Next Up

10 Secret Florida Destinations Where Tourists Can't Find You

August 26, 2021

Sunny Florida's most popular destinations, like Orlando and Key West, are mobbed by tourists most months of the year. Instead, escape to one of Florida's hidden gems that some state residents don't even know exist.

1 / 10
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

Captiva Island

Three hours south of Tampa is a captivating (pun intended) 10-square-mile area of Florida that's better known for shelling and colorful sunsets than throngs of tourists snapping selfies. Miles of pristine soft-sand beaches on Captiva Island make it a cinch to relax and gather seashells under swaying palm trees. Instead of crowded beaches and long theme park lines, visitors are treated to unspoiled natural beauty, due largely to a purposeful lack of development. Enrich your inner conchologist at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum.

More photos after this Ad

2 / 10
Photo: Save the Manatee Club


While all the tourists are buzzing about at Magic Kingdom and Universal's Islands of Adventure, enjoy your own slice of heaven just 35 miles north of Orlando. In historic DeLand, stately Stetson Mansion beckons. As Florida's first luxury estate, this 10,000-square-foot manor home is a stunner. Wander about the galleries at the Museum of Art-DeLand, then explore nearby Blue Spring State Park, a designated manatee refuge and home to a flourishing population of West Indian manatees.

More photos after this Ad

3 / 10
Photo: Pedro Castellano


Set on Florida's Gulf Coast, the quaint village of Dunedin charms sun-seekers with a breezy vibe and stroll-worthy waterfront. Just off the coast are Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands, both renowned for their natural beauty and secluded white sand beaches. Sample world-class craft beers at Florida's oldest microbrewery, Dunedin Brewery, or bike along the 42-mile Pinellas Trail. A rooftop bar at the Fenway Hotelonce home to the area's first radio station, WGHB — wows with views of the St. Joseph Sound.

More photos after this Ad

4 / 10
Photo: Omni Hotels & Resorts

Amelia Island

In northeast Florida, Amelia Island is easy to reach, but hard to forget, so says the local tourism bureau. Thirteen miles of breathtaking beaches, abundant wildlife and clear blue waters make this a beloved - yet not overtouristed - destination for visitors and residents alike. Explore artifacts and uncover maritime history at the Marine Welcome Center & Shrimping Museum.

More photos after this Ad