Miami, Orlando, Tampa. You know the names of the big players in Florida. Not everyone WANTS to visit the well-trod, tourist locales teeming with spring breakers and high priced hotels.
For those who want to head off-the-beaten-path, this list is for you. What we’re offering is the ultimate list of up-and-comers, vacation rental destinations that you’ll want to visit very soon before they become completely overrun.
We looked at the past 6 months of web traffic for all our destinations, and we’ve singled out these 11 as the ones you should plan a trip to as soon as possible. Here’s the list of winners and a bit about why they deserve your attention.
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. Located between Mile Marker 91 and Mile Marker 74, Islamorada is situated halfway between Miami and Key West along Florida’s scenic Route 1. 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, including the island’s most famed resident, baseball player Ted Williams. Be careful, or you might just fall in love with the area, too.
Indian Shores, west of Tampa, Florida, 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, only one of which you can find in bigger locales like Clearwater.
There’s always something to do in Indian Shores. The community center in town hosts a number of events annually – including hikes, garden tours, book drives, painting classes, and more! In March, in nearby Indian Rocks Beach, the Greenfest event helps preserve local beaches.
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. Sanibel’s geographic location makes it ideal for shelling. There are endless activities out on the water, like kayaking, boat tours, and golf.
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, 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.
Looking to be in the action? Each October, Madeira Beach hosts the Seafood Festival at John’s Pass, which attracts as many as 130,000 visitors to its celebration of food, music, and arts and crafts.
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.
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. This hip town attracts thousands of surfers every year. The beach itself is 13 miles long and you’ll never feel “cramped” by other visitors.
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.
Visitors enjoy the quiet waters of St. Joseph Bay and the T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park where you can enjoy bird watching and views of nature. Scalloping is a major draw in mid to late summer, and is a fun beach activity for all ages.
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 and friendly families out on the water. It also has ultra-modern amenities and activities that are ideal for family fun. Spend the day enjoying jet ski rentals, parasailing and endless shopping opportunities at one of the nation’s largest designer outlet centers, Silver Sands Premium Outlets.
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. In Pompano Beach there’s also plenty to do on dry land. Reserve a tee time at Palm Aire Country Club, see an art exhibit at Bailey Contemporary Arts, and catch a performance at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater.
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. Vero Beach also offers a fine selection of shops too – both downtown and in large shopping malls.
Vero Beach may be best known as the location of Dodgertown, where the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team held their spring training camp from 1948 until 2008, and where the minor league Vero Beach Devil Rays play during their regular season.