Florida is home to numerous charming beach towns where you won’t find waves of tourists.
With about 1,200 miles of coastline, Florida is a year-round travel destination for many across the U.S. This year, skip the bustling big cities and head to one of Florida’s lesser-known gems, where charming beach side neighborhoods are fringed with beautiful state parks, moss-draped streets and quaint cottages that provide the perfect home base to spend your days relaxing at the beach.
If you’re looking for a peaceful vacation where you can stretch out on the shore, check out these top underrated Florida beach towns that are perfect for a summer getaway. From the East Coast to the Florida Panhandle, we’ve picked 10 charming beach towns that are filled with stunning sunsets, quaint beachside charm and the perfect spots for a relaxing vacation.
Known as the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World,” Islamorada sits 90 minutes south of Miami in the Florida Keys. Nestled halfway down the Florida Keys, this laid-back, fun town is where chilling on the beach and watching the sunsets are a favorite pastime. The calm, clear water makes Islamorada a perfect destination for water adventure enthusiasts. You can snorkel or dive around Islamorada’s impressive coral reefs, go sailing for the day or attend one of the annual fishing tournaments. Enjoy views of the aqua blue waters from its various bridges and fresh seafood at its many waterfront restaurants.
Where to Stay: Cheeca Lodge & Spa has it all. Set on the Atlantic coast, the romantic resort sits on 27 acres of lush gardens and 1,000 feet of private waterfront. Offering plenty of on-site amenities including, three pools, a nine-hole, par-three golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus and three on-site restaurants ranging from Italian to seafood. Located directly on the water, Amara Cay Resort offers a more laid-back vacation vibe with furnished balconies and ocean views from all rooms. With tons of water sports on-site, include boating, fishing, diving, and kayaking, there’s something for everyone.
Seaside is a classic Florida beach town that has a rustic charm and traditional pastel architecture. Leave your car behind at this walkable and bike-friendly town. The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with charming beach cottages, white picket fences, and picturesque storefronts. Around the town square are renowned restaurants, quiet cafes, gourmet food trucks, stylish clothing boutiques and art galleries. This Northwest Florida beach community is best known as the location for the film The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey. Great Southern Cafe is a must if you are anywhere near Seaside Florida. They are famous for their old fashioned southern brunch. The Shrimp Shack in Seaside Florida has the best sunset view on the beach. The menu features locally caught seafood, fresh from the Gulf of Mexico. If you want a special dinner in Seaside be sure to make a reservation here.
Where to Stay: Seaside is not like other commercialized beach towns. There are no skyscraper hotels or giant condominiums. To stay near Seaside, you can stay at a variety of vacation rentals, such as, 30A Suites or luxury resorts, including Watercolor Inn in Santa Rosa Beach. 30A Suites is great for larger groups as they offer 2 to 4-bedroom villas. Watercolor Inn is a gorgeous 500-acre resort on Florida’s gulf coast located directly on 1,400 feet of beachfront on the renowned sugar-white beaches of South Walton. If you’re looking for a resort with a variety of room options and more amenities, including a golf course, hotels in Miramar Beach, like the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is a great option.
Located on Amelia Island, the small town of Fernandina Beach is known for its quaint charm, world-class golf courses and the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival. Downtown Fernandina Beach also offers boutique shopping and a range of delicious restaurants, including some of our faves, Burlingame and España Restaurant. With 13 miles of pristine beaches, abundant wildlife and clear, calm waters, Amelia Island is a timeless destination. Its upscale resorts and luxurious spas combined with charming bed and breakfasts, historic sites and outdoor festivals create an experience that’s uniquely Floridian.
Where to Stay: Those looking for Southern coastal charm will enjoy the intimate Elizabeth Pointe Oceanfront Inn & Suites. The Inn is located oceanfront, just a short distance from historic downtown, and features an on-site restaurant with Southern hospitality ambiance. Set along the beautiful Florida coastline, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island features luxury amenities, including a spa, lap pool and spacious rooms with balconies in a beachfront setting.
Gasparilla Island is a barrier island in southwest Florida, straddling the border of Charlotte and Lee Counties. Its largest town is Boca Grande, and it is the location of the Gasparilla Island State Park. The centerpiece of Gasparilla is the restored Port Boca Grande Lighthouse built in 1890. Boca Grande is the perfect family-friendly destination for those looking to escape and unwind and has long been known as “the tarpon fishing capital of the world.” For dining, South Beach Bar & Grille, situated on the white sand beach of Boca Grande, offers spectacular sunsets and panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico. The Pink Elephant is an island go to. Located in a beautiful historic building across the street from the Boca Grande bayou, the restaurant offers fresh local seafood and charming outdoor patio.
Where to Stay: The Gasparilla Inn & Club is a classic Old Florida resort located on Gasparilla Island on the Gulf of Mexico. Known as the island’s first hotel, the Gasparilla Inn, was built in 1911 and is still open today, offering wonderful charm which definitely makes it one of the best places to stay. Guests fall in love with the retro classic Floridian charm in a historic hotel designed to make you feel at home. Rooms and cottages decorated with pastel colors, wood detailing, and a nautical element bring the seaside small-town feel of Boca Grande indoors. For a change of perspective take in the island from the surrounding waters by kayak or boat. Explore the area by bike or golf cart to see lighthouses and historic downtown Boca Grande.
Vero Beach, an elegant city located along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, is a haven for golf, water sports and fishing. Unlike some other coastal destinations, Vero Beach has managed to preserve its charm and local flavor. Peaceful beaches, museums, and a range of hotels make Vero Beach a wonderful vacation destination and an important part of the region known as the Treasure Coast. Though celebrities frequent this Treasure Coast town, it stays just enough under the radar that it doesn’t attract a partying crowd. Vacationers looking for beautiful beaches, vibrant food and culture scenes tend to flock to this part of Florida. Located in a quiet corner of beautiful Vero Beach, Di Mare, serves only the finest in gourmet French and Italian cuisine. Those looking for fresh seafood with a side of history should check out The Ocean Grill. It was not until 1941, that the restaurant was constructed high on a sand dune 200 yards from the rolling Atlantic.
Where to Stay: At the northern end of downtown Vero Beach, the Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel & Spa offers all the ideals of an exotic getaway in its stylish embrace—pool, spa, bar, and excellent restaurants. Enjoy fresh seafood and ocean views from the casually elegant on-site restaurant, Cobalt. Costa d’Este is a hidden gem located on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Owners, Gloria and Emilio Estefan bring Miami’s chic style and sophistication to Vero Beach. Dine at The Wave Kitchen & Bar and indulge in locally sourced seafood and produce, as well as select Cuban specialties from the Estefan Kitchen Cookbook.
Located along the Gulf of Mexico, just a short drive from Fort Myers, Sanibel Island is famed for its sunsets, lighthouse and luxurious resorts. Sleepy Sanibel and Captiva are barrier islands filled with mom-and-pop shops and calm beaches, making you feel like you’re in Old Florida. Bowman’s Beach is Sanibel’s most popular beach, but it still feels secluded, with a beautiful coastline that also entices wind surfers and sailors. Those who need a break from the beach should check out the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail. This 190-mile marked canoe and kayak trail attracts everyone from first-time kayakers to advanced paddlers and is home to abundant marine life, seasonal white pelicans and year-round bald eagles. The Sandbar, a refreshingly modern seafood spot, sits right off the beach on West Gulf Drive, and is probably the most popular Happy Hour on Sanibel. If you’re searching for an upscale place to dine in Sanibel where the food and service are excellent, visit Il Cielo. Enjoy farm to table cuisine, carefully crafted cocktails and creative dishes.
Where to Stay: Nestled on 23 beautiful acres along Sanibel Island’s famous white sand beach, Casa Ybel Resort is the perfect historic retreat to enjoy the tranquil beauty of Florida’s Gulf Coast. South Seas Island Resort is a 330-acre full service resort village on tropical Captiva Island. South Seas combines a Old Florida feel with a modern touch set on two-and-a-half miles of beautiful beach. With a variety of room options, including two- to six-bedrooms homes, this is the perfect beachfront destination for a family getaway.
Siesta Key is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Sarasota, Florida. This quaint 8-mile-long island offers shopping, resorts, dining and nightlife. Siesta Key is one of the most beautiful beach towns in the US. Known for its beautifully white sand, turquoise waters and many beachside amenities, Siesta Key is a must-visit island paradise. The laid-back beach town offers a variety of bars and restaurants that are too good to pass up after a day at the beach. In the heart of Siesta Key Village, The Cottage Siesta Key serves up seasonal cuisine from around the world while utilizing local farms, sustainable meats and seafood. One of the oldest establishments on Siesta Key is the Siesta Key Oyster Bar, which is lively and beloved for its fresh seafood. Known as a local hangout with a laid-back beachy atmosphere, their daily happy hour will be sure to get you into the island spirit.
Where to Stay: The Tropical Breeze Resort features the comfort of a vacation rental with hotel amenities. The resort offers rooms ranging from a studio, honeymoon suite, one and two-bedroom beach inspired bungalows that are steps away from Siesta Key Beach and lively bars and restaurants in Siesta Key Village. Enjoy spacious and renovated rooms for family vacations and romantic couples getaways. At the resort, guests can enjoy outdoor barbeque grills, two heated pools and complimentary beach chairs and towels.
Delray Beach is a first-class resort destination and a diverse, vibrant community situated on the Atlantic Ocean. A small and intimate town with big-city sophistication, Delray Beach was once named “Most Fun Small Town in the USA” by Rand McNally and USA Today – and it’s easy to see why. Nicknamed South Florida’s “Village by the Sea,” Delray Beach is a quaint seaside town with pristine beaches and beautifully preserved historic beachfront cottages. Nestled between Boynton Beach and Boca Raton, Delray Beach is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike, filled with art galleries, upscale shops, fine restaurants and nightly entertainment. Located in the heart of downtown Delray Beach, Dada features a eclectic menu in one of the oldest historic homes the Tarrimore house circa 1924. Tucked away just a few blocks off Atlantic Avenue, Brulé Bistro has become a favorite of the locals and a must for foodie tourists. Enjoy modern Mediterranean-American cuisine in a open kitchen setting.
Where to Stay: The Seagate Hotel & Spa is a luxury boutique hotel and resort in Delray Beach featuring a 8,000-square-foot spa and award-winning dining. As a guest of The Seagate Hotel & Spa, you gain full membership privileges at The Seagate Country Club, featuring one of the finest private golf courses in all of Palm Beach County. The Opal Grand Resort is a luxury beachfront hotel in the heart of Delray Beach. It is located at the corner of A1A and famed Atlantic Avenue, within walking distance to shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
Atlantic Beach, a sandy suburb of Jacksonville, is one of our favorite North Florida beach towns. Connecting the border between Atlantic and Neptune Beach, you’ll find the vibrant Beaches Town Center. Shop the boutiques filled with unique clothing, visit the beautiful art galleries and grab a bit to eat at one of the many restaurants featuring a variety of cuisine from fresh seafood, Italian, Mexican and more. Some of our go to restaurants includes the bustling Flying Iguana Taqueria & Tequila Bar, Poe’s Tavern and Coop 303. The Lemon Bar is located on the Atlantic Ocean in Neptune Beach in the Seahorse Oceanfront Inn courtyard and offers amazing oceanfront views, great cocktails and great times. Enjoy the laid-back beach bar vibe with a seaside patio and live music.
Where to Stay: With direct ocean views and walking distance to bars and restaurants, the One Ocean Resort & Spa offers modern decor and a beachside pool that will make you feel totally relaxed. Experience fine dining and sweeping ocean views at One Ocean’s Azurea restaurant. Located 6 miles south, the 5-star luxury resort, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, has been setting the standard for high-end resorts since 1928. Many of the elegantly appointed rooms offer stunning Atlantic Ocean views and direct walk-out access to the beach for the ultimate secluded escape. Enjoy relaxing on a private beach, on-site golf, tennis, luxurious spa and oceanfront gym during your stay.
Anna Maria Island
Situated between the Gulf of Mexico and Florida’s main peninsula, Anna Maria Island features seven miles of perfect white, sandy beaches. Its sleepy downtown offers art galleries, boutique shops and delicious seafood restaurants. Enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding or take up fishing along the tranquil waters. While you’re here visit Bean Point Beach, tucked away on the north end of the island—a cozy paradise with an Old Florida vibe. For many years, this area was a bit of a hidden gem, but it is now considered one of the must visit attractions on the island. This historic beach spot is great for fishing and dolphin spotting. For a unique dining experience, check out The Rod and Reel Pier, tucked away on the far North end of Anna Maria, serving traditional fare, local favorites and famous fish specials since 1947. Nearby, Blue Marlin Fish House Restaurant offers a diverse menu of local favorites with picturesque views of the Oleta River.
Where to Stay: Overlooking the stunning turquoise waters of Anna Maria Island, Mainsail Beach Inn features twelve residences situated on Holmes Beach. Offering two and three-bedroom condos, the Mainsail Beach Inn is a perfect destination for a family or friends getaway. The Anna Maria Beach Resort is another great resort offering amazing apartment style rooms with everything you need for your luxury beach getaway. What’s not to love about gorgeous Gulf views and Old Florida feel?
The Sunshine State is filled with plenty of quant, scenic beach towns along the Atlantic and Gulf shores.
Miami and Orlando may be Florida favorites, but that doesn’t mean they’re the most scenic destinations in the Sunshine State. These adorable beach towns may make you consider a new vacation spot. Get away from the vacationing masses for a taste of Old Florida in these spots where the simple things—sun, surf, and a no-worries attitude is all you need.