Are you searching for the best islands in Florida to visit for your next family vacation, romantic getaway, or couples retreat? After all, where better to get away from it all than on an island in the Sunshine State? The sun … the surf … the sand … a tropical drink in hand … can’t you just see it now? We sure can!
The best Florida islands offer pristine beaches, crystal clear water, wildlife preserves, historic sites, outdoor attractions, nightlife and live music, fine dining, beachside snack shacks, and fun outdoor activities like kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, diving, paddle boarding, and fishing.
Florida island accommodations range from beachfront hotels and glitzy resorts to family-friendly cottages and vacation rentals. Of course, the beaches are always there, beckoning for the company of sun seekers, sandcastle builders, and seashell hunters. Beaches have a habit of doing that, don’t they?
Whether you and your group prefer a luxury retreat, outdoor adventure, complete seclusion on a serene private island, or a laid-back getaway (or a combination of all these things), we’ve got the Florida island to suit your style. With 1,350 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), Florida is one of the best states for travelers who want to escape to an island destination.
We’ve collected a list of Florida’s best islands to jumpstart your wanderlust. Let’s get started!
Best Islands in Florida to Visit
1. Amelia Island
Part of the Sea Islands chain (which includes islands in Georgia and South Carolina), Amelia Island is home to a historic waterfront, wildlife refuges, nature trails, and the relaxing Fernandina Beach. The Amelia River separates Amelia Island from the mainland and serves as a source of recreation and industry.
Located just northeast of Jacksonville, Amelia Island is the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry. The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival is held annually in May.
Islanders even lower a giant LED shrimp on New Year’s Eve. Be aware: it’s timed in conjunction with Greenwich Mean Time’s midnight (7 p.m. EST), making it a fun family event to get the kiddies home and to bed.
Active travelers will love the outdoor recreation available on Amelia Island. Check out the 200-acre Amelia Island State Park and explore salt marshes, maritime forests, and other habitats. Hit the hiking trails at Fort Clinch State Park at the northern end of Amelia Island.
For a history lesson, visit the 1838 Amelia Island Lighthouse, which is the oldest in the state. Enjoy waterfront dining in Fernandina Beach or in the Historic District along the Amelia River.
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2. Anastasia Island
Located across the Bridge of Lions from historic St. Augustine, Anastasia Island is a 14-mile-long barrier island on Florida’s northeast coast.
The area is known as the First Coast due to the fact that it was the first Florida coast discovered in 1565. This Florida island offers a laid-back beach town charm with a historic Spanish accent (which you’ll immediately notice in the architecture).
A section of the island is within the St. Augustine city limits. St. Augustine is a 16th-century Spanish settlement along the Matanzas River and the Atlantic.
Spend the day shopping in the St. Augustine historic district and exploring the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (a Spanish fort built in 1740), which features stunning views of the Matanzas River.
Anastasia State Park offers more than 1,600 acres of white sand beaches, marshland, dunes, and maritime forests for swimming, hiking, kayaking, and camping. Pack a picnic, sunscreen, and a towel and spend the day on Crescent Beach, Treasure Beach, or St. Augustine Beach.
Take in panoramic views at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, which is said to be haunted. It has been featured on an episode of A&E’s Ghost Hunters.
Head to the Conch House Marina Resort for waterfront dining, a bar, lounge, boat slips, and a marina. The St. George Inn – St. Augustine is an excellent choice for easy access to all of the sights, attractions and activities in the historic district.
3. Merritt Island
While technically a peninsula, we’re including Merritt Island in our list of Florida islands. It’s surrounded almost entirely by water (the Mosquito Lagoon, the Banana River, and the Indian River), so we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. The Canaveral Barge Canal extends across the island in the north.
In the south, the Mathers Bridge connects it to a barrier island at Indian Harbour Beach. So, yeah, we’re keeping the island title. Even Visit Florida, the state’s official travel site, calls it an island.
Merritt Island is 46 miles long. Its mangroves and wildlife refuges offer excellent canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Considered the Space Coast, it’s home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral as well as the 140,000-acre Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Merritt Island is one of the best Florida islands for those seeking wildlife, history, technology, and stunning sunrise views on a Sunshine State vacation. It’s always fun to take an airboat ride to see alligators and other wildlife or visit the Brevard Zoo in nearby Melbourne.
Don’t forget to spend the day at nearby Cocoa Beach where champion surfer Kelly Slater learned to hang ten.
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4. Hutchinson Island
Located south of the Fort Pierce Inlet, Hutchinson Island sits along Florida’s east coast between the Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean. The barrier island is divided into two sections known as North Hutchinson Island and South Hutchinson Island. North Hutchinson runs from Sebastian Inlet to the Fort Pierce Inlet, and it’s about 28 miles long.
South Hutchinson Island is 23 miles long and stretches from Fort Pierce to Stuart on the mainland. When the subject of Hutchinson Island comes up, it’s usually in reference to the south-sitting sister. But we have to give props to both. You know how it is with siblings.
You’ll find miles of beautiful beaches, scenic overlooks, outdoor recreation, and wildlife such as manatees, nesting sea turtles, and other marine creatures. Swim, build sandcastles, and relax on the sand at Blind Creek Beach, Stuart Beach, Chastain Beach, or Jensen Beach Park.
Go kayaking or paddleboarding along Jensen Beach to Jupiter Inlet Aquatic Preserve. Waves on Hutchinson Island tend to be a bit more surfable than the South Florida beaches, so the surfers in your crew will be happy to hear that.
Drool over classic cars, motorcycles, boats, and more at the Elliott Museum. There are also exhibits on baseball, transportation history, and 20th-century criminals. The House of Refuge Museum pays tribute to American inventors. McLarty Treasure Museum features artifacts salvaged from a 1715 Spanish shipwreck.
Historic Highway A1A runs through the island, which makes for terrific drives through this Florida island. Accommodations include beachfront condos, vacation cottages, and family-friendly resorts such as the Hampton Inn and Suites – Fort Pierce or the Vistana Beach Club.
5. Jupiter Island
If you’re looking for laid-back, quiet, and secluded islands in Florida, you’ve found your answer on Jupiter Island. Located between the Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean, Jupiter Island is almost 11 miles long. Situated along Florida’s east coast, south of Hutchinson Island, it’s home to beautiful beaches, wildlife refuges, nature preserves, and the celebrity homes of Alan Jackson, Tiger Woods, Celine Dion, and more.
The island connects to the town of Hobe Sound by SE Bridge Road at the north end of the island. In the south, it can be accessed via S Beach Road near where the Indian River meets the Loxahatchee River.
Go hiking, swimming, and nature watching at the Nature Conservancy Blowing Rocks Preserve. Swim, relax, and take in the scenery at waterfront parks like Jupiter Beach Park, Carlin Park, and DuBois Park. Enjoy walking trails and native animals (read: gators) at the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary or visit the 1860 Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum.
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6. Palm Beach
Palm Beach sits on a sliver of land between Lake Worth, the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), and the Atlantic Ocean. Famous for glamorous estates, gorgeous golf courses, and historic hotels like The Breakers Palm Beach, the island is 14 miles long and about ½ mile wide.
The island of Palm Beach is accessible to mainland West Palm Beach via the Royal Park Bridge and the Flagler Memorial Bridge. It’s one of the best islands in Florida for a laid-back vibe combined with luxury accommodations.
The ultra-exclusive Palm Beach was the winter home to the Kennedys, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts. The city’s founder was industrialist and Standard Oil and Florida East Coast Railway founder Henry Morrison Flagler.
You’ll notice Flagler’s name all around the state. His former Palm Beach mansion is now the Flagler Museum.
Between the island’s natural habitats and exclusive lifestyle, you’ll find plenty to do on this Florida island. Visit native and endangered animals from around the world at the 23-acre Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society in West Palm Beach. Check out hands-on exhibits, an aquarium, and a planetarium at the Cox Science Center and Aquarium.
Peruse European, American, and Chinese art at the Norton Museum of Art or indulge in retail therapy along trendy and palm tree-lined Worth Avenue.
7. Miami Beach
The glitzy and glamorous island of Miami Beach sits on Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The island is approximately nine miles long and one mile wide.
It’s filled with luxury hotels, beachfront resorts, parks, world-class restaurants, and lively nightlife. Sections of the island include North, Mid, and the world-famous South Beach.
When you’re not soaking up the sun on the golden sand, indulge in live music, excellent seafood, and boutique shopping. There are also a lot of attractions on mainland Miami, which is easily accessible by the MacArthur Causeway.
The Art Deco architecture and colorful murals in the Miami Design District and the Wynwood Art District are always popular. They make for excellent Insta posts and selfie spots.
Speaking of the selfie scene, spend the day taking fun selfies at the Museum of Illusions. For a bit of nature, visit the tropical gardens and exotic plants at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden or go indoors at the Perez Art Museum Miami.
The uber-exclusive Fisher Island lies to the south just past Government Cut, off the southern tip of Miami. Government Cut is a channel that allows for access to the Port of Miami. Fisher Island was originally part of Miami Beach before the channel was cut through.
At 216 acres, the private Fisher Island was once an island home to the Vanderbilts. It’s now a vacation destination for celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts, and Andre Agasse.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Miami, Florida
8. Key Biscayne
Key Biscayne is found just over the Rickenbacker Causeway (offering gorgeous views, by the way) from mainland Miami on Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The South Florida island is located between two parks: Crandon Park (a former coconut plantation) and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. You’ll drive through Virginia Key, home to the Miami Seaquarium, along the way.
With a mix of luxury hotels, waterfront restaurants, golf courses, nature preserves, palm trees, and turquoise waters all around, Key Biscayne offers a lot on a tiny sliver of land. Additionally, it’s home to the only federally recognized underwater archaeological trail in the U.S., Biscayne National Park’s Maritime Heritage Trail.
Bring your boat, snorkel set, and dive gear and explore the coral reefs, beautiful islands, and underwater trails of Biscayne National Park, most of which is made up of the gorgeous waterways of the Atlantic Ocean.
Visit Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and the beautiful 19th-century Cape Florida Lighthouse. The walkway leading to the lighthouse is framed by tall palm trees and makes for stunning photos you’ll want to frame.
For serenity seekers, take an evening cruise on Biscayne Bay, relax on the beach, or watch the sunset while sipping frosty beverages at a waterfront bar or restaurant. For a luxurious Key Biscayne stay, we recommend the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne.
9. Florida Keys
With swaying palm trees, crystal clear water, and iguanas a-plenty, the Florida Keys are about as Caribbean as you can get without needing a passport. Key West is actually closer to Cuba (about 94 miles) than it is to mainland Florida (about 127 miles). The island chain runs from Key Largo to Key West island.
Many travelers fly into Fort Lauderdale or Miami, rent a car, and head south to their Florida islands and Key West destinations.
This laid-back and tropical region is made up of the Upper Keys, Middle Keys, and Lower Keys. The Upper Keys are Key Largo, Tavernier, Tea Table Key (near the Tea Table Key Relief Channel), Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys, and Islamorada.
The Middle Keys consist mainly of Marathon, which includes towns with cute names such as Duck Key, Fiesta Key, Pigeon’s Key, and Fat Deer Key (okay, maybe not so cute from the deer’s perspective). The Lower Keys include Sunshine Key, Big Pine Key, Summerland Key, Stock Island, and Key West (as well as many others along the way).
The Overseas Highway and the famous (and incredibly scenic) Seven Mile Bridge connect the islands in this tropical paradise. While any of the areas makes a terrific choice for a Florida Keys getaway, I enjoy Marathon for its central location. The island is convenient for visiting north or southbound attractions.
Explore the island of Key West on a Conch Train tour, go shopping and bar-hopping along Duval Street, or visit sites like the Hemingway Home and Museum, the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, the Key West Lighthouse, and the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. Don’t forget to stop by the Southernmost Point in the continental U.S. while on Key West island.
You’ll find family-friendly hotels, waterfront inns, guest cottages, and luxury resorts in Key West and throughout the Keys region. You can even stay at the bed and breakfast featured in the Netflix series Bloodline, which was set in the Keys and starred the amazing Sissy Spacek and Linda Cardellini.
Known as The Rayburn House in the series, it’s called The Moorings Village in real life. The 11-acre former coconut plantation is on Islamorada, one of the most beautiful islands in the Keys and the self-proclaimed sport fishing capital of the world
The best activity in the Florida Keys is getting out and exploring by boat, kayak, canoe, paddleboard, or jet ski. Book a deep-sea fishing charter or a half-day snorkel trip to the reefs surrounding the Keys and Key West. Rent a boat to check out the many secluded coves, uninhabited islets, and serene private islands with exclusive resorts such as Little Palm Island, which is home to Little Palm Island Resort and Spa in the Lower Keys.
Spend the day at Bahia Honda State Park, on Bahia Honda Key, for a day of swimming, relaxing, snorkeling, and exploring the wooded trails. There’s a convenience store, ice cream shop, campsites, and boat docks.
For a fun pop culture fix, check out the historic 1912 African Queen steamboat used in the 1951 movie The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. It’s at the Holiday Inn dock in Key Largo.
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10. Garden Key
To really get away from it all, book a day trip to the Dry Tortugas. Located on Garden Key, surrounded by water about 70 miles west of Key West, the Dry Tortugas National Park is home to the 16-acre 19th-century Fort Jefferson.
Originally built to hold prisoners, it’s the largest brick masonry structure in North America. It’s now a tropical destination for snorkeling, swimming, and simply relaxing on the white sand beach. There’s even a moat that you can walk alongside of (no swimming inside of it, though).
Tortugas National Park is only accessible by seaplane, private boat, or the Yankee Freedom fast ferry (it leaves out of Key West and takes about two hours). The entire Dry Tortugas National Park, which includes a large portion of water, is 100 square miles in size with seven small islands surrounding the fort. It’s one of the best Florida islands to check off your island bucket list.
Fun activities include snorkeling or swimming around the fort while looking for tropical fish and other sea creatures. Explore the fort, learn about its historic past, and take in stunning views across sapphire blue water from the top.
11. Ten Thousand Islands
Looking for a unique island setting to visit in Florida? The Ten Thousand Islands are a chain of islands and uninhabited islets (some are artificial islands) within a 35,000-acre setting of mangroves and wildlife near Cape Romano, Fakahatchee Bay, and the mouth of the Lostmans River. Located west of Everglades City along the Southwest Florida coast, the southern section of the islands is part of the Everglades. A large section of the northern area is the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
The natural state of this area is an indication that you won’t be finding many luxury hotels. And there aren’t any on the islands. Tiger Key, Jewel Key, and Picnic Key do allow camping.
Everglades City is a great area to base an Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands adventure trip. The area is best explored via an experienced tour boat. Water can get shallow.
Boaters who don’t know their way around can find themselves lost or in trouble quite quickly. Goodland (located just south of Marco Island), Collier-Seminole State Park, and Port of the Islands are popular spots with boat ramps to embark on excursions to the Ten Thousand Islands.
Take a tour boat out of the Gulf Coast Visitor Center of Everglades National Park (located in Everglades City). Look for dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles, river otters, osprey, and native plants and animals (including threatened and endangered species like peregrine falcons, West Indian manatees, and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles). Kayak through the waterways and mangroves or search for seashells and explore the beaches of the small islands.
Finally, you may be wondering if there really are 10,000 islands. Sorry to say, but nope.
There may be a couple hundred. That’s still a lot. And who’s counting? Besides, how unimaginative does “the Couple Hundred Islands” sound, anyway?
See Related: Best Day Trips From Tampa, Florida
12. Marco Island
Marco Island, located south of Naples, is the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands. It’s the largest and only developed island in the chain.
Here’s where you’ll find luxury resorts, boutique shopping, seafood restaurants, perfectly landscaped golf courses, and the celebrity homes of Judge Judy, Jane Seymour, and Sean Hannity, among others. The location is more than ideal, with easy access to nature parks and the Gulf of Mexico.
Marco Island is six miles long and about four miles wide, making it the perfect island in Florida to explore by vehicle or bicycle. If you’re looking for the island lifestyle with less of a wilderness vibe (while still having access to the wilderness vibe), Marco Island is one of the best Florida islands to do just that.
Spend the day swimming, sunning, and relaxing at Tigertail Beach or South Marco Beach. Stroll along the boardwalk at Briggs Nature Center or go camping, nature walking, fishing, canoeing, and picnicking at Collier-Seminole State Park. For a bit of history, learn about the island’s Calusa Indian past and culture at the Marco Island Historical Museum.
13. Sanibel and Captiva Island
Sanibel Island and Captiva Island are bouncing back from the devastation of Hurricane Ian in 2022. The Sanibel Causeway is back in working order after a large section got wiped out by the storm.
Sanibel Island is about 12 miles long and three miles wide. Captiva is approximately five miles long (with a sister island of North Captiva Island situated offshore).
The Gulf Coast islands (which are technically two separate islands, but you might not even realize you’re leaving one and entering the other) feature a land and seascape of pastel cottages, palm-lined roads, nature preserves, and outdoor activities like bicycling, kayaking, sailing, fishing, birdwatching, beach lounging, and shelling (arguably, the most popular of all Sanibel activities). Compare your seashells to the ones at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.
Located off the coast of Fort Myers, Captiva Island and Sanibel Island are the best islands in Florida for nature enthusiasts and beach bums seeking relaxation and a secluded atmosphere on an island vacation. Street names like Periwinkle Way and Seagrape Lane perfectly sum up the charm of Sanibel Island.
The J.N. “Ding” Darling Nature Preserve, on the east side of Sanibel Island, is a terrific way to get back to nature and maybe see a gator or two. The protected mangrove ecosystem has nearly 250 species of birds.
Go hiking, fishing, and SUPing, or take a nature cruise. Additionally, you can kayak around Buck Key, which is just east of Captiva Island.
You won’t find glitzy high-rise condos along these tranquil islands of Sanibel Island and Captiva. You will find cozy cottages, beachside inns, small hotels, and family-friendly vacation rentals.
South Seas Island Resort, at the tip of Captiva Island, is an excellent choice for a family vacation. It offers more than two miles of soft sand beaches framed by sparkling sapphire and emerald waves.
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14. Pine Island
Pine Island, found west of Fort Myers and Cape Coral and east of Captiva Island, is surrounded by the Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve and the Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve. It’s accessible via Pine Island Road from the mainland near Cape Coral.
At 17 miles long and two miles wide, Pine Island is the largest island on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Pine is a less developed Florida island than, say, Marco or Sanibel since it’s surrounded by mangroves rather than open water and sandy beaches. Pine Island offers a wide array of tropical décor such as mangroves, palm trees, aquatic preserves, white sand beaches, fruit groves, and exotic plants in a laid-back and quiet setting.
Pine Island has an Old Florida charm that draws travelers to the area. Matlacha, at the north end, is a historic fishing village with a fun array of artsy shops, seafood markets, and waterfront restaurants. St. James City is at the southern end and offers canals, waterside dining, marinas, fish markets, and more of the quirky island ambiance.
Go kayaking, canoeing, or SUPing along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), the Matlacha Pass, or the Pine Island Aquatic Preserve. Take a charter boat or sightseeing tour to the remote beaches and pine forests of Cayo Costa State Park, located about 10 miles away. Explore quirky local art in a garden setting at the Leoma Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens.
15. Gasparilla Island
Gasparilla Island is a barrier island in southwest Florida off the coast of Port Charlotte. It’s located north of Captiva Island and Sanibel Island and separated from land by Charlotte Harbor and Gasparilla Sound. The island gets its name from José Gaspar, a pirate who was known as Gasparilla.
Access to the island is via the Boca Grande Causeway. Boca Grande is the largest town on Gasparilla Island, which is about seven miles in length.
Gasparilla Island offers a relaxed vibe with views of sandy beaches and emerald-green Gulf Coast waters from nearly every angle. It’s one of the best islands in Florida to really get away from it all.
Spread a beach blanket, unpack the picnic basket, and spend the day building sandcastles and relaxing on the beach at Gasparilla Island State Park at the south end of the island. The 1890 Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and Museum is right on the beachfront.
Climb the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse, which is located along the main road (and not at Gasparilla Island State park as the name might suggest). If you’re considering a stay on or near this Florida island, try the Boca Grande Hotel or the Palmetto Inn.
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16. Don Pedro Island
Don Pedro Island, also known as Palm Island, is located west of Rotonda Community Park and Preserve near Placida. It’s just north of Gasparilla Island in the Gulf of Mexico. Only accessible by boat, it fits the bill as one of the truly secluded Florida West Coast islands.
Golf carts are the normal mode of transport, but there is a car ferry service, which is provided by Palm Island Transit.
The Palm Island Resort makes up a large part of the island. There are a lot of private residences as well as vacation cottages. There is only one restaurant, Rum Bay, but the mainland is just a three-minute ferry ride away.
Don Pedro Island State Park is the place to be for swimming, hiking, and nature watching. Watch for native birds and other wildlife at the 80-acre Wildflower Preserve or the Amberjack Environmental Preserve. Both are on the mainland.
17. Siesta Key
Siesta Key sits off the coast of Sarasota between Roberts Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The island is eight miles long and offers dining, shopping, nightlife, watersports, and the beautiful wide sand beaches of Siesta Beach, Sarasota Beach, and Turtle Beach. You can’t beat those Gulf Coast sunsets for a romantic getaway on Siesta Key.
Siesta Village has art galleries, boutiques, and markets as well as a nightlife scene with live music and a few bars. Use the convenient, and free, Siesta Key Breeze Trolley to get around town. It runs from north to south on Siesta Key
Learn about conservation and marine wildlife at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium or get your art fix at the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. Book kayak, jet ski, paddleboard, dolphin watching, and other watersports tours for an active day on an island in Florida.
Go snorkeling at Point of Rocks. The water isn’t more than five feet deep and the tide pools are fun for the kids to explore.
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18. Anna Maria Island
At seven miles long from north to south, Anna Maria Island is surrounded on all points north, west, east, and south by Tampa Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, Anna Maria Sound, and Longboat Pass. It’s just off the coast from mainland Bradenton on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
One of the best islands in Florida, this Florida island is in Manatee County (How fun to live in a county named Manatee!). Enjoy that emerald-green water and sugar-white sand at Coquina Beach, Cortez Beach, or Bean Point Beach. Spend the day at Bradenton Beach or kayak around Anna Maria Island.
The mangroves surrounding Anna Maria Island make the most unique kayaking sites. Check out Bimini Bay, Robinson Preserve, or the South Lido Mangrove Tunnels if you’re into kayaking, canoeing, or SUPing.
Sports fans will want to head to McKechnie Field for a Pittsburgh Pirates spring training game or a home game of the Bradenton Marauders (an affiliate of the Pirates). Other island attractions include local history at the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum and the Beach Market at Coquina Beach for jewelry, local art, apparel, crafts, baked goods, and more.
19. Honeymoon Island
Honeymoon Island isn’t just for honeymooners. In fact, it’s very family-friendly and popular with all types of travelers.
Located west of Dunedin and Tampa Bay, along the Florida Gulf Coast and Saint Joseph Sound, it’s an amazing spot to spend the day. There are large parking areas, restrooms, concession stands, and a playground.
Honeymoon Island is a day trip destination only. There aren’t accommodations on the island, but the towns of Dunedin, Palm Harbor, and Clearwater are easily accessible via the Dunedin Causeway.
Hike the trails, swim the warm Gulf Coast waves, search for shells, and relax on the soft sand at Honeymoon Island State park. You can also take the ferry to nearby Caladesi Island for the day. At times, the tide is low enough that you could walk across, but we recommend taking the ferry.
20. St. George Island
The 22-mile-long St. George Island is a barrier island on Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s western coast.
Unlike its neighboring island (mentioned below), St. George Island is inhabited. You’ll find small hotels and beach cottages along this quiet stretch of sand. Island access is available via the Bryant Patton Bridge, which is part of the Big Bend Scenic Byway Coastal Trail.
The Cape St. George Island Lighthouse is 72 feet tall. It was originally built in 1833, then rebuilt in 1848 and 1852 (on Little St. George Island). After succumbing to beach erosion, it was rebuilt on St. George Island (using original blueprints and salvaged materials) in the early 2000s.
Explore the area by peddling along bike paths. There’s a six-mile paved path that runs along Gulf Beach Drive. Head to the shoreline, a pier, or out into the Gulf to cast out a line for amberjack, sea bass, mahi, and cobia.
Visit Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. Saint George Island State Park for camping, swimming, and birdwatching. There are boardwalks, hiking trails, and observation towers.
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21. St. Vincent Island
St. Vincent Island, located in the Florida Panhandle, sits along Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s part of four barrier islands that include Dog Island, Cape St. George Island, and St. George Island.
The island is only accessible by boat and during daylight hours. A shuttle service runs from Indian Pass to the island. There aren’t any facilities such as restrooms, a visitor center, or drinking water.
If you’re not an off-the-grid kind of traveler, then this island may not be for you. But if you are, the natural beauty and secluded atmosphere of the island more than make up for the lack of modern amenities. Be sure to bring the bug spray.
St. Vincent Wildlife Refuge was established as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1968. It serves as a protective habitat for plants, migrating birds, and other animals such as endangered red wolves.
It’s a popular day trip for hiking, kayaking, fishing, bicycling, and nature watching. Nature enthusiasts enjoy exploring trails leading around the island and watching for sea turtles, manatees, and dolphins from the sandy shores.
22. Santa Rosa Island
The 40-mile-long barrier island of Santa Rosa Island lies west of Pensacola Beach along Santa Rosa Sound and the Gulf of Mexico (and near Pensacola Bay). It stretches along from Destin in the east to Pensacola in the west and offers a sparkling natural setting of long sandy beaches, historic sites, natural attractions, and family-friendly activities.
It’s been said that the sand is so finely textured that it “squeaks” when you walk on it (something scientific about silica quartz). We’re not really sure about this phenomenon, but one thing is for sure: the sand along this stretch of Gulf Coast is so dazzling white, you’ll think it’s snow (rest assured, it’s not).
Explore history and climb 177 steps to the top at the Pensacola Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. It’s located at Naval Air Station Pensacola, an active military base, so be sure to check ahead of time to make sure civilian visitors are allowed. They usually are, but it’s always good to check.
Visit Gulf Islands National Seashore and the soft white (and possibly squeaky) sand of Opal Beach, Navarre Beach, or Pensacola Beach. Gather the whole crew and spend the day at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park where you can experience dolphin encounters and educational shows featuring rays, dolphins, and sharks.
The Destin Harbor Boardwalk is the place to go for shopping, dining, watersports, and other entertainment. For a family-friendly and coastal casual stay, consider the Margaritaville Beach Hotel Pensacola. Located steps from the beach, it has a beachfront bar, a swimming pool, a restaurant, a gift shop, and spectacular views of Pensacola Beach.
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23. Perdido Key
Perdido Key is as far west as you can get in the Florida Panhandle. Sitting at the Florida/Alabama border, the region around Perdido Key is known as the Flora-Bama. Yes, it’s also a bar and a song by Kenny Chesney (written about the bar, by the way).
The island fronts the gorgeous emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico and backs up to Big Lagoon and Old River. Discovered by Spanish explorers in 1693, the island is a paradise of soft white sand, secluded beaches, sand dunes, nature preserves, and stunning Gulf Coast views.
You may even get the experience of seeing the Blue Angels soar by overhead from nearby Pensacola NAS. Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum, the world’s largest, is about seven miles from Perdido Key.
Book deep-sea fishing charters, parasailing adventures, and dolphin-watching excursions to get out on the water. Go hiking, swimming, and relaxing at Perdido Key State Park, Orange Beach, or Gulf Beach. Listen to live music, try a bushwhacker, or just check out the wide variety of license plate art decorating the walls at the world-famous beach bar and entertainment complex known as the Flora-Bama Bar.
Open since 1964, the Flora-Bama Bar sits at the state lines of Florida and Alabama (hence its name) and has five stages and several beachfront bars. It’s a must-do while in the Redneck Riviera (as the region is also known), so be sure to add it to your beach bar bucket list (yes, that’s a thing).