The Best Ghost Towns to Visit in Florida

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It just so happens that Florida also has quite a few fascinating ghost towns to explore. From citrus towns to abandoned military forts, the rich histories of these ghost towns are sure to capture anyone’s attention.
While hitting up the ghost towns around Florida, be sure that your car is up for the task with proper car insurance coverage. When you use the car super app Jerry, you can trek all over the Sunshine State knowing your car is covered the entire way.

Palm Beach County: Zion

Sunset at Delray Beach, shore to the right and sea to the left, bright yellow sunset in right corner.
Delray Beach, Florida

What’s the story of Zion?

In the 1870s, the lower east coast of Florida was largely uninhabited. Shipwrecked sailors struggled to find shelter or sustenance. In 1876, the US government decided to build the Orange Grove House of Refuge, located on the beach near present-day Delray Beach. When the first post office popped up a year later, the area became known as Zion. 
Zion housed a variety of people over the years, including hunters, trappers, sailors, and Native Americans. The town began to decline, however, when the small post office was discontinued in 1892. The House of Refuge also shut down in 1896. 
The final nail in the coffin was when the site of the House of Refuge burned down in 1927, dispersing the few remaining residents. Zion was then swallowed up in the growth of Delray Beach. All that remains is a historical marker.
Legend has it that a barefoot mailman disappeared right before the post office was shut down. People who go to visit the Zion historical marker report sightings of a man in a postal uniform walking out to sea.

What makes Zion special?

  • The House of Refuge was constructed next to an ancient sour orange grove, which still exists today.
  • The House consisted of four rooms downstairs for the keeper and his family and the upper story had a dormitory. 
  • The first operator was Hannibal Pierce in 1876. Stephen Andrews took over in 1877 and his wife opened the post office and named the area “Zion.”
  • Andrews Avenue in Delray Beach is named after the keeper Stephen Andrews.

How to Visit Zion 

The site of the House of Refuge marker is located in Delray Beach on A1A, just north of Atlantic Boulevard. 

Saint Lucie County: White City

View of a dock on a cloudy day, dark water, treeline along the horizon, wooden fence in foreground.
Fort Pierce, Florida

What is the story of White City?

Founded in 1893, White City was named by Danish settlers from the midwest. They named the area after architect Daniel Burnham’s “Great White City” exposition at the 1893 Chicago World Fair, which the Danish settlers had attended. They also named the main street in the town “Midway Road” after the World Fair’s main attraction, Midway Plaisance.
In 1894, a conman called Colonel Myers came to town with big plans for White City. He organized a land scheme and took residents’ down payments for land parcels…as well as taking over residents’ savings for his future bank plans. Just as quickly as he appeared, he vanished—along with the settlers’ savings. 
Shortly after, The Great Freeze of 1894 to 1895 decimated the area’s crops, effectively destroying the farming and growing industry of the town. Most settlers had no choice but to leave, marking the end of White City as they knew it. 
In 1904, the White City Improvement Club was formed to restore the city. A few residents still remain, as well as a few early 1900s homes, making White City a semi-ghost town.

What makes White City special? 

White City has all the distinct markers of a historical community, but some locals believe conman Colonel Myers still haunts the area. Restoration efforts have mysteriously been derailed, and personal items, like gold watches, have up and vanished. When you’re visiting Jorgensen House, Captain Hammond House, or White City Marketplace, you might want to keep an eye on your belongings—Colonel Myers might just nick them!

How to visit White City 

White City sits on the southern border of Fort Pierce at the corner of US1 and Midway Road/712. The site extends west to Citrus Avenue as well. 
The White City Mercantile, formerly the post office on Midway Road, remains open today. Here you can walk through the rooms and find assorted collectibles. 
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Lake County: Kismet

Lavender-colored landscape, misty swamp, water in foreground, tall grass in midground, treeline on horizon, purple sky.
Sellers Lake, Ocala National Forest, Florida

What is the story of Kismet?

Founded in 1884 by the Kismet Land and Improvement Company, Kismet was a bustling citrus community. Settled by folks from Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri, the town grew quickly. 
At its peak, there was a 50-room hotel for winter visitors to the area. There was also a post office, sawmill, tavern, church, grocery store, and school. The St. Johns and Eustis Railroad planned to build a spur railroad track in the late 1880s, but the Great Blizzard of 1889 halted those plans. 
The Great Blizzard of 1889 also demolished the groves and crops of many Florida citrus towns, and Kismet was no exception. Residents packed up and fled and the hotel was torn down and moved elsewhere. Even the sawmill burned down in 1890. The Kismet area is now part of the Ocala National Forest.
For years, all that was left of Kismet was the unkempt cemetery, but even that has now been built over. The owners of the house sitting atop the graveyard, however, have placed a few memorials around their property to remember those buried at the site. Despite living on top of an old cemetery, the owners say they’ve never had any spooky encounters.

What makes Kismet special?

Kismet may not have lasted long, but it did lead an interesting existence: 
  • Walt Disney’s parents met and were married at the church in Kismet.
  • When the population began to decline, the Kismet Hotel was dismantled, moved to Eustis, and renamed the Grand View Hotel. 
  • You can still find remnants of the hotel’s foundation hidden in the underbrush of the Ocala National Forest, though the specific location is unclear.

How to visit Kismet

Kismet is now part of the Ocala National Forest. To get there, take CR 445 East off of US 19. About a mile down the north side of the road, you may be able to find a cemetery in the woods. On the right, you can see a general store, where you can pop in and get a local to guide you to the Kismet cemetery. 
Many locals hunt for and come across gravestones yearly. On the south part of the road, you can spot Kismet Road. 

Hillsborough County: Fort Dade & Hopewell

Ruins of Fort Dade, Florida, two open doorways surrounded by weathered concrete and light foliage.
Ruins of Fort Dade, Florida

What is the story of Fort Dade and Hopewell? 

Fort Dade was built as a military outpost during the Spanish American War in 1898. Located on an island in Tampa Bay called Egmont Key, it’s only accessible by boat. 
The fort remained active until 1923, though it saw little action during the war. Many of the fort’s walls were destroyed, but you can still see its ruins today, as well as an original lighthouse that predates Fort Dade by 40 years.
Hopewell was a town built around a citrus grove plantation called “Turner Plantation” before the Civil War. After the war and all slaves were freed, the plantation was divided into smaller homesteads, but nothing remains of it today.
The citrus groves have taken over the area, though several houses and buildings from Hopewell are still standing. Local residents also claim that if you walk through the groves at dusk, you’ll be surrounded by the voices of people who once lived in Hopewell.

What makes Fort Dade and Hopewell special?

Though technically located in the same county, Fort Dade and Hopewell were worlds apart:
  • The island where Fort Dade sits was also used as a Seminole prison during the Third Seminole War in the late 1850s. 
  • The troops stationed at Fort Dade kept themselves busy with tennis courts, baseball, a gymnasium, and even a movie theater. 
  • On Fort Dade, the mosquitoes made life insufferable for the soldiers at times.
  • Hopewell was once known as Callsville in 1870 before J.R. McDonald changed the name. 
  • Not much is known about why Hopewell was abandoned, though it may have had to do with extreme winter weather similar to other Florida citrus towns.

How to visit Fort Dade and Hopewell

Fort Dade is reachable by boat only, so you’ll have to catch a ferry from Fort De Soto State Park. It’ll be well worth your time, though—the island has some well-kept trails, beautiful beaches, and exciting wildlife, like tortoises, dolphins, and manatees. You can even catch a snorkeling excursion near the ruins on the west side of the island.
Hopewell can be accessed from Tampa by taking SR 60 East, then turning south on CR 39 toward Lithia Pinecrest. Hopewell still contains historic houses, like McDonald House, Hull House, and other cracker-style homesteads. Look for the Hopewell Baptist Church and the other houses shouldn’t be too hard to find. 

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