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Charming pastel-colored cottages and palm tree-lined streets make up the picture-perfect Gasparilla Island. Named after the pirate José Gaspar, who allegedly used the island as a base and hideaway for his buried treasure (which was never found), the barrier island is home to the Gasparilla Island State Park, which offers swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. A must-visit point of interest is the historic Port Boca Grande Lighthouse built in 1890.
The northernmost island of the Florida Keys chain is home to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park—the nation’s first underwater park. Buried in the waters is the famous bronze statue of Christ of the Abyss, which you can explore on a scuba-diving trip. Divers will also enjoy a look at the colorful Florida Reef, which is the third largest living barrier reef in the world.
You can’t visit Miami without spending a day on the beaches of Key Biscayne. Connected to the city via the Rickenbacker Causeway, the key sits on Biscayne Bay, complete with 360-degree views of the Miami skyline, a lighthouse, and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area. There’s no better place to watch the sunset over the Miami skies or spend the day kayaking through the bay.
Nearing the coast of Georgia, Amelia Island is a must-visit for its sand dunes and charming beach towns. The island boasts Victorian architecture, boutique shops, and a historic past. It was once a stopping point for pirates and is also home to Florida’s oldest bar—The Palace Saloon—as well as a ghost story or two.
So it’s technically not an island (being that it’s still attached to the Florida peninsula at one tip), but the Ponce Inlet, surrounded by the Halifax and Indian Rivers flowing into the Atlantic, makes our list for its glimmering white sands and historic lighthouse. Built in the 1880s, the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse is the largest one in Florida and still well preserved. Visitors can also enjoy a tour of the Marine Science Center for a look at their turtle rehabilitation center and a chance to touch stingrays and hermit crabs at the aquatic pool!
The Anna Maria Island, located by the Gulf of Mexico, is perfect for a serene holiday getaway. The barrier island not only shines for its sparkling beaches, but it’s also a bird sanctuary teeming with pelicans, seagulls, cranes, herons, osprey, sandpipers, and other birds.
Dubbed the fishing capital of the world, Islamorada is accessible via boat or the seven-mile (11.2-kilometer) bridge. Fish the blue-green waters for a chance to catch snapper, redfish, and snook. There are also plenty of watersport adventures to be had, such as snorkeling, swimming, jet skiing, paddleboarding, and scuba diving.
Never heard of Bahia Honda Key? It’s one of the Florida Keys’ best-kept secrets. The tiny island is home to the Bahia Honda State Park, with over 500 acres of untouched land and beautiful beaches to lounge about with uninterrupted views of the sea. Visitors can go camping at the park or go swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, and bird-watching.
Accessible only by boat or the Overseas Highway, the exclusive resort island in Little Torch Key is made for those seeking a private luxury getaway on the beach. Rent a bungalow at the Little Palm Island Resort & Spa and ease away your stress in the tropical hideaway. The secluded spot is ideal for those looking for a real paradise away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Located in northern Florida on the Gulf Coast, this barrier island is a peaceful paradise with plenty of wildlife and miles of shelling. The island has strict building codes making it clean from chain hotels and skyscrapers; therefore, you can enjoy a seemingly untouched atmosphere and quiet serenity, along with stunning golden sunsets.
Stroll through the boardwalk of Marco Island to spot manatees and dolphins off the Gulf of Mexico. Though dotted with luxury resorts and plenty of tourist attractions, the island boasts nature trails and wildlife viewing as it sits near the Florida Everglades. Here you can spend the day kayaking through the mangroves, bird-watching or even spot panther tracks with a visit to the Panther Wildlife Refuge.
Often shadowed by its famous neighbor Sanibel Island, this underrated island boasts amazing wildlife and pristine white sandy beaches and even shelling. The postcard island makes for a quiet, romantic holiday and is home to the Captiva Chapel By-The-Sea—just in case you want to elope!