16 Spectacular Florida Vacation Spots For Those Dreaming of The Sunshine State

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Are you looking for advice on the best Florida vacation spots? We are here to help.

From personal experience, down below we share the best places to vacation in Florida in all areas of the Sunshine State including South Florida, Central Florida, and the West and East Coasts.

Best Florida vacation spots
South Beach, Miami

While you may first think of Disney World and Universal Studios when it comes to Florida destinations, this state offers so much more than than just theme parks, making it one of the best states to visit in the United States for a vacation filled with adventure!

From incredible beaches, to the Art Deco buildings of Miami, to the stunning natural springs where you can even swim with manatees, there is literally something for every type of traveler in Florida.

Below you will find 15 of the best Florida destinations that we have personally visited and absolutely loved.

We would highly recommend you putting these cities, springs and beaches on your Florida bucket list for your East Coast road trip ideas to the Sunshine State!

Best Florida Vacation Spots

Miami

It will probably come as no surprise to you that one of the best vacation spots in Florida includes the hip and metropolitan city of Miami.

Miami, Florida

Miami is a great place to begin on your trip to Florida as not only is it a cool city but there’s an abundance of affordable flights to Miami (MIA).

Other affordable flight hubs include Orlando (MCO) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL).

Don’t miss South Beach in Miami. This city beach has the bluest water we have seen in the United States!

You can people-watch for hours in South Beach and never get bored. Some of the most flamboyant people and celebrities in the country frequent the bars and restaurants in and around South Beach.

In addition to the beautiful beaches in Miami, check out the signature white art deco architecture in the streets in and around South Beach.

Love street art? Then head to the Wynwood Walls Art District where you’ll find colorful street art from some of the most talented artists in the world.

After admiring the street art, we would suggest heading to Little Havana in Miami.

Miami has a large Cuban community and boasts the best Cuban sandwich in the world. We learnt recently that the Cuban sandwich is not actually Cuban but an American adaptation which originated in Miami!

If you are wondering where to stay, check out this guide to the hip and quirky hotels in Miami.

Miami is a cool but notoriously expensive place to travel. If you are going to pay big money to stay in Miami, you are going to want to stay somewhere unique!

The Florida Keys

When it comes to South Florida vacation spots, one of our favorite things to do in Florida is to visit the Florida Keys.

Florida Keys Aerial View.
Florida Keys Aerial View. Image credit: DepositPhotos.com

Home to the iconic Beach Boys, the Keys is one of the most picturesque places to vacation in Florida. They are essentially a string of tropical islands that span 120-miles between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

What we love about all the Florida Keys vacation spots is that there is seriously a tonne of fun activities to enjoy from swimming to snorkeling to feeding giant tarpon

This is one of the Florida destinations suitable to any type of traveler, whether you are looking for a family friendly vacation in Florida or on a romantic getaway, as we were.

The best way to explore all the Florida Keys has to offer to is take a road trip from Miami to Key West. The drive is one of the most scenic coastline drives you can make in the state.

The epic views you will experience as you drive along the iconic Overseas Highway will take your breath away.

Don’t forget your snorkel as the Florida Keys has some of the best underwater marine life in Florida.

Key stops include:

  • Key Largo
  • Islamorada
  • Marathon
  • Bahia Honda
  • and Key West.

We will cover a few of the best towns in more detail below.

Key Largo

The first town you will reach from Miami is Key Largo, a beautiful, relaxed seaside town with 78 nautical square miles of coral reef.

Key Lago, Florida

Most people think of Key West when it comes to a Florida Keys trip but the town of Key Largo is a nice alternative choice for those who want to enjoy more of a relaxing vacation with near isolated beaches.

We were amazed how many awesome things to do there in the area!

Two of the best beaches in the Florida Keys are located in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

This is one place your snorkel will come in handy as Cannon Beach (with real cannons located along the beach) and Far Beach have absolutely perfect conditions for snorkeling.

We did see warning signs at the beaches in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park of alligators but as far as I’m aware no one has ever died there. Generally alligators, unlike the Australian crocodile, are shy and stick to themselves.

For diving enthusiasts who like a little more adventure, there is a possibility to dive the Spiegel Grove Wreck while in Key Largo, one of the most popular dive sites in the United States.

Don’t miss the best Key Lime Pie in the Florida Keys at Mrs Mac’s Kitchen. It’s mouthwatering delicious!

You can always tell a good Key Lime pie by its color, if it is green avoid it. The best Key Lime pies are actually yellow in color.

Islamorada

A short drive from Key Largo you will find the small town of Islamorada.

Islamorada, Florida
hand feeding giant tarpon in Islamorada

It’s one of the best places to go in Florida if you’re looking for a small fishing town with a great vibe and an abundance of cool things to do.

Don’t miss your chance to hand feed giant tarpon at Robbie’s Tarpon in Islamorada, it was honestly one of the highlights of our Florida Keys road trip.

If you are traveling with small kids, they might be a little scared to hand feed the giant tarpon at first (the fish literally launch their whole body out of the water) but they will definitely enjoy watching you do it.

NOTE:

It is more than likely the tarpon will swallow your whole hand while trying to eat the little fish you hang off the edge. Don’t worry, their their “teeth” only have the consistency of sandpaper. Worst case you will only come out with a few grazes by feeding them – totally worth it if you ask me!

Aside from feeding giant tarpon, there are loads of other fun things to do in Islamorada including visiting the beautiful Anne’s Beach and the Florida Keys Brewing Company – one of the most popular drinking spots for couples in the Florida Keys.

Key West

Key West is one of the most iconic Florida vacation spots.

Despite the mass tourism brought in by cruise ships to the area, it is still a very worthwhile place to vacation in Florida due to the quirky atmosphere, quaint architecture and abundance of interesting things to do.

Key West, Florida

Duval Street is the most iconic and lively street in Key West where you will find interesting restaurants, cafes and quirky bars with live music.

You can’t visit Key West without going for a walk along Duval Street. The high energy and overall mood was one of our favorite parts of Key West.

The consistently highest rated activity in Key West is, however, not in fact Duval Street but famous writer Ernest Hemingway’s home where he lived 1931 to 1939.

Interestingly, Hemingway owned a rare form of cat with six toes due to a rare polydactyl gene. The descendants of his cat (all with 6 toes might I add) still live in the house to this day.

Like South Beach in Miami, Key West is a notoriously expensive place to travel. We would suggest breaking up the paid attractions with some of the best free things to do in Key West area.

For example, don’t miss the free sunset celebration at Mallory Square where you will see some very interesting buskers and street performers as the sun sets over the Southernmost point of Florida.

There is also a great free aquarium in Key West called the Key West Eco Discovery Center which we immensely enjoyed!

Talking about the Southernmost point of Florida, while in Key West, don’t miss your chance to have your picture taken with the Southernmost point of Continental USA sign.

Nearby you’ll find the iconic Mile Marker to commemorate your Keys’ trip.

Everglades National Park

Put this on your list of best places to visit in Florida for wildlife. If you want the chance to see an alligator in its natural habitat, this is your chance.

Everglades National Park

The Everglades is a very large national park that covers 1.5 million acres over the southern point of Florida.

A large percentage of the Everglades is covered by swampland and water so one of the best ways to see the national park is by doing an Airboat tour.

If you are traveling the Everglades with children, make a stop at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. The kids will love all the exhibits at the center where they can learn more about the Everglades eco-system. There are even interactive exhibits at the center which are pretty cool.

For hiking the Everglades, the two best short walks to take are definitely the Anhinga Trail and the Gumbo Limbo Trail.

If you opt out of taking an air boat tour, the Anhinga Trail is your best chance to see alligators in the wild in the Everglades with many lounging in and along the banks of the trail, sunning themselves.

During the springtime, you may be able to spot baby gators on the lily pads along the trail which is a pretty cute sight.

There is not a whole lot of wildlife on the Gumbo Limbo Trail but it is a fantastic reprieve during the hot midday sun which is particularly potent in the Everglades.

Bring sun protection as most of the trails are exposed and in full sunlight!

The final ‘must-do’ spot in the Everglades is the Shark Valley Trail, a 15-mile trail which can be accessed on foot, by bike or on a tram tour.

As the trail is long and ends with a worthwhile viewing platform it is best to tram or bike this trail.

Checkout this popular 1 hour Airboat Tour and Wildlife Show. Read all the reviews here and book ahead and get a mobile ticket.

Sarasota

Looking for the best beach vacation spots in Florida? Welcome to the home of the #1 Beach in the USA, Siesta Beach.

Sarasota Beach, Florida

Siesta Beach’s picturesque white, powdery quartz-crystal sand and other cool attractions in the area gives Sarasota bragging rights as one of the top vacation spots in Florida.

If you would like to get a cute and colorful Instagram-worthy photo, Siesta Beach is the perfect place to go as adorable, colorful lifeguard stands are placed every few hundred meters along the beach.

If you find yourself on Siesta Beach one hour before sunset on a Sunday you may also get the chance to see the Community Drum Circle chant to another dimension. Sarasota is a very spiritual place. If you see the drum circle chant you will know what I mean!

Other great beaches to check out in the Sarasota area include Crescent Beach, Turtle Beach, South Lido Key Beach and Lido Key Beach.

Aside from the great Florida beaches here, the Ringling Museum of Art is an absolutely unmissable of things to do in Sarasota if you love beautiful gardens, art and buildings. The museum even has free entry on a Monday!

Sarasota was once a circus city and the Ringling Museum of Art was the opulent home of John Ringling, the circus owner.

The famous unconditional surrender statue can also be found in Sarasota. If you are on a romantic getaway in Sarasota, it is the ideal place to get a romantic photograph taken emulating the victorious returned sailor kissing a nurse at the end of WWII.

Marco Island

Looking for a hidden gem in Florida waiting to be discovered? Then Marco Island is one of the best places in Florida to visit for you!

Marco Island, Florida

Located on Florida’s Paradise Coast, this new travel destination is one of the best places to vacation in Florida as it really has something for everyone!

Forming part of the beautiful Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island has a very chilled ‘island-life’ vibe, stunning sunsets, boutique shopping and a unique opportunity to find some of the most beautiful shells in the US.

The activity of shelling is a popular hobby and even a sport for many of the local Marco Island residents who take immense pride in their shell findings, even submitting some of the best shells in the area to competitions and exhibits across the country!

Don’t miss the opportunity to see the sinking Cape Romano Dome Houses while in Marco Island.

These alien-like buildings, partially destroyed by hurricanes, are now all that is left of a former mansion constructed by a retired oil producer.

If you don’t believe in the effects of climate change, these dome houses might just change your mind as they are said to be sinking as a result climate change and rising water levels.

Other fun things to do in Marco Island for the whole family include:

  • The Otter Mound Preserve
  • Keewaydin Island
  • Caxambass Pass Park
  • Tigertail Beach
  • and South Beach.

Orlando and Surrounds

I’m sure the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Orlando is theme parks!

It’s true, Orlando has some world class theme parks making it one of the best family vacation spots in Florida

Diagon Alley, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando
Universal Studios – Wizarding World of Harry Potter

There’s Disney World and Universal Studios which are pretty much unmissable if you have kids or you are a big Harry Potter or Disney fan.

Here are some posts about Universal Studios with kids if you are thinking to visit one of Florida’s best theme parks:

Aside from theme parks, there are plenty more fabulous things to do in Orlando within a short 30-minute drive to get back to nature on your theme park free days.

Two of our favorite outdoor areas and springs near Orlando are Kelly Park and Blue Springs State Park.

Make sure you bring a tube with you as both of these recreational areas offer the ability to go tubing in some of Florida’s most beautiful springs.

You might also like to bring a snorkel with you as we overheard some children making some very interesting finds including shark teeth underwater at Kelly Park!

In winter, tubing finishes at Blue Springs State Park as Florida’s manatees migrate back to the warmth of the spring for winter. Instead of tubing, you can kayak to get up close and personal with the gentle giants of the sea (outside of the manatee protected area).

Kelly Park
Kelly Park

If you love the great outdoors both Kelly Park and Blue Springs State Park are fabulous places to camp in Florida.

Fort Myers

Fort Myers is one of the best Florida vacation spots for those who love adventure!

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve was by far our favorite activity in Fort Myers. We were completely blown away by how beautiful the trails in the preserve were.

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Fort Myers
Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

The 3,500 acre nature trails at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve are one of the best places to get up close and personal with nature as the boardwalk trails pass through tropical forest, wetlands and a butterfly garden.

Along the trails you have the chance to see native birds, alligators and turtles.

If you are visiting Fort Myers in winter, we would highly recommend visiting Manatee Park to receive a unique opportunity to view manatees warming themselves by the warm water created by the power plant.

Don’t bother visiting the park if you make a Fort Myers trip in summer because even as late as October we did not see a single manatee swimming in the waters of Manatee Park.

If you are an international visitor to Florida, it is always fun to see an American sports game in action. In Fort Myers, take the opportunity to see an action filled game of baseball at Hammond Stadium.

Sanibel Island

Off the coast of Fort Myers, you will find one of the best vacation spots in Florida for couples – Sanibel Island.

Sanibel Island

This island is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Florida for not only stunning beaches but also lush tropical rain forest and sunsets to die for.

The deserted, picturesque beaches on Sanibel including Blind Pass Beach, Lighthouse Beach and Bowman’s Beach are the perfect place for a romantic holiday in the Sunshine State.

One of the most relaxing activities in Sanibel Island is to head to Gulfside City Park Beach with a beach chair and cooler to watch the incredible kite surfers dominate the waves.

Gulfside has the perfect conditions for kite-surfing and watching the pros tackle the waves certainly makes for an entertaining afternoon.

Sanibel Island rivals its neighbor Marco Island for the best shelling beaches in Florida. If you enjoy finding beautiful shells, you will be very satisfied in Sanibel Island.

Before you leave Sanibel, check out The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum which exhibits some of the most beautiful shells found on the island.

Be sure to also make a stop at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge while on Sanibel Island.

The refuge offers some of the best bird watching in Florida and draws tourists from all over America to see the abundance of bird life in their natural habitat including American bald eagles, spoon billed roseata and heron.

You are also likely to catch a glimpse of a Florida gator while in the park.

Bonita Springs

Looking for undiscovered destinations in Florida?

The small beach-side town of Bonita Springs is often overlooked as a place to vacation in Florida.

Bonita Springs

It is however, one of the best places in Florida for those who love relaxed beach towns with a whole lot of charm!

The town has a very long history which can be traced back to Native Indians who lived in the area as long as 8,000 years ago.

Due to the abundance of fun things to do in the area, it quickly became one of our favorite places to visit in Florida!

One of our favorite activities was to hunt for gopher turtles at Cullum’s Bonita Trail. Seeing multiple gopher turtles and rabbits freely running around the lush tropical trails was definitely one of our Florida highlights.

While in Bonita Springs don’t miss catching a stunning orange-red sunset at one of the incredible beaches along the coast.

The most popular place to watch the sunset is Bonita Beach Park but be forewarned the parking lot is packed and it is difficult to secure a park.

Our insider tip is to head to the lesser known Little Hickory Beach Park where there’s plenty of parking and you get the same spectacular sunset!

Naples

Driving into Naples, Florida made me question whether I’d taken a wrong turn and somehow ended up across the country in Beverley Hills.

Naples, Florida

Deciding which Beverley Hills meets Hamptons’ style mansion to move into in Naples should be an activity in its own right – the houses are just that pretty.

Aside from the houses, people choose to vacation in Naples Florida for its incredible white sandy beaches, shopping and dining opportunities.

Don’t miss the gorgeous Naples Beach and Naples Municipal Beach Pier where you can watch fisherman haul in some seriously impressive catches.

If you want to go fishing in Florida, this pier is one of the very few areas which does not require a license.

Just off Naples Beach on 12th avenue are some cool hipster bars and restaurants to enjoy after a dip at the beach.

Despite Naples Beach being the most popular beach in the Naples area, our favorite beach was actually Lowdermilk Beach Park as we were lucky enough to see dolphins swimming very close to the shore at the beach.

The dolphins weren’t shy either and interacted with a local fisherman who was out about waist deep fishing!

Other fun activities to do in Naples Florida include:

  • Naples Botanical Garden
  • Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
  • Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
  • Vanderbilt Beach
  • and Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Being located just a hop, skip and a jump away from Bonita Springs, you can also catch an incredible orange-red sunset in Naples.

Ocala National Forest

We never grow tired of visiting Ocala. This National Forest in Florida is a nature lover’s paradise.

Ocala National Forest

Florida is home to over 700 natural springs and some of the most beautiful are located within the Ocala National Forest.

Two of the best springs in the National Forest include Juniper Springs and Alexander Springs.

If you only have time to visit one of the two, we would recommend Juniper Springs which offers a great balance between swimming, nature trails and beauty.

There is a nature trail at Juniper Springs that leads to a picturesque bridge with some of the most beautiful crystal clear water we have ever seen!

Interesting, Juniper Springs is one of the oldest recreation areas in Florida established by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

We loved seeing the old mill and waterwheel which was used to generate electricity for the campsite when the park first opened.

If you are up for a bit more adventure, you might like to try the kayak run at Juniper Springs.

If you are traveling with kids, the kayak run is probably not a good activity as it’s an advanced run with gators that lurk in the water. Kayakers have been known to capsize due to the narrow overgrown trail and small rapids!

Crystal River

Crystal River deserves its place in the list as one of the top Florida vacation spots as it is the only place in Florida where you have the opportunity to swim with Florida’s manatees year round.

Crystal River

Crystal River is located on Kings Bay in western Florida and is fueled by some of Florida’s most picturesque springs including the lovely Three Sisters Springs.

There are about 3,000 – 5,000 manatees living in Florida with an estimated 1,000 of the population living in Crystal River alone, making it one of the best places to spot a manatee in Florida.

During the summer, a large percentage of the population leave Florida and migrate north throughout the many waterways in the United States. They return in winter to warm their bodies in Crystal River, fed by the warm waters of the springs which remain at a constant 72°F.

In the winter months you will be able to swim with a large population of manatees while in the summer months you will probably only swim with one or two.

No matter the season, it is rare that you will find with no manatees in Crystal River.

We loved that swimming with manatees is done in a sustainable and ethical way in their natural habitat.

You are prohibited by Florida laws to harass the manatees in any way and you are required to stay at a safe distance while snorkeling with the gentle giants.

Ginnie Springs

Fancy floating down a lazy picturesque river with a cocktail or beer in hand?

Then Ginnie Springs is one of the best Florida vacation spots for you!

Ginnie Springs
Ginnie Springs

As Ginnie Springs is one of the few springs in Florida that is privately owned, it is one of, if not the only, spring in Florida where you can consume alcoholic beverages.

Located in northern Florida above Ocala National Forest on the Santa Fe River, it is one of Florida’s prettiest natural springs.

Despite the name, Ginnie Springs is not just one lone spring but made up of several springs including Devil’s Eye, Devil’s Ear and Devil Spring.

There is an abundance of activities available including tubing, kayaking, canoeing and stand up paddle boarding making the springs a top vacation spot in Florida for couples and families alike.

Ginnie Springs is also home to one of the longest tube runs you can complete in Florida (1 hour from start to finish).

Bring your own tube – the bigger the better – as you float from one spring to another in the Santa Fe River.

It is totally acceptable to bring the biggest tube you can find. We saw a 10 man tube with a cooler in the middle floating along the river while we were there!

Daytona Beach

We haven’t visited Daytona Beach since before Hurricane Irma hit in 2017 but it remains firmly placed in our mind as one of the best places to visit in Florida.

Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach was put on the map by the Daytona International Speedway, a world famous racetrack in Daytona.

Sadly, Hurricane Irma destroyed a lot of Daytona Beach and for many years we would not recommend a visit due to the devastation caused by the hurricane.

Luckily, the community of Daytona have now managed to rebuild Daytona Beach back to its former glory making it once again one of the best places in Florida to visit.

One of the things that really stood out to us in Daytona was the ability to drive cars on the beach due to Daytona’s unique hard-packed beach sand. 

Other than cruisin’ the beach, watching the sun set and enjoying a cocktail from the Daytona beach pier became somewhat of a daily ritual for us.

If you are open minded and looking for something very unique to do in Daytona, we would recommend visiting Daytona’s drive in church, open to tourists, atheists and people of all religions.

The service is played over your car radio and you beep when you hear “Amen”. Afterwards, they invite you to enjoy free Krispy Kreme donuts inside.

We went just to check it out as we were totally intrigued by the new concept! We had never heard of a drive in church before!

Daytona is part of Florida’s Space Coast.

If you are are a big nerd at heart, visiting the Kennedy Space Center, just a one-hour drive from Daytona Beach, is a must do on your Florida vacation. It was quite possibly Mike’s favorite activity in Florida!

More Florida Travel Tips

We hope this post provided you with some Florida vacation destinations. What Florida vacation spots would you add to this list?