Florida, the Sunshine State, is the most southeastern state. It borders Georgia and Alabama in the north, the Atlantic Ocean washes its east coast and the Gulf of Mexico bathes its western shore. Florida is a low peninsula, nowhere higher than 345 feet above sea level, and generally forested. The most notable physical regions are the Everglades, the rolling hills of the panhandle and the offshore Keys. The climate is subtropical, warm and humid.
Tourism is Florida's biggest industry, followed by manufacturing, food processing and agriculture. Ponce De Leon was the first European to see the area in 1513. First claimed by France, it passed to Spain, England, then Spain again. The US purchased it in 1819 and it became a state in 1845. The railroad's arrival in the 1920s fueled a land boom and bust. The state became a major tourist destination after World War II. Another boom started in the 1960s and continues with no end in sight.
A warm climate and water recreation bring tourists to Florida's coast and the Florida Keys year-round. Disney World, the biggest theme park in the world, lake recreation and golf draw millions inland to central Florida. The Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands attract ecotourists. Fine food, shopping and nightlife are everywhere. Florida sportfishing, freshwater and saltwater, ranks with the best in the world.