The best Florida islands to dream away to

  • Post last modified:November 27, 2021
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The best Florida islands tick every box for amazing beach vacations. In the Sunshine State the stunning paradise islands range from forgotten islands in Northwest Florida to famous South Florida islands. Each island has its own character and there are islands in Florida for every traveler.

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Santa Rosa Island – A Northwest Florida island with mile after mile of sand dunes

Santa Rosa Island is a beach haven located not far from the Alabama border in the Florida Panhandle. The communities Pensacola Beach, Navarre Beach and Okaloosa Island together share the slice of paradise that the Northwest Florida island is.

The island is 40 miles (64 km) long with endless sandy dunes. You can drive mile after mile and all you see is white sand and the inviting blue Gulf of Mexico. The island keeps its untouched appearance thanks to the Gulf Islands National Seashore that protects large portions of the island from development.

On the very western side of Santa Rosa Island the historic Fort Pickens stands. The fort is both an historically interesting place to visit and one of the best sunset spots in the Pensacola Beach area.

Road and white sand dunes on Santa Rosa Island
Mile after mile of dunes on Santa Rosa Island.

St. George Island – Accenting the tranquility of the Northwest Florida islands

St. George Island just off Florida’s Panhandle between Tallahassee and Panama City is one of the best islands in Florida to unwind. The island belongs to Florida’s so called Forgotten Coast. It’s a section of the Gulf Coast that is known to be quiet, undeveloped and to some extent uninhabited.

Although St. George Island is populated and offers great comfort in hotels, restaurants and bars it’s still a quiet place. On St. George you find miles of unspoiled beaches and there are no high rises. Thankfully strict building codes protect the natural appearance of the Florida island.

In contrast to many other Florida islands there is only one way on and off St. George Island. That there is no through traffic contributes to the relaxing island atmosphere. St. George Island highlights the tranquility of the Northwest Florida islands and is one of the best Florida islands to go to if you look for a quiet time.

Boardwalk to the beach on St. George Island
St. George Island boardwalk.

Siesta Key – A Florida island famous for its quartz sand

Siesta Key just a short drive from Sarasota has the three beaches Siesta Beach, Crescent Beach and Turtle Beach. Among them Siesta Beach is the most famous and it even has been named the number one beach in the US.

One of the main reasons that makes Siesta Key so very appreciated is its white quartz sand. White quartz sand is very fine and keeps cooler than sand that is darker in color.

So the white sand on the Florida island both looks beautiful and feels soft and cool under your feet. The celebrated white quartz beach certainly makes Siesta Key one of the bucket list Florida islands for the beach lover.

White sand and a red lifeguard tower
The white and soft Siesta Key beach.

Sanibel Island – The Florida island for the nature lover

On Sanibel Island in Southwest Florida you really live side by side with nature. Its special relation to nature makes Sanibel one of the most unique Florida islands.

On Sanibel no high rises are allowed. New structures are not permitted to be taller than the tallest palm tree. That contributes to Sanibel’s laid-back island vibe. By a distance the island’s historic Sanibel Lighthouse at 98-feet (30 m) is its tallest building.

At night the Florida island gets really dark. To keep light pollution at a minimum there are no street or traffic lights on Sanibel Island. On top of that no lights at all should be visible from the beach. Artificial lights near the shoreline could disorientate the sea turtles.

Sanibel is an Florida island where you live side by side with nature
Side by side with nature on Sanibel.

Captiva Island – One of the most well-hidden Florida islands

Captiva Island is Sanibel’s northern sister island. If you come by car you need to cross Sanibel to get to the island from the mainland. But if you find your way to the secluded Florida island it’s easy to be captivated.

On Captiva you’re further from the mainland noice than on Sanibel. It’s also smaller with fewer hotels and things to do. In many ways it’s a downsized version of it’s neighbor island.

Still it’s just because of the fact that Captiva is one of the most well-hidden Florida islands that makes it so very appreciated. In the relaxing setting it’s easy to unwind. Without other distractions you on Captiva Island can enjoy the white beaches, blue Gulf of Mexico and the most spectacular sunsets.

Sunset on one of the most well-hidden Florida islands
Sunset on Captiva Island.

Marco Island – The Florida island that offers the best of both worlds

Marco Island in the southwest corner of Florida proudly shows off its white beaches and tall island resorts. Unlike Sanibel and Captiva further north the island is developed with high rises.

Still Marco Island has kept its appreciated small-town character and slow pace. Life truly is a beach on the Florida island. Its Tigertail Beach and South Beach are renowned as some of the best beaches in Florida.

But if you want something else than beach days Marco Island is also one of the most conveniently located Florida islands. In just about 30 minutes you can get to Naples for exclusive shopping and dining. Or if you want to explore the Everglades it’s also roughly the same to the huge wetland.

The bridge to Marco Island
The bridge to Marco Island.

Key Biscayne – A scenic Florida island not far from Miami Beach

Key Biscayne is a scenic island just south of Miami Beach. With undeniable natural beauty the Florida island tempts visitors even from the glamorous streets of Miami. The quiet beaches on Key Biscayne is really a welcome contrast to Miami’s intense South Beach.

The Florida island has a central village and not one but two beautiful parks. Crandon Park magnificently covers the northern part of Key Biscayne. And on the southern part of the island the as pretty Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is located. Both have the beautiful beaches and palm trees that you associate with Florida islands.

Lighthouse on the Florida island Key Biscayne
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

Key Largo – The gateway to the archipelago of South Florida islands

The northern and first major island in the Florida Keys is Key Largo. At 33 miles (53 km) in length Key Largo is the largest segment of the Keys. The island is the gateway to the archipelago of beautiful South Florida islands.

Key Largo is only located 67 miles (108 km) from Miami. Still it’s in stark contrast to the metropolitan melting pot. Life on the South Florida island is laid-back and peaceful. And just like all over the Keys water activities is an important part of life.

A prime example of how rich Key Largo is in ocean beauty is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The park known as the first undersea park in the US offers fantastic opportunities for diving and snorkeling.

Life on water in Key Largo
Life on water in Key Largo.

Marathon – South Florida islands in the heart of the Keys

A group of Florida Keys islands located halfway from the start of the Overseas highway to Key West form the Marathon area. In Marathon you’re literally in the heart of the pretty chain of South Florida islands.

Most of all Marathon embraces the traditional lifestyle of the Keys. The Marathon islands including Vaca Key, Fat Deer Key and Grassy Key are all great places to relax.

The Florida Keys are not primarily known as beach destination. Other Florida islands certainly offer more impressive sandy beaches. But Sombrero Beach in Marathon is one of the best beach spots in the Florida Keys.

Florida islands in both directions in Marathon, FL
Florida islands in both directions.

Key West – A Florida island with quirkiness in its DNA

At the very southern end of US Highway 1 you find Key West. The Florida island and city is the southernmost destination of the continental United States.

Among the Florida islands Key West stands out as the capital of quirkiness. Key West really is like its own world at its own slow pace. On the island chickens roam down the street and every evening sunset is celebrated.

The South Florida island is also located so far south that summer really is endless in Key West. In January the daily average high temperature is a comfortable 74°F (24°C). Even at night in January the temperature on average only goes down to 64°F (18°C).

The last Florida island along US Route 1
The quirky Key West.

Dry Tortugas – South Florida islands even further from the mainland

Key West is one of the South Florida islands that’s really far away from the mainland. By car you can’t go any further. But if you’re willing to go by boat or seaplane the islands in Dry Tortugas National Park sit even further away from mainland Florida.

Dry Tortugas is a group of paradise islands in South Florida that are located around 65 miles (108 km) west of Key West. The national park protects seven small and uninhabited islands with true Caribbean charm.

With sandy beaches, picturesque blue waters and rich coral reefs a day passes in no time in Dry Tortugas. But a nice break from the sun and the water is to tour Garden Key’s historic Fort Jefferson. Another impressive structure on the South Florida islands to admire is Loggerhead Lighthouse on Loggerhead Key.

Loggerhead Key is one of the most remote Florida islands
The remote Loggerhead Key.

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