Florida is one of the most visited places in the United States, but there are still spots in the sunshine state that aren’t well known by tourists and visitors.
In fact, there are some charming spots that don’t get as much praise as they should. Below you’ll 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 they’re known for a good reason, there is much more to see.
Sometimes it’s nice to vacation where the locals go instead of being bombarded by crowds, long lines, and inauthentic tourist experiences.
If you’re looking for a relaxing trip to Florida in a location that will leave you wondering why you’ve 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
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.
It’s 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! It is one of the best places to snorkel in Florida.
You can also rent canoes and kayaks and explore the unspoiled area.
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 it’s 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 that make for great viewing areas of this marine mammal and the natural springs.
The two wildlife refugees 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.
This small fishing village is located on the panhandle of Florida on Apalachicola Bay. It’s 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 Florida’s oysters come from Apalachicola, so it’s the best place to eat fresh seafood.
It’s 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.
4. Mount Dora
Mount Dora is a charming city in central Florida. Known for its antique stores, quaint downtown area, and history, it’s a great place to visit if you’re not looking for a beach vacation.
It’s 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.
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 isn’t 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 Florida’s longest operating saloon, and it’s 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. It’s a wonderful place to get outside and enjoy the scenery.
Also, check out Fort Clinch State Park, which has a Civil War Era Fort. It’s a great spot where history meets nature.
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, you’ll find many bikers on the roads and many kayakers on the water. It’s the epitome of Old Town Florida because you won’t 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.
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.
It’s such an interesting history to learn about, and you’ll be amazed by the sea sponges.
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.
It’s truly one of the best off-the-beaten-path locations in Florida because it isn’t well known by visitors, and even many Florida residents haven’t heard about it.
Scalloping is huge in Steinhatchee. You can even sign up for a charter or a tour to harvest scallops yourself. When they’re 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.
Cortez is considered a small fishing village. The old town has been well-preserved and is an excellent example of Old Florida.
It’s 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.
Don’t forget to enjoy some of the freshest seafood while in Cortez; it’s 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.
Navarre is located in the panhandle of Florida. It’s 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. It’s 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.
It’s the place for sheer relaxation.
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 you’re looking for a laidback, scenic, relaxing adventure, you’ve 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