The Sunshine State is known for its white sandy beaches, exciting big cities, and fun theme parks. It’s easy to understand why Florida is a place where vacationers flock year-round.
What you may not realize though, is that Florida is home to some amazing islands — 4,500 islands, to be exact! While we’re not going to list all the islands that call Florida home, we’ve gathered a list of the most beautiful islands in Florida that are worth a visit.
Here are 23 islands in Florida that you need to add to your bucket list!
At just 13 miles long, this northeastern Florida island is known for its luxury accommodations, as well as its sandy beaches.
Besides all the things that make cozy islands so heavenly, Amelia Island is also home to the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival each spring. So if you’re feeling shrimpy, you might want to make your way to Amelia Island.
ANNA MARIA ISLAND
At half the length of Amelia Island, Anna Maria Island is another Floridian barrier island, but it’s just seven miles long.
This beautiful island was the setting for a 1948 film about a stranded pirate titled, On an Island With You, but actual pirate, Jean LaFitte, was shipwrecked near Anna Maria in 1821. Don’t worry, that pirate spirit still lives on during certain events throughout the year, so be on the lookout.
Anna Maria Island is a bird sanctuary because of its place as a migration point, as well as being a nesting habitat for both common and rare birds. Birders love this island because of the wide variety of fine feathered friends they can find here. You might even spot some silly spoonbills — which do look like their name.
Not far from Fort Myers, Pine Island is the largest of the Floridian Gulf Coast islands. That said, it’s still just 17 miles long, so it’s not a huge place either.
Known for being one of the best fishing spots in the state, Pine Island is also (unsurprisingly) a birder’s paradise too. We can’t blame them, there must be a lot of tasty fish! Visit Fort Myers even calls Pine Island one of Southwest Florida’s “last authentic fishing villages.” So while there is plenty else to do besides fishing here, it’s definitely one of the biggest highlights.
Enjoy kayaking and canoeing on the waterways, and enjoy a slower pace at Pine Island.
There was a point in time when Crab Island was legitimately an island, but now, because of corrosion, it’s really just a giant sandbar. That hasn’t stopped it from being a huge tourist destination though!
Visitors boat in, anchor down, and party on in the shimmering emerald green water that looks so heavenly. Destin, Florida, where Crab Island is located, notes that alcohol is not sold on the island itself, so you have to bring your own.
Rent a boat, spend the day at Crab Island making new friends, and enjoy the beautiful views. You won’t regret it!
ST GEORGE ISLAND
Found off of the Panhandle, St. George Island is one of the last “unspoiled” barrier islands in Florida. This 28-mile-long destination is often voted as one of the best beaches in the country. No high rises or chain stores are allowed here, allowing the island to remain a cozy community. You can still stay here at one of the two accommodations, or rent one of the privately owned homes on the island.
One popular spot here is the Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park. Open every day from 8 a.m. until sunset, this park faces Apalachicola Bay. Visitors love to camp, watch wildlife, swim, canoe or do lots of different activities here. There are even dolphin pods around, so you might see them in the water when you visit!
TEN THOUSAND ISLANDS
Not technically an island, though the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge deserves a spot on our list. Why? Because like many of the actual Floridian islands, Ten Thousand Islands preserves the delicate ecosystem of the state’s unique environment.
Loggerhead sea turtles nest at the refuge’s beaches, mangrove-dwelling birds make their homes here, and even manatees hang out here for shelter from the cold wintery waters, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Ten Thousand Islands is part of the biggest expanse of mangrove forest on the continent, with ⅔ of the refuge itself being that forest. The biodiversity at this refuge is incredible. There are more than 200 bird species, 200 fish species, and many other flora and fauna that rely on the refuge to live.
Along the Atlantic coast of Florida, Hutchinson Island is actually two barrier islands that are known as North and South Hutchinson Island, respectively. At nearly two dozen miles long, Hutchinson Island spans a decent swatch of East Florida. Like the Ten Thousand Islands Refuge, Hutchinson Island is also an important nesting location for sea turtles. In addition to that, visitors can also see whales and manatees too.
Besides its natural amenities, the island also has significant cultural touchpoints. These include The House of Refuge (a National Historic Site for shipwreck survivors and the oldest structure on the coast), The Elliott Museum (art, history, invention, and innovation), The Florida Oceanographic Society, and The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum (the only museum in the world focused on Naval Special Warfare).
“My mother always said, ‘Live on Fisher Island, get buried in Palm Beach. That way, you’ll have the best of Florida.’” – The Birdcage
Not including that iconic line from the film, The Birdcage, would be a disservice to the popular culture icon that is Fisher Island. This island is known as the highest per capita income location in the entire country. Fisher Island is an exclusive place where the wealthy elite lives, plays, and stays year-round.
The original Vanderbilt Mansion can be found here, and is part of the exclusive Fisher Island Club. Fisher Island can only be accessed by the public ferry or by private boat. You can stay at the Fisher Island Club Hotel & Resort, though it will cost a pretty penny.
You may not have heard of Merritt Island, though you have undoubtedly seen it. Florida’s largest island gets a lot of visitors, particularly because it is where you can find Kennedy Space Center. NASA doesn’t launch shuttles from here anymore, though that doesn’t make it any less exciting for astronaut fans from across the globe.
As part of the development of the Kennedy Space Center, a large swath of land was set aside on the island as well to serve as a National Wildlife Refuge. The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is 140,000 acres of protected land to conserve 1500 species of plants and animals.
Besides seeing the best of space travel and earthly adventure, you can also spend time at the beaches or enjoy the island’s natural beauty.
Only accessible by boat or ferrying from Pine Island, Cayo Costa is a barrier island on the Western coast of Florida. This island is only seven miles long, and has a much more remote aesthetic than many of Florida’s other islands.
Visitors love to come here for camping, swimming, fishing, or just spending time on the beaches. Remember to leave only footprints!
Unlike some of the other islands, Cedar Key is accessible by car. It’s roughly an hour southwest of Gainesville, Florida, and has long been a destination for folks. Visit Florida refers to it as a “quaint, old-fashioned, Old Florida vacation spot,” meaning it has all the vibes of old school Florida beach towns, plus all the charm that comes with that. Fishing is big here, as is relaxation.
Here you will also find the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, which extends beyond the shores of Cedar Key itself. The refuge is actually 13 separate islands.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, visiting the refuge is available for the public, though you will need to cross the water to get there. You can bring your own vessel or paddle boat or rent one. FWS also notes that some of the islands you may encounter are private, and boundary signs are posted.
Very rarely will you see anything about Captiva Island on its own, because for the most part, it comes as a pair with its sister island of Sanibel. Don’t let that fool you though, Captiva Island deserves its own recognition.
Pristine beaches abound on Captiva, which makes it ideal for folks looking to just relax or those who love to get onto the water. Dolphins are known to be visible from the island, so do be mindful of them! Captiva is one of the best islands in Florida to visit!
Also found along the Gulf Coast, Gasparilla Island is another Florida barrier island. You need to grab a ferry or boat to get there and, once you are, you’ll notice there aren’t any cars around. Gasparilla doesn’t have roads!
If you really want to disconnect further from the world, head over to Little Gasparilla Island, but be sure to bring groceries, because there aren’t any businesses on the island.
With award-winning beaches and easy driving distance from Sarasota, Siesta Key is another Gulf of Mexico dwelling island. Far less remote than some of the other Floridian islands, Siesta Key is far from a sleepy place.
Hop on a tour, go on a foodie discovery bender, or just soak up the sun. There is a lot to do here, and you can feel free to do all of it or none of it.
Big sister to the smaller Captiva Island, Sanibel Island has a reputation for its colorful shells and white sand beaches. You won’t find giant hotels here, so expect gorgeous views from wherever you’re staying.
This quaint island on the Gulf of Mexico has maintained its low-key resort aesthetic for decades, which is why it remains a favorite destination for so many. On Sanibel, you’ll also find the J.N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which protects endangered species, lots of other animals, and their mangrove forest or wetland homes.
Nestled between the Everglades and Naples, Marco Island is a luxury resort paradise in southwest Florida. Filled with stunning properties, golf courses, and (of course) beaches, Marco Island is a heavenly getaway. There are also ways to further engage with nature at Briggs Nature Center, where you can walk the boardwalk to see some wildlife or hop onto a canoe for a self-guided tour.
If you want to go off island for a little while, you can also check out Collier Seminole State Park, which is just a few miles away. The park even offers narrated boat tours!
Though not quite on the same level as Fisher Island, Key Biscayne is also one of the most affluent areas you can visit in Florida. Whether a day trip from Miami or staying a while, this Key is known for its beaches, parks, and even its barrier reef.
Per Visit Florida, Key Biscayne’s barrier reef is “the only federally recognized underwater archaeological trail in the United States.”
Islands in Florida that might be the most familiar to travelers are definitely the Florida Keys. There are hundreds of these little islands, but a few are where tourists actually venture to. Here are the six most popular!
Islamorada is not just one island, it’s a conglomerate of six: Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Indian Key, and Lignumvitae Key. Not only is this an excellent place to learn more about oceanic life, but it’s also the Sport Fishing Capital of the World!
For the Florida Keys, Key Largo is the first! The island is referred to as the Dive Capital of the World and is home to what is currently the largest artificial reef — the 510-foot-long USS Spiegel Grove. Divers and snorkelers are right at home at Key Largo.
For those who might not want to do either, you can also enjoy the ocean views from glass bottom boats around the island.
BAHIA HONDA KEY
Its name might be Bahia Honda Key, but this area technically isn’t a key anymore. Bahia Honda State Park is located as part of Big Pine Key, and is sometimes referred to as Bahia Honda Key, which is what it was when a railroad was built to Key West in the early 1900s.
Snorkeling is plentiful here, as is the wildlife to observe and camping.
Off of Key West, Sunset Key is a tiny, 27-acre island that is privately owned between residents and resorts alike. Visitors can access the island by boat.
The lovely island is best visited if staying at a resort or private property, as so much of it is private and not publicly accessible.
Arguably the most well-known of the Florida Keys, Key West has the most variety of attractions. From enjoying the water or nature to seeing art, performances, shopping, or taking in museums, this is the island where all of that can happen.
Here is where you will also find the Southernmost spot in the contiguous United States!
Similar to Bahia Honda, Dry Tortugas is also a protected natural environment. Dry Tortugas National Park is 100 square miles of preserved land. It even includes a 19th-century fort called Fort Jackson, which is one of the country’s largest of its time.
The park itself is made up of seven small islands, and it is home to plenty of fish, birds, and other animals. Because less than 1% of the park is actual land, your best bet to see the majority of it is by swimming or snorkeling.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO FLORIDA
- YOUR FLORIDA VACATION
- MARCO ISLAND: 16 Amazing Things To Do In Marco Island
- KAYAKING: Best Kayaking Spots in Florida’s National and State Parks
- WEST COAST: 23+ Memorable Stops On The Florida West Coast
- CENTRAL: 43+ Unique & Awesome Things To Do In Central Florida
- SOUTH: 27 Things To Do In South Florida On Your Next Road Trip
WHERE TO STAY IN FLORIDA
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