Shhh! 29 Best Small Towns in Florida That the Locals Want Kept Secret

Florida has some amazing big cities, popular beaches, and gigantic theme parks, but sometimes you just want to get away from all that! Enter: these amazing small towns in Florida that have a whole lot of charm, and a lot less people.

Shhh! 29 Best Small Towns in Florida That the Locals Want Kept Secret
Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, courtesy of Jackson County Florida

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! Spend less time in traffic and waiting for a table, and more time relaxing, being pampered, and enjoying the beauty all around you with a visit to these amazing small Florida towns.

But, shhhhh! Don’t tell them I told you.

Shhh! 29 Best Small Towns in Florida That the Locals Want Kept Secret
From Seacrest Wolf Preserve in Chipley, courtesy of Washington County Florida

Northwest Florida

Northwest Florida is home to so many great towns where you’ll find lots of southern charm and beautiful beaches off the beaten path but well within reach.

A lot of these towns are located just over the Georgia state line, making a trip to the area an easy one to make!

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day shopping, a day at the beach, or outdoor adventures galore — you’ll find what you’re looking for in one of these amazing small towns!

Hey – thinking you might want to take your RV (or rent one for the journey?) Then check out these amazing RV locations in 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. Havana started off as an agricultural town, but then re-invented itself into a shopping destination for those looking for one-of-a-kind items.

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.

A quiet day in a beautiful town, shopping, checking out art, and all with the friendliest people around? Yes, please!

Bristol

The small town of Bristol, FL is the county seat of Liberty County — which happens to be the least populated county in Florida. But that’s not because it isn’t awesome! The opposite, actually. Liberty County happens to be mostly made up of the protected Apalachicola National Forest.

Bristol is a quiet town, with something that makes it extremely unique — it’s own train! A group of volunteers and train enthusiasts run a 24-gauge train at Veterans Memorial Park. Not only can you take a ride on the Century Flier train, but they also have a steam locomotive too! How cool is that?

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. During the day you’ll find amazing views of the Gulf, and at night take in the beautiful night sky. A visit here is sure to leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.

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. The feature photo above is from within the Florida Caverns State Park…the only air-filled walking cave tours in Florida. You’ll see unique formations of limestone stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones and draperies! The 45 minute tour is a wonder to experience.

With so much to do, your only problem will be figuring out what to do next!

Blountstown

Not only is Blountstown a small town, it’s part of a small county too! With only 15,000 residents in Calhoun County, you won’t have to worry about traffic or crowds here!

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!

Not only is it now the site of a park, the M&B Railroad line got new life in the form of 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

When you think of a beautiful Florida beach town right on the Gulf, you may be thinking of high-rise hotels and flashing lights. But if you are, then you’re not thinking about 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! Mexico Beach is honestly the perfect beach town.

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. They also have lodging and camping facilities on the property.

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! Whew, that’s a lot to keep you busy!

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!

Miramar Beach is one of South Walton’s most diverse and active beach neighborhoods, and the perfect place to set down vacation roots.

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.

Miramar Beach is also close to other beautiful beach towns like Rosemary Beach, Sandestin, and Inlet Beach.

Shhh! 29 Best Small Towns in Florida That the Locals Want Kept Secret
We loved watching the manatees at Blue Spring State Park near DeLand, FL

Central Florida

DeLand, FL. 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 deLeon 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!

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.

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!)

Fanning Springs. An hour west of Gainesville, you’ll find the small town of Fanning Springs — home to some of the most unique things to do! The main draw here 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! There’s a reason Reader’s Digest voted Lake Placid America’s “Most Interesting Town” and that’s because it is!

Shhh! 29 Best Small Towns in Florida That the Locals Want Kept Secret
Playing on the beaches near Stuart, FL

South Florida

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!

Matlacha. In southwest Florida, about 30 minutes west of Fort Myers, you’ll find an Old Florida fishing village called Matlacha. I don’t know what you picture when you picture a “fishing village” — but this one is super fun and bright! 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.

Deerfield Beach. Want to experience the beauty of a south Florida beach without all the crowds? Deerfield Beach is for you! The beaches here 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! And there’s no better place to try a brand new sport than Deerfield Beach.

Shhh! 29 Best Small Towns in Florida That the Locals Want Kept Secret
Bahia Honda State Park near Marathon is a gem!

The Keys

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.

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.

Gulf Coast

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. It’s an all-around amazingly wonderful place!

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. Make sure to leave time to watch the sunset!

Ybor City. This historic district 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. There’s so much to see and do here, you pretty much need to stay a month.

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!

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!

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!

Atlantic Coast

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! This town has so many options, you’ll never run out of things to do.

Disclosure: 365 Atlanta Traveler is a Visit Florida Digital Marketing Program Partner. Opinions here are all our own. Thanks to Northwest Florida for sponsoring this post. It may contain affiliate links.

Shhh! 29 Best Small Towns in Florida That the Locals Want Kept Secret
Kate Kelsthorpe

Kate Gelsthorpe is a former TV news writer, and a born and raised Georgia girl who grew up camping with her family at state parks around central and south Georgia. After 18 years in Atlanta, her family recently moved to Athens, and in their spare time you can find them exploring their new hometown. She and her husband, Kevin, are the proud parents of an 8-year-old dinosaur expert, and a 6-year-old outdoor-loving fashionista.

2 Comments on "Shhh! 29 Best Small Towns in Florida That the Locals Want Kept Secret"

  1. Our list includes charming beach towns, islands, and cities that have great restaurants, shopping, fishing, water sports, and so much more

  2. Glad they missed this town

    Must have been written pre hurricane — Mexico Beach ??

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