Miami, Orlando, Tampa. You know the names of the big players in Florida. Not everyone wants to visit the super well-known, tourist locales often filled with spring breakers and high priced hotels. For those who want to head off-the-beaten-path, this list is for you. You’ll definitely want to visit these 11 small town Florida vacation rental destinations on your next trip to the Sunshine State!

Originally Published: February 21, 2018

Florida’s Top Off The Beaten Path Destinations


Sunny, friendly Islamorada is a smart choice for those who want a quiet escape away from the hustle and bustle of the major Florida hot spots. Islamorada itself is spread out over six islands, each surrounded by tranquil ocean. This destination is a tropical paradise for those looking to get away from it all. In fact, celebrities have made the secluded Islamorada a second home for decades.

Indian Shores

Indian Shores is the quiet escape you’ve been seeking. This barrier-island community is small, friendly, and fun. The pace is slower here, but you’ll settle right in as soon as you unpack. The white sand beaches are the top attractions here in Indian Shores, and next door Indian Rocks Beach. Visitors love the ample free parking and soft sands.

Sanibel Island

Warm weather, soft beaches, and incredible shelling opportunities await visitors to Sanibel Island. It’s the perfect spot to relax and enjoy Florida’s beauty. The island boasts over 400 different shell species, making it a premier spot for finding rare beauties. There are also endless activities out on the water, like kayaking, boat tours, and golf.

Saint Petersburg

Situated along the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll love swimming in the warm waters under the even warmer sun. St. Pete Beach is a top beach destination with world-class museums, cuisine, and sand. Along with award-winning beautiful beaches, St. Petersburg is home to the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum, top-rated restaurants and beautiful Fort De Soto Park.

Madeira Beach

Madeira Beach, a Gulf of Mexico beach city just west of St. Petersburg, is best known for the sea-themed John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk, which serves up shops and eateries and a 1,100-foot boardwalk perfect for families. Madeira Beach’s 2.5-mile beach is ideal for lovers of fishing and endless sun.

Cocoa Beach

Ever been to Florida’s “Space Coast”? Your group will have plenty to do under the sun and in the sea in Cocoa Beach, including possible viewing of a real rocket launch! Check out the world-famous pier, sift through the merchandise at Ron Jon’s Surf Shop, explore Kennedy Space Center, and hike through local nature preserves. And remember this: Cocoa Beach is only an hour’s drive east of Orlando, making it a great day trip for theme park visitors.

New Smyrna Beach

Same question, different location. Ever been to Florida’s Central Atlantic Coast? Think white sandy shorelines and charming little beach towns. You’ll find all that and more in New Smyrna. This area is rooted in local culture and that shines through in the cozy downtown area with shops, art museums, and coastal architecture galore.

Your family will enjoy discovering the hidden adventures offered here, like the drivable beach, eco-tourism, and unique history. If you love the outdoors, and you love to surf, you won’t find a better Central Florida locale than New Smyrna Beach. Beyond surfing, the conditions are ideal for kayaking, parasailing, fishing, and more. The beach itself is 13 miles long and you’ll never feel “cramped” by other visitors.

Cape San Blas

Looking for “Old Florida” where you aren’t in a rush or crunched by other tourists? This is your spot. Cape San Blas is home to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, named the best beach in America (2002) by Dr. Beach. Here, you’ll find miles of uncrowded, pristine, white sand beaches. Among the other attractions: Pet-friendly vacation rentals, fishing, kayaking and boating, family-owned restaurants serving fresh Florida seafood, and the famed Cape San Blas lighthouse.

Miramar Beach

Step back in time to another “Old Florida”-type in Miramar Beach. Scenic beach roads, quaint surf shops with chill owners, and gorgeous beachfront rentals. Search for a place with panoramic views, you’ll want them of the sugar white sands. Spend the day enjoying jet ski rentals, parasailing and endless shopping opportunities.

Pompano Beach

Often called “The Heart of the Gold Coast” Pompano beach is known for amazing boating and fishing. Centrally located between hot spots Palm beach and Miami Beach, scuba divers and snorkelers love exploring the nearby coral reefs. Anglers and families flock to the 1,000-foot-long municipal fishing pier, beachside playgrounds, grills and picnic tables.

Vero Beach

A top spot along the Atlantic Coast of Florida, Vero Beach has made a name for itself as a golfer and fisher’s paradise. Peaceful beaches, museums, and nature make Vero Beach a terrific vacation destination and an important part of the region known as the Treasure Coast.


Matt Moretti has worked in the travel and vacation rental industry for over a decade. He loves helping travelers find the best places to eat, the best things to do, and the perfect vacation rental for their trip.


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