The next time you’re planning a romantic getaway, consider sneaking away to one of these six secret Florida islands. Sprawling coastlines, charming beach towns, untouched beaches and a tropical setting will make it a vacation you won’t soon forget.
This lovely Sarasota-area gem is truly one of Florida’s best-kept secrets. Home to the town of Nokomis, Casey Key boasts a beautiful, shell-spotted seashore with nary a high rise in sight. Weekends see crowds swell at the public beach area but the beach quiets immensely as you travel a few hundred yards toward a handful of small, one-level hotels and inns dotting the beachfront. Plan to spend your days soaking up the rays, watching dolphins frolic in the surf, floating in the warm Gulf waters and relishing spectacular Gulf sunsets.
Location: 30 minutes south of Sarasota; about two hours from Orlando
Stay: The Beachcomber or Gulfside Beach Club (shown below)
Dine: Unless you love fried food, you’ll want to eat off island. We loved The Table Creekside, located about 20 miles north toward Sarasota.
Do: Attend the Nokomis Beach drum circle, Wednesdays and Saturdays at sunset
A lively little neighborhood at the southern end of St. Pete Beach, Pass-A-Grille houses a handful of art galleries, shops, restaurants and bars, plus a few charming hotels and inns. This small, beachfront town is the ideal place to park your car for a few days, relax and enjoy the salt life.
Location: Approximately two hours from Orlando
Stay: Inn on the Beach, Coconut Inn as well as VRBO options like the one shown below.
Dine: Paradise Grille (right on the beach!) and The Seahorse (for breakfast)
Do: Kayak tours, deep sea fishing and sunset cocktails
A three-minute ferryboat ride across the Intracoastal Waterway drops you and your car on Palm Island, a seven-mile-long isle nestled in the Charlotte Harbor area of Southwest Florida.
Location: Just under three hours southwest from Orlando
Stay: Palm Island Resort is the island’s only hotel but it offers one-, two- and three-bedroom villas, as well as cottages and private homes to rent
Dine: Rum Bay Restaurant on the island and Leverock’s Restaurant on the mainland, plus the hotel can make you a picnic lunch to-go
Do: Rent a bike, search for sea shells, go on a sunset cruise
Cayo Costa State Park
Accessible only by boat and served by a public ferry from nearby Pine Island, Cayo Costa is a 2,426 acre state park that’s ideal for a day trip or overnight, depending how rustic you can stand your accommodations. Ideal for natural lovers and outdoor explorers, this nine-mile-long island is dotted with pine forests, mangroves and a seemingly endless expanse of untouched beaches.
Location: Located along the Gulf of Mexico just west of Fort Myers, Cayo Costa one of the largest barrier islands in Florida.
Stay: For overnight stays, the park offers primitive cabins and tent camping, which can be reserved through Reserve America up to 11 months in advance. Each cabin sleeps up to six people and is furnished with three bunk beds and a table. Though the cabins have no electricity or water, outdoor grills are provided for cooking. Restrooms, cold water showers and potable water are located in the park.
Dine: You’ll need to pack your own provisions; there is no restaurant on the island
Do: Swimming, shelling and fishing
St. George Island
Drive across a four-mile bridge and you’ll arrive at the secluded resort town of St. George Island. Not the place for high-rise hotels or strip malls, this beach-centric destination is for people who just want to chill in an unfussy setting with nine miles of pristine, undeveloped shoreline. The 28-mile island consistently rates as one of the top beaches in the U.S.
Location: 1 1/2 hours from Tallahassee; five hours north of Orlando
Stay: Home rentals range from two-bedroom cottages to huge, six-bedroom homes with swimming pools. Visit seestgeorgeisland.com/Accommodations.aspx for more details.
Dine: There are a dozen or more options; check out this TripAdvisor list for the best bets
Do: Climb to the top of the St. George Lighthouse (92 steps up) for 360-degree views, bicycle to St. George Island State Park, go on nature walks and kayak trips, stargaze (the pitch-black sky is perfect!)
Little Palm Island
Arguably Florida’s most luxury resort, Little Palm Island is truly paradise. Guests travel by boat departing from Little Torch Key (near Key West) before arriving on the tiny island dotted with thirty private thatched-roof bungalows, a spa and an all-inclusive restaurant.
Location: About six hours south of Orlando toward Key West
- Nokomis – Kristen Manieri
- Pass-a-Grille – VRBO
- Palm Island – PalmIsland.com
- Cayo Costa – cayocostaferry.com
- St. George Island – VisitFlorida.com
- Little Palm Island – Little Palm Island
- Feature Image – Little Palm Island