Are you looking for unique weekend getaways in Florida to go on? Then this article will give you 15 of our favorite spots!
You may be familiar with Orlando and its many theme parks, Miami, and South Beach when it comes to weekend getaways in Florida but the Sunshine State has a lot of hidden spots perfect for those looking to escape the usual weekend routine.
From the oldest city in the nation to a small island rich with artists’ spirit, there are lots of places tucked away from the usual tourist trails that deserve to be explored.
Whether seaside resort towns are your kind of vibe or prefer charming villages to bustling cities, or you’d rather enjoy the wild without the crowds at a more secluded national park, we’re here to share with you some of our favorite off-the-beaten-path in Florida.
Unique Weekend Getaways In Florida
Florida has a surprise around every corner, especially if you’re willing to look beyond the postcard-perfect beaches and famous theme parks. To help you discover them, here is a list of our favorite unique weekend getaways in Florida.
1. Dry Tortugas National Park
Located about 70 miles west of Key West Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the unique weekend getaways in Florida.
Thanks to its remote nature, there are no roads leading to it so the only way to get there is by either a ferry, a seaplane, or a private boat. It’s a bit of a journey, but that’s exactly what makes it special — that plus the seven small islands!
Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the impressive Fort Jefferson, a fortress that was once a prison. Today, it is one of the largest 19th-century American forts.
One of the best things to do here is Snorkeling to fully appreciate the region’s coral reefs are colorful fishes.
And since the water is shallow, even rookies or kids can take part. There is even a snorkel trail around Garden Key that gives a brief guide about the underwater ecosystem.
The Park is also home to secluded beaches so you can spend a day basking in the sun, swimming or even taking a leisurely stroll while enjoying the tranquility of this place.
If you’re a fan of birdwatching, the park is also known for its variety of birds including yellow-billed cuckoo, peregrine falcon, ruby–throated hummingbird, and more, especially during migration seasons.
As we mentioned earlier, the National Park is remote which means that you won’t find any stores or restaurants, so bring your own food and water.
If you want to make this a weekend getaway, you’ll need to book your accommodation in Key West or camp right in Dry Tortugas National Park although this will be primitive camping meaning that you’ll have to carry everything you might need!
2. St. Augustine
Founded by a Spanish explorer in 1565, St. Augustine is believed to be the oldest city in the US, so if you have a penchant for history, this city will be up your alley when it comes to unique getaways in Florida.
The city is chock full of narrow lanes lined with Spanish colonial architecture but the main attraction will probably be Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest fortress in the US.
Take a tour of the fortress to discover old prison cells and soldier’s rooms, see the gun deck, a wine cellar, and more, all while learning about its history by either joining a guided tour or listening to an audio guide.
You can’t visit St. Augustine without walking down St. George Street, the heart of the historic district.
The street has a number of quaint shops, eateries, pubs, and more, and a lively vibe that you can’t miss. If you want to people-watch, this is the best place to do it.
You could even go on a hop on-off trolley if you don’t feel like walking, although we highly recommend just walking to fully get its feel.
Other places that make St. Augustine one of the best Florida weekend trips include Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, where you can drink from the springs of legend, Lightner Museum, which is housed in a Spanish Renaissance Revival style building with American antiques, and St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum.
However, if you want to unwind for a while, head to Anastasia State Park to enjoy over 1,600 acres of beaches. You can bird watch, plan a picnic, go hiking, or even just chill on a beach.
Matlacha (pronounced “MAT-la-shay”) is one of Florida’s hidden gems tucked away on the Gulf Coast.
This small, funky enclave is known for its colorful art galleries, seafood restaurants, and eclectic boutiques.
The moment you cross the Matlacha Bridge, dubbed “the fishing-est bridge in the world,” you’re welcomed by colorful buildings and a laid-back island vibe that can’t be found just anywhere.
This old Florida fishing village has however reinvented itself as an artist’s haven. Spend your day exploring galleries and local art from quirky sculptures to tropical paintings that reflect the island’s vibe.
As for the seafood, you can expect to eat the freshest, often caught and served the same day. Fishing is also still a big deal here so if you’re into fishing, you’ll love this place.
Matlacha also offers kayaking opportunities with even a chance to spot dolphins or manatees.
So if the Florida small-town old charm mixed with art and fishing without high-rise buildings and development that is taking over Florida is your kind of vibe, then Matlacha is one of the best Florida weekend getaways to consider.
4. Pine Island
Located off the Gulf Coast and just about 30 minutes from the famous Fort Myers, Pine Island is Florida’s largest island!
It offers a tranquil escape from the high-rise hotels and speed of modern life that characterizes much of the Gulf Coast.
Unlike other beach-centric islands, Pine Island offers a lush, rural landscape dotted with tropical fruit groves, palm tree nurseries, and acres of subtropical vegetation.
It’s easy to settle into the ‘island time’ mentality while on Pine Island. The island doesn’t have sandy beaches due to its mangrove fringes, but it more than makes up for it with its laid-back atmosphere, excellent fishing spots, and artistic communities.
You can go kayaking through the mangroves in Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve, search for birds like herons, egrets, and ospreys, or even go fishing! The list of outdoor activities to do here is endless.
The island’s main hubs are Matlacha, Bokeelia, and St. James City. Each offers its own brand of charm, from Matlacha’s vibrant arts and crafts scene to Bokeelia’s historic fishing village and St. James City’s waterfront homes.
One of Pine Island’s specialties is its tropical fruit, and a visit isn’t complete without tasting some locally grown mangoes or lychees.
The island also hosts several quirky and fun festivals throughout the year, celebrating everything from mangoes to music.
5. Mount Dora
Mount Dora may not instantly come to mind when you think of fun Florida weekend trips but you’ll be making a mistake to rule it completely out!
This quaint lakefront town in Central Florida is known for its antique shops, annual festivals, and rolling hills.
A stark contrast to Florida’s beach scenes, it is set amidst the backdrop of Lake Dora and is renowned for its historical architecture and hometown charm.
One of Mount Dora’s main draws is its vibrant downtown area, where you can wander the streets lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and cozy cafes.
If you’re an outdoorsy person, there’s plenty to do. You can take a leisurely boat tour to explore the lake, enjoy a chill day of fishing, or hike the trails at Palm Island Park, a dog-friendly nature preserve that stretches over 8 acres.
Visiting in October? Make sure you don’t miss the Mount Dora Craft Fair held every 4th weekend of the month! It draws visitors from all over with its handmade goods and local artwork.
Another attraction not to miss is Mount Dora Lighthouse, the only inland freshwater lighthouse in the state.
And for those who love the stage, the Mount Dora Community Theater holds multiple performances all year round.
6. Ichetucknee Springs State Park
If you’re a water enthusiast and nature lover, Ichetucknee Springs State Park is one of the unique vacation spots in Florida we recommend visiting!
Known for its crystal-clear springs and the beautiful Ichetucknee River, visitors flock here, especially during the summer to float down the flowing river on tubes — an activity that has almost become synonymous with the Florida outdoors experience.
While tubing is the most common activity here, you can also go swimming, snorkeling, and even scuba diving.
The six-mile-long river is also lined with lush greenery and towering trees that offer shade to the floating visitors and a habitat for wildlife.
The park also features nature trails for hiking and picnicking areas when you want to take a break from the water. You’ll also have a chance of spotting turtles, otters, deer, and a variety of bird species.
The best time to visit for tubing would be between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the full length of the river is open but we recommend visiting outside of the peak tubing season when the park offers a quieter experience with the same stunning natural beauty.
7. Cedar Key
Cedar Key is a tranquil island community located off the Gulf Coast of Florida reachable by a number of bridges that give you the sense of truly leaving the mainland behind.
This sleepy town is steeped in history, once a thriving port city and later a pencil manufacturing hub due to its abundant red cedar trees. Today, Cedar Key is a hub for artists, writers, and nature lovers.
The historic downtown area is compact making it perfect for leisurely strolls. You can explore galleries, dine at seafood restaurants serving up the day’s catch, and pick up a few goodies at various shops showcasing local crafts.
Birding is exceptional here, especially at the Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge which is home to a variety of migratory and nesting birds. You can also go kayaking through the mangrove tunnels or fishing.
Although it is mostly known for nature, history buffs can also find something to do here! From visiting Cedar Key Museum State Park to exploring St. Clair Whitman House which offers a glimpse into life in Cedar Key during the early 20th century.
Located in the Florida Panhandle’s Walton County, Seaside is a picture-perfect coastal town that might feel familiar even on your first visit, especially if you’ve seen the Truman Show which was filmed here.
Its postcard-worthy beaches, pastel-colored houses, and neat white picket fences truly bring out an idyllic beachside community designed with the principles of New Urbanism in mind.
Seaside’s design encourages community interactions with homes and businesses centered around the town’s public spaces, increasing walkability to the town center, market shops, and beautiful beach pavilions.
Seaside doesn’t lack good food either! There is an array of food trucks and local restaurants offering everything from fresh seafood to gourmet ice cream.
The town center is also bustling with vibrant life, hosting outdoor concerts, family movie nights, and farmers’ markets, providing both entertainment and a taste of local life.
It also offers opportunities to participate in outdoor activities like biking along the Timpoochee Trail or paddleboarding and kayaking in the clear coastal waters.
So if you’re looking for a weekend trip in Florida that offers a slow pace of life with a resort-style kind of charm, this is where to go!
If you’re looking for weekend getaways from Miami, we recommend heading to Islamorada since it’s located just an hour and a half away, especially if you’re into fishing.
Often referred to as the “Village of Islands,” it spans five inhabited islands in the Florida Keys — Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, and Tea Table Key.
Islamorada is famous for its laid-back atmosphere and is considered the sportfishing capital of the world. In fact, it is the “largest fishing fleet per square mile in the world.”
Anglers from around the globe come here to try their luck with tarpon, bonefish, and sailfish, among others.
However, fishing isn’t the only water activity that thrives here! The area is also a prime spot for diving and snorkeling thanks to the nearby coral reefs.
The art scene in Islamorada is also as vibrant as its marine life. You’ll find numerous galleries and art shops scattered across the islands often showcasing sea-inspired works from local artists.
For nature lovers, the Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park and Indian Key Historic State Park can easily be reached by boat.
10. Tarpon Springs
If you’re looking for unique getaways in Florida, you can’t go wrong with Tarpon Springs, thanks to its rich Greek heritage.
It is located less than an hour’s drive northwest of Tampa and feels like a slice of Greece right in Florida, owing to the wave of Greek immigrants who arrived here in the early 20th century to grow the sponge diving industry. It actually has the largest concentration of Greek Americans than any other city in the United States.
Since Sponge Docks are the heart of Tarpon Springs, you’ll find sponge boats tied along the docks and the air is filled with the aromas of fresh Greek food coming from the many authentic restaurants and bakeries.
Beyond the sponge docks, Tarpon Springs’ downtown area is bustling with shops, art galleries, and antique stores making it a fun place to explore.
Tarpon Springs is also home to some of the most beautiful Greek Orthodox churches in the country, such as the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral known for its Neo-Byzantine architecture.
The city also hosts several festivals throughout the year, including the Epiphany celebration which is the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.
11. Caladesi Island State Park
Accessible only by boat or ferry, Caladesi Island State Park is one of Florida’s few remaining undeveloped barrier islands located just off Clearwater.
The island’s beaches are consistently ranked among the top in the country for their pristine conditions.
With soft, sugar-white sands and crystal-clear waters, Caladesi Island is a paradise for sunbathers, beachcombers, and nature lovers alike.
Its remote nature means it’s less crowded, providing a more peaceful beach experience than some of the more accessible spots on the Gulf Coast.
For those who love outdoor activities, Caladesi Island presents a host of options. You can kayak through the mangrove-shaded waterways to get a chance to observe the island’s diverse wildlife in their natural habitat.
Hikers can explore the island’s beauty on a three-mile nature trail that winds through the maritime hammock and to observation points overlooking the bay.
Along the trail, you’re likely to spot local wildlife, including gopher tortoises and a myriad of bird species. Fishing is another popular pastime here!
12. Anna Maria Island
This slice of paradise with its seven miles of white sandy beaches is the perfect mix of laid-back vibes and old Florida charm without all the high-rises and commercial feel of some more developed areas.
On Anna Maria Island, life moves at a slower pace and so are the speed limits which encourage visitors to embrace the leisurely island tempo.
The island’s free trolley service even makes getting around a breeze. You can hop on and off to explore the island’s three cities: Anna Maria to the north, Holmes Beach in the middle, and Bradenton Beach to the south.
For those looking to engage in water sports, the calm Gulf waters are ideal for kayaking, paddleboarding, swimming, and snorkeling thanks to the many snorkeling spots on Anna Maria Island.
Fishing enthusiasts will also find plenty of opportunities, whether from a chartered boat or the historic Anna Maria City Pier. Alternatively, you can simply enjoy the sun and sand on one of the beaches on Anna Maria Island.
When it comes to accommodations, Anna Maria Island offers charming beachfront cottages, bungalows, and vacation rentals, providing a homey feel that big resorts simply can’t match.
Looking for Anna Maria bars, restaurants, or even breakfast spots, you will be spoilt for choice! There are so many things to do on Anna Maria Island to occupy you during your entire Florida weekend getaway!
The best times to visit Anna Maria Island are during the fall and spring when the weather is most pleasant, and the summer crowds have dispersed. However, even in peak season, it never feels too crowded.
13. Vero Beach
A jewel on Florida’s Treasure Coast, Vero Beach offers a mix of cultural sophistication and laid-back coastal living.
This charming seaside town is known for its citrus groves, breathtaking ocean views, and a slower pace of life.
In Vero Beach, you can enjoy miles of uncrowded beaches perfect for sunbathing, building sandcastles, or searching for shells.
The waters harbor sea turtles, and the area is one of the top spots for turtle nesting from May to October with guided turtle walks available to get a glimpse into their life.
The town itself is a hub of arts and culture with a small-town feel. The Vero Beach Museum of Art is a centerpiece, featuring an impressive collection of art and sculptures, while the Riverside Theatre provides live entertainment ranging from Broadway plays to comedy shows.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love the Indian River Lagoon where you can paddleboard or kayak to spot dolphins, manatees, and a variety of bird species. The McKee Botanical Gardens is another place not to miss.
But if you’re more of a golfer, then you’ll love Vero Beach’s world-class golf courses, and anglers can enjoy both freshwater and deep-sea fishing, making it a sportsman’s paradise.
Famous for its emerald green waters and for being the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village”, Destin is one of the best weekend getaways from Florida.
Although it has reinvented itself from just a small fishing town to a tourist destination, it’s still very much a fisherman’s paradise, particularly along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk.
But fishing isn’t the only thing Destin has to offer. The city is also famous for its sugar-white sandy beaches including Henderson Beach State Park which offers more than 6,000 feet of scenic shoreline and nature trails winding through the coastal dunes, Crab Island, which has become a water lover’s paradise, James Lee Beach, and many others.
Destin is also a playground for all ages whether you’re a couple looking for romantic things to do or are traveling with kids.
There is an array of water sports from jet-skiing to parasailing and the Gulf’s clear waters are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Other family-friendly activities in Destin include Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park, The Track – Destin, and Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. You definitely won’t run out of fun things to do in Destin.
The dining scene in Destin is another highlight with an emphasis on fresh seafood straight from the Gulf.
And when you’ve had your feel, you can even check out some of the cute towns near Destin!
15. Gasparilla Island
Gasparilla Island might not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of quick getaways in Florida since places like Miami and Orlando tend to hog the spotlight.
Yet, this barrier island on Florida’s West Coast is a slice of paradise that offers a much different vibe than the state’s bigger tourist destinations.
The highlight is Boca Grande, a quaint village with a storied past where tarpon fishing reigns supreme. This historic town is also lined with cozy bistros, unique shops, and art galleries.
The island also has peaceful beaches that are often less crowded than the other beaches in SW Florida, making it a perfect spot for a quiet day of sunbathing or a leisurely stroll along the shore. The clear blue waters are also great for fishing, paddle boarding, or kayaking.
One of the island’s most iconic landmarks is the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse, a historic lighthouse that’s been guiding sailors since the early 20th century. You can also explore the Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum to learn about the island’s history and ecology.
Gasparilla Island is also known for its excellent tarpon fishing, especially in the waters surrounding Boca Grande Pass.
Final Thoughts on The Unique Weekend Getaways in Florida
With these unique weekend trips trip in Florida, it’s clear that the state’s beauty stretches far beyond the familiar places like Disney World or the bustling streets of Miami.
Whether it’s embracing the laid-back charms of island life, visiting secluded state parks, or exploring small towns, these places will no doubt show you a different side of Florida.
So, the next time you’re planning a weekend vacation in Florida, consider visiting one of these hidden gems.
But before you go, consider sharing these unique weekend trips from Florida if you found the article helpful!