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    20 Seriously Worthwhile Places To Visit In Florida, According To A Long-Time Resident Of The Sunshine State

    From small-town vibes to tropical beaches, find it in the Sunshine State.

    Florida sometimes gets a bad rep, but as a long-time resident, I can confirm that there are plenty of hidden gems tucked amongst the chaos of the Sunshine State. So I rounded up the most stunning Florida spots to put on your travel bucket list.

    A sunny Florida beach.
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    Disclaimer: This article was written to provide travel recommendations or suggestions; however, it’s important to keep in mind your own health, community health, and exposure risk.

    1. Ichetucknee Springs

    Photo of Ichetucknee Springs river
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    Best for: A relaxing getaway

    With 6 miles of pristine, idyllic river to explore, this small spot in North Central Florida is loved for its natural beauty and serene atmosphere. It's also a great destination for anyone who enjoys water sports. Book a weekend at the local cottages, and explore the gorgeous natural lazy river where you can float around for a few hours without a care in the world. You can also rent a kayak or go tubing with friends for a fun-filled day. 

    2. St. Petersburg

    Photo of a bustling beach in St. Petersburg, Florida
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    Best for: A family vacation

    With its beautiful beaches and proximity to the city of Tampa, St. Pete offers the best of both worlds. Start your day at the Black Crow Coffee Co. and then head to Tombolo Books to pick out a beach read before spending your day relaxing on the sandy shores. With pristine white-sand beaches and a bustling downtown area, St. Pete is fun for the whole family. If you're looking for a bit of culture, don't miss the Salvador Dali Museum. It actually has the largest collection of Dali's work outside of Spain.

    3. Amelia Island

    The beach on Amelia Island.
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    Best for: A seaside picnic                                                                    

    I've sung my praises about Amelia Island before, and it all remains true: This stretch of shoreline near Jacksonville is a beautiful place to visit. Travelers can choose between staying at a high-end resort or one of Amelia Island's quaint inns or bed and breakfasts. Grab fresh seafood to go from Timoti's Seafood Shack, or book a catered picnic by the water to really take in the views.

    4. Ormond Beach

    Photo of a bridge over water in Ormond Beach
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    Best for: A tranquil trip

    Located in Volusia County, Ormond Beach is a lesser-known spot that is certainly worth your time. Some will even tell you that Ormond Beach is home to some of the best beaches in the state. The surf is beyond beautiful. For a cool, locals-only tip, make sure to drive the scenic loop around the city for gorgeous views. You'll end up right by the ocean, and the vistas are magnificent. 

    5. Destin

    Photo of the ocean and city buildings in Destin
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    Best for: Crystal-clear seas

    Destin is located on Florida's Emerald Coast on the warm, crystal clear Gulf of Mexico. It has all the makings for a family-friendly trip (and it's very pet-friendly too). You can easily relax on the beach all day, but for those seeking activity, go snorkeling with the Emerald Coast Scuba team, or sign up for a dolphin tour. There's plenty to do and see in this idyllic spot. 

    6. South Beach, Miami

    Photo of Ocean Drive with palm tree lined streets and art deco buildings
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    Best for: Big city life by the beach

    South Beach is always busy and bustling, an ideal blend of beach vibes and big city living. Don't miss Ocean Drive in particular. This15-block stretch is lined with Art-Deco-inspired architecture and neon signs, and exploring it feels like taking a step back in time. It's one of the most scenic spots in Miami Beach, and it's bursting with constant activity. My advice? Take a stroll along the boardwalk and head out to lunch at the historic Joe's Stone Crab. I prefer the takeaway side because it's faster and cheaper, too..

    7. Marco Island

    Photo of a resort pool with the Gulf of Mexico in the background
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    Best for:  Resort vibes

    The largest of Florida's Ten Thousand Islands located just south of Naples, Marco Island is one of my favorite spots thanks to prime ocean views and relaxed vibes. If you get lucky, you might just spot a manatee while you're here. Spend all day at the beach soaking up the sunshine and then have a relaxed, freshly caught seafood dinner at Snook Inn. 

    8. St. Lucie

    Photo of a beach on St. Lucie
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    Best for: Untouched natural beauty 

    St. Lucie sits next to the lively Palm Beach. This often overlooked destination is home to 21 miles of pristine beaches, which are untouched thanks to developmental restrictions. Go ahead and bask in the sun all day long. If you're looking for a nice hike, check out Blowing Rock Preserve, where you'll find  magnificent Anastasia limestone shoreline and postcard-worthy views. You can even go horseback riding on the beach. 

    9. St. Augustine

    Downtown St. Augustine, Florida.
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    Best for: History buffs

    The oldest city in the US, the historic town of St. Augustine is filled with scenic streets and charming, Spanish-style architecture. When you want to cool down from the heat, visit Kilwins Ice Cream before exploring the quaint surrounding streets. Stop by the 17th-century Spanish fortress Castillo de San Marcos for a history lesson and a great view of the St. Augustine Inlet. Then, head to dinner at The Floridian for some of the best key lime pie around. 

    10. Key West

    Photo of Key West beaches
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    Best for: A tropical vacation feel 

    Once you cross the 7-mile bridge to reach this southernmost point in Florida, Key West is sure to impress. It's filled to the brim with historic sights, pastel-colored houses, and glorious palm trees. Lovers of American literature will be interested to know that Ernest Hemingway used to live here, and his home was turned into a museum you can still visit. Make sure to explore the incredible beaches, and take a snorkeling excursion if you're feeling adventurous.

    11. Naples

    Photo of a boardwalk to the beach in Naples, FL
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    Best for: Relaxing

    Picture yourself sipping a pi√Īa colada on the beach at sunset. Or relaxing on a lounge chair with a good book and the sound of crashing waves. What more could you want? That's Naples. Whether you choose to stay at The Escalante, a historic downtown spot, or venture to a luxury resort, Naples is the perfect vacation getaway. Head to the iconic Naples Pier for a spot of dolphin watching, and make sure to grab a shrimp burger, a local specialty, before you turn in for the night.¬†

    12. Islamorada

    Photo of the clear blue water surrounding Islamorada
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    Best for:  A family vacation

    If you're venturing through the Florida Keys, make sure to stop at Islamorada, a village encompassing six of the Keys. Perfect for family fun, Islamorada is filled with calm beaches and pet-friendly spots. One of the main draws is Anne's Beach, a natural sand beach where you can picnic with the kids or kayak in the still water. 

    13. Ponte Vedra Beach

    Photo of a beautiful sandy beach with a white lounge chair
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    Best for: A getaway with friends

    For beaches made up of velvety, golden sand and just a quick 30-minute drive from Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach feels like a remote island getaway. Rent out a beach house for the weekend and get grilling seaside with the whole gang.

    14. Key Largo

    Photo of a sunset on a Key Largo dock
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    Best for: Coral reefs

    No matter when you visit Key Largo, it always feels like an endless summer vacation. It's loaded with¬†sunny poolside resorts¬†and is known for sandy beaches and lots of sea activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, and more. Don't miss a visit to¬† the Molasses Reef¬†‚ÄĒ¬†it's one of the most beautiful reefs in Florida. Nature lovers will also appreciate¬†John¬†Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park¬†with its mangrove swamps and lots of marine life.

    15. Caladesi Island State Park

    Photo of Caladesi Island State Park
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    Best for: Beach activities                                                           

    A ferry ride from Honeymoon Island in Dunedin, Florida, brings you to the isolated Caladesi Island State Park, a total must-see for the whole family. Take a hike across the island, relax on the pristine beach, or go paddling amongst the mangrove trees. There are so many activities to keep you busy on this idyllic slice of beach. 

    16. Boca Grande

    Photo of the beachside view at Boca Grande
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    Best for: A quiet beach town escape

    Secluded and boasting a small-town feel, Boca Grande is located off Gasparilla Island and the Gulf Coast of Fort Myers. Visitors flock here to relax on the miles and beautiful beaches. Boca Grande is known for Cayo Costa State Park, which is out-of-this-world beautiful and only accessible by boat. Book a stay at the Gasparilla Inn for a seriously charming experience. 

    17. Longboat Keys

    Photo of the ocean on Longboat
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    Best for: A luxury getaway

    Located in Sarasota, Longboat Keys is a great place to stay if you love luxury resorts, golfing, and top restaurant experiences. Longboat Keys is a popular place to retire, and it's easy to see why. The peaceful spot boasts a premier resort and elegant sandy beaches for relaxing and unwinding.

    18. Talbot Islands

    Photo of the beach on Talbot Islands
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    Best for: Beach camping

    Located in Jacksonville, Florida, Talbot Islands State Parks has both a 'little' and 'big' section, which is more developed with ample camp grounds. With plenty to see across the whole park, Talbot Islands has everything from natural dunes to woodland areas and plenty of wildlife. This unique space includes Blackrock Beach and the Dune Ridge Trail, a scenic walk filled with pretty Spanish moss trees. 

    19. High Springs

    Photo of Ginnie Springs in High Springs, FL
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    Best for: Water sports

    Located in Alachua County about 20 miles north of Gainesville, there's this little-known, gorgeous town boasting incredible natural springs, charming cafes (don't miss Doxa Coffee), and endless outdoor activities. Choose between cave diving, canoeing, snorkeling, and more. Book a stay at the Sweetwater Branch Inn, and get ready to explore every inch of this glorious small town. 

    20. Lake Wales

    Photo of a shrine for St Anne de Lacs in Lake Wales, Florida
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    Best for: Timeless Florida vibes

    Filled with lush gardens, old-world architecture, and an art-adorned city center, Lake Wales sits at the center of the Florida peninsula. It's easily one of Florida's most charming locales. You won't find sandy beaches here, but you're bound to be impressed by the verdant Bok Tower Gardens.