Thanks to its endless miles of coastline, countless islands, and unmatched climate, the Sunshine State boasts some of the best places to visit in the US. In fact, the hardest part of planning your vacation will be deciding exactly where to vacation in Florida.
Enjoy the animated spirit of Panama City Beach, the laid-back atmosphere of Anna Maria Island, and the wild adventures of Everglades National Park. Florida family vacations, solo adventures, and spring break trips await, all in the Sunshine State.
With so many possibilities, your choices may seem endless. But, don’t worry, we’ll discuss the 15 best places to vacation in Florida for you. So, no matter what kind of trip you’re planning, you’re guaranteed to have an unforgettable time.
Table of Contents
- 1. Destin
- 2. Orlando
- 3. St. Augustine
- 4. Sarasota
- 5. The Florida Keys
- 6. Naples
- 7. Palm Beach
- 8. Amelia Island
- 9. St. Petersburg
- 10. Marco Island
- 11. Pensacola Beach
- 12. Boca Raton
- 13. Sanibel Island
- 14. Miami Beach
- 15. Anna Maria Island
- Next Vacay: The Best Deals on Flights to Florida and Beyond
Tucked away in the Florida panhandle, right along the emerald coast, lies Destin, a city with a small-town vibe packed full of big-time fun.
The water off Destin’s shore shimmers, and the white sand beaches are almost blindingly white. The quartz particles that make up the sand give Destin its much-talked-about color and a distinct sound. Walk along the coast, and you may notice the sand squeaking underfoot!
If you can bear to drag yourself away from the beach, Destin doesn’t disappoint with activities. Consider spending a day practicing your swing on the city’s many golf courses or hiking the trails at Henderson Beach State Park. In addition, Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park is perfect for families looking to cool off.
And with Panama City only an hour away, save space in your itinerary for a day trip. Sites like Camp Helen State Park, Gulf World Marine Park, and the ever-popular Panama City Beach are must-sees.
With so much to offer, Destin is easily one of the best spots to vacation in Florida.
Perfect for a family vacation in Florida, Orlando is full of kid-friendly fun and a bit of magic.
When you think of Orlando, the first thought to come to mind may be a Disney World vacation, and rightfully so. However, the Magic Kingdom doesn’t even begin to cover all of the enchantment in store.
Orlando may not be on the beach, but what it lacks in sand, it makes up for with attractions. And those highlights are why it’s arguably one of the best family vacation spots in Florida.
We’ll be surprised if you can pry yourself away from interacting with princesses at Disney World, your favorite movies at Universal Studios, and delightful sea creatures at Discovery Cove.
If the theme parks start to bore, Orlando is also ideally located for some fantastic day trips. Take a drive to the Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach, just a few minutes away from each other, or head out to the Daytona International Speedway to check out the home of the Daytona 500.
Without a doubt, Orlando is the place in central Florida for non-stop fun on your next family vacation!
3. St. Augustine
For a more history-inspired getaway, the oldest city in the US is easily one of the best places to vacation in Florida.
St. Augustine’s Spanish Colonial influences are everywhere, from the impressive Castillo de San Marcos to the gorgeous Lightner Museum. The historical walks and scenic boat tours will keep you invested in this cobblestones city’s every twist and turn.
Get in some exercise biking through St. Augustine’s nature reserve or climbing giant sand dunes on Ponte Vedra Beach. And this is Florida we’re talking about, so beautiful beaches are a standard.
St. Augustine is one of the prettiest cities you can visit in Florida. It would be all too easy to spend days exploring every inch and corner. That said, for those travelers who love a good day trip, Daytona Beach is an enticing hour’s drive away. If you’re headed in that direction, you can’t miss a stop at Flagler Beach for a cozy feel mixed with open-air restaurants and stunning views of the Atlantic.
Looking for the best places to visit in Florida for an unforgettable beach vacation? Sarasota won’t disappoint.
Pristine beaches make it a popular vacation destination. Even locals can’t deny the draw of award-winning beaches like Siesta Key, another quartz beach with white sand so fine that it resembles powder.
Lido Beach is another beauty. A bit more secluded and quieter than its sister beach, it offers access to scenic trails, boutique shopping, and stellar dining experiences.
Sarasota is also home to an impressive art and culture scene. You can’t visit the city without stopping in at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art—which includes some of the Ringling brothers’ circus history—and art galleries like Art Uptown Inc with exhibitions by regional artists in the community. For a memorable night out, try attending a performance at the Sarasota Opera House.
5. The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys is home to not just one but several of the best places to vacation in Florida.
This part of South Florida also claims the only living coral barrier reef outside of Hawaii in the US. That makes the Florida Keys pretty unique as a whole, but each of the Keys offers visitors something special.
Key Largo is first among the keys; you’ll find no shortage of beauty here, including sunsets. Due to being coral islands, the Keys don’t have many beaches. However, they make up for that by being the perfect places to dive, snorkel, and explore the ocean below its surface.
Below the surface of Key Largo’s waters, you’ll find one of the largest artificial coral reefs in the world: Spiegel Grove. At one point, it was the most extensive artificial reef in the world. Since its sinking in 2002, it’s slipped to third place, but it still makes for an incredible scuba diving experience.
Key Largo is also just a short trip away from the Homestead entrance of Everglades National Park!
If you’re looking for a quaint village getaway, mark Islamorada down as your next vacation spot.
The entire village spans six islands, which translates to plenty of fun near, in, and around the water.
All this enviable access to the water might be one of the reasons Islamorada is seen as the Sportfishing Capital of the World.
Even if you’re not interested in fishing, Islamorada has plenty to make your family vacation memorable. Check out the picturesque beaches on Long Key, the 1800s ruins at Indian Key Historic State Park, and dolphin experiences at the Theater of the Sea.
Any of the Keys would make for a great Florida vacation. However, the crown for the most popular tourist destination among them must be given to Key West.
Ranked among the friendliest places in the US, Key West is easily the most lively of the Keys. Depending on your mood, you can get loud and wild in lower Duval or head to upper Duval for a classier, more sophisticated night on the town.
When you’re not partying the night away, Key West provides plenty of outdoor adventure.
Take a walking tour through the town’s streets and gardens—from Bayview Park to the Hemingway Home and Museum—or take a boat tour out on the water to try spotting some dolphins. You also can’t miss a magical stroll through the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory to see hundreds of beautiful butterflies.
Naples is a charming stop along Florida’s Paradise Coast with everything from outdoor adventures to high-end shopping experiences. You’ll find just enough to keep you busy without feeling overwhelmed.
Relax on the beach at Lowdermilk Park or take a stroll through the Naples Botanical Garden. If you’re in the mood for a more adventurous outing, try out the gator feedings and boat rides at the Naples Zoo.
But it doesn’t get more adventurous than Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, part of the west everglades. Revel in the untouched beauty and enjoy a proper swamp walk while keeping your feet blissfully dry.
Naples is also a prime location for day trips north. In Bonita Springs, you can kayak around the four barrier islands that make up Lovers Key State Park. Additionally, Fort Myers—where a visit to Fort Myers Beach is a must—is also just a short drive away.
Hands down, Naples is one of the best family vacation spots in Florida for an affordable family trip.
7. Palm Beach
If you’re looking for the perfect playground to while away your days in the sun, look no further than Palm Beach and the broader Palm Beach County.
Compelling art and cultural scenes mix with buzzing nightlife venues and plenty of spots to enjoy the natural beauty of the Palm Beaches. As with any escape to Florida, one can’t go wrong with the beaches. Because they’re located on the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll be able to catch some serious waves when the wind picks up.
For day plans that include a bit less sand, visitors can’t miss a trip to the Flagler Museum, built in Henry Flagler’s awe-inspiring mansion, or pop over to Breakers Hotel for some truly iconic shots. Plan animal encounters with a visit to the Palm Beach Zoo or Manatee Lagoon. And when night falls, Clematis Street and Downtown West Palm Beach await with cocktails, live music, and more.
Between Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, you’re in for a Florida vacation filled with glitz, fun, and plenty of sunshine.
8. Amelia Island
For a beautiful, quiet family getaway, Amelia Island sits off Florida’s east coast on the Atlantic. This barrier island is a must-visit in Florida, from its historic downtown center to the pristine beaches that dot its coast.
The beaches are certainly one of this island’s biggest draws and among the best places to visit in Florida. Spend your vacation digging your toes into white and gold sands, peeking at the tallest sand dune in Florida at Nana’s Dune, and making a splash in crystal-clear, blue waters.
Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach is perfect for early morning strolls, walking the quaint tree-lined streets while the town is still quiet. You’ll spot fun reminders of the town’s pirate history everywhere, from the Amelia Island Museum of History to Pirate Playground. Amelia also claims two impressive Florida landmarks: the oldest lighthouse, the Amelia Island Lighthouse, and the oldest bar, Palace Saloon.
For families and travelers hoping to soak in plenty of calm, natural beauty, and sunshine, Amelia Island is the place to plan your next getaway.
9. St. Petersburg
You can’t say you’ve been to the Sunshine State without visiting the vacation destination known as the Sunshine City. St. Petersburg set the record for the longest number of consecutive sunshine days in the world.
Full of great family vacation spots, the terrific weather year-round means it’s never the wrong time to plan this particular Florida vacation. The beach is always calling your name, and St. Pete Beach—named the number 1 beach in the US by Tripadvisor—calls louder than any other.
Clearwater Beach also ranks among Florida’s best beaches. If you’re there for a visit, don’t miss a trip to Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where you can take a kayak tour around the bay, meet rescued animals, and more.
Of course, there’s more to St. Peterburg than its beaches. The exhibits and family events at the Salvidor Dalí Museum are a hit with visitors, along with experiences at many other art galleries, including the Chihuly Collection of glass sculptures and the blown glass demonstrations at Morean Arts Center.
And for family fun days, attractions like the St. Petersburg Pier and Busch Gardens just down the road are sure to be a hit.
10. Marco Island
A gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands off Florida’s Gulf Coast, Marco Island is famed for its beauty.
Between the stunning beaches, mangrove islands, and world-class shopping, dining, and golf courses, visitors can find any number of activities to occupy their time.
Go hunting for shells on the soft white sands of Tigertail Beach, kayak out on the lagoon, or head over to South Beach to catch a magical sunset.
With endless miles of bays, islands, and estuaries to explore, an excursion into the wilderness is also the perfect way to pass the time. Take a tour through mangrove islands to learn all about these coastal trees and spot the fascinating wildlife that lives among them. Or head into the Everglades in Big Cypress Preserve or Everglades National Park.
Whether you’re visiting Marco Island to relax or go on an adventure, the choices are endless and all yours!
11. Pensacola Beach
While Destin may boast some of Florida’s best beaches, mark Pensacola Beach down as your Florida getaway for an authentic gulf coast vacation.
The lack of big-time development keeps crowd numbers down and makes for stunning views of the ocean. Along with gorgeous waters are the soft, white-sand beaches that make these locales some of the best places to visit in Florida.
For the best views, you can walk along the piers at Pensacola or Navarre beach, keeping an eye out for turtles and dolphins. Or hike the nature trails at Live Oaks Nature Preserve with lovely views and private beach areas to enjoy the sand and surf in solitude.
The draw of relaxed, laid-back summer fun is boosted by affordable prices and the shimmering emerald waters that are synonymous with places like Destin, Panama City Beach, and Pensacola Beach.
12. Boca Raton
Also a part of Palm Beach County, Boca Raton is another glitzy getaway. Many stars call it home, from Bon Jovi to Ariana Grande.
Boca Raton offers tons of fabulous shopping experiences from high-end fashion stores to designer boutiques and tasty restaurants. But that’s not where Boca Raton truly shines. For that, you’ll need to travel out into the fresh air.
Outdoor adventures abound in Boca Raton, and we’re not just talking about beautiful beaches. That said, you absolutely have to check out spectacular spots like Atlantic Dunes Park with its impressive dunes and tranquil beach, or Delray Beach, considered a hidden treasure by the locals. But they don’t even scratch the surface.
Snorkel at Red Reef Park, picnic at Spanish River Park, or take the family to Sugar Sand Park where everyone will have something to enjoy, from an ornate carousel to a playful science museum and beautiful nature trails—it’s basically a mini amusement park for kids.
Boca Raton really puts in the work to earn its reputation as a nature lover’s paradise.
13. Sanibel Island
A charming escape with chill vibes describes Sanibel perfectly. This quaint island, just a short drive outside of Fort Myers, is known for its stunning views of the sky out over the water—sunset is spectacular, and the sight of a sunrise over Lighthouse Beach Park is undoubtedly a good reason to roll out of bed early.
From collecting shells on Sanibel Island to laying out on the soft white sand of Captiva Island, each spot will give you something different.
And as far as natural surroundings are concerned, Sanibel doesn’t disappoint. The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge takes up more than half of the island and is one of the most popular spots to see everything from alligators to bottle-nosed dolphins and so much more.
Don’t just stick to the beaches here. Grab a bike, hop on, and explore firsthand everything this beautiful island has to offer.
14. Miami Beach
Miami is a jack of all trades when it comes to travel destinations, which is why it is indisputable as one of the best places to visit in Florida for a vacation.
South Beach’s thriving nightlife can be enjoyed everywhere, from hipster lounges to Latin dance clubs. For daytime activities, the Art Deco District awaits with retro, pastel-hued buildings that’ll take up rows and rows of your camera roll. Find both on Ocean Drive, boasting a vibrant nightlife scene and colorful art deco buildings.
But even outside of Miami Beach and South Beach, you’ll find a plethora of must-see neighborhoods. Explore the heart of Cuban culture in Little Havana and the soul of the Haitian community in Little Haiti. Or, enjoy the ritz of Bal Harbour, the beauty of Coral Gables, and the family-friendly charm of Coconut Grove.
The beaches are pristine, the theme parks entertaining, the history fascinating, and the art and culture unmatched. Miami’s charms are endless.
15. Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island is a barrier island off Florida’s gulf coast, boasting an uninterrupted, seven-mile stretch of gorgeous white sand beach slipping into turquoise green waters. How’s that for a beach island getaway?
Shop at small boutiques and dine at quaint cafes, but don’t expect to find the likes of amusement parks or big buildings or businesses here. In fact, most buildings aren’t more than three stories.
The few high-rise buildings on the island were built before the island’s height restrictions went into effect. Additionally, many of the shops on Anna Maria are family or locally owned. You’ll be hard-pressed to find chain restaurants or stores on the island.
This only adds to the island’s “Old Florida” charm of 20th-century buildings and history around every corner. Anna Maria is the place to be for a vintage Florida vacation in a destination that’s the definition of charming.
Next Vacay: The Best Deals on Flights to Florida and Beyond
Now that you know all the places where you can experience the best Florida vacations, it’s time to book your flight.
How will you do it?
The smart answer is Next Vacay! From family vacations to group trips and going it solo, what better way to start your vacation than finding a great deal that doesn’t break your budget?
With weekly flight deals to some of the hottest destinations in Florida—from South Beach to Disney World and many more—you’ll be planning your next vacation in no time and scoring major savings along the way!
So don’t put off your next trip. Sunshine and adventure await … with Next Vacay!