populous in the United States. Other urban areas in the state with a population of more than one million are Tampa Bay, Orlando, and Jacksonville. Florida's $1.0 trillion economy is the fourth-largest of any U.S. state, and if it were a country, Florida would be the 16th-largest economy in the world.
The first European contact was made in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, who called it la Florida ([la floˈɾiða] "the land of flowers") upon landing there. At various points in its colonial history, Florida was administered by Spain and Great Britain. Florida was admitted as the 27th state on March 3, 1845. Florida was the principal location of the Seminole Wars (1816 – 1858), the longest and most extensive of Indian Wars in United States history. Florida declared its secession from the Union on January 10, 1861, and was one of the seven original Confederate States. After the Civil War, Florida was restored to the Union on June 25, 1868.
Today, Florida is distinctive for its large Cuban expatriate community and high population growth, as well as for its increasing environmental issues. The state's economy relies mainly on tourism, agriculture, and transportation, which developed in the late 19th century. Florida is also renowned for amusement parks, orange crops, winter vegetables, the Kennedy Space Center, and as a popular destination for retirees. It is the flattest state in the United States, and Lake Okeechobee is its largest freshwater lake.
The state's close proximity to the ocean influences many aspects of Florida culture and daily life. Florida is a reflection of influences and multiple inheritance; African, European, indigenous, Latino, and Asian heritages can be found in the architecture and cuisine. Florida has attracted many writers such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, and continues to attract celebrities and athletes. It is internationally known for golf, tennis, auto racing, and water sports. Several beaches in Florida have turquoise and emerald-colored coastal waters.
About two-thirds of Florida occupies a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Florida has the longest coastline in the contiguous United States, approximately 1,350 miles (2,170 km), not including the contribution of the many barrier islands. Florida has a total of 4,510 islands that are ten acres (4 ha) or larger in area. This is the second-highest number of islands of any state; only Alaska has more. It is the only state that borders both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Much of the state is at or near sea level, and is characterized by sedimentary soil. Florida has the lowest high point of any U.S. state. The American alligator, American crocodile, American flamingo, Roseate spoonbill, Florida panther, bottlenose dolphin, and manatee can be found in Everglades National Park in the southern part of the state. The climate varies from subtropical in the north to tropical in the south. Along with Hawaii, Florida is one of only two states that have a tropical climate, and is the only continental state that has both a tropical climate and a coral reef. The Florida Reef is the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States, and the third-largest coral barrier reef system in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef and Belize Barrier Reef).
Much of Florida is on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean and the Straits of Florida. Spanning two time zones, it extends to the northwest into a panhandle, extending along the northern Gulf of Mexico. It is bordered on the north by Georgia and Alabama, and on the west, at the end of the panhandle, by Alabama. It is the only state that borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Florida also is the southernmost of the 48 contiguous states, Hawaii being the only one of the fifty states reaching farther south. Florida is west of The Bahamas and 90 miles (140 km) north of Cuba. Florida is one of the largest states east of the Mississippi River, and only Alaska and Michigan are larger in water area. The water boundary is 3 nautical miles (3.5 mi; 5.6 km) offshore in the Atlantic Ocean and 9 nautical miles (10 mi; 17 km) offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
At 345 feet (105 m) above mean sea level, Britton Hill is the highest point in Florida and the lowest highpoint of any U.S. state. Much of the state south of Orlando lies at a lower elevation than northern Florida, and is fairly level. Much of the state is at or near sea level. However, some places such as Clearwater have promontories that rise 50 to 100 ft (15 to 30 m) above the water. Much of Central and North Florida, typically 25 mi (40 km) or more away from the coastline, have rolling hills with elevations ranging from 100 to 250 ft (30 to 76 m). The highest point in peninsular Florida (east and south of the Suwannee River), Sugarloaf Mountain, is a 312-foot (95 m) peak in Lake County. On average, Florida is the flattest state in the United States.