Florida brings to mind the bustling cities of Miami and Orlando, but the state also features many other amazing destinations. Florida is home to a number of small, welcoming towns that are perfect for anyone looking to kick back, relax, and escape the fast pace of everyday life. Many have interesting histories and superb shopping opportunities and are not far from a beach. If you're looking to soak up some sun, reconnect with nature, or simply immerse yourself in a friendly new atmosphere, these small towns in Florida are well worth exploring.
» Atlantic Beach
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Located on the northeast coast, Atlantic Beach is one of the Jacksonville Beaches communities. This tranquil little town boasts two miles of pure white sand which can be accessed from 18 different points throughout the city. The area is rich in history; many experts believe that this was the location of the first year-round Native American settlement.
Atlantic Beach is also home to 65 acres of parkland, including the well-known Dutton Island Preserve. A busy event calendar includes meditation classes, movies in the park, and live music concerts, while popular activities in the area include golfing, surfing, paddle boarding and kayaking.
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» DeFuniak Springs
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The city of DeFuniak Springs has a decidedly Victorian feel to it, and many visitors find that the best part of their visit is simply admiring the beautiful old Victorian homes while strolling around the downtown historic district. The town is built around the stunning Lake DeFuniak, which is known for being almost perfectly circular.
In fact, it is one of only two such lakes in the entire world. Visitors can also take advantage of the excellent fishing lakes in the surrounding area, and there are ample opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, hunting, and boating.
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» Towns in Florida: St. Pete Beach
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With its white sandy beaches and world-class art museums, St. Pete Beach is the perfect blend of relaxation and culture. With one of the longest stretches of public beach in the area, there's plenty of room for activities like sunbathing, beach combing, swimming, and stand-up paddle boarding.
Adrenaline seekers can rent a jet ski or learn to kite board, while history buffs can visit the 21-acre Heritage Village. Located at the center of the town, the Corey Avenue district offers an eclectic variety of art galleries, unique shops, and restaurants.
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Located on Apalachicola Bay in the Gulf of Mexico, Apalachicola is an ideal destination for those looking to experience "Old Florida". Known as the oyster capital of the world, Apalachicola is one of the best places in America to enjoy a freshly caught seafood dinner. In fact, the town hosts the popular Florida Seafood Festival every year.
Anyone interested in history will enjoy strolling around the Apalachicola Historic District, which is home to more than 900 buildings that date as far back as the 1830s. There are also two nearby forests that make excellent day trips: Apalachicola National Forest and Tate's Hell State Forest.
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» Cedar Key
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Cedar Key gives visitors a taste of what Florida was like before Disneyland. In addition to being a prime destination for kayaking and birdwatching, Cedar Key is known for its plentiful fishing opportunities and vibrant art culture.
Accordingly, the town hosts two festivals each year: the Cedar Key Fine Arts Festival in April and the Annual Cedar Key Seafood Festival in October. These festivals are extremely popular, so visitors intending to go will need to book well in advance. During the rest of the year, the town is an ideal destination for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
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» Fernandina Beach
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Fernandina Beach is located on Amelia Island and is the northernmost city on the Atlantic Coast of Florida. Wildlife sightings are not uncommon in the area, and the island offers 13 miles of beautiful beaches. Every May, Fernandina Beach hosts the annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival.
Visitors also come for the excellent golf, the Artrageous Artwalk that takes place every second Saturday, and to visit Fort Clinch State Park. The city's downtown core offers a wide range of unique shops and restaurants, and accommodation in the area ranges from world-class resorts to cozy bed and breakfasts.
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» Deerfield Beach
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Deerfield Beach is home to the award-winning "Blue Waves" beach, which offers a more peaceful experience than many other beaches in South Florida. One of the most popular attractions at this beach is the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier.
The pier is 976 feet long, and visitors can rent or buy fishing equipment, take fishing lessons, and participate in one of the regular Environmental Workshops held at the pier. The city's quiet water park offers camping facilities, fishing opportunities, a skate park, and a 2,700-foot oval track for "cable skiing", which is a cross between skiing, surfing and waterboarding.
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» Anna Maria Island
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Located between the Gulf of Mexico and mainland Florida, Anna Maria Island is a seven-mile-long barrier island lined with beautiful white sandy beaches. Fishing is a popular pastime on the island, and the seafood here is excellent.
Visitors can also enjoy other water activities like kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and whale watching. The entire island is a bird sanctuary, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. Sea turtles nest on the beaches between the months of May and October, and it's also not uncommon for visitors to spot bottlenose dolphins and manatees.
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» Small towns in Florida: Tarpon Springs
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In addition to 51 miles of beautiful waterfront, Tarpon Springs boasts a downtown core that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town also has a strong Greek influence, which can be seen in everything from its restaurants to its architecture.
The brick streets of the historic district are lined with buildings that date back to the late 1800s and which are now home to a wide variety of boutique shops, art galleries, and antique shops. The area also holds a large number of natural sponge beds, and the Sponge Docks are one of the town's most popular tourist attractions.
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» Towns in Florida: Stuart
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Located on Florida's stunning Treasure Coast, Stuart is known as the Sailfish Capital of the World. The fishing and seafood dining options in Stuart are excellent, and the town is renowned for both its beautiful beaches and its pedestrian-friendly downtown core.
Water-lovers will enjoy the wide range of water sports on offer in the area, while history buffs can check out the Stuart Heritage Museum or the Road to Victory Military Museum. Every Sunday morning between 9 am and 1 pm, the city hosts a green market and live music event just outside the city hall.
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Pass-A-Grille is a small beach town located on the southernmost point of St. Pete Beach that offers a large range of dining and accommodation options despite its small size. Popular activities in the area include kayaking, sight-seeing boat tours, and deep-sea fishing excursions.
For those who want to stay closer to shore, there is also a fishing pier along the seawall where visitors can rent a fishing rod, purchase bait, or shop for fresh seafood at the fish market. Every Friday and Sunday between 9 am and 3 pm, local vendors and artists gather at the beach to create a unique shopping experience.
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» Mount Dora
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Often called the Bass Capital of the World because of the excellent fishing in the area, Mount Dora is located right on the shores of Lake Dora. The town was founded in 1880 and still retains much of its old-world charm.
The historic district is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and the city's downtown core is home to a number of antique shops. Mount Dora is also hosts a number of annual festivals throughout the year, including a craft fair in October, a music festival in February, and a seafood festival in August.
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» New Smyrna Beach
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Known for having some of the best waves on the Eastern Seaboard, New Smyrna Beach is often called one of the world's best surf towns. There's plenty for non-surfers to do as well; the city's 13 miles of white sandy beaches are perfectly suited to sunbathing, beach combing, and almost every type of water sport.
New Smyrna Beach is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, making it a popular destination for eco-tourists and birdwatchers. Other popular activities in the area include surf fishing, golfing, and boat tours. An annual jazz festival is held every September.
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Dunedin is one of the oldest towns on Florida's west coast and is known for both its large Scottish population and its uniquely charming downtown core. The city hosts a large number of Scottish festivities throughout the year, the most popular being the Dunedin Highland Games in April.
Dunedin also boasts almost four miles of beautiful white sandy beaches, including Honeymoon Island State Park and Caladesi Island State Park. Visitors can also explore the 34-mile-long Pinellas Trail that runs right through the city's downtown, or take advantage of the many opportunities to go kayaking, birdwatching, and fishing.
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» Vilano Beach
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Vilano Beach is located just to the north of the better-known St. Augustine and is one of the area's best-kept secrets. The beach is excellent for skimboarding, surfing, and other watersports, and it hosts the annual Run Drop Slide Pro/Am Skimboard competition every summer.
Amenities include restrooms, parking, and showers, and any visitors who are early risers should make an effort to catch the beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. Sunbathing, swimming, and beach combing are all popular activities, and the beach is also known to be an excellent place to hunt for shark teeth.
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» Towns in Florida: Islamorada
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Known as the "Village of Islands", Islamorada is a small town spread out over five islands in the Florida Keys. There are plenty of beaches to choose from, making the area an excellent destination for anyone interested in water sports of any type.
The town hosts many different fishing tournaments throughout the year; bonefishing and sailfishing are two of the most popular types in the area. There are also a number of excellent restaurants along the waterfront that serve some of the best seafood in the world and, for a small fee, some of which will even cook your catch for you.
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» Everglades City
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Located at one end of the Wilderness Waterway, Everglades City is proud to be known as the Gateway to the 10,000 Islands. From here, paddlers can explore marshes, mangrove forests, and the open waters of the bay, making it one of the best places in Florida to canoe and kayak.
For those not comfortable with venturing out on their own, a wide variety of guided tours are available. Other popular activities in the area include cycling excursions through the old-growth forests, birdwatching, swamp buggy rides, and airboat tours. There are also plenty of opportunities for excellent fishing.
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» Safety Harbor
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Despite its tiny size, the town of Safety Harbor is an excellent destination for anyone who appreciates fine dining, art, and culture. The town also offers some of the best special events in the area, including an annual wine festival, a large craft fair in December, and live music on the main street on every third Friday of the month.
There are a number of peaceful parks in and around the town as well, including the Bayshore Linear Park that runs along a beautiful stretch of Tampa Bay. Just outside the public area is the Art Park, which features a number of public art displays.
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Located on Florida's Emerald Coast, Destin is known for its crystal clear blue water and soft white sand beaches. The surrounding waters are home to a large fish population, which has led to the town being nicknamed "the world's luckiest fishing village".
The beaches and the fishing are the biggest draw to the area, but visitors also benefit from the excellent golf courses, world-class resorts, and plenty of superb dining opportunities. Every October, the city hosts its annual weekend-long Destin Seafood Festival, which takes place in the harbor and draws tens of thousands of guests each year.
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Founded in 1876, DeLand boasts a beautiful historic district filled with a collection of buildings that date back to the 19th century. The city is home to an excellent art museum as well as Stetson University, the oldest private college in Florida.
There are plenty of award-winning dining options to be found in DeLand, as well as a wide selection of boutique shops along the downtown streets. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy canoeing or kayaking down the Spring Garden Run in the nearby De Leon Springs State Park, which provides plenty of opportunities to see birds and other wildlife.
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» Small towns in Florida: Fort Pierce
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Fort Pierce was first established as a fishing village in the early 1900s, and it still retains much of its Old Florida charm. The city's downtown is located along the beautiful waterfront and boasts a number of excellent restaurants that serve some of the freshest seafood you can get anywhere.
Another huge draw to the area is the Indian River Lagoon, which is the most biologically diverse estuary in the country. More than 4,000 species of plants and animals can be found here, making it an excellent destination for birdwatchers and other nature lovers.
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Located right off the mainland in the Gulf of Mexico, Captiva Island is a peaceful little community with no traffic lights. With plenty of opportunities for biking, fishing, and sailing, the island is an excellent destination for everyone who loves the outdoors.
The northernmost two miles of the island are occupied by the South Seas Island Resort, which offers 2.5 miles of beach as well as a lively event calendar suitable for families. The island is also known for its many pastel-colored buildings, the most famous of which is a multi-themed restaurant called the Bubble Room.
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» Towns in Florida: Seaside
Located in Walton County, Seaside is a unique 80-acre master-planned community of roughly 300 homes and 40 shops. It was designed to have the look and feel of an old-fashioned Florida beach town. The city was created according to the principles of New Urbanism, an architectural style that aims to encourage environmentally friendly practices through walkable city designs.
Every year, the city hosts the Seaside Half Marathon and 5k Race, which attracts athletes from all over the country. Other popular events include an annual Songwriters Festival, and a farmers’ market that takes place every Saturday morning.
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» Winter Park
© Winter Park
Winter Park is a small city located in Orange County that is well known for being home to an excellent high-end shopping district along its Park Avenue. For those more interested in the outdoors, the city also includes a large amount of open park space, including Central Park on Park Avenue.
Art lovers can explore the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Garden, while everyone will enjoy the hour-long scenic boat tours along the Winter Park chain of lakes. Twice a month, the city hosts outdoor movie nights in Central Park, which are free and open to the public.
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The tiny town of Matlacha has a thriving arts community, but it also has all the charm of a friendly rural fishing village. It is an excellent destination for outdoor pursuits; hikers can take advantage of the Calusa Heritage Trail, kayakers can paddle around the peaceful waters of the inlet, and cyclists will be pleased to discover the bike trail that runs all the way through the town.
Visitors can enjoy an excellent seafood dinner at any of the restaurants in town, but they can also catch their own dinner by fishing, shrimping, crabbing, or clamming.
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25 Best Small Towns in Florida
- Atlantic Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Kenneth Keifer - Fotolia.com
- DeFuniak Springs, Photo: Courtesy of renamarie - Fotolia.com
- Towns in Florida: St. Pete Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Kinsey - Fotolia.com
- Apalachicola, Photo: Courtesy of Jo¨rg Hackemann - Fotolia.com
- Cedar Key, Photo: Courtesy of Earl Robbins - Fotolia.com
- Fernandina Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Nickolay Khoroshkov - Fotolia.com
- Deerfield Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Peter - Fotolia.com
- Anna Maria Island , Photo: Courtesy of EyeMark - Fotolia.com
- Small towns in Florida: Tarpon Springs, Photo: Courtesy of NSight Images - Fotolia.com
- Towns in Florida: Stuart, Photo: Courtesy of doncon402 - Fotolia.com
- Pass-a-Grille, Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Kinsey - Fotolia.com
- Mount Dora, Photo: Courtesy of Linda Grevera - Fotolia.com
- New Smyrna Beach, Photo: Courtesy of bethany12 - Fotolia.com
- Dunedin, Photo: Courtesy of Erin Cadigan - Fotolia.com
- Vilano Beach , Photo: Courtesy of jonbilous - Fotolia.com
- Towns in Florida: Islamorada, Photo: Courtesy of jovannig - Fotolia.com
- Everglades City, Photo: Courtesy of Fotoluminate LLC - Fotolia.com
- Safety Harbor, Photo: Courtesy of Amanda Mortimer - Fotolia.com
- Destin, Photo: Courtesy of Paul Hakimata - Fotolia.com
- DeLand, Photo: Courtesy of Gregory Johnston - Fotolia.com
- Small towns in Florida: Fort Pierce, Photo: Courtesy of iofoto - Fotolia.com
- Captiva, Photo: Courtesy of Sheri Armstrong - Fotolia.com
- Towns in Florida: Seaside, Photo: Seaside
- Winter Park , Photo: Winter Park
- Matlacha, Photo: Courtesy of Suzana - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Earl Robbins - Fotolia.com