We’ve all heard of the big cities like Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. But have you heard of these little towns? They are Florida’s hidden gems.
These towns (or small cities with a small-town feel) are beautiful, packed with historic charm, and away from the huge crowds. Many of these towns have a charming downtown that will make you feel like you’re in a Hallmark movie.
If you haven’t spent time in some of these towns, we recommend you put it on your Florida bucket list. These small towns in Florida will certainly become some of your favorites.
Mount Dora is certainly one of the best towns in Florida. The historic downtown has been restored to its previous glory and it’s one of the town’s main appeals with shops and restaurants lining the street.
To tour all of the historic buildings, hop on the Mount Dora Trolley where you will learn all about the history.
There is also an abundance of outdoor recreation. There’s an option to go kayaking or take a boat tour on Lake Dora, or take a walk on the Palm Island Park boardwalk with views of Lake Dora.
And yes, there is a “mount” after which the town gets its name. The elevation of the area reaches 184 feet above sea level.
Matlacha might be one of the most unique, quirky and full of character towns in Florida. It is especially a fun place for art lovers who will appreciate the colorful buildings.
It is very small, with just one road running through the town. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in experience. It is the perfect day trip from any nearby area.
One of the best things to do in this town is fishing which goes back all the way to the 1900’s. Matlacha was a commercial fishing town but when that took a turn for the worse, the town decided to transform itself into bright tropical colors to keep itself on the map.
Still, fishing is not just an activity here, it is how the locals live. Try your chances on the Matlacha Bridge or get out on the water by booking a local charter.
New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna Beach is just south of Daytona Beach so it has similar incredible beaches but with less of a crowd.
A visit to the beach is a must, even if you’re not a surfer, as well as the Smyrna Dunes Park where a boardwalk weaves through the beautiful landscape.
Other interesting things to do include the New Smyrna Museum of History, Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum, Canal Street, and of course the New Smyrna Speedway.
Once you’re ready for some food, visit the popular classic yet innovative restaurant The Garlic, that will surely leave your mouth watering for more incredible food.
Dating all the way back to the 1800’s, Micanopy was named in honor of a Seminole Indian chief. It became a self-proclaimed antiques capital and you won’t be surprised by that since it features many antique shops lining the street.
Take the time to slow down and enjoy the moss-draped live oaks, pick through the antique shops, admire the historic architecture, and sip a cool beverage on a warm day while sitting at a cafe.
One of the highlights for the town is the annual Micanopy Fall Festival. Nearly 200 vendors get together selling crafts, arts, antiques, and food.
If you plan to stay overnight, the 1845 Herlong Mansion Bed & Breakfast is a unique stay as it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
St. George Island is located on Florida’s Forgotten Coast. It is known as the forgotten coast because it hasn’t yet been overrun by high rise buildings and touristy attractions.
It is more of a laid back small town in Florida that is all about the beach and nature. There are still some things to explore starting with the original lighthouse on the island.
Originally, it was built in 1852 but has since been rebuilt to where now visitors can climb to the top of it. It’s hard to miss it on your way into the island so be sure to stop by.
St. George Island State Park is on the eastern-most side of the island and offers the chance to enjoy the nature and wildlife to the fullest. Beaches, fishing, hiking, and biking are all fun activities you can do at the park.
Apalachicola is a short drive off of the island and is a fun stop for visitors who come to enjoy the island. There you can indulge on more seafood and wander through the little shops.
Located on the Atlantic Ocean, Vero Beach is a town in Florida you can visit as a day trip from either Orlando or West Palm Beach.
Some of the highlights of the town are Vero Beach Museum of Art and McKee Botanical Gardens where you will find an 18-acre oasis of one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Florida.
As the name implies, this town has a great beach that you can enjoy at the Round Island Beach Park and discover history at McLarty Treasure Museum where you will learn about the shipwrecks and the lost treasures.
After all, this part of Florida is called the Treasure Coast so exploring that history is part of the experience in Vero Beach.
Tarpon Springs is known as the Greek Village of Florida. It has a strong Greek population dating all the way back to the early 1900’s when Greek sponge divers settled there to dive for the sponges.
Therefore, the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks is one of the most popular attractions. It showcases the sponge business in action with boats coming in with fresh loads of sponges.
You can even take a boat tour where you can see the divers at work collecting sponges and bringing them back to the boat.
Since Tarpon Springs has such a large Greek population, there are many eateries serving Greek food that are a delicious stop including Mama’s Greek Cuisine, Hellas and Mykonos.
While still being a fishing hotspot, known as the Sailfish Capital, there are other things that make this town quite interesting.
One of the most eventful times for this little town is in November when the Air Force puts on an airshow with different aircrafts.
The Elliott Museum is impressive too. It includes exhibits of cars, artwork, sports, and aviation. If you want to learn about the history of Stuart instead, head to the Stuart Heritage Museum where the building itself dates back to the early 1900’s.
While exploring the downtown, stop by LouRonzo’s or the Stuart Boathouse for a hearty meal.
This small town in Florida is surprisingly rich in arts which can be seen in the many murals throughout the town and most significantly the historically beautiful Athens Theater.
The theater is a must stop while in town as well as the angel art mural that closely resembles the popular one in Nashville. The Deland Museum of Art is a fun stop as well.
Downtown Deland is a treat with plenty of boutiques, shops, and restaurants but perhaps the most unique thing about Deland is the Stetson Mansion. This restored mansion was built before the 1900’s and is over 150 years old. It was the grandest home in Florida for its time.
Seaside sounds like the type of name a cute town would have with pretty little cottages, white sandy beaches, and a whole lot of charm and Seaside does live up to its name. The town was even used as a filming location which made it even more popular.
Seagrove Beach is the perfect spot to relax by the “seaside”. Be on the lookout for the beach pavilion that add a fun architectural element while visiting the beach. There are a total of nine pavilions each in their own different style.
While in Seaside, drive along the Highway 30A to get a scenic view of the surrounding nature. As you pass along, you will get a good view of the coast with different styles of architecture, bright blue water next to white sandy beaches, and maybe stumble across your own hidden gems.
Make sure to tour the town itself where you’ll see the picture perfect homes in pastel colors, front porches, and white picket fences.
The red Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse is hard to miss against the skyline. It is open to the public and offers tours of the facility and the ability to climb up to the top.
There are plenty of options to spend some time in nature at the Jonathan Dickinson State Park or at the DuBois Park where you might even see some wildlife.
The beaches are not to miss as Jupiter has some of the most beautiful beaches in the state. Jupiter Beach Park is a large sandy beach with picnic areas and a sand volleyball court all in close proximity to the DuBois Park.
A visit to the Blowing Rocks Preserve is a must while in Jupiter to see the stunning rock formations.
If you get hungry, make sure to stop by the Dive Bar Restaurant where you will be surrounded by an aquarium as you dine, or stop by the Jupiter Donut Factory for a sweet treat.
The beautiful Fenway Hotel in Dunedin is an experience in itself and a must stay while in Dunedin. It is within walking distance of the main street which every Friday and Saturday hosts the Dunedin Farmer’s Market.
The Honeymoon Island State Park is one of the best things to experience while in Dunedin. It has long stretches of soft white sand and rocky areas to explore as well.
From there, you can take a ferry to explore Caladesi Island which has unspoiled white sand beaches and more secluded since you can only access it by boat. If you’re taking the ferry, it is $18 per person.
Dunedin is one of the cutest towns to explore on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Nestled in the outskirts of Orlando, Winter Park started out as a warm destination for wealthy northerners years ago. The town has remained an attractive, manicured and historic place that makes it one of the best small town getaways in Florida.
One of the charming things to do is take a scenic boat ride in Winter Park. It takes you through the canals connecting the lakes that dot the town.
Stroll through the botanical gardens or visit the art museums where you can appreciate the masterful artworks especially at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art.
Dunellon is located on the Rainbow and Withlacoochee rivers and the destination of the beautiful Rainbow Springs State Park. Rainbow River is one of the springs in Florida that have crystal-clear, bright turquoise water which is incredible to see.
You can spend all day kayaking around the springs and taking in the scenery but there are more things you can do around Dunnellon.
The Withlacoochee State Trail is a 46-mile paved trail that can be hiked or biked. The town itself with a little historic district can be explored, browsing antique shops, especially the Grumbles Antique and Garden Shop.
A stop by for some coconut meringue pie at the Front Porch Restaurant and Pie Shop is a must while in town where you will get a taste of some delicious pie.
Stroll down the main street and you will see all of the shops, restaurants, and art galleries that are full of charm. The colorful exterior of the many homes make it a cheerful little town.
Just a short walk from the main street is Whimzeyland where the collection of quirky artistic collectibles will have you both perplexed and amazed. The home is basically a canvas for art everywhere you look for two artists that had the idea to transform the home.
Walking out even further you will find the Safety Harbor Pier that provides stunning views of the water including the skyline of Tampa off in the distance. There are also parks to explore in the town including the favorite Philippe Park.
Islamorada is one of the islands in the Florida Keys. It is the halfway point from the mainland to Key West and is one of the most popular islands to visit.
On this island you can really indulge in the tropics and sea life. You can snorkel out in the ocean or you can choose to visit the Theater of the Sea where you can see dolphins, sea lions, turtles, fish, sharks, stingrays and birds.
The best interactive experience though is the chance to swim with dolphins in their saltwater pool and cross it off your Florida bucket list.
Check out the diving museum and stop by the Blonde Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory for a slice of the famous key lime pie.
Some of Florida’s oldest towns have incredible historic architecture and this little Florida town is no exception. You can find historic structures on Circle Drive that will be sure to inspire you.
To learn more about the history of the county, visit the Walton County Heritage Museum. It boasts historic artifacts, features stories from the past and is completely free.
Explore Florida’s highest point, Britton Hill, at Lakewood Park or enjoy Lake Stanley Park for more water activities.
If you’re traveling around the holidays, don’t miss the Christmas Reflections Light Show where the sparkling lights are sure to put you in the holiday spirit.
Havana is one of Florida’s unique historic towns and yes, the name was inspired after Havana, Cuba. After having suffered a devastating fire in 1916, the town still stands today as a historic treasure.
After a big antique shop owner moved to Havana, it revived the town. Now, you can visit The Planters Exchange, and many more antique shops in the town to find your unique treasures. All the little shops Havana has to offer are sure to keep you busy for days.
New Port Richey
A lively town on the water near Tampa, New Port Richey has much to offer. If you’re looking to get out on the beach, a local and visitor favorite is the Anclote Island. The beautiful island remains unspoiled other than the lighthouse that you can visit.
Otherwise enjoy the clear water and soft sand or take your own boat out to the sandbar.
The community has been hard at work to make this town inviting and many new restaurants and shops have popped up downtown on the main street as well as on the river.
If you do visit this town, make sure to visit Tarpon Springs that is only a 20 minute drive to see what each town has to offer.
The town of Sanford sits on Lake Monroe which offers plenty of water activities. An experience you don’t want to miss is taking a cruise down St. Johns River to see the beauty and wildlife surrounding you.
The cruise provides a meal onboard prepared by a chef and even has live music for entertainment.
The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is also a favorite among visitors. If you’re looking for more free activities, a stroll through the historic downtown area is one of the best things to do in this small Florida town.
Near the downtown is the Bettye D. Smith Cultural Arts center that has a beautiful exterior and the perfect place to take some beautiful pictures.
The Suwannee River State Park is an oasis that can be enjoyed by hiking, soaking in the springs, watching wildlife, and canoeing. It is a beautiful part of Florida and unique for cave systems throughout the waters.
One of the best things to do in Live Oak is to visit the Heritage Park and Gardens. The landscape lets you enjoy the beauty of nature and allows you to walk on the trails, or have a picnic on the grounds.
The vibrant downtown is always a good way to spend time stopping by the shops or eating at one of the restaurants.
To learn more about Suwannee County, visit the Suwannee County Historical Commission and Museum.
As a suburb of Orlando, Celebration became a popular little place to visit. Strolling the downtown is one of the best things to do while in Celebration.
Take a peek at the galleries and shops and then find a place to grab a bite to eat. Walking around you will see beautiful architecture that makes the downtown even more charming.
Not surprisingly, Celebration is a great place to visit during Christmastime. The town transforms into a Christmas wonderland even with “snow”.
Visit the best beaches in Venice, the downtown shops, or just grab some ice cream to enjoy in the downtown square.
From the downtown you can follow the Venetian Waterway Park to explore the canals and waterways. Or you can visit the Venice Museum where you will learn all about the history.
This town is the perfect day trip from Sarasota or a destination on its own. If you choose to visit, there are plenty of places to stay.