Adored for its glitzy metropolis of Miami, the aptly called Sunshine State is an idyllic family-friendly destination. Once you've made it here, you'll be thrilled to dip into a ton of attractions, while exploring Florida's authentic character. Outside of its crowded hotspots, the Sunshine State brings to mind other charming places, fully packed with natural beauty and historical background. As exciting as it sounds, Florida is home to a wild array of bustling towns that are quite perfect for a laid-back family adventure. Whether you're looking for relaxing beach time in the Sunshine State, or you want to reconnect with nature, Florida will surely give you all you need for a lovely summer vacation. Apart from basking in the sun, Florida offers mind-blowing histories and shopping opportunities outside of the usually crowded Miami or Orlando.
Some of these towns are blessed with fine-grained beaches and unspoiled landscapes, while others are great for superb shopping moments during the day. From Atlantic Beach to Matlacha, today we'll send you on a summer journey through the state's most charming communities. Now go ahead and explore the best small towns in Florida that are merely perfect for romantic weekends as well.
25 Atlantic Beach
This peaceful town, which belongs to the Jacksonville Beaches communities, regularly offers quite a busy event calendar. Situated on the Sunshine state's northeast coast, Atlantic Beach boasts about two miles of pearlescent sand that visitors can access from at least a dozen points throughout the charming city. Known for its tranquil atmosphere, Atlantic Beach is a winner when it comes to historical sites as well. In fact, experts think that the sunny city was the location of the first Native American settlement.
24 DeFuniak Springs
This cozy little town is known for its peaceful atmosphere and historical vibes as its beautiful downtown district is nicely strewn with old Victorian houses. The lovely city of DeFuniak Springs is built around a lake that’s widely famous for its perfect circular shape. In fact, this tiny, yet significant, detail makes it one of the most impressive circular lakes around the world. Another reason that makes visitors prefer this stunning town to the crowded streets of Miami is the abundance of outdoor activities, such as fishing, hunting, and boating.
23 St. Pete Beach
With its high-class art museums and white sand beaches, St. Pete Beach is another fantastic place for relaxation and culture. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or beach-lover, St. Pete Beach will surely make your summer vacation an unforgettable experience. This stunning town boasts one of the most extended stretches of well-maintained public beach. Also, there’s just plenty of adrenaline-packed opportunities within the region as well. If you’re into stand-up paddleboarding adventures, you’ll surely find St. Pete Beach to be your new best summer destination for a short getaway.
Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, Apalachicola is such a brilliant idea for those missing the “Old Florida.” Located on the Apalachicola Bay, this charming town is referred to as the most delicious oyster capital across the globe. As one of the state’s most beautiful and peaceful cities, Apalachicola is an ideal location for foodies who cannot wait to savor freshly caught seafood dinner. There’s even an annual Seafood Festival traditionally held in Apalachicola. Outside of its delicious cuisine, Apalachicola is home to over 900 buildings dating as far back as the ‘30s.
21 Cedar Key
If you’re curious to find out what Florida looked like before Disneyland took over the world, then you must come to the vibrant town of Cedar Key. It’s a unique destination for bird-watching and kayaking while boasting an unlimited range of fishing opportunities and rich art culture. Two of its most famous festivals is the Cedar Key Fine Arts in April, and the Cedar Key Seafood Festival held in October. As a top-rated event, visitors need to book a place early on.
20 Fernandina Beach
With its 13 miles of stunning beaches, Fernandina Beach sure sounds like a perfect location for a summer getaway. This northernmost city is located on Amelia Island as it offers plenty of wildlife sightings. Every spring, Fernandina Beach hosts the annual spring event, aptly named the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival. While this cozy town is mostly known for its festival vibes, visitors also come here for the high-class restaurants, cute cafes, quirky antique shops and excellent golf.
19 Anna Maria, Fl
The entire Anna Maria Island, along with its cities, is a bird sanctuary and a huge gathering spot for nature-lovers, and bird-watchers. This beautiful piece of land is sandwiched between the Mexican Gulf and mainland Florida. Anna Maria Island boasts an at least a 7-mile-long barrier island strewn with white sandy beaches where fishing, kayaking and whale watching or stand-up paddle boarding are quite favorite outdoor activities. Nature enthusiasts are regular visitors there, especially from May to October, when sea turtles nest on the beaches.
18 Tarpon Springs
Tarpon Springs has long captured the hearts and attention of all nature enthusiasts with its many miles of beautiful waterfront, stretching over 50 miles. Also, Tarpon Springs is pretty much known for its downtown core that's even listed on America’s National Register of Historic Places. That’s hardly the best part though. This small, yet magnificent, town offers unique vibes and atmosphere with strong Greek influence that’s easy to notice in the city’s striking architecture, brick streets, cafes and even restaurants.
17 Deerfield Beach
If you’ve ever explored Deerfield Beach, then you must know about its award-winning “Blue Waves” beach. But even if you’re a total stranger to Deerfield Beach, you’ll soon find out all about it. Contrary to your expectations though, Blue Waves isn’t at all too packed with beach-lovers as opposed to other locations in the Sunshine State. In fact, Deerfield’s Blue Waves offers one hell of a peaceful beach experience that comes with excellent attractions, beach bars, and cafes. An excellent example of that is the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier that’s 976 ft long and is perfect for fishing opportunities.
Situated along the picturesque coast of Florida, Stuart is best known as the Sailfish Capital of the World. Both foodies and water-lovers will love this place for its excellent fishing and seafood dining options. Besides, this charming town boasts lots of beautiful beaches and pedestrian-friendly downtown areas. Apart from the vast array of water sports and activities within the region, Stuart is also idyllic for history buffs as well. When it comes to the city's attractions, the distinguished Road to Victory Military Museum and Stuart's Heritage Museum are excellent choices as well.
15 Pinellas Park
Despite its humble character and size, Pinellas Park is quite a lovely location for family vacations. This charming town is located in central Pinellas County and provides a significant number of decent dining and accommodation options. Favorite activities in Pinellas Park include deep-sea fishing trips, exciting kayaking, and sight-seeing boat tours, etc. However, those who prefer the quieter and less appealing side of life can take pleasure in fishing on the pier or shop for freshly caught seafood at the local fish market.
14 Mount Dora
Initially founded in 1880, Mount Dora is more famous as the Fishing Capital Of The Country as it owes its glory to its excellent fishing in the area. This beautiful town, which has preserved its old-world charm and features, is situated right on the shores of Lake Dora. Mount Dora may be a small town, and yet, it’s a traditional hub for festival goers throughout the year. This charming town regularly hosts many cool events, such as the music festival in February or the October’s Craft Fair.
13 New Smyrna Beach
If you’ve been here before, then you’ve probably heard about the city's 13 miles of sandy beaches. This peaceful place is known for having the very best waves on the entire Eastern Seaboard. It practically makes New Smyrna Beach one of the world’s best towns for surfing adventures; not to mention its fine-grained beaches, which are ideally suited to almost any type of water sport, including surf fishing, boating, swimming, etc. Indeed, this place absolutely deserves to be on any traveler's bucket list this summer.
Whatever you’ve heard about this gorgeous place, it’s probably true, and its authentic character can prove it. Dunedin is, in fact, one of Florida’s oldest and most charming towns along its west coast, and is most known for its Scottish population. With its fantastic downtown core and a wide array of Scottish festivities throughout the year, Dunedin is a vibrant town buzzing with activities no matter the season. If you’re coming here in late spring, make sure to attend the vast Dunedin Highland Games, traditionally held in April.
11 Vilano Beach
Situated north of St. Augustine, Vilano Beach is, indeed, one of the area's best-kept secrets. Its beach is pretty much excellent for many watersports, including skimboarding, swimming, sunbathing, etc. However, if you’re into action-packed adventures, then do not miss out on Vilano Beach’s opportunities for shark teeth hunting. Accommodation in Vilano Beach’s area ranges from cozy bed-and-breakfasts to more expensive options with private showers, parking, and modern amenities. The area’s quite famous for its stunning sunrise vistas over the Atlantic Ocean, so make sure to set the alarm clock a bit earlier to catch them.
How about exploring the Village of Islands in Islamorada? This small, yet picturesque community is spread out over islands in the Florida Keys. The region is quite popular with beach enthusiasts as it offers plenty of sandy beaches to choose from as well. Also, Islamorada is a prime destination for those who take pleasure in bonefishing, sail fishing and all kinds of fishing tournaments as well. The area’s quite abundant in cozy restaurants as well, serving the best seafood within the region.
9 Everglades City
Are you interested in swamp buggy rides or airboat tours? If you’re into such thrilling and adrenaline-packed adventures, then the city of Everglades is the best for you. Wilderness and mangrove forests await the thrill-seekers here as the city is practically known as the Gateway to a total of 10,000 islands. Indeed, it’s only getting better and better here.
Apart from its exotic character, Everglades City is proud to be referred to as the Gateway to an unlimited range of water sports as well, like canoeing, kayaking, biking and hiking through marshes and mangrove forests.
8 Safety Harbor
In spite of its humble size, the marvelous town of Safety Harbor is a brilliant destination for anyone who adores fine dining, culture, and art. The town’s peaceful parks and annual festivals are just another reason why travelers love coming here for a short, yet memorable getaway. Add the traditional events in the summer, numerous festivals and live music concerts to your to-do list, and you’ll surely have a marvelous time in Safety Harbor. Before you leave, make sure to take a leisurely stroll in Bayshore Linear Park that runs along an impressive stretch of Tampa Bay as well.
Have you ever wondered where the “world’s luckiest fishing village” resides? Well, you’ll be mind-blown to find out that it sits on Florida’s Emerald Coast. Indeed, Destin is known for its perfectly clear waters, azure skies, and white sand beaches. Besides, the surrounding waters are densely populated with large fish species; therefore Destin was nicknamed the world’s luckiest fishing village. All in all, fishing is practically the town’s biggest draw to the area; however, visitors can also relax in high-class resorts and savor excellent dining opportunities while partaking in superb golf courses as well.
Initially founded in 1876, the charming town of DeLand impresses its visitors with its unique historical district, strewn with quirky buildings dating from the 19th century. This ancient-looking town is also home to a superb art museum and is also proud to house Stetson University, being the state’s oldest one. Although it’s full of historical sights to see, DeLand makes an ideal place for nature enthusiasts as well. The area’s biggest surprise though is Spring Garden Run, located nearby De Leon Spring State Park, which offers plenty of wildlife and bird-watching opportunities.
5 Fort Pierce
Previously known as a fishing village, Fort Piece is known as a charming city appreciated for its stunning waterfront and wide array of decent restaurants as well. This cozy town, which was initially established as another fishing village, is now home to more than 4,000 plants and animals. One of the area’s best draw is the famous Indian River Lagoon, an excellent location for birdwatchers and nature lovers. Come around here to explore this biologically diverse estuary and leave Fort Pierce deeply inspired.
Take a leisurely walk around the beautiful Captiva and let it captivate your thoughts and mind forever. For those who’re still not comfy enough with venturing out on their own, Captiva offers a good number of sailing tours, while biking and fishing are also available within the area. Other quite favorite outdoor activities include bird-watching and fishing. Also, Captiva boasts over two miles of beach as well as many live events suitable for romantic couples and families too.
Seaside is, indeed, such a perfect destination for those interested in exploring unique architectural designs and styles. Situated in Walton County, this charming community stretches out across 80 acres and is home to over 40 shops. This tiny, yet vibrant place, is also home to lots of unique architectural designs typical for the “Old Florida.” Initially, this cute place was constructed according to the New Urbanism. The idea was to encourage the society to learn to embrace more eco-friendly architectural styles with designs.
2 Winter Park
Its curious name is hardly the only unusual feature about Winter Park. This small town, located in Orange County, offers high-end shopping experiences thanks to its super district, strewn with top-rated boutique shops. But for those, who're more interested in Winter Park’s outdoor activities, this charming city features lots of open park space, including Park Avenue, the Sculpture Garden and Albin Polasek Museum. Every month Winter Park hosts free outdoor movie nights, so be there to enjoy it. Apart from this lovely experience, visitors may also take pleasure in the scenic boat tours along the city’s chain of lakes as well.
This friendly community is merely a perfect destination for outdoor pursuits while making a name for itself as a thriving arts community. This beautiful town is quite a hospitable place that offers a great diversity of experiences, from cycling and paddle boarding to fishing and clamming. Matlacha is also a super charming community for devoted kayakers and hikers who’ll inevitably fall in love with Matlacha’s well-maintained Calusa Heritage Trail. Also, the town's calm waters of the inlet are just ideal for paddle boarding as well.