Best Small Towns in Florida - Under 10,000 Residents
Welcome to the ultimate guide to the 50 best small towns in the Sunshine State, Florida. Get ready to immerse yourself in the authentic charm and beauty of Florida as we take you on a journey through Florida’s hidden gems.
From coastal communities with crystal-clear waters to quaint towns nestled in the heart of nature, this guide will introduce you to the very best of small-town Florida. Whether you’re seeking a relaxing beach getaway, an outdoor adventure, or a taste of local culture, these towns offer something for everyone.
Experience the laid-back vibe of coastal towns like Apalachicola and Cedar Key, where fresh seafood and breathtaking sunsets are the norm. Discover the old-world charm of historic towns like Mount Dora, where cobblestone streets and charming architecture transport you to a different era.
Each town on our list has its own unique character and attractions, making it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking an authentic Florida experience. So pack your bags and get ready to explore the real Florida in these 50 best small towns in Florida that capture the essence of the Sunshine State.
Why Small Towns Are Worth Exploring in Florida
Florida is known for its bustling cities and world-famous theme parks, but there is a different side of the state that often goes unnoticed – its small towns. These charming communities offer a glimpse into the true spirit of Florida, away from the crowds and tourist hotspots.
In small towns, you can experience the laid-back lifestyle that Florida is famous for. You can stroll along quiet streets, chat with friendly locals, and discover hidden gems that are off the beaten path. Small towns allow you to slow down, relax, and truly immerse yourself in the authentic Florida experience.
Criteria for Selecting the 50 Best Small Towns
Selecting the 50 best small towns in Florida was no easy task. We considered several factors to ensure that each town on our list deserved its spot.
Criteria For Selecting the 50 Best Small Towns in Florida:
- Must be UNDER 10,000 population
- Must have charm and character
- Unique atmosphere
- Have historical significance
- Natural surroundings as opposed to being a suburb
We also took into account the town’s attractions and activities. From outdoor adventures like hiking and kayaking to cultural experiences like visiting local museums and art galleries, we wanted to make sure that each town offered a variety of things to see and do.
Many of the Best small towns in Florida are located near Florida’s springs. We consider this a positive attribute when evaluating a small town. The springs were gathering places for Native Americans and settlers. Small towns emanated from these spots.
Lastly, we considered the town’s accessibility and amenities. While small towns may be off the beaten path, we wanted to ensure that they had the necessary facilities for visitors, such as accommodations, restaurants, and shops.
List of the 50 Best Small Towns in Florida
- Apalachicola – Once the oyster capital of Florida. Apalachicola is now one of the most authentic fishing villages in the panhandle of Florida. Enticing shops make a visit worthwhile. (Pop. 2341)
- Cedar Key – The best example of a town that revitalized itself through aquaculture. On Florida’s Gulf Coast with waterfront restaurants, bars and shops. (Pop. 687)
- Sanibel Island – Nearly destroyed during Hurricane Ian in 2022, this island is rebuilding with a vengeance. Still the best place for shelling in Florida. (Pop. 6382)
- Anna Maria Island – The little island with a big attitude against high-rises. Colorful cottages, waterfront seafood and white sandy beaches. (Pop, 1092)
- Seaside – This is a planned community in the middle of some of Florida’s most beautiful beaches. This village along with several others are on Florida’s scenic highway 30A in the panhandle. As a designated community there are no specific population figures, but the entire Walton County only has just over 83,000 residents. Estimates are in the range of 1200 people.
- Islamorada – Known as the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, this beautiful island in the Florida Keys is also known for its beachfront resorts. Islamorada has beaches on the ocean side as well as the bay side of the island. (Pop. 7107)
- Captiva Island – This little island has the famous South Seas Island Resort and is adjacent to Sanibel Island. Also, building back from Hurricane Ian in 2022. (Pop. 318)
- Fort Myers Beach – One of the top tourist destinations in Florida before Hurricane Ian. The population today is very small as the island rebuilds. (Pop. 5582)
- St. George Island – This tranquil panhandle island is 4 miles offshore and accessed by a bridge or boat. Near Apalachicola and Eastpoint Florida, both known as excellent fishing towns. The beach at St. George Island is considered one of the top 5 in Florida. (Pop. 1006)
- Port St. Joe – The panhandle is blessed with charming small towns in Florida. This one has a deepwater bay that was historically significant as a port to weather the storms in the Gulf of Mexico. (Pop. 3357)
- Marianna – One of the oldest towns in Florida. Located in Jackson County which was named after Andrew Jackson. Very Colorful history in the Civil War. (Pop. 6245)
- Perry – Well-known town with many crossroads leading from the Gulf Coast to the panhandle, north to Tallahassee and east to I-75. One of our favorite Florida “cracker” restaurants is located there by the name of Deals Oyster House. (Pop. 6898)
- Live Oak – True to its name, oak trees line the highways through town. Another very old town in Florida that had Confederate connections during the Civil War. Suwanee River nearby was a major transport river for supplies going north. Route 90, known as The Spanish Trail, goes through Live Oak. (Pop. 6735)
- Lake Placid – Located in south-central Florida, it is known for caladium bulbs. 98% of the world’s caladium bulb production comes from the many farms surrounding Lake Placid. (Pop. 2360)
- Avon Park – Located in south-central Florida, the city is known for the miles and miles of citrus trees that surround the city. (Pop. 9658)
- Clewiston – This small town has a rich history related to Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Before lake levels went town, the town was known as the home of fishing legend Rowland Martin. (Pop.7327)
- Arcadia – This amazing small town is known for two things. First it is the antique capital of Florida. Second it is known for the regular rodeos held in town. (Pop. 7420)
- Monticello – This north Florida town is named after Thomas Jefferson’s mansion and estate in Virginia. It is also the county seat of the aptly named Jefferson County. (Pop. 2569)
- Waldo – Located in north central Florida, this is another 19th-century historic city. At the time of naming, Waldo was a major station for the Florida Railroad. (Pop. 846)
- Marathon – Very popular tourist destination in the middle of the Florida Keys. Notable for several family resorts along the coast. (Pop. 9689)
- Crystal River – Perhaps one of the most famous small towns in Florida known as “The Manatee Capital of Florida”. Located on the Gulf Coast, this is one of our top three favorite small towns in Florida. Home of three different Florida springs that feed the river. (Pop. 3396)
- Big Pine Key –Another popular island in the Florida Keys about 30 miles east of Key West. Best known for one of the most unique species of deer in the world called Key Deer. These deer are about the size of a large dog. (Pop. 4521)
- Crescent City – Located in northeast Florida, Best known for the Crescent City Historic District on the National Registry of Historic Places. (Pop. 1654)
- Carrabelle – This is a small town with a big fishing habit. It’s located on 98 along the coast of the panhandle. (Pop. 2606)
- Inglis – This town in Levy County in what is called Florida’s Forgotten Coast, is on Rt. 19 along with several other small towns including Cedar Key and Perry. (Pop. 1476)
- Flagler Beach – This east coast beach town is along A1A, a highway that meanders along the Atlantic Coast of Florida. (Pop. 5160)
- Moore Haven – This village is on the southwest corner of Lake Okeechobee. Known for a combination of farming and cattle, the population is mostly involved with those industries. (Pop. 1566)
- Micanopy – Named after an Indian Chief, Micanopy may be one of the most visited small towns in Florida. It is known for its antiques and the relatively untouched downtown district. (Pop. 648)
- Ponce de Leon –Located in the far northwest of the panhandle of Florida, this town is named after the famed explorer of the 1500s. Florida history recounts Ponce de Leon’s many Florida encounters. (Pop. 504)
- Goodland – Just off the outskirts of Marco Island, Florida, Goodland is a community that never grew. Residents love their remote fishing community and aren’t interested in changing much. (Pop. 312)
- Branford – Branford is located on the banks of the famed Suwannee River. It was a major port for the shipping of Florida goods to the north in the 1800s. One of Florida’s popular springs, Troy Springs is located here. (Pop. 711)
- Baldwin – One of the few independent cities in Duval County that wasn’t consumed by Jacksonville. In the Civil War, Baldwin was burnt to the ground by Federal troops. (Pop. 1396)
- Everglades City – One writer stated, “Everglades City was once “Florida’s Last Frontier”. The reason for that was as man attempted to conquer the Everglades in the early 1900s, the difficulties proved to be more difficult than thought possible. (Pop. 342)
- Boca Grande – Boca Grande is on Gasparilla Island, a barrier island on Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast. This upscale island is known for its title as the “Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World”. (Pop. 1704 in 2012)
- White Springs – In 1910, White Springs had a population of 1177 people when it was a major Florida tourist attraction. Many people believed that swimming in the mineral springs could cure many ailments. Some people consider this town to be Florida’s first major attraction. Located in far north Florida’s Hamilton County. (Pop. 740)
- Wewahitchka – This Native American-named town is in the panhandle 25 miles north of Panama City. Known for one of the largest beekeeping locations in Florida. Produces the famous Tupelo Honey. (Pop. 2074)
- Reddick – Located in central Florida about 75 miles northwest of Orlando, Reddick was the location for the movie “Jeepers Creepers”. (Pop. 449)
- Hawthorne – Hawthorne is just a few miles east of Micanopy, Florida. Often visitors visit both on the same day. Hawthorne is the home of Marjorie Kinan Rawlings, a famous early 1900s writer. A state park has preserved her original home. (Pop. 1478)
- Flamingo – Flamingo, Florida is about as remote as you can get in Florida. From Florida City (near Homestead), Flamingo is almost 40 miles into the southern part of the Everglades. The Lodge was wiped out by Hurricane Wilma. A new lodge is scheduled to open late in 2023. We could find no reliable population numbers but very likely less than 100 since it is part of Everglades National Park.
- Cross City – Cross City, Florida is the county seat of Dixie County. Driving through US 19 makes Cross City look larger than its population indicates. Dixie County was notorious for corruption of prior government officials in the last 20 years. (Pop. 1689)
- Homosassa – This Gulf Coast Community was the home to a 5000 acre sugar plantation owned by David Yulee in 1851. A little fishing town and restaurants are nearby today. (Pop. 2299)
- Williston – The Devil’s Den, a cave diving attraction, is located in Williston. Also known for horse farms and peanuts. (Pop. 2976)
- Marineland – Located on A1A on the Atlantic Coast, Marineland is one of the smallest of our small towns in Florida with only 15 residents. The town is an east coast beach town in Florida.
- Hampton – Located in Bradford County, Florida, Hampton was incorporated in 1925. At the time it was the junction of two railroads with a station for each railroad in town. (Pop. 432)
- Campbellton – This little town was the scene of a skirmish between troops of the north and south in the Civil War in 1864. Very near the Florida-Alabama line, Campbellton had a local militia that was unsuccessful in stopping Union troops. (Pop. 191)
- Yankeetown – Another Levy County Florida town. This one is on the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Withlacoochee River. Cool little coastal town. (Pop. 588)
- Inverness – This Florida town is a freshwater fishing village surrounded by lakes. The Inverness area was inhabited by Seminole Indians and their chief, Osceola, during the Second Seminole War. (Pop. 7543)
- Steinhatchee – Steinhatchee is another Gulf Coast fishing community located at the mouth of the river with the same name. Several restaurants and marinas make this a popular spot for summer residents. Also known for harvesting tasty scallops from the shallow flats when in season. The town is located 20 miles north of Cross City on the Gulf Coast. (Pop. 1049)
- Bronson – Bronson, Florida is the county seat of Levy County. Founded in 1839, Bronson was originally known as “Chunky Pond”. Bronson is also where Bo Diddley, the famous rock & roller, is buried in Rosemary Hill Cemetery. (Pop. 1140)
- Westlake – Westlake Florida is the most recent city in Florida to be incorporated. In 2016 the town completed the process of incorporation. It is located 20 miles west of West Palm Beach. (Pop. 906)
Exploring the Coastal Small Towns
The Gulf Coast of Florida is home to some of the most beautiful small towns in the state. From the charming fishing village of Apalachicola to the quaint island of Cedar Key, there is something for everyone along this stunning stretch of coastline.
Apalachicola is a little-known gem that offers a glimpse into Florida’s rich history. With its well-preserved historic district and delicious seafood, it’s a must-visit for history buffs and foodies alike. Cedar Key is a tranquil island town that is perfect for those seeking a peaceful getaway. Its beautiful shoreline, abundant wildlife, and charming downtown make it a favorite among nature lovers.
On Florida’s east coast, numerous beach villages are along the barrier islands. Places like Flagler Beach and Marineland represent the Atlantic coast of Florida. The views from Highway A1A hugging the shore are amazing.
A few miles along the Atlantic Ocean will explain why so many people have chosen this coast for the picturesque setting.
Experiencing the Charm of North Florida Small Towns
North Florida is often overlooked by tourists, but it’s home to some of the most charming small towns in the state. Marianna, Monticello and Campbellton represent old Florida villages with a heritage pre-dating the Civil War. Their Victorian architecture, brick-lined streets, and quaint shops make them delightful places to explore.
Lake City is another hidden gem in North Florida. Known for its beautiful lakes, outdoor recreation opportunities, and friendly community, it’s a great place to escape the crowds and experience the true beauty of Florida.
Must-visit Small Towns in the Florida Keys
No guide to small-town Florida would be complete without mentioning the Florida Keys. This string of islands offers a unique blend of natural beauty, laid-back island life, and vibrant culture. Key West is the name most connected to the Florida Keys, but real small towns like Marathon and Big Pine Key make up the heart of this group of islands.
Islamorada, located just south of Key Largo, is another must-visit destination in the Florida Keys. Known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World,” it offers world-class fishing, beautiful beaches, and a relaxed island vibe.
Outdoor Activities and Attractions in Small Towns
One of the highlights of visiting small towns in Florida is the abundance of outdoor activities and attractions. Whether you’re a nature lover, adventure seeker, or simply enjoy being outdoors, these towns offer plenty of opportunities to get outside and explore.
From hiking and kayaking in state parks to fishing and boating in crystal-clear waters, there’s something for every outdoor enthusiast. You can go birdwatching in St. George Island, snorkeling in the Florida Keys, or hiking in Ocala National Forest near Crescent City. The possibilities are endless!
Local Cuisine and Dining Recommendations
No trip to Florida is complete without sampling the local cuisine, and the small towns on our list are no exception. From fresh seafood to Southern comfort food, these towns offer a wide range of culinary delights.
In Apalachicola, you can savor the taste of freshly caught oysters at one of the town’s many seafood restaurants. In Flagler Beach, you can indulge in Spanish and Cuban flavors at local eateries. And in Islamorada, you can enjoy a slice of Key Lime Pie, a local specialty.
Unique Festivals and Events in Small Towns
Throughout the year, small towns in Florida come alive with unique festivals and events that showcase the local culture and heritage. From music festivals to art fairs, these events offer a chance to immerse yourself in the vibrant community spirit of small-town Florida.
In Mount Dora, you can attend the annual Mount Dora Arts Festival, which showcases the work of local and national artists. In Tarpon Springs, you can experience the Greek culture at the annual Epiphany celebration, where young men dive into the water to retrieve a cross.
Tips for Planning Your Authentic Florida Adventure
Before you embark on your small-town Florida adventure, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your trip:
- Research each town beforehand to find out what attractions and activities are available. We highly recommend visiting Florida Springs in the many state parks. They are budget-friendly and fun for the whole family.
- Consider renting a car if you are visiting Florida to easily explore multiple towns.
- Pack sunscreen, bug spray, and comfortable walking shoes.
- Check the local event calendar to see if any festivals or events are happening during your visit. Many unique festivals are annual like the Gecko Festival, Swamp Cabbage Festival and the Worm Digging Festival. Those are some of the more unique events to go along with the normal fairs, craft shows and food festivals.
- Don’t be afraid to ask locals for recommendations – they know the best places the locals prefer for food and fun!
Florida may be known for its big cities and theme parks, but its small towns offer a whole different side of the Sunshine State. From the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast, from the Florida Keys to North Florida, these towns capture the essence of authentic Florida.
So pack your bags, hit the road, and experience the laid-back vibe, natural beauty, and rich culture of the 50 best small towns in Florida. It’s time to discover the real Florida and create memories that will last a lifetime.