While Florida’s coastline offers numerous popular touristy destinations, only by going off the beaten path do guests find some unique treasure spots. Little known state parks and small communities readily welcome visitors. Get away for a day, a week or longer at one of these scenic locations.
Anna Maria Island, Florida
This gorgeous destination remains void of excessive development. The island spans seven miles in length and lies off the eastern coast of Florida. Guests arriving on the island find approximately 60 percent of open beach property. While some come for the day, others prefer renting a condominium or home, which costs anywhere from $500.00 to $1000.00 for an entire week. Friends, couples and families visit Anna Maria Island to fish, kayak and snorkel in the amazingly clear waters. A free trolley offers transportation throughout the island. Venture to one of the three small communities, enjoy exploring the boutique shops and dine at the local restaurants. Two bridges connect the island with Florida, which lies around one hour from Tampa or St. Petersburg.
Cayo Costa Island
The island is also a state park and lies off the southwestern coast, approximately 12 miles west of Cape Coral. Traveling to the island requires a charter boat, private boat or the ferry service. The Tropic Star ferry stops at Pine Island before sailing on. Cayo Costa has bike rental facilities and a small gift shop but visitors should acquire food, water and other items before departure. The destination also offers primitive campsites. The island offers white sandy beaches bordering clear waters where dolphins and manatees frolic. Inland, rich vegetation covers the land and harbors tropical birds and small reptiles.
New Smyrna Beach
The historic community of New Smyrna Beach lies 18 miles past Dayton when going south on I-95. Though not a tourist hotspot, the town offers any amenity imaginable and suits all budgets. Here family and friends find 13 miles of white sandy beaches for enjoying any number of activities. National Geographic gave the location a world class rating for surfing and wave riders love the area. Stroll along the quiet beach, relax in the sun or go canoeing, kayaking or paddle boarding. Besides the open sea, there are many estuaries ripe for exploration. Rent a boat or join a charter and spend the day fishing. Established in the early 1600s, the community also features at least 30 historical sites.
Bahia Honda Island
Also a state park, the island lies 37 miles from Key West in the lower Florida Keys. Accessible by vehicle, take the Florida Turnpike to the end, which turns into U.S. Highway 1. Just follow the road down to the island. The tropical paradise includes striking white, powder soft beaches and clear turquoise waters along with sand dunes, mangroves and hammock trees. The location attracts guests of all ages who spend the day fishing, kayaking, snorkeling or swimming. Marine life viewing is guaranteed, as tropical fish and rays frequent the waters. The island also serves as home to the rare Miami Blue Butterfly. A three and a half mile hard road spans the island and provides the perfect opportunity for hikes or bike riding. Visitors may bring provisions but a concession store offers beverages, snacks and gifts. Bahia Honda also offers camping at rustic tent sites or in local cabins.