Best Islands in Florida
- SWATHI RAMASWAMY
- UPDATED May 31, 2018
- 4 Views
When you talk about Florida, you are actually talking vacation time. It’s one of the US’s most preferred travel destinations with its incredible beaches, great amusement parks and more importantly, round the year sunshine. Its big cities like Miami and Orlando apart, Florida is also home to some exotic islands which need to be visited to actually believe that they do exist. You can visit them by boat from the coastal or by simply driving across bridges that connect them to the mainland. So either ways, access is easy. Get ready for an experience of a lifetime.
1. Key West
Key West is arguably Florida’s most favorite island because of its perpetual warm weather and great nightlife. No matter which month of the year, Key West is always swinging. Make sure to visit Ernest Hemingway’s house, or the Little White House where President Harry Truman worked during winters. At sundown, Mallory Square is where you should head to for some incredible live performances. For foodies, there’s Duval Street with some excellent seafood and numerous bars that remain open throughout the night. Accessible by car or taxi.
2. Amelia Island
Located in Florida’s northeastern part, Amelia is a barrier island in the Sea Islands Chain, and famous for its exotic beaches. It’s also known for its recreational facilities like golfing and boating. Drive down to Fort Clinch, the island’s principal historical monument. Its adjacent museum too, is worth a visit. The place is good for hiking also.
3. Sanibel Island
Located on Florida’s western coast on the Gulf of Mexico, Sanibel Island happens to be a favorite vacation spot, because it’s quieter and more family-friendly. The stunning beaches are strewn with millions of spectacular shells and sand dollars. Visit its historic lighthouse, or go bird watching at the world-renowned J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Accessible by car or taxi.
Located between Key West and Miami lies Islamorada, a cluster of islands comprising Plantation Key, Tea Table Key, Lower Matecumbe Key and Upper Matecumbe Key. A fishing enthusiast’s paradise, Islamorada attracts a huge number of anglers from all over the world. Go snorkeling at the Bahia Honda State Park or swim with the sea lions and dolphins at Theater of the Sea. Accessible by road.
5. Marco Island
Drive down the bridge from Naples off mainland Florida to reach Marco Island. It’s located right on Everglades’ edge and has some great facilities for boat tours in Southwest Florida. Its hotels provide you with a spectacular view of the ocean. Go deep-sea fishing, sailing and dolphin-spotting. Watch the grand sunset on South Marco Beach or collect some extraordinary shells from Tigertail Beach.
6. Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria barrier island lies to the south of St. Petersburg and Tampa and is known for its beautiful beaches. Swim to your heart’s content at the Bradenton and Coquina Beaches. Visit its Anna Maria Island Historical Society to learn how Timucuan Indians and Spanish settlers lived in the area centuries ago. A perfect blend of natural beauty and history. Accessible by car or taxi.
7. Key Largo
As you drive towards southern Miami to explore Florida Keys, Key Largo comes into view. A grand spot for scuba divers and snorkeling enthusiasts, Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a must visit.
8. Siesta Key
The barrier island of Siesta Key lies off the Sarasota coast in the Mexican Gulf. Marvel at its dazzling 8-mile white sand beaches and simply laze around or take a dip in the dazzling blue ocean waters. Its Ocean Boulevard offers some great eateries, bars and shops for souvenirs. Drive down yourself or take a taxi.
9. Gasparilla Island
This quaint barrier island is located on the western coast of Florida. This island gives you a taste of the old Florida. Stroll down its Boca Grande Beach or go swimming or visit the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse that dates back to 1890. Also good for bird watching and biking.
10. Key Biscayne
This island lies to Miami Beach’s south. It’s Crandon Park offers a 3-mile stretch of dazzling white sands. Go kayaking at the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area or visit its local lighthouse. The island, which is accessible by road, also offers facilities for cycling, jogging and rollerblading.
11. Little Palm Island
Little Palm Island, also called Gilligan’s Island is a private area. Accessible by seaplane or boat, its white sands are forever inviting. The perfect place to chill out, Little Palm Island is where you spend time snoozing in hammocks, taking strolls on the beach and gorging on some excellent seafood. Just cut yourself off from the so called civilized world and spend time snorkeling at the Dive Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, gazing at 7,000-year-old coral reefs or indulging in some rejuvenating treatments at the local spa.
12. Pine Island
Drive down from Fort Myers and you’ll be on Pine Island in just 30 minutes. Enjoy its twisted mangroves fringing its shoreline and get to know the Matlacha communities. The erstwhile fishing village is now a highly acclaimed artist community and the island is a perfect blend of nature and art with wooden houses painted in bright tropical hues. You also have island fashion and gift boutiques, seafood joints and art galleries to visit.
13. Dry Tortugas
Reachable by taking a trip on the Yankee Freedom II catamaran, Dry Tortugas is located 70 miles to Key West’s west. It’s a natural park comprising a cluster of tiny islands, a fortress and coral reefs. The 4-hour excursion allows you to explore the stunning beaches and go snorkeling as well to see some exotic fish and living coral.
14. Cedar Key
Cedar Key is in Florida’s Big Bend area and is known to be the typical tropical paradise. Reachable by catamaran or boat, it’s ideal for beach combing, browsing art galleries, dining on some great clam chowder or trying its sweet mollusks. Attracts bird watching, kayaking and fishing enthusiasts as well.
15. Pass-A-Grille Beach
Hidden between St. Petersburg and Boca Ciega Bay, this grand beach on the Mexican Gulf’s edge is a must visit for island lovers. Spend time at its quirky shops, tropical-style clothing stores, art galleries and eateries. Watch the dolphins dance on the surf or take the sunset cruise. Take a short boat ride to Shell Key island nearby to go snorkeling or shell collecting. Reachable by road.