Florida is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. According to the office of Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida welcomed nearly 118 million domestic visitors in 2021, the highest level in state history.
Some areas of Florida have more tourism than others, however. According to USA Today, the top cities for tourism in Florida are Orlando, Miami, and Key West. Orlando taking the top spot makes sense since it is full of popular attractions. But some would argue that there are smaller, less known destinations that are also worth a look.
The Discoverer recently put out a list of five small towns that are close to major cities and are arguably worth a look for travelers. Here are the cities that made the list, as well of the attributes that the Discoverer found noteworthy.
Islamorada: Only an hour and a half from South Beach in Miami, Islamorada is a collection of small Keys in the Florida Keys. The site notes that the beaches are beautiful and made up of shallow water. There are also attractions like Theater of the Sea, a marine mammal park.
Cocoa Beach: For those already visiting Orlando, Cocoa Beach is only an hour's drive. This beach is known for its surfing, but it's also located close to Kennedy Space Center, a popular attraction in its own right and home to the NASA Hall of Fame.
Matlacha: Although this town is close to Sarasota (only an hour away,) it's tiny with only 800 residents. Matlacha is known for its colorful appearance and its fishing. Shops, mailboxes, and telephone poles are painted in bright colors. As you might imagine, the town boasts art galleries such as Leoma Lovegrove Gallery and Gardens and the Wild Matlacha Tiny Village Child Art Gallery.
Anna Maria Island: Only an hour from Tampa, this seven-mile island still has a small-town vibe because regulations have kept it from being overdeveloped. You won't find many chain restaurants or hotels on the island, either. The main attraction of Anna Maria is its beaches, where you can sometimes see dolphins. There are also plenty of unique restaurants, and there are often special events.
Captiva Island: An hour and a half from Naples, this tiny island is only four miles long and has a population of less than 600. A popular attraction is the powdery Turner Beach, which is known for its shelling. The low amount of tourists means that you may have lots of shells all to yourself. Restaurant choices include The Mucky Duck, and Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grill.