Florida, also known as Sunshine State, is a constituent state of the United States of America. It was admitted as the 27th state in 1845. Florida is the most populous of the southeastern states and the second most populous Southern state after Texas. The capital is Tallahassee, located in the northwestern panhandle.
Geographic location has been the key factor in Florida’s long and colourful development, and it helps explain the striking contemporary character of the state. The greater part of Florida lies on a peninsula that protrudes southeastward from the North American continent, separating the waters of the Atlantic Ocean from those of the Gulf of Mexico and pointing toward Cuba and the Caribbean Sea beyond. Florida shares a land border with only two other states, both along its northern boundary: Georgia (east) and Alabama (west). The nearest foreign territory is the island of Bimini in the Bahamas, some 50 miles (80 km) to the east of the state’s southern tip. Florida is the southernmost of the 48 conterminous United States, its northernmost point lying about 100 miles (160 km) farther south than California’s southern border. The Florida Keys, a crescent of islands that forms the state’s southernmost portion, extend to within about 75 miles (120 km) of the Tropic of Cancer. Florida’s marine shoreline totals more than 8,400 miles (13,500 km), including some 5,100 miles (8,200 km) along the gulf; among U.S. states, only Alaska has a longer coastline.
The state lies close to both the geographic and population centres of the Western Hemisphere, in a position that not only commands one entrance to the Gulf of Mexico but also overlooks a strategic crossroads between North and South America and historic routes to the European and Mediterranean worlds. The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León landed there in 1513, named the territory La Florida (meaning “The Flower” in Spanish), and claimed it for Spain. Florida played a prominent role in the historic struggles of European powers to control the Americas and the Caribbean. St. Augustine, founded in 1565 on Florida’s northeastern coast, is the oldest European settlement within what were to become the boundaries of the continental United States.
The climate and scenery of the “Sunshine State” have long attracted enormous numbers of visitors. Tourism has surpassed agriculture and manufacturing as the main component of Florida’s economy, and the prospect of employment in the state’s rapidly growing service sector has simultaneously drawn many immigrants, mostly from Latin America. Consequently, Florida has regularly ranked among the states with the fastest-growing immigrant population. Area 65,757 square miles (170,311 square km). Population (2010) 18,801,310; (2019 est.) 21,477,737.