20 Of The Best (And Most Underrated) Small Towns In Florida, From Someone Who Actually Lives There

·9 min read

Florida is a wonderful place to visit — and it's arguably at its best when you ditch the big cities in favor of charming small towns.

Beachside view of ocean

Rest assured, despite all the hoopla surrounding Florida at times, there are still a ton of supremely charming small spots that are certainly worth your time.

If you're looking to venture down to the sunny state, here are a few stops to make along the way. (Disclaimer: This is all my own opinion. I say this as a Florida resident.)

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1.Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island lighthouse at dusk

Best for: Bike enthusiasts

Known for its incredible bike paths, Sanibel Island boasts 25 miles of trails for your perusing pleasure. Also home to plenty of beautiful beaches, your view won't be blocked by high-rise towers here, as 60% of the small island is protected from development. The lesser-known spot is accessible via ferry or causeway, which makes it feel even more removed from daily life.

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2.Mount Dora

Photo of down town Mount Dora

Best for: Local shopping

There is a lot to do in this historic village that's more than a century old. Technically a city, Mount Dora is known for its small-town feel and quaint antique shops. Filled with local shops, cafés, and beautiful water views, there's much to do in this central Florida city. Stay at the historic Lakeside Inn for a few nights, or venture out on a guided boat tour of the Dora Canal, and if you're looking for a lazy stroll around local shop-lined streets, head over to the downtown area. Plus, you've gotta check out the Starry Night House.

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3.Juno Beach

Photo of a baby turtle

Best for: Baby turtle sightings

Juno Beach is known for its pier, scenic trails, and cozy small-town vibes. Whether you opt for a turtle hatching walk at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center or set up a picnic at Juno Beach Park, odds are you'll enjoy your time spent in this sweet seaside town.

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Photo of a tree lined street in Celebration, Florida

Best for: Disney lovers

If you're tuckered out from all the Disney Magic nearby, go and take a calm drive through Celebration, Florida, for a breather. Plus, stop at the local diner for some Riverdale vibes! The quirky town has a cool history too. Originally developed by The Walt Disney Company, Celebration was designed as a master-planned community to mirror the ideals Walt Disney started with EPCOT, aka the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

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5.South Walton

Photo of two dogs playing with a frisbee on a beach in South Walton

Best for: Anyone traveling along Highway 30A

When I reached out to friends about cool places to visit in Florida, the WaterColor Inn on 30A in South Walton garnered great reviews from friends. Filled with idyllic beaches, local lakes, and state parks galore, the main attraction seems to be the sprawling resort. After a day of paddleboarding, stop by The Wine Bar for dinner. Then, in the morning, make sure you venture over to the food trucks for a bite to eat before you head back to the inn to hit the pool.

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6.Amelia Island

Photo of beach sunset on Amelia Island

Best for: A picnic by the water

With 13 miles of incredible beaches, Amelia Island is a huge tourist destination for those seeking a relaxing getaway. Whether you choose to stay at a high-end resort or rent out a bed and breakfast, there is no shortage of fun to be had on this charming island. Opt for a walking tour of the quaint streets, or schedule an unforgettable picnic by the water.

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7.High Springs

Photo of natural springs in High Springs, Florida

Best for: Water sports

A short trip from Gainesville, Florida, High Springs is a world away from the college town. Surrounded by gorgeous natural springs, the town attracts water sports aficionados alike. Go scuba diving or sit back and relax as you float around Ginnie Springs. The options are endless, and the water stays a cool 72 degrees all year long.

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8.Cedar Key

Photo of Cedar Key boardwalk and beach

Best for: History buffs

Known as Florida's second-oldest town, this historical spot is actually a 200-plus-year-old waterfront village. Located on an island landscape, the town usually reminds visitors of an old fishing town with historical artwork and charming lodgings. There's also an incredible restaurant called Steamers that overlooks the water, and I'm not saying you need to plan a trip here just to go to Steamers, but I'm also not not saying that...you know?

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9.St. George Island

Photo of lighthouse at St. George Island

Best for: Main character summer vibes

Peaceful beachside strolls await you on St. George Island. While some might prefer the bustle of Lincoln Road, St. George veers in the opposite direction with idyllic views and zero high-rise apartments. With its pet-friendly beaches, you can bring your beloved pup along too.

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Photo of water, dock, and sunset in Steinhatchee

Best for: Those looking to get away from stressors of daily life.

Known for the elegant Spanish Moss trees, and the quaint Victorian-inspired houses, this small gulf town boasts beautiful waterways, plenty of bike trails, and a premiere scallop season. If you're looking to disconnect from the outside world, book a stay at the Steinhatchee Retreat, and head out on a fishing expedition.

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11.Homosassa River

Photo of Homosassa Springs

Best for: Fishing aficionados.

This old fishing village has some of the best seafood. Famous for its expansive springs and known to have a great scalloping season, the small town might be easy to overlook at first glance, but trust me, it's worth your time. Beautiful views and endless boating opportunities await in this tiny Florida town. It's a great destination if you're looking for a weekend spent on the water, and you might even spot a manatee at Blue Spring State Park.

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Captiva Island from above

Best for: Family vacations

Imagine this: A picturesque sun is setting on the beach as you walk past tiny, adorable, candy-colored beach cottages. You're on summer break, and life is great. Where are you, exactly? Captiva, Florida! Stay at the South Seas Island Resort filled with luxe amenities, and head off on a parasailing adventure or spend your trip lounging on a sailboat. No matter what you choose, Captiva is sure to please.

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13.Anna Maria Island

Beach view on Anna Maria Island

Best for: The beach lounger

Considered Florida's best-kept secret, Anna Maria Island is an old-timey, picturesque destination filled with miles of white sand beaches and pleasant, tree-lined streets. Sit back and embrace all the relaxing vacation vibes on this secluded island.

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Photo of local post office in Seaside, Florida

Best for: Dramatic solo beachside walks or a visit to the post office

If you're looking to gather a group of friends and rent out a beach house for a week, do it in Seaside, Florida. This picture-perfect town is great for embracing your best summer self. Take a yoga class in the park, or stroll through the farmers market before heading to the beach. No matter the time of year, Seaside boasts balmy weather and a calendar filled with activities. Plus, The Truman Show was filmed here. Cool!

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15.Marco Island

View of resort and beach on Marco Island

Best for: Resort-goers

The only land developed in Florida's Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island sits pretty surrounded by beautiful waters. Right near Naples, the small island-scape is known for mile-long nature walks and its bustling resort scene. Hop on over to the Briggs Nature Center for some native animal sightseeing.

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16.Safety Harbor

Photo of sunset and pier in Safety Harbor

Best for: Group vacations

Luxurious and quaint, Safety Harbor looks and feels like an old-timey historical town. Nestled right in the Tampa Bay region, this small town is known for its premiere Safety Harbor Resort and Spa and jam-packed activities roster. Head to Philippe Park, or sign up for a class at the Art and Music Center for a day of fun with the whole family.

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17.New Smyrna Beach

Photo of sunset at New Smyrna Beach

Best for: Dolphin lovers

Known for its great Marine Discovery Center and an incredible selection of dolphin tours, New Smyrna is great fun for the whole family. This appealing beach town is a lively hub of local art, history, and culture that's sure to excite everyone in your group. With a drivable beach in spitting distance and pet-friendly hotels, this cozy town has it all.

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18.Tarpon Springs

Photo of a fishing boat

Best for: Amazing Greek food

Known for its sponge docks, Tarpon Springs also attracts plenty of visitors thanks to its incredible restaurant selection. If you're in the mood for Greek food, head over to this quaint town for a bite to eat. Don't forget to sign up for a Sponge Diving Tour too.

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Sunset in Dunedin Florida

Best for: Scottish celebrations

Home to Honeymoon Island, the number-one state park in Florida, this small town isn't what it seems at first glance. Filled with delightful restaurants and local events, Dunedin is also known for its annual Scottish celebrations.

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Photo of brick pathway and water

Best for: Sunsets

Known as The City of Five Flags, Pensacola has an interesting and extensive history of ruling powers and was the first city in Florida. Head on over to the National Naval Aviation Museum for a fun look into the city's history of naval training (Pensacola is also where all naval pilots go for training). Spend your day at the Blue Moon Antique Mall for some fun shopping and Jerry's Drive-In for a bite to eat, but make sure to head to the beach for sunset. It's the real main attraction. You have to go to Pensacola for the beachside sunsets. They're out-of-this-world beautiful.

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What are your favorite small Florida towns to visit? Share in the comments!