Florida Island Adventures
There is nothing like being surrounded by water on a Florida island adventure. Florida has over 4500 islands! Of course, many are uninhabited or abandoned. Some were havens for native Americans, pirates and prisoners sentenced for crimes.
Some islands are called keys. Most islands are made from events that occurred thousands of years ago. Keys are a mound of coral deposits formed by living corals. Can you tell the difference? Not really unless you are planning on major excavations.
When planning a Florida island adventure, we really don’t care whether we are going to a “key” or just a plain old island. It’s the amenities, or lack thereof, that make your adventure in Florida different.
Florida has some plush resort islands and some remote barely inhabited islands. You can choose your level of adventure desired. Below Florida Travel Blog gives you some of our best island adventures.
If you could choose a beach to just hide away from the rest of the world, St. George Island would be a candidate. Located off the Gulf coast near Apalachicola, the island has some development on the western side, but there are miles of natural beaches on the eastern side of St. George Island.
This little island in the Everglades was critically important to survival for Indians, trappers and fishermen in the 19th century. It was a central point for trading goods and services. Barely known but inhabited by hardcore fishermen, Chokoloskee is a remote inshore fishermen’s paradise. Plenty of redfish, snook and trout around the area.
On the other end of the remote and sparse habitation is Marco Island. Located south of Naples on the edge of the Everglades, the island is the winter home of the well-heeled. Elegant condos surround the island along with the Gulf of Mexico. Nice wide beaches front many of the resorts that offer only the best in service and amenities.
Amelia Island is one of the larger islands in our Florida island adventure list. Located north of Jacksonville, the island is one of or favorite road trips while in the northeastern part of Florida. The town of Fernandina Beach is fun and the eastern shore of Amelia island is covered with resorts along the Atlantic Ocean.
Perhaps one of the more well-known tourist islands on our list. Plenty of shopping on the beach and across the bridge in Ft. Myers. Many water-based activities on both sides of the island. Also the home to The Key West Express.
If size matters when it comes to beaches, you must visit Siesta Beach on the island. The public beach is huge and the village nearby supports a dozen different restaurant options. On the north end of Siesta Key there are some upscale homes on a tree-covered drive as you cross the bridge from Sarasota.
Whenever we write about Clearwater Beach, we disclose our prejudice – we live there! Probably the most visited beach on our Florida island adventure list. This is a family beach with a big marina that supports all types of water activities. Kids love the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise. Beautiful white soft sand covers 3 miles of beaches. Tons of hotel choices and plenty of shopping make Clearwater Beach a perfect vacation for the whole family.
In direct contrast to Clearwater Beach is Cayo Costa. This island is only accessible by boat. There are ferries from Pine Island and other locations that take you to Cayo Costa State Park. This remote island has limited facilities, but a beautiful beach to explore.
Another Gulf coast island located northwest of Bradenton, Florida. What makes Anna Maria island unique is the lack of sky-high highrises. You aren’t surrounded by condos, just colorful cottages and homes.
Key West is our favorite destination in Florida. Florida Travel Blog has several posts about attractions on the island. It is hard not to like Key West. Duval Street alone is an attraction. Then there is the Hemingway connection, the historical component and the many beaches. World-class fishing too! Key West has become an international destination for tourists, artists and the curious.
Lido Key is just north of Siesta Key and is also accessible from Sarasota, Florida. The beach is generally less crowded, but the real attraction on Lido Key is St. Armand’s Circle. The collection of 140 retail outlets and restaurants brings people from all over Florida. Fun place!
These two islands are linked by a bridge but considered together because there is only one way to get there through Sanibel. It would be uncommon to visit one island and not go to the other. While Sanibel is known for the numerous shells washed up on the beach daily and Captiva has the South Seas Island Resort, both are the destination for sun worshipers heading to Florida beaches. Your access to these beaches is just north of Fort Myers.
For those families that love to explore and camp, Bahia Honda Key is the place to be. A great way to introduce the kids to the saltwater environment on an island just north of Key West. It can be a busy place, so reservations are required for camping facilities. There are plenty of motels around if you just want to enjoy Bahia Honda Beach.
You could almost duplicate the words for Clearwater Beach for St. Pete Beach. This is an island with long sandy beaches and tons of hotels. The Don Cesar is a classic old hotel that anchors the south end of the beach. Maybe not quite as much to do on St. Pete Beach as Clearwater beach, but this beach is party central for the younger crowd.
About 70 miles west of Key West is truly a Florida island adventure. In the mid-1800s the United States built a prison on an island in the Dry Tortugas. At the time it was a marvel of red brick construction. Called Fort Jefferson originally, it was converted into a prison to hold confederate prisoners during the Civil War. Even Dr. Mudd was there! It is a must-see for those who want to see the Tortugas and this historical island. There are ferry and float plane trips daily from Key West.
Just west of Port Charlotte is a small, but exclusive, island called Boca Grande. For a century the island has been dominated by the rich and famous who want to get away from crowds. We don’t know if the exclusivity continues today, but we do know Boca Grand swells by several hundred people each spring when the tarpon are running. The island is called the Tarpon Capital of the World.
The string of islands off the southern tip of Florida are called the Florida Keys. There are about 47 of them connected by bridges. Key Largo is the largest of the islands in the Keys. It is known for the fabulous scuba diving on local reefs. But in fairness, other places like Islamorada, Marathon and Big Pine Key are equally popular islands in the chain. For the ultimate Florida island adventure, explore them all! There are amazing sights throughout the Keys.
Do you like a little mixture of experiences in your Florida island adventure? How about an island-hopping ferry ride to a small island that supposedly serves up the best cheeseburger in Florida and then a stroll around the barrier island? That is the agenda for Cabbage Key and the Cabbage Key Inn. Cabbage Key is in Pine Island Sound north of Sanibel and Captiva.
At one point in Florida’s history, Cedar Key was a major shipping port on the Florida Gulf coast. Eventually, the island became one of the state’s biggest suppliers of clams and oysters. Quaint shops and a line of buildings with restaurants built right over the Gulf highlight Cedar Key’s appeal. Cedar Key is 45 miles north of Crystal River.
Those are our favorite 19 Florida island adventures.
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