Is Florida’s nickname the right one?

Florida Legislature officially adopted the nickname “The Sunshine State” in 1970. But wait – the state of New Mexico has more days of sunshine per year than us! They were stamping the claim on their license plates decades before we ever did. So if sunshine is what people want, they’d go to New Mexico, right? That being said is there a more appropriate state nickname for Florida?

Florida’s population is 22 million with barely 2 million calling New Mexico home. Our state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is ranked 4th in the nation – New Mexico is far behind with a GDP ranked 37th. There are 18 Fortune 500 companies between our shores and 0 in New Mexico. And take it for what it’s worth, but our state is booming with 694 Starbucks compared to around 75 in New Mexico. Apparently, this comparison is apples to our sweet oranges.

Are we the Frappuccino State? The Palm Tree State? The Beach State?

Florida's Nickname: Is Florida Really the Sunshine State?So if it’s not our sunshine – what makes Florida so darn great? 

  • 1,350 miles of coastline – 2nd to Alaska & more than California
  • 30,000 lakes including one of the nation’s largest, Lake Okeechobee
  • our world renowned “River of Grass” – the Florida Everglades
  • the most artesian springs and spring-fed rivers on the planet
  • 26,000 miles of rivers including the 310 mile St. Johns River
  • one of the world’s largest estuaries – the Indian River Lagoon
  • the largest manatee habitat on the planet – Kings Bay
  • our world famous John Pennekamp Reef
  • the Floridan & Biscayne Aquifers
  • 663 miles of beautiful beaches
  • the Tampa & Biscayne Bays
  • the Florida Keys

That’s it! We have more water than New Mexico! We’re not The Sunshine State – we’re The Water State™! How could the state legislators have gotten it so wrong? Maybe back in the 60’s, on the heels of a successful advertising campaign, Coppertone was passing out suntan lotion at the Capitol.

Why else have we been stamping every darn license plate with “Sunshine State” for the last 50 years? Matter of fact isn’t it kind of lazy for our state to claim the sun as our own, when it is 92.6 million miles away and shared by everyone on the planet? And think about it – claiming a natural resource we have no control over may have caused us to ignore the beautiful waters lapping at our feet. We need a new Florida nickname!

Florida's Nickname: Is Florida Really the Sunshine State?

Damn the luck, maybe things would have been different if we claimed “The Water State™” decades ago. However, we did some research and found that the tourism industry knew what mattered most:

So there you have it – we’ve been showcasing our waters for decades! Fast forward to today and check out Visit Florida’s website and flip through their travel magazine that’s distributed worldwide. Nearly every photo in the 148-page travel guide is of our diverse beautiful waters. Matter of fact 135 million tourists visited our state in 2022 which drives our tourist-based economy (New Mexico only had 35 million tourists). What did all those Florida tourists do while they were here?

Millions of tourists come here to see, to feel, to submerge in, to float on, to fish in, and to be surrounded by our water! Scroll through your Facebook and Instagram feeds. What kind of photos do tourists post? You guessed it – they are posting photos of themselves immersed in the watery world they came to experience. And by the way, where else on this planet is a family from Ohio going to see mermaids in water so clear they built an underwater theatre? Nowhere else in this nation will you find as diverse an outdoor tourism industry than our peninsula state! Nowhere else will you find 1,000,000 registered boats solely for the purpose of recreation.

Floridas Nickname

We have water so clear our state parks have glass-bottom boats!

Ok. Ok. Enough about the millions of tourists that we love so much.  What about us locals? What do we want our state to be defined by? Sunshine? New Mexico can have it. Our culture, our lives revolve around the water at our feet! Matter of fact 90% of our Floridians (19 million) depend on two of the most relied-upon aquifers on the planet – the Floridan and Biscayne Aquifers. And speaking of the Floridan Aquifer – it is one of the most productive and beautiful  on this earth. North Florida has the bragging rights to nearly a thousand springs gushing out pure crystal-clear waters from the underground caves. Where else on the planet can you find such an awe inspiring system? It’s amazing that people from all over the world come to experience our waters flowing on top of our lands and flowing under them!

We have water so pure we bottle it up and sell it!

Culture? What is our Florida life without fishing, scuba diving, boating, cave diving, beaching, surfing, sailing? Check out the number of water adventures our recreation industry offers. How many Florida communities are dependent on water resources for tourism, food, property values, aesthetics, quality of life, entertainment, industry, commerce, recreation? How many seafood festivals are there in the state – clams, oysters, stone crabs, blue crabs, lobster, fiddler crabs, crawfish, and shrimp to name a few! How many fishing tournaments are held all across our state? What other state has the title “Fishing Capital of the World”?

Ok, we’re going there – politics. Florida voters, 75% of them, voted to pass the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment in 2014. Never before had so many Floridians from every walk of life and political angle unified to make it clear to Tallahassee the importance of our natural resources. Overwhelmingly, Floridians understand our resources’ value in relation to our quality of life, home values, business success, economy, and to the next generation. But all that momentum and confidence was eroded from actions, and inactions, at the Capitol. Floridians must vote for the representatives that truly understand this and can follow up with action (legislation)!

Action Items 
  • Give “Sunshine State” back to New Mexico
  • Just don’t hashtag #thewaterstate- act like it!
  • Subscribe to our YouTube channel as we prepare to release another video of our The Water State™ series. Comment, like, and share – be sure to let us know what waterbody to feature next.
  • Sign up for for our newsletter below for details of The Water State™ celebrations: The State of Water Juried Art Exhibition + The Water State™ Festival. Ten days of water influenced 2-D and 3-D art on public display with the winning artists celebrated on the last day during our festival. The 10-day event will benefit three environmental nonprofits protecting our FL waters!
  • Vote like your drinking water depends on it.

The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of the advertisers or adventure providers on the website.

All photos captured by the PHF team. Cover & Photo 1 © CJ Oliverio / Photos 2 & 3 © John Starrett / Photo 4 © Tessa Skiles. Videos © Play Hard Florida. All rights reserved.

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