Shhhh! 29 Best Small Towns In Florida That The Locals Want To Keep Secret

Looking for small towns in Florida that have a whole lot of charm, and a lot less people?

Our list includes charming beach towns, islands, and cities that have great restaurants, shopping, fishing, water sports, and so much more — but in a smaller (town) package that we love.

But, shhhhh! Don’t tell them I told you. Here are 29 of the best small towns in Florida that we know you’ll love.

Shhhh! 29 Best Small Towns In Florida That The Locals Want To Keep Secret

Florida Keys’ Hideaways

Beyond the bustling vibe of Key West, the Keys are dotted with multiple small towns that are among our Florida faves.

Marathon teases with the charm of old Florida but also offers modern comforts, ideal for families and beach enthusiasts. Islamorada, known for its fishing, boasts clear turquoise waters and artistic vibes. Further north, Key Largo, the Dive Capital of the World, beckons with pristine coral reefs and sunsets that paint a dreamy Florida Keys tapestry not too far from Miami.

These towns, along with others, capture the essence of the Keys: laid-back, scenic, and delightfully unique.

Address:
The Keys, Florida

check out the quaint communities of Martin County

There’s something for everyone to enjoy, like Downtown Jensen Beach (known as the Pineapple Capital of the World), Port Salerno’s waterfront gems (overlooking the Manatee Pocket), Wild West-inspired outposts in Indiantown (complete with rodeos and good old-fashioned county fairs), and Downtown Stuart (recognized as “America’s Happiest Seaside Town” by Coastal Living Magazine and winner of the “2020 Great Places in Florida” Award). Escape the crowds and discover your new favorite South Florida getaway today.

Address:
Martin County, Florida

Northwest Florida

Shhhh! 29 Best Small Towns In Florida That The Locals Want To Keep Secret
From Seacrest Wolf Preserve in Chipley, courtesy of Washington County Florida

Havana

Havana -- a town so nice, it was voted (twice!) as the Friendliest Small Town in Florida!

Located just a dozen miles north of Tallahassee near the Georgia state line, Havana is a beautiful town filled with unique shops and antique shopping. In Havana, you'll find shops that feature antiques and collectibles, home decor, furniture, jewelry, artwork -- and of course, some local restaurants too.

While you're in the area, make sure to stop by the Quincy Historic District where you'll find the Gadsden Arts Center. This former hardware store has been renovated and become an art center where you can check out the works by local and national artists. Admission to the gallery is free.

Bristol

The small town of Bristol, FL, is the county seat of Liberty County, and is mostly made up of the protected Apalachicola National Forest.

Bristol is a quiet town, with something that makes it extremely unique -- its own train! A group of volunteers and train enthusiasts run a 24-gauge train at Veterans Memorial Park.

While you're in the area, take a scenic drive east and then south on Highway 65 through the Apalachicola National Forest -- and see what makes this area so incredibly special!

St George Island

There's no getting around it: St. George Island is just incredibly beautiful. Its blue waters and white sand beaches -- coupled with the fact that after a day you'll feel like you just belong there -- make it an unforgettable place.

Located on the Gulf of Mexico, St. George is a beach town that represents the ultimate in relaxation. You won't find chain restaurants and hotels lining its beaches -- this town is more about enjoying the natural beauty.

Rent one of the beautiful beach homes here, or stay in a local inn to really get your feel of the community. If camping is more your speed, St. George Island State Park has 60 modern family campsites to choose from.

Marianna

For those who love nature, the outdoors, and adventure -- Marianna is the perfect escape! Marianna is located in Jackson County, where there is an abundance of things to do.

Hiking, canoeing, kayaking, cave diving, tubing, birding, fishing, and horseback riding are just some of the activities that make Marianna an adventurer's world class paradise! Swim in the blue waters at the Blue Springs Recreation Area in the summer, or visit Merritt's Mill Pond for some of the best cave diving in the world.

Jackson County is also home to miles of hiking trails, and two state parks -- Florida Caverns State Park and Three Rivers State Park. At Florida Caverns State Park, you'll find the only air-filled walking cave tours in Florida. You'll see unique formations of limestone stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones and draperies! My kids and I had the chance to go on this tour, and it was so great. Our guide was hilarious and amazing, and the cave was cool (literally and figuratively)!

Blountstown

In Blountstown, you'll find a charming, southern town filled with beautiful murals and a picture-perfect downtown area. Visit M&B Memorial Railroad Park, the site of an old railroad line, that used to be the shortest railroad in Florida -- only 29 miles!

Check out the Blountstown Greenway, which is part of the Florida National Scenic Trail. The greenway is popular with hikers, skaters, and bicyclists!

And one of the greatest things to do while you're in town, is to enjoy the Chipola River. Kayaks, tubes, rafts, canoes, and fishing gear can be rented for a day on the water! Or enjoy one of the sandy beaches that overlooks this spring-fed river. And only an hour away, you'll also find the Apalachicola River -- another great river where water sports reign supreme!

Mexico Beach

Mexico Beach is exactly what you're looking for if you want to truly get away from it all. With beautiful white beaches on the Gulf, this town is so relaxed, it doesn't even have a traffic light!

After a day in the sun, check out the local restaurants and bars that serve up fresh seafood, live music, and a whole lot of fun!

Ponce de Leon

Ponce de Leon, FL, is home to one of the best state parks in Florida - Ponce de Leon Springs State Park. The park is known for its beautiful natural springs that are 68 degrees year round! The waters here are an amazing light greenish blue, which makes them not only fun to swim in, but picture-perfect too!

The park also offers trails for hiking or biking, and picnic areas too.

While you're in town, divers will definitely want to visit Vortex Spring Adventures -- home of the red and white diver down flag. Here you'll find one of the largest diving facilities in the state.

Chipley

The town of Chipley in Washington County is one of those places that has something for everyone.

In and around Chipley, you can find a state park, a greyhound park, a wolf preserve, golf, horseback riding, a historic district filled with Victorian homes, a winery, a gator farm, and a family opry!

When you're not out and about, just enjoying the natural beauty of the area is all you really need on your agenda!

Miramar Beach

Miramar Beach has everything you need to have a memorable family vacation!

You'll find antique shopping, beach volleyball, golf, water sports, and one of the most beautiful beaches you've ever seen! Plus, pups are welcome to this beach!

Get out on a SUP, hit the driving range, enjoy miles of walking trails, or take in a game of tennis. And once you've worked up an appetite, you'll find so many different dining options nearby -- anything from burgers to Greek cuisine, and cocktail bars to wine.

Central Florida

Shhhh! 29 Best Small Towns In Florida That The Locals Want To Keep Secret
Courtesy of Blue Spring State Park

DeLand

Home of Florida's oldest college, Stetson University, DeLand is full of historic buildings and beautiful murals. Visit the famous Stetson Mansion, or the Museum of Art - DeLand. Those who are looking for outdoor adventures will love a dip in the springs at Ponce de Leon Springs State Park, or a kayak trip down the Spring Garden Run!

Mount Dora

An hour away from the hustle and bustle of Orlando, you'll find Mount Dora, where relaxation is the name of the game. Country inns, local shops, lakes, and fun dining options make Mount Dora a nice getaway. You'll find wineries, art galleries, bed and breakfasts, and so many antique shops here too! While you're in town, make sure to stop by one of their local museums, like the Mount Dora History Museum -- housed in an old fire station!

Read More: 9 Sensational Things to Do in Mount Dora (You’re Going to Fall in Love!)

Crystal River

About 1.5 hours northwest of Orlando, located on Florida's "Nature Coast," you'll find Crystal River, FL -- a town that's all about the manatees! Manatees move to Crystal River when the temps drop in the gulf. Take a trip to Three Sisters Springs Wildlife Refuge where the boardwalks give you amazing views of the animals. In addition to all things manatee, the town of Crystal River is a charming southern town, where you'll find water activities, restaurants, and golfing.

Read More: Swim with Manatees: Secret FL Find You’ll LOVE

Micanopy

In north central Florida, just 15 minutes south of Gainesville, you'll find the town of Micanopy -- a town that's fun to say, but even more fun to visit. The residents of this small town have proclaimed their town the antiques capital of the sunshine state, and you will find dozens of shops in this cute city. An annual fall festival here includes music, crafts, and lots of yummy food. And, ready for something crazy? A visit to the observation tower at the nearby Paynes Prairie State Park will award you with possible wild horse and bison sightings! (For real!)

Read More: 33+ Unique & Awesome Things To Do in Central Florida (Beyond Disney) | 19 Amazing Things To Do in Gainesville, Florida

Fanning Springs

The main draw in Fanning Springs is definitely Fanning Springs State Park, where you'll find the turquoise water is 72 degrees year-round. You can also launch your canoe or kayaks here for a trip down Suwannee River. Take a walk down the boardwalk that will take you through a beautiful cypress tree swamp. While you're in town, make sure to visit the Nature Coast State Trail, which follows an old railroad line. And history buffs will want to visit Fort Fanning Historic Park used during the 1800s during the Seminole Wars.

Lake Placid

Two hours south of Orlando, right in the middle of the state, you'll find one of the prettiest small towns -- Lake Placid. This town has worked hard to be beautiful, with more than 50 murals dotting its buildings around town. This town is filled with charm, lakes, fun annual events, and even a clown school!

South Florida

Shhhh! 29 Best Small Towns In Florida That The Locals Want To Keep Secret
Sunset in Stuart FL

Stuart

According to many sources, Stuart is one of the best small towns in Florida! Thanks to its proximity to the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon -- there is no shortage of outdoor activities here. It's known as the "Sailfish Capital of the World" for its amazing fishing. Stuart also is a super pedestrian-friendly town, and is filled with history. They also hold a market and live music event every Sunday near the courthouse!

Read More: 21 Things To Do In Stuart, FL For A Fun & Affordable Family Vacation [Video]

Matlacha

In southwest Florida, about 30 minutes west of Fort Myers, you'll find an Old Florida fishing village called Matlacha. Art is the name of the game here! Art galleries, boutiques, seafood restaurants, and Florida cottages dot this picturesque town. And if you're looking for something to do besides enjoying this waterfront town -- may I suggest...fishing?

Marco Island

Not far from the Everglades, you'll find the only developed land in the Ten Thousand Islands -- Marco Island. Although small, it offers some amazing amenities like luxury resorts, beautiful parks, and of course, Instagram-worthy beaches. For those who want to explore more of the unspoiled outdoors in the area, a trip to Collier Seminole State Park or Briggs Nature Center should be on your agenda. You'll also find plenty of touring opportunities here -- from seashell excursions to canoe and kayaking tours.

Read More: 5 Amazing Family Activities Not To Miss On Marco Island, Florida

Deerfield Beach

Deerfield Beach beaches are so amazingly clean and perfect, they've won awards. When you're ready to take a break from the sun, the town also offers really great local shopping and restaurants. And! It's home to Quiet Waters Park, which offers the longest "cable ski"courses in the United States! What is cable skiing exactly? Well, it's a mix of surfing, skiing, wakeboarding, and fun!

Read More: 27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip

West Palm Beach

Besides offering some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida, West Palm Beach, located in Palm Beach County, has amazing golf courses, restaurants, bars, and many family-friendly activities. With an amazing focus on marine life, the Intracoastal Waterway connects the 23 municipalities in Palm Beach County and features 43 miles worth of exploration! 

Read More: 20 Family-Friendly Things To Do In West Palm Beach

The Keys

Shhhh! 29 Best Small Towns In Florida That The Locals Want To Keep Secret
Snorkeling in Key West

Marathon

Just knowing that Marathon is located on 13 islands in the Florida Keys, should help you picture how beautiful it is! Marathon has some of the best fishing around, restaurants right on the water, and every water sport you can imagine. You can interact with dolphins, or learn about sea turtles at the Turtle Hospital while you're there! Visits to Curry Hammock State Park and Crane Point Hammock and Nature Trail are perfect ways to get back to nature.

Read More: 21+ Relaxing Things To Do In Beautiful Marathon, FL

Islamorada

Even though it's a small town, it packs a big punch! Located on six islands about 90 minutes south of Miami, Islamorada is all about fishing and relaxing. It's known as the "Sportfishing Capital of the World," so it's the perfect place to catch the big one! Besides all the water sports and beautiful beaches this community offers, you can also get your fill of educational and historical opportunities. Home to several state parks and museums, you'll leave feeling refreshed, relaxed, and a little bit smarter.

Read More: 17 Things To Do In Islamorada For Fun In The Sun

Key Largo

Key Largo is home to the world’s largest artificial reef and is sometimes referred to as the dive capital of the world. This beautiful part of the Florida Keys has something to offer anyone looking to have some fun in the sun, above or below the turquoise water.

Read More: 15 Fun Things To Do In Key Largo Adventurers Will Love

Gulf Coast

Shhhh! 29 Best Small Towns In Florida That The Locals Want To Keep Secret
Captiva Island from the North

Cedar Key

Looking for a community with an Old Florida feel, beautiful beaches, amazing fishing, and lots of natural beauty to take in? Cedar Key is for you! About an hour southwest of Gainesville, Cedar Key is home to the Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge and Cedar Key Museum State Park. The community's homes and stores are on stilts overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, and the police drive golf carts.

Captiva Island

If you love the outdoors, you're going to love Captiva Island! Along with its neighbor Sanibel, to the south, Captiva Island is the perfect place to go biking, sailing, fishing, kayaking, birding, or seashell hunting! Stay at a resort, go on a dolphin cruise, visit the spa, or spend all day at the beautiful beaches! Captiva Island is home to amazing restaurants -- your only tough decision will be choosing which ones to visit.

Read More: 45+ Leisurely Things To Do On Sanibel Island (Beyond Shelling)

Ybor City

The historic district of Ybor City is located just northeast of downtown Tampa, and is home to museums, art galleries, live music, unique restaurants, nightclubs, and family-friendly fun. Enjoy a trip on an old-fashioned streetcar that will take you on a 2-mile trip between Tampa, Ybor City, and the Channelside District. While in town, make sure to grab the original Cuban sandwich at Florida's oldest restaurant -- the Columbia Restaurant.

Read More: 41 Amazingly Fun Things To Do In Tampa, Florida

Dunedin

Just a little west of Tampa on the Gulf Coast you'll find the quaint town of Dunedin. This waterfront town is home to annual Scottish celebrations, and activities for people of all ages. Dunedin has a picturesque downtown area, parks, and Anclote Key Preserve State Park. While you're in town, you must visit Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands -- both well-known for how completely beautiful they are!

Venice

Fourteen miles of white, sandy beaches? Yes, please! Venice is located on the Gulf Coast, just south of Sarasota. In addition to their peaceful beaches, Venice also has a historic downtown area filled with over 100 local shops and restaurants! Art and culture are also important here, with Venice being home to The Venice Theatre, the Venice Symphony, and The Venice Art Center. Parks dot the landscape, and you'll also find great golfing, water sports, and trails in this beautiful town!

Read More: 37+ Memorable Things To Do in Sarasota for a Weekend of Fun

Anna Maria Island

Located between the Gulf of Mexico and peninsular Florida, not far from Bradenton, you'll find the barrier island of Anna Maria. This beautiful, small town evokes feelings of days gone by, and you'll find white sandy beaches, and amazing seafood here. Spend a day visiting the island's three public fishing piers -- the perfect place to fish, watch the boats, grab a bite to eat, or watch the sunset!

Read More: 15 Phenomenal Things To Do in Anna Maria Island

Northeast Florida

Green Cove Springs

You'll find freshwater lakes, rivers, and lots of beautiful forest land in the town of Green Cove Springs, just 45 minutes south of Jacksonville. It's the perfect place to visit for those who love the outdoors. You'll find plenty of hiking, water sports, and golfing here, along with annual events like the Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games and Festival!

Read More: 37 Exciting Things To Do in Jacksonville FL You’ll Love

Atlantic Coast

Shhhh! 29 Best Small Towns In Florida That The Locals Want To Keep Secret
Fernandina Beach

Vero Beach

An hour and a half north of West Palm Beach, you'll find the charming ocean-side town of Vero Beach. Home to great restaurants, shopping, golf, fishing, and of course -- beaches -- this town is filled with great things to do! For outdoor adventures, there are nature tours and plenty of water sports to choose from.

For those who love a good shopping day, you'll find malls, outlets, and wonderful local shops along Main Street. And after a day at their relaxing beaches, you should end your day at one of Vero Beach's amazing restaurants!

Read More: 17 Awesome Things To Do In Vero Beach, Florida

Fernandina Beach

There are over 40 public beach access points from which to enjoy the waves on Main Beach Park in Fernandina Beach. The downtown area is precious...and there are lifeguards, a playground, and plenty of fun on the beach. Plus, it's very close to Amelia Island, which is the ideal escape!

Read More: 29+ Things To Do In Amelia Island That The Locals Want Kept Secret

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Shhhh! 29 Best Small Towns In Florida That The Locals Want To Keep Secret