When most people think of the Florida islands, images of Key West or Key Largo come to mind. With thousands of islands just off the state’s nearly 1,200 miles of coastline, there’s much more to explore beyond the Florida Keys. If you’re looking for a fun-filled getaway, try one of these four Florida islands for the best vacation.
Image via Flickr by brittreints
Located off the coast of northeast Florida, Amelia Island is just 30 miles from Jacksonville. Stay in one of the island’s many beachfront condos or cozy bed and breakfasts for a tranquil getaway. The island offers 13 miles of beautiful beaches where you just might spot dolphins, ospreys, or right whales swimming in the pristine waters.
Often ranked one of the top islands in the country, Amelia Island is much more than just beaches. With world-class golf courses, a well-preserved historic district, outdoor activities like horseback riding on the beach, and a host of fun festivals year-round, Amelia has something to suit every taste.
Image via Flickr by rickpilot_2000
A short drive from Sarasota, Siesta Key is best known for its brilliant blue waters, lively nightlife, and quartz sand beaches — including one of the top beaches in the nation, Siesta Public Beach. Use HotelPlanner to find plenty of affordable Siesta Key hotels on this eight-mile-long island. It’s a great getaway for couples and families.
While away the hours enjoying water sports, playing a game of beach volleyball, birdwatching, or picnicking. Take your snorkel gear to Point of Rocks on Crescent Beach to catch a glimpse of the colorful marine life and coral formations. Then, make your way to the nesting grounds at Turtle Beach for a chance to see baby turtles hatching.
For a romantic retreat, head to Sanibel Island. With a population of less than 7,000 and no traffic lights, Sanibel is the perfect place to escape. Located in southwest Florida along the Gulf Coast of Mexico, Sanibel is about a 45-minute drive from Fort Myers. Take a stroll along Bowman’s Beach to view the thousands of seashells that wash ashore each day.
Make your way to J.N. (Ding) Darling National Wildlife Refuge where more than 245 bird species, 30 types of mammals, and numerous reptile species make their home among the dense mangroves. Known for its five-star resorts and stellar sunsets, Sanibel offers a variety of unique boutiques, fine-dining restaurants, and cultural experiences.
Anyone looking for a calm, quiet retreat will find what they’re seeking on Gasparilla Island off the southwest coast. With a population of about 1,200 and no chain stores, fast-food restaurants, or traffic lights, Gasparilla is the perfect place for rest and relaxation. At just seven miles long and one mile across at its widest point, the island is easy to get around, with most locals opting to ride bikes or golf carts.
Despite its small size, the island offers plenty of fun activities. Rub shoulders with the rich and famous in the upscale community of Boca Grande, kick back on sugar-sand beaches, try tarpon fishing, or take a boat ride around the island.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic retreat or a quiet break from the big city, visit these four Florida islands for the best vacation.