20 Must-Visit Small Towns in Florida

Written by Sammi Caramela
Updated: July 18, 2023
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Florida, also known as the Sunshine State, is a beautiful place to visit year-round. There are countless tourist attractions, popular cities like Orlando and Miami, and tons of gorgeous white-sand beaches. However, did you know Florida is also home to some of the most beautiful and historic small towns? When planning your next visit to Florida, whether it’s a week-long vacation or a short day trip, keep in mind these top 20 must-visit small towns in Florida.

1. Mount Dora

Mount Dora is a city in Central Florida that exudes southern charm and a small-town feel. The well-kept town features one of the three freshwater lighthouses in Florida — a popular attraction. Nestled on Lake Dora, this quaint lakeside town is also home to a century-old historic village. Visitors of Mount Dora can enjoy antique shopping, annual festivals and events, and a lively downtown. There are incredible restaurants throughout the town, so be sure to come hungry!

Looking up at Southern Live Oak Trees

Mount Dora features many gorgeous canopy

oak trees

— a popular southern attraction.

©Nature’s Charm/Shutterstock.com

2. Apalachicola

Apalachicola exudes the traditional energy of a close-knit small town. It’s a quaint city with friendly residents, historic homes, and great restaurants. Apalachicola also has acres of national and state forests, including the well-known Apalachicola National Forest, shallow bays, and miles of pristine beaches, drawing many nature lovers to the area. Known as Florida’s own Oyster Capital, the town provides delicious and fresh seafood, including — of course — oysters, shrimp, and blue crab

Apalachicola National Forest

The Apalachicola National Forest is the largest forest in Florida.


3. Cedar Key

Cedar Key has an extremely small population (only 700 people as of 2021). As an island off the coast of Florida, the tiny beach town features beautiful trails and birdlife. Vacationers can visit this peaceful location to seek relaxation, fishing, birdwatching, hiking, and kayaking. Cedar Key also has a rich history, which you can explore and learn about at the Cedar Key Historical Museum. If you’re looking for a low-key vacation spot in a beautiful waterfront town, Cedar Key is a great choice for you!

Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge

The Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge is one of the main attractions in Cedar Key.

©iStock.com/Norm Lane

4. Dunedin

Dunedin is a small town in Florida that’s known for its laid-back, relaxed way of life. Home to Honeymoon Island State Park, the island offers gorgeous beaches and pine forests. Dunedin is one of the oldest towns in Florida and features wildlife like owls, osprey, woodpeckers, and even a butterfly garden — a popular attraction. Additionally, this city has a large Scottish population. Visitors can lounge on the beach, head down a gorgeous hiking trail, or book dinner at one of the finest dining establishments in Tampa Bay. 

Old dock pilings. Dunedin, Florida, with part of Clearwater Beach on the horizon

Dunedin provides a breathtaking view of Clearwater Beach.

©ESB Basic/Shutterstock.com

5. Islamorada

Islamorada includes six of the 800 Florida Keys. The beautiful village is home to the Theater of the Sea, where visitors can swim with dolphins and encounter sea life like sea lions, sea turtles, fish, sharks, and stingrays. Additionally, Islamorada offers gorgeous state parks with tropical forests and historic ruins. Vacationers can also visit the History of Diving Museum, Islamorada Brewery & Distillery, Alligator Reef Light House, and other popular attractions. 

Animals That Use Echolocation

The coast of Islamorada is known for its frequent dolphin sightings and clear waters.

©iStock.com/Brian Sevald

6. Seaside

A small resort town in the Gulf of Mexico, Seaside is known to make visitors and residents feel like they’re in quaint New England or exotic Europe with its New Urbanist aesthetics. Houses in the town are pastel-colored with white picket fences and large porches, giving it a small-town charm that’s hard to match. When you visit Seaside, you’ll feel like you’re in another country altogether. However, because it’s a resort town, there aren’t many full-time residents, and most of the population includes vacationers or part-time residents.

Seaside Beach, Florida.

Seaside is known for its gorgeous white-sand beaches.

©Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock.com

7. Tarpon Springs

Just 30 miles northwest of Tampa, Tarpon Springs is known for its abundance of tarpons in its gorgeous waters. Back in the 19200s, Greek sponge divers settled in the city, and the town now offers many delicious Greek eateries along its Dodecanese Boulevard, a waterfront block. It also has a historic downtown with shopping, dining, beaches, cultural attractions, and more. As the Sponge Capital of the World, Tarpon Springs features sponge docks with natural, fresh sponges for purchase. Plan your trip today!

Boat Dock Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs is a historic Florida town known for its natural sponges and Greek culture.

©Jillian Cain Photography/Shutterstock.com

8. Anna Maria Island

With white-sand beaches and a quaint, small-town feel, Anna Maria Island is a beautiful resort city in Florida. Many deem the barrier island a “slice of paradise” on the Gulf Coast, as many of its beaches are peaceful and secluded. One of its most popular beaches is Manatee Beach Park, a gorgeous location to watch the sunset with loved ones. On the north side of the island, you can stroll Pine Avenue and find shops, art galleries, and great restaurants. 

Manatee County, Florida

Anna Maria Island offers a gorgeous, scenic highway drive along the water.

©iStock.com/Thomas De Wever

9. Crystal River

A coastal city in western Florida, Crystal River is a quiet and relaxing town — perfect for visitors looking for a peaceful vacation! The town is full of nature and wildlife, including birds, otters, and alligators, and is known for world-class fishing. As its name suggests, Crystal River is home to Florida’s purest spring-fed water system. Known as the “Manatee Capital of the World,” this city offers the only National Wildlife Refuge in the country, making it the perfect vacation spot for nature and wildlife lovers.

Slowest animals in North America

Crystal River is filled with beautiful manatees.


10. Micanopy

You might wonder why a tiny rural town would be included on the list of must-visit Florida towns. However, Micanopy features incredible food, art, antiques, music, and hospitality. Known as “The Town that Time Forgot,” Micanopy is home to many 19th-century buildings and gorgeous oak trees, giving it the classic small-town southern charm. If you’re a history buff seeking a peaceful vacation in the Sunshine State, Miconopy is the perfect place for you.

Simple sign hanging outside old brick building with antiques shop

Micanopy is also the self-proclaimed Antique Capital of Florida.

©ESB Basic/Shutterstock.com

11. Fernandina Beach

Fernandina Beach is located on Amelia Island, a popular holiday destination. The beach town is known for its wide range of restaurants, golf courses, and shopping. As the northernmost city on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, Fernandina Beach is home to many attractions like state parks, beach parks, and museums. It’s the perfect family-friendly vacation spot with tons to do and see. 

Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Florida

Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island is a picturesque small town and a popular vacation spot.

©Madison Y Photo/Shutterstock.com

12. Stuart

Deemed one of the best small towns in Florida, Stuart is located on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The city is close to the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon. Home to the House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar, an old haven that housed shipwrecked sailors in the 1900s, Stuart offers rich history to visitors. The town has many museums, preserves, state parks, and hiking trails for tourists. From butterfly gardens to sea turtle nesting areas, this city has it all.

Martin County

Stuart, Florida, provides beautiful waterfront views.


13. Vero Beach

Located near Indian River County and along the Treasure Coast, Vero Beach is a picturesque beach town with white sand and clear waters. Home to McKee Botanical Garden, a subtropical botanical garden, the city offers visitors an array of tropical plants, waterlilies, and exotic wildlife. Additionally, tourists can take part in various outdoor activities like fishing and sports fishing, boating, scuba diving, surfing, paddle boarding, and snorkeling. If you’re looking for the traditional Florida experience, book a trip to Vero Beach!

Vero Beach

Vero Beach is an elegant city with peaceful beaches.

©Sergey and Marina Pyataev/Shutterstock.com

14. Matlacha

With a small population, Matlacha is a tiny coastal town just off of Cape Coral in Florida. Exuding an “Old Florida” feel, Matlacha features many tourist attractions. Some fun things to do in the city include visiting the Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens, heading to the Matlacha Community Park, or dining at one of the many fine restaurants. However, while Matlacha makes the perfect destination for Florida visitors, it is especially great for a day trip. Be sure to add this tiny city to your must-visit list for your Florida vacation.

Beautiful sunset view of Fort Myers pier, Florida.

Matlacha is located near Fort Myers, Florida, the county seat and commercial center of Lee County

©Pedal to the Stock/Shutterstock.com

15. Captiva Island

Captiva Island is the perfect place for nature lovers. Offering gorgeous beaches with white sand and colorful seashells, views of both the sunrise and sunset and high-end vacation homes, this small island is worth visiting. It is often associated with Sanibel Island, its neighboring island, which is just as low-key and peaceful as Captiva Island. The island provides many opportunities for vacationers to bike, sail, bird watch, and take part in an array of other water activities. 

Captiva Island, Florida

Captiva Island, Florida, is a tiny slice of heaven.

©iStock.com/Vito Palmisano

16. Venice

Venice, Florida, is fourteen miles of white-sand beaches and multi-use trails. Labeled the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World,” Venice is home to Caspersen Beach, where many can find shark teeth on the shore. Additionally, the popular vacation spot has tons of offshore coral reefs, lush green spaces, and peaceful beaches. If you’re planning your trip, look for the well-known Florida scrub jays, as they often populate this area.

Venice Pier, Florida, at sunset on the Gulf of Mexico

Some of the world’s most beautiful and secluded beaches are in Venice, Florida.

©Jim Schwabel/Shutterstock.com

17. Winter Park

Close to Orlando, Winter Park is a small city with gorgeous outdoor spaces and parks. The town is home to the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, offering plenty to do for history and art buffs. Winter Park overlooks Lake Osceola and is located near Lake Virginia, two beautiful bodies of water. As its name suggests, Winter Park was originally known for its winter resorts but also offers a rich cultural community for any time of the year.


Winter Park is just a short drive from Orlando, one of the most popular cities in Florida.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

18. Sebring

Also known as “The City on the Circle” (since its downtown area is concentrated around Circle Drive, the center of the Sebring Downtown Historic District), Sebring is home to Sebring International Raceway. People travel far to see the legendary races at this iconic racetrack, but they stay for Sebring’s parks and lakes, boutiques and galleries, and delicious dining experiences. The city’s historic downtown features 22 historic buildings, quaint eateries, recurring festivals, and vibrant energy. 

Lake Istokpoga

Sebring is home to the fifth largest lake in Florida, Lake Isotokpoga.


19. DeFuniak Springs

DeFuniak Springs offers a Victorian vibe with gorgeous homes along Lake DeFuniak. This town is rich with history and was previously home to many presidents, first ladies, famous poets, songwriters, abolitionists, astronauts, national heroes, Hollywood stars, and more. While it’s beautiful year-round, many plan their getaways to DeFuniak Springs during Christmastime, when the grounds and Victorian homes showcase more than 6 million lights. This is the perfect family-friendly vacation spot for loved ones to go birding, picnicking, or shopping at the community’s antique and home décor stores. 

Beautiful view of Panama City seen from the sky

A lively getaway for DeFuniak Springs residents is Panama City, which is only a bit over an hour’s drive.

©Mix Tape/Shutterstock.com

20. Boca Grande

Located on Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande (despite its name) is a tiny residential community. The town has sugar-sand beaches and a historic downtown, and it’s home to many seasonal homes. There is a small population of year-round residents, making Boca Grande mostly a tourist town — but one well worth the visit.

Port Boca Grande (Gasparilla Island) Lighthouse - seen at sunset

Boca Grande is a great place to visit any time of the year.

©Henryk Sadura/Shutterstock.com

Mount Dora16,000Central Florida
Apalachicola2,286Gulf of Mexico
Cedar Key700Gulf of Mexico
Dunedin35,949Gulf Coast
Islamorada7,076Florida Keys
Seaside148 full-time residentsGulf of Mexico
Tarpon Springs25,560Gulf Coast
Anna Maria Island8,500Gulf Coast
Crystal River3,402Western Florida
Micanopy647Central Florida
Fernandina Beach13,199Northeastern Florida
Stuart17,531Atlantic Coast
Vero Beach16,707Atlantic Coast
Matlacha853Southwest Florida
Captiva Island163Gulf Coast
Venice26,047Gulf Coast
Winter Park29,131Central Florida
Sebring11,087South-Central Florida
DeFuniak Springs6,283Northwestern Florida
Boca Grande925Southwest Florida

The photo featured at the top of this post is © ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Sammi is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering cats, nature, symbolism, and spirituality. Sammi is a published author and has been writing professionally for six+ years. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Writing Arts and double minors in Journalism and Psychology. A proud New Jersey resident, Sammi loves reading, traveling, and doing yoga with her little black cat, Poe.

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