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When it comes to underrated towns in Florida, there are plenty to choose from. Outside of Orlando, Miami and Key West, visitors can find an array of charming fishing towns and beachside communities that have maintained their authentic ambiance and Old Florida vibes. From unspoiled beaches to quiet barrier islands, these overlooked destinations offer delicious local cuisine, historic architecture and undiscovered attractions that deserve a second look. A perfect day trip or simply an escape from the hustle and bustle of the tourist-filled cities, think outside the box and head to one of the most underrated Florida towns to visit.
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An Instagram-worthy destination, Seaside’s landscape is like a postcard sent from Florida. An often overlooked area in Florida’s Panhandle by the lively Panama City Beach, if you’re looking for a quaint town with a funky vibe, this area is worthy of a day trip. Meander through the pastel-colored houses and white picket fences and head to the quiet white sand beaches to soak in the sunshine, or walk along the pedestrian-friendly streets to discover a pleasant array of art galleries, farmers’ markets and local boutiques that are brimming full of charm.
The embodiment of “Old Florida” vibes, head to Apalachicola for the quintessential Sunshine State experience. A charming fishing village located in a quiet area of North Florida, here you’ll be immediately engulfed in southern hospitality. Tasting the world-renown seafood is a must, while the towns 900 historic buildings offer a glimpse into Florida’s oyster, timber and fishing history up close. Lovely waterfront parks like the area and simply watching the traditional shrimp boats reeling in the day’s catch is an interesting pastime. Try your hand at fishing to keep local delicacies to yourself, or hop on a kayak tour of the famous waterways.
A part of the barrier islands off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Island offers landscapes of quaint B&Bs and picturesque streets that highlight its small town charm. The golden-hued sands are a lovely escape from city life, while guided horseback tours offer a unique perspective of the area. Exploring nearby Fernandina Beach is a popular activity, while those interested in history might enjoy visiting the Civil War-era fort in Fort Clinch State Park. Just a 20-minute drive away, Big Talbot Island State Park offers a unique backdrop of cliffs and a forest of driftwoods at “Boneyard Beach.”
Located along the Gulf Coast, Dunedin is often overlooked by nearby Tampa. Outside of its popular Scottish celebrations, this waterfront community offers much more than just its annual event. The quaint downtown area is lined with art galleries and antique shops, while those who want to explore its outdoor splendors are spoiled for choice with nearby Caladesi Island State Park and Honeymoon Island State Park both offering unspoiled beauty with their white powdery sand beaches and emerald waters just minutes away. Get to know this small town at the Dunedin Historical Museum, or grab a drink at Dunedin Brewery, Florida’s oldest craft brewery.
Often overshadowed by St. Petersburg and Tampa, Safety Harbor offers a unique small town setting with a variety of attractions that will appeal to all ages. The world-famous Safety Harbor Resort and Spa is a U.S. Historic Landmark, offering luxury accommodation with a 50,000 square foot spa that caters to health conscious visitors. The area is also lined with quaint bed and breakfast properties, where moss-covered oaks and brick-lined streets are picture-perfect. Explore small boutiques and restaurants along Main Street, soak in the lush acres of natural surroundings at Philippe Park, or drop a fishing line from the Safety Harbor Fishing Pier.
An undiscovered hidden gem near St. Petersburg, Gulfport is a small community located on the south end of the Clearwater peninsula. Natural beauty is combined with a colorful personality, where a beautiful beach and long fishing pier attracts visitors from around the state. First-time visitors are encouraged to taste local delicacies and walk along Shore Blvd to take in the view of Tierra Verde across the bay. Artsy and quirky shops, a thriving arts scene and its easy-going waterfront restaurants and bars lure people in time and time again.
In addition to the award-winning beaches of Fort Walton, the city also boasts an array of world-class attractions and family complexes. Nestled in between Pensacola and Panama City, the 24 miles of powder-soft beaches set the backdrop for a perfect day of swimming, boating, and parasailing. A buzzing area with small eateries and antique stores, the downtown area is also home to the Indian Temple Mound Museum, Air Force Armament Museum, and Emerald Coast Science Center. Fish along the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk or take a day trip to beautiful Grayton Beach State Park.
Named after an early hotel owner who buried his treasures and then “discovered” it later on the beach, Treasure Island is a fairy-tale destination located along the Gulf of Mexico. While the area is filled with local folklore, it also draws in visitors from around the state for its white sand beaches. Perfect for a sunny day of swimming, shelling, and snorkeling, even strolling along the picturesque seashore is a romantic gesture. A short drive from St. Petersburg and Tampa, this family-friendly area boasts a range of hotels, restaurants, and attractions that will appeal to a variety of travelers.
Only 20 minutes north of Clearwater, Tarpon Springs is a hidden gem with tons of cultural experiences to enjoy. A historic waterfront town known for its Greek roots, the dining options here are excellent with honey-infused pastries and heart dinners sold around the area. Visitors can also spend a day exploring the now-famous sponge industry and the delightful array of antique stores and art galleries that line the area. Soak in the city’s fascinating Greek heritage, or head to Dodecanese Boulevard lined with gift shops selling anything from olive oil soap to unique souvenirs.
Located on Florida’s Nature Coast, Cedar Key is only an hour’s drive southwest of Gainesville and juts three miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. Quaint and old-fashioned, immediately visitors are engulfed with the area’s natural beauty and slower pace of life. Time may move a little slower in these parts, but its mom and pop shops and relaxed vibes make you feel like you’re in another world. An easily walkable enclave, visitors can eat up tasty bowls of clam chowder, head on a fishing excursion, or sunbathe on its lovely beaches.
Anna Maria Island
One of those destinations that you can simply never get enough of, Anna Maria Island offers hidden, white sand beaches and turquoise waters that pull you in time and time again. From its postcard-worthy landscapes to its outdoor activities and charming seafood and waterfront restaurants, this laid-back seven-mile strip of sand feels like you’ve left the U.S. Nestled by the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay and with speed limits no higher than 35 mph, the Island is where visitors go to get away from it all.
Billed “The Gateway to Florida’s Nature Coast,” Steinhatchee is a charming fishing town in Florida’s Big Bend region. Victorian homes are nestled under towering live oaks covered in Spanish moss, and visitors can explore miles of peaceful country roads and abundant wildlife. One of Florida’s best-kept secrets, its stretch of white sand beaches and lack of resorts make this area appealing for all types of travelers. Take a sunset cruise of the area, pedal through town on a bicycle or rent a pontoon boat to see the area’s untouched nature up close.
Located on Sarasota Bay in Manatee County, Cortez is a well-preserved fishing village where visitors can get an authentic look at Old Florida. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, visitors are encouraged to meander down the famous working waterfront and explore the area’s beaches and fishing piers. With old fish houses that date back to the original founding families, it would be a crime not to taste some of the freshly caught seafood that is sold in the small restaurants that line the area.
A vibrant beach community just east of Pensacola, Navarre is worthy of an exploration due to its 12 miles of pristine beach. Spend a day soaking in the beauty of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, as kids will delight in a sunny day of swimming in the inviting emerald waters. Consistently ranking as one of the best beaches in the entire country, families can enjoy a picnic in the park, biking through scenic pathways or fishing from the coast’s longest pier.