Florida is a state in the United States that is situated in the Southeastern part of the country. Flanked on the west by the Gulf of Mexico, on the northwest by Alabama, on the northern border by Georgia, on the east and northeastern border by the Bahamas and the Atlantic Ocean, and on the south by the Straits of Florida and Cuba, Florida is the only state to have borders on both the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Florida is the only state to have borders on either or both oceans. Floridians comprise 65,758 square miles, making it the 22nd largest state in terms of size among the 50 states. With a population of nearly 21 million, it is the third most populated state in the US. Tallahassee is the state capital, while Jacksonville is the most populated city in the state. It is estimated that the Miami metropolitan area has a population of nearly 6.2 million people, making it the most populous urban area in Florida and the seventh-most populous urban area in the United States; other urban conurbations with populations greater than one million people include Tampa Bay, Orlando and Jacksonville.
Various Native American cultures have lived in Florida for at least 14,000 years, according to archaeological evidence. In 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León became the first known European to arrive on the continent, naming the location La Florida (from the lush flora and the Easter season that characterised the region at the time) (Pascua Florida in Spanish). In the following centuries, Florida became the first part of continental United States to be permanently established by Europeans, with the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, founded in 1565, being the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Florida was continuously challenged by Spain and Great Britain until being given to the United States in 1819; it was admitted as the 27th state on March 3, 1845, becoming the first state to do so since the American Revolution. The Seminole Wars (1816–1858), the longest and most extensive of the Indian Wars in United States history, were fought mostly in Florida from 1816 until 1858. On January 10, 1861, the state declared its independence from the United States, becoming one of the seven founding Confederate States. On June 25, 1868, Florida was re-admitted to the Union as a result of the Civil War.
The climate of Florida ranges from subtropical in the north to tropical in the south. Although it is not the only state with a tropical climate, it is the only continental state that has both a tropical climate (at the lower point of the peninsula) and a coral reef (near the upper tip of the peninsula). As a result, Florida is home to multiple distinct ecosystems, the most notable of which being Everglades National Park, which is the biggest tropical wilderness in the United States and one of the largest in the Americas. The American alligator, American crocodile, American flamingo, Roseate spoonbill, Florida panther, bottlenose dolphin, and manatee are some of the state's most distinctive animals. As the only live coral barrier reef in the contiguous United States and the third-largest coral barrier reef system in the world, the Florida Reef is a world-renowned natural wonder (after the Great Barrier Reef and Belize Barrier Reef).
Since the late twentieth century, Florida's enormous population and economy have given the state significant influence in national politics; the state has been a prominent battlefield in presidential elections, most notably in the election of 2000. Miami, along with Orlando and Tampa, is often regarded as a world-class metropolis.