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20 Must See Islands In Florida To Visit

Looking for one of the most picturesque islands in Florida to visit? These 20 top Florida islands are some of the most gorgeous in the world!

Florida, often dubbed the “Sunshine State,” is a dream destination for travelers seeking a slice of paradise. With its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and abundant wildlife, the state is a treasure trove of breathtaking islands waiting to be explored.

From the iconic Florida Keys to the lesser-known gems tucked away in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, these islands offer a variety of experiences for every type of traveler.

I have had the privilege of living on and visiting some of Florida’s top islands, and in this blog post, I’ll take you on a journey through the most captivating and unforgettable spots.

Here are the best islands in Florida to visit for a true island paradise vacation!

20. Key West: The Southernmost Gem

Our island-hopping adventure begins in Key West, the crown jewel of the Florida Keys. Known for its vibrant culture, colorful buildings, and laid-back atmosphere, Key West is a paradise for art enthusiasts, history buffs, and beach lovers alike.

Stroll down Duval Street, lined with art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. Don’t miss the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, a fascinating glimpse into the life of the famous author.

Relax on the sandy shores of Smathers Beach or catch a stunning sunset at Mallory Square. For a truly unforgettable experience, take a snorkeling or diving tour to explore the mesmerizing coral reefs and underwater wonders of the area.

Key West is best for vibrant and adventurous travelers, catering to a diverse crowd with its lively nightlife, cultural attractions, water sports, and opportunities for snorkeling and diving along the famous coral reefs.

19. Sanibel Island: Shells and Serenity

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Sanibel Island, located on the Gulf of Mexico, is a haven for seashell enthusiasts and nature lovers. The island is renowned for its vast collection of shells, which are washed ashore due to the unique east-west orientation of its coastline.

Spend leisurely hours combing the beaches for delicate seashells, or explore the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, home to a diverse array of bird species and wildlife. With miles of bike paths and nature trails, Sanibel Island is perfect for those who enjoy exploring the great outdoors at a relaxed pace.

Sanibel Island is best for nature lovers and those seeking a laid-back and relaxed vacation. This enchanting island offers a tranquil escape with its pristine beaches, abundant wildlife, and serene ambiance.

Families with young children will also appreciate the gentle and shallow waters, ideal for beachcombing, shelling, and safe water play. For those who cherish a slower pace, Sanibel Island’s dedication to preserving its natural beauty creates a serene haven that welcomes travelers seeking a closer connection to nature and a chance to unwind in a picturesque setting.

18. Amelia Island: A Historic Haven

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For a taste of history and charm, head to Amelia Island, situated in the northeastern part of the state. Known for its well-preserved architecture and southern hospitality, Amelia Island will transport you back in time.

Wander through the historic district of Fernandina Beach, lined with Victorian-era homes and boutique shops. Don’t miss Fort Clinch State Park, where you can immerse yourself in the island’s military history and enjoy nature trails and fishing spots.

Amelia Island’s 13 miles of pristine beaches offer the perfect backdrop for a serene and rejuvenating escape. Beach lovers can bask in the sun on its beautiful beaches and enjoy water activities like swimming, kayaking, and fishing.

Amelia Island is best for history enthusiasts, beach lovers, and those seeking a charming and quaint coastal experience.

17. Captiva Island: A Secluded Retreat

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Connected to Sanibel Island by a short bridge, Captiva Island is a secluded retreat that promises solitude and natural beauty. With no high-rise buildings, the island offers a peaceful and idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Spend your days on the uncrowded beaches, watching dolphins frolic in the Gulf waters or spotting rare and beautiful migratory birds.

A visit to Captiva Island is incomplete without a sunset cruise, where you can witness the sky painted in hues of orange and pink, creating a breathtaking panorama.

Captiva Island is best for those in search of a secluded and relaxing retreat, offering a laid-back atmosphere, uncrowded beaches, and an ideal setting for couples or families to unwind and enjoy the natural beauty of the Gulf of Mexico.

16. Key Largo: Dive into Adventure

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Known as the “Diving Capital of the World,” Key Largo is a diver’s paradise offering unparalleled underwater experiences.

Located at the northernmost part of the Florida Keys, the island boasts the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States. Dive enthusiasts can explore the mesmerizing John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, where colorful corals, tropical fish, and even shipwrecks await beneath the waves.

For those who prefer to stay dry, the island offers glass-bottom boat tours, allowing you to witness the underwater marvels from the comfort of the boat.

Key Largo offers gorgeous resorts and some delicious seafood restaurants right on the water. Because it’s the first stop on the trip through the Florida Keys islands, it’s quite popular for those who don’t want to venture all the way down, especially water-sport enthusiasts.

15. Anna Maria Island: Old-World Charm

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If you’re seeking a laid-back island with a touch of old-world charm, Anna Maria Island is the perfect destination. Situated in the Gulf of Mexico, the island boasts stunning white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a relaxed ambiance.

Rent a bike and explore the island’s picturesque neighborhoods, each with its own unique character. Don’t miss the Historic Anna Maria City Pier, a beloved local spot for fishing and watching dolphins play.

Anna Maria Island’s artistic community is alive and well, with galleries and art events adding to its vibrant atmosphere. Plus, there are some super cute restaurants all around the town.

This is one of the best islands in Florida to visit for anyone who wants a laid-back vacation with a lot of culture!

14. Dry Tortugas National Park: A Remote Wonder

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For the adventurous souls yearning to escape to a remote and untamed island, Dry Tortugas National Park is a must-visit.

Located about 70 miles west of Key West, this stunning cluster of islands is accessible only by seaplane or boat, providing an off-the-beaten-path experience.

The crown jewel of the park is Fort Jefferson, a massive and historic coastal fortress surrounded by turquoise waters and thriving marine life.

Snorkel in the crystal-clear waters to spot vibrant coral reefs and an abundance of marine species. A visit to Dry Tortugas promises an unforgettable adventure in a pristine and unspoiled environment.

Dry Tortugas is a day trip only, so this is best for anyone staying in Key West who wants a day full of adventure, especially those who love to snorkel.

13. Siesta Key: The Beach Lover’s Dream

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Siesta Key, located just off the coast of Sarasota, is a slice of beach lover’s paradise. Its claim to fame is its pristine and powdery white-sand beaches that have been consistently ranked among the best in the United States.

Siesta Key Public Beach, Crescent Beach, and Turtle Beach offer plenty of space to soak up the sun, play beach volleyball, or simply take long walks along the shore.

As the day winds down, the vibrant Siesta Key Village comes to life with restaurants, bars, and live music, making it an excellent spot to unwind and enjoy the island’s nightlife.

Siesta Key is best for beach lovers and families with its award-winning sandy beaches, shallow waters perfect for kids, and a lively atmosphere with a variety of restaurants, shops, and water activities to enjoy.

12. Gasparilla Island: Old Florida Charm

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Gasparilla Island, situated in Charlotte Harbor, exudes old Florida charm and a sense of timeless elegance.

The island’s historic district, Boca Grande, is a throwback to a bygone era, with its well-preserved Victorian homes, charming boutiques, and family-owned restaurants.

Engage in some world-class tarpon fishing or take a leisurely bike ride along the Boca Grande Bike Path, which offers scenic views of the island’s natural beauty. Don’t miss the iconic Gasparilla Lighthouse, a symbol of the island’s rich maritime heritage.

11. St. George Island: A Hidden Gem

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Tucked away on Florida’s Forgotten Coast, St. George Island is a hidden gem that offers a tranquil and unspoiled escape.

This barrier island boasts miles of uncrowded and dog-friendly beaches, making it an ideal destination for families and nature enthusiasts. Take a kayak or paddleboard to explore the Apalachicola Bay, known for its diverse ecosystem and abundant marine life.

Plus, the nearby St. George Island State Park is a haven for birdwatchers and offers camping facilities amidst the island’s serene surroundings.

10. Marco Island: The Paradise of the Gulf

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Located in the Gulf of Mexico, Marco Island is the largest and only developed island in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands archipelago.

With its luxurious resorts, pristine beaches, and excellent boating opportunities, Marco Island has earned the nickname “The Paradise of the Gulf.” It has incredible shopping and restaurants, too!

But Marco Island isn’t only buildings and resorts. Visit the iconic Tigertail Beach to discover tidal lagoons, abundant wildlife, and stunning seashells. For a unique experience, go on a guided eco-tour through the mangrove tunnels of Rookery Bay or take a boat tour to spot dolphins and manatees in their natural habitat.

Marco Island is best for a luxurious and resort-style vacation, providing upscale amenities, beautiful beaches, and a range of water-based activities, suitable for couples, families, and those seeking a more refined experience.

9. Peanut Island: A Hidden Oasis

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Peanut Island, located near Palm Beach, may be small in size, but it offers a wealth of recreational opportunities. Accessible only by boat, the island is a hidden oasis with crystal-clear waters and a rich history.

Explore the former Cold War fallout shelter, now known as the Kennedy Bunker, which was built for President John F. Kennedy in case of emergencies during his term.

Snorkeling around the island’s perimeter reveals a vibrant underwater world teeming with marine life, making it a popular spot for underwater adventurers.

Peanut Island is best for outdoor adventurers and history enthusiasts, providing opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, and picnicking in a natural setting, as well as a chance to explore the historic Kennedy Bunker and enjoy the scenic views of the Intracoastal Waterway.

8. Caladesi Island State Park: A Pristine Getaway

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For a pristine and secluded getaway, Caladesi Island State Park, accessible by ferry or private boat, is a natural wonder nestled between Clearwater and Dunedin.

The island’s untouched beauty, including mangrove forests and serene beaches, earned it a spot on Dr. Beach’s annual list of America’s best beaches. Explore the nature trails, spot native wildlife, and bask in the tranquility of this unspoiled paradise.

This is a true paradise in nature for all you nature enthusiasts!

7. Honeymoon Island: A Romantic Escape

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As the name suggests, Honeymoon Island is an idyllic destination for lovebirds seeking a romantic escape.

Located just off the coast of Dunedin, this island paradise offers a secluded ambiance with pristine beaches and nature trails. Walk hand in hand with your partner along the shoreline of North Beach, known for its serene beauty and stunning sunsets.

Birdwatchers will delight in spotting the island’s diverse avian residents, including ospreys, pelicans, and great horned owls. For a touch of adventure, rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the island’s mangrove-lined shores.

6. Cabbage Key: A Quaint Island Retreat

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Cabbage Key is a small and secluded island nestled in Pine Island Sound, accessible only by boat. This quaint island is a peaceful haven with no cars, making it an ideal place to unwind and embrace a slower pace of life.

The historic Cabbage Key Inn & Restaurant, rumored to have inspired Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” is a must-visit for a delicious meal and breathtaking views of the water.

Explore the nature trails and enjoy the lush vegetation and abundant wildlife, including manatees and gopher tortoises.

5. Indian Key Historic State Park: A Journey into the Past

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Steeped in history, Indian Key Historic State Park is a fascinating destination with remnants of an early 19th-century pioneer community. Accessible only by boat, the island invites visitors to step back in time and explore the remains of a once-thriving settlement.

Take a guided tour to learn about the island’s history and the infamous attack by Native Americans in 1840.

Snorkel around the island to discover the artificial reef, created by the wreck of the San Pedro, providing an opportunity to encounter marine life and colorful corals.

Indian Key Historic State Park is best for history buffs and those interested in exploring a unique and remote island with historical significance, where visitors can step back in time and learn about the island’s past through guided tours and glimpses of the 19th-century pioneer community.

4. Singer Island: A Serene Haven

The best islands in Florida to visit | Florida islands for every type of vacation

Located just off the coast of West Palm Beach, Singer Island is a serene and upscale retreat with beautiful beaches and luxurious resorts.

Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and stunning ocean views from the Riviera Municipal Beach or Ocean Reef Park. The nearby John D. MacArthur Beach State Park offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in nature, with hiking trails and kayaking adventures.

If you’re a scuba diving enthusiast, explore the submerged Blue Heron Bridge, known for its excellent snorkeling and diving spots.

Singer Island is best for travelers seeking a mix of relaxation and water-based activities, featuring tranquil beaches, excellent fishing opportunities, and easy access to nearby attractions in West Palm Beach, making it suitable for couples, families, and water sports enthusiasts.

3. Egmont Key: A Nature Lover’s Paradise

The best islands in Florida to visit | Florida islands for every type of vacation

Egmont Key, situated at the mouth of Tampa Bay, is a haven for nature lovers and history enthusiasts.

The island is home to Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge, which provides a vital nesting habitat for endangered sea turtles and shorebirds.

Explore the ruins of Fort Dade, a 19th-century military installation, and climb the lighthouse for panoramic views of the island and its surroundings.

The clear waters around Egmont Key offer excellent snorkeling opportunities to encounter marine life and a shipwreck, making it a fascinating underwater destination.

Egmont Key is best for history lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, and beachgoers, offering a blend of historical sites, birdwatching opportunities, and beautiful beaches for relaxation and exploration.

2. Big Pine Key: Home of the Tiny Key Deer

The best islands in Florida to visit | Florida islands for every type of vacation

Big Pine Key, the largest of the Lower Keys, is a nature lover’s paradise and home to the endangered Key deer, a species found only in the Florida Keys.

Explore the National Key Deer Refuge to spot these gentle creatures in their natural habitat.

The nearby Bahia Honda State Park is renowned for its picturesque beaches, hiking trails, and excellent opportunities for snorkeling and swimming in the calm waters. For a unique experience, take a kayak or paddleboard tour through the mangroves to observe the diverse birdlife and marine ecosystems.

1. Little Gasparilla Island: A Remote Retreat

The best islands in Florida to visit | Florida islands for every type of vacation

Little Gasparilla Island is an off-the-grid destination where you can truly disconnect from the hustle of modern life.

Accessible only by boat, this remote retreat offers a peaceful and secluded escape.

Embrace the island’s natural beauty and enjoy unspoiled beaches, perfect for shelling, beachcombing, and picnicking.

The lack of commercial development means you’ll have the opportunity to bask in nature’s wonders, from mesmerizing sunsets to starry nights.

Little Gasparilla Island is best for those seeking a secluded and off-the-grid escape, providing a tranquil ambiance, serene beaches, and a chance to disconnect from the outside world, appealing to couples and families looking for a peaceful and remote getaway.

FAQs About Visiting Islands In Florida:

Here are some of the top frequently asked questions about planning your trip to one of these gorgeous Florida islands.

What are the best Florida islands to visit for nature lovers?

For nature lovers, the best islands to visit in Florida are Sanibel Island, Big Pine Key, and Dry Tortugas National Park.

Sanibel Island offers pristine beaches, abundant wildlife, and opportunities for seashell collecting and birdwatching in J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Big Pine Key is a haven for the endangered Key deer, and visitors can explore the diverse ecosystems of the National Key Deer Refuge and enjoy water activities in Bahia Honda State Park.

Finally, Dry Tortugas National Park, accessible only by seaplane or boat, offers a remote and untouched natural wonderland with stunning coral reefs, marine life, and historic Fort Jefferson, making it an ideal destination for snorkeling, diving, and exploring the untouched beauty of the Gulf of Mexico.

What are the best Florida islands to visit with kids?

For a family-friendly vacation, the best Florida islands to visit with kids are:

1. Sanibel Island: Known for its family-oriented atmosphere, Sanibel Island offers safe and shallow waters along its beaches, making it perfect for young children to splash and play. The island’s J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge provides an excellent opportunity for kids to spot wildlife and learn about the natural environment through guided tours and interactive programs.

2. Key West: Key West is a lively and vibrant destination that caters to families. Enjoy attractions like the Key West Aquarium, where kids can interact with marine life, and the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, a tropical paradise filled with colorful butterflies. Families can also take fun and educational tours, like the Conch Train or Old Town Trolley, to explore the island’s history and landmarks.

3. Captiva Island: This serene and secluded island is a great choice for families looking to escape crowds. Its calm waters are ideal for younger kids to paddle and swim, and the island offers various family-friendly activities, such as shelling, exploring tidal pools, and enjoying outdoor picnics.

4. Anna Maria Island: With its laid-back ambiance and shallow waters, Anna Maria Island is an excellent destination for families with kids. The island’s Bean Point Beach is a favorite spot for families, providing a safe and gentle environment for kids to play in the sand and splash in the water.

5. Amelia Island: Amelia Island is known for its family-friendly beaches and calm waves, which are ideal for building sandcastles and wading with young children. Families can also explore Fort Clinch State Park, where kids can participate in guided tours and experience history firsthand.

What is the best time of year to visit islands in Florida?

The best time of year to visit islands in Florida depends on several factors, including weather, crowd levels, and personal preferences. Generally, the most favorable time to visit is during the “shoulder seasons,” which are the periods between the peak tourist seasons.

Spring (March to May): Spring is one of the best times to visit Florida’s islands. The weather is pleasant, with warm temperatures and lower humidity. It’s an ideal time for outdoor activities, such as beachcombing, hiking, and water sports. The spring also offers the chance to witness wildlife, including bird migrations and sea turtle nesting.

Fall (September to November): Fall is another excellent time to visit Florida’s islands. The weather remains warm, and the humidity starts to decrease. Crowds tend to be thinner than during the peak summer months, making it a more peaceful and enjoyable experience. Fall also offers good opportunities for fishing and water-based activities.

Winter (December to February): Winter is a popular time for visitors seeking to escape colder climates. While the weather is generally mild and pleasant, temperatures can vary, with the southernmost islands being warmer than those in the northern regions of Florida. Winter is also the peak tourist season, especially around the holidays, so expect larger crowds and higher accommodation prices.

Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season for locals in Florida, including the islands. It offers hot and humid weather, making it perfect for beach lovers and families with kids on summer vacation. However, keep in mind that summers can be crowded and more expensive. Be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms and higher temperatures. Tourists from the north will probably be overwhelmed by the summer heat, so if you aren’t from the south, I recommend visiting Florida islands during a cooler season.

When is the best time of year to visit Florida’s islands to avoid large crowds?

To avoid large crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring (March to May) and fall (September to November). During these times, the weather is pleasant, and the number of tourists tends to be lower than during the peak summer and winter months.

What are some popular water activities to enjoy on Florida’s islands?

Florida’s islands offer a plethora of water activities. Snorkeling and diving are popular in destinations like Key Largo and Dry Tortugas National Park. Visitors can also enjoy kayaking in the mangrove-lined waterways on islands like Big Pine Key and Cabbage Key. Additionally, fishing charters, paddleboarding, and boat tours are readily available on many of the islands.

Are there any hidden or lesser-known islands worth exploring in Florida?

Yes, Florida has several hidden and lesser-known islands that offer unique experiences. For instance, Little Gasparilla Island is a secluded retreat accessible only by boat, providing a tranquil escape. Honeymoon Island, near Dunedin, offers a peaceful ambiance with uncrowded beaches and nature trails.

What are some unique experiences to seek out on Florida’s islands?

Florida’s islands offer a range of unique experiences. In the Florida Keys, try swimming with dolphins at facilities like Theater of the Sea or visit the Turtle Hospital for a behind-the-scenes tour. Explore the historic Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park or take a boat tour to spot dolphins and manatees in their natural habitats.

How can I access some of the more remote islands in Florida, like Dry Tortugas?

Some islands, such as Dry Tortugas, are remote and can only be accessed by seaplane or boat. Dry Tortugas National Park is reachable by ferry or private charter boats departing from Key West. Seaplane tours also offer a unique perspective and allow you to see the islands from the air before landing in the park.

Are there any eco-friendly or sustainable practices encouraged on Florida’s islands?

Yes, many of Florida’s islands promote eco-friendly practices. Always dispose of trash responsibly and participate in beach cleanups if available. Respect wildlife and follow guidelines for interactions with marine life. Some islands may have restrictions on beach bonfires or camping to protect sensitive ecosystems. Look for eco-tourism opportunities that promote conservation and education about the local environment.

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