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Top 10 Off The Beaten Path Places In Florida

Sponge Stand in Tarpon Springs
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Florida is one of the most visited places in the United States, but there are still spots in the sunshine state that arent well known by tourists and visitors.

In fact, there are some charming spots that dont get as much praise as they should. Below youll find a list of the best off-the-beaten-path locations throughout the state of Florida.

Everyone has heard of Orlando, Miami, the Florida Keys, Tampa, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Daytona Beach, to name a few.

There are a lot of well-known cities and even some small beach towns in Florida that are worth checking out.

There is an abundance of world-famous destinations throughout the state, and while theyre known for a good reason, there is much more to see.

Sometimes its nice to vacation where the locals go instead of being bombarded by crowds, long lines, and inauthentic tourist experiences.

If youre looking for a relaxing trip to Florida in a location that will leave you wondering why youve never heard of it before, look no further.

These underrated places in Florida will leave you excited to add them to your bucket list.

Off the beaten path places in Florida

Areial Shot of an island in Florida

1. Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island can be reached by ferry or private boat. The ferry leaves from Honeymoon Island, which is connected to mainland Florida, making it very easy to get to Caladesi.

It has no paved roads and miles of beaches, remaining an unspoiled gem. Near Clearwater and across the coast from the city of Dunedin, Caladesi Island is a great place to venture for a day trip.

The drive from Clearwater to the ferry is under half an hour. The beach has three miles of powdery, white sand.

Its the perfect off-the-grid experience, has scenic parks, a small local cafe, and is home to Caladesi Island State Park.

At the state park and on the island beach, you can swim, snorkel, fish, and hike. You might even get lucky and see Armadillos roaming the wild!

You can also rent canoes and kayaks and explore the unspoiled area.

Mantee Swimming in Crystal River

2. Crystal River

In Kings Bay, Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico, Crystal River is mainly known as a hub for manatees.

The sea cows flock to this area, and its the only place in the US where you can legally swim and snorkel with manatees.

Crystal River is fed by springs and is home to Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, where manatees shelter year-round.

Three Sisters Springs Wildlife Refuge has boardwalks which make for great viewing areas of this marine mammal and the natural springs.

The two wildlife refuges are only located a few minutes apart.

Not far is also the Crystal River Archaeological State Park which has remains of an early Native American settlement, including ceremonial mounds.

There are a ton of great trails around Crystal River, and the water is a gorgeous color of blue that will leave you speechless.

beautiful sunset over the beach in Apalachicola

3. Apalachicola

This small fishing village is located on the panhandle of Florida on Apalachicola Bay. Its not very well known by tourists or even some residents of Florida haven’t heard of it.

However, the tiny place has friendly locals and amazing seafood. Over 90% of Floridas oysters come from Apalachicola, so its the best place to eat fresh seafood.

Its a historic town filled with preserved and restored buildings and lots of local history that you can learn about on every corner.

The area is very walkable, with local shops, cafes, and restaurants to explore. This Old Florida city is a quiet, no-frills place to enjoy. The quaint homes, waterfront scenery, and charming environment create the perfect small-town feel.

Trolly in the off the beaten path town of Mount Dora, Florida

4. Mount Dora

Mount Dora is a charming city in central Florida. Known for its antique stores, quaint downtown area, and history, its a great place to visit if youre not looking for a beach vacation.

Its also on Lake Dora and Lake Gertrude and near lots of parks and wildlife. Its well-preserved architecture gives it character and makes walking the downtown streets so enjoyable.

This city is also only 40 minutes from Orlando, so it would be a great place to stay if you want to save some money, get out of the city, yet still be close to all the hustle and bustle.

The best thing to do in Mount Dora is to walk aimlessly around downtown, window shop, grab a cup of coffee, and ultimately enjoy slow-paced living.

Grass weeds on beach in Florida

5. Amelia Island

Amelia Island is a barrier island in the northern part of Florida near the southern border of Georgia.

Because of its location, it isnt quite as popular as the barrier islands on the mid-Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

The island is 13 miles long and has wide sandy beaches. Small-town charm and lots of history. Fernandina Beach is the name of the town on the island and the downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The town is also considered the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry, so be sure to check out the shrimping museum.

The island is home to Floridas longest operating saloon, and its a great place to stroll the beach looking for seashells and shark teeth and exploring town.

You may even spot dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles. Biking is a popular activity on the island.

There are several places you can rent some wheels, and there are both paved and unpaved bike paths that will take you along the water, under oak trees, by picturesque houses, and through parks.

Amelia Island State Park spans 200 acres of forest, marshes, and shoreline. Its a wonderful place to get outside and enjoy the scenery.

Also, check out Fort Clinch State Park, which has a Civil War Era Fort. Its a great spot where history meets nature.

Sunrise in Anna Maria Island, Florida

6. Anna Maria Island

South of Tampa, Anna Maria Island is a 7-mile barrier island. Speed limits on the island never exceed 35mph and time seems to stand still on this charming piece of paradise.

Instead of cars, youll find many bikers on the roads and many kayakers on the water. Its the epitome of Old Town Florida because you wont find high-rise buildings or chain restaurants.

Instead, there are quaint cottages and a local vibe.

The island is surrounded by trails, parks, and all the outdoor activities you could ask for.

The most popular things to do is just to enjoy walking on the beach, animal spotting, lying in the sand, or swimming in the ocean.

It would make a great day trip from Tampa or Clearwater and is about an hour’s drive. The island is known for Manatee Beach Park, and there are museums, markets, and more to explore.

Sponge Stand in Tarpon Springs

7. Tarpon Springs

On the opposite side of Clearwater from Anna Maria Island, Tarpon Springs is about 20 minutes north of Clearwater.

Tarpon Springs is called the Sponge Capital of the World” and is known for its famous Sponge Docks. You can walk the boulevard and see docked sponge boats and shops selling sea sponges. 

Some of the original shops that sell sponges remain on the docks and some are even owned by the original families.

Today, there are over 100 sponge shops. There are also about 15 restaurants on the docks, many serving Greek Food.

There is a prominent Greek culture in Tarpon Springs. The Greeks sponge divers settled in the city in the late 1800s and early 1900s to look for sea sponges.

This started the lucrative industry in the area. There is a ton of Greek Food because of the impact the Greeks made on the city.

Some of the restaurants are world famous for their Greek cuisine. The sea sponges were used for hygiene, cleaning, and padding items like helmets.

Its such an interesting history to learn about, and youll be amazed by the sea sponges.

Pier in Steinhatchee, Florida

8. Steinhatchee

Located on Deadman Bay on the Gulf of Mexico, the Steinhatchee river runs through the city. It would make a great day trip from Gainesville and it is only about an hour and a half away.

Its truly one of the best off-the-beaten-path locations in Florida because it isnt well known by visitors, and even many Florida residents havent heard about it.

Scalloping is huge in Steinhatchee. You can even sign up for a charter or a tour to harvest scallops yourself. When theyre in season from June through September, this can be a fun activity to try.

The fishing village has lots of natural beauty to explore, from the river to the ocean. You can fish, hike, swim, and enjoy a slower-paced vacation.

9. Cortez

Cortez is considered a small fishing village. The old town has been well-preserved and is an excellent example of Old Florida.

Its listed on the National Register of Historic Places so be sure to check out the historic fishing village and old fish houses that date back to the early 1900s.

Walking around Cortez can be compared to walking through a time machine.

It has such a well-preserved history that it feels invaluable in the best of ways.

Dont forget to enjoy some of the freshest seafood while in Cortez; its a must.

Enjoy all you can of old Florida, where life here is separated from mainstream commercialism, and you can relax and enjoy your life intently.

White sand beach in Navarre, Florida

10. Navarre

Navarre is located in the panhandle of Florida. Its located very close to the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola, an area of protected land and water along the Gulf and Bay.

It spreads over several islands and even into Mississippi.

The barrier island of Navarre has over 12 miles of beautiful beaches and coastline. Its the perfect place for solitude, and relaxing is the main activity.

Swim in the emerald waters, cruise the bike paths, hike, fish, snorkel, or just lay on the beach listening to the sound of crashing waves.

Its the place for sheer relaxation.

Conclusions

There are many great places to visit in Florida other than mainstream locations like Miami or Orlando.

While these are fun locations, there is so much more to the sunshine state than the top 10 cities to visit.

If youre looking for a laidback, scenic, relaxing adventure, youve come to the right place and found it here.

Hopefully, one of the places on this list has inspired you to consider a new location in Florida for your next trip.

There is so much out there to see and do in the world, so you might as well make the most of it.

Get out there and adventure in an off-the-beaten-path place in Florida.

Do you have a favorite spot that isn’t mentioned on this list? Say so in the comments below

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