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Florida is filled with stunning beaches – no passport required!
If you live in the southeast, you have probably hopped in the car and driven to Florida a time or two. If you are looking for Florida travel options that resemble certain aspects of a tropical island such as the clear blue water with beach service or an adventurous escape only accessible by boat, check out these ideas…
1.) Destin: Gorgeous Water & Sand as soft as Baby Powder…
Destin, Florida is on the Emerald Coast and has the prettiest water I’ve seen in Florida. The sand is soft and nearly as white and powdery as snow. In fact, you may even see a snowman built on the beach instead of a typical sandcastle! Plus, you will meet lots very cool birds that really don’t care if you are standing next to them.
To avoid crowds and get more of the tropical island feel to your vacation, I highly recommend staying somewhere with private beach access. This will make a HUGE difference in your experience. If you visit a public beach while you are there, you will immediately know what I am talking about.
I stayed at Silver Shells Beach Resort & Spa and had an excellent experience overall. There was plenty of privacy on the beach plus a walk up bar, and beach service was included. You are also within walking distance to The Back Porch Seafood & Oyster House – a bathing suit friendly, open air restaurant that is pretty delicious and has fantastic drinks.
One of my favorite things about Destin is you can choose to be touristy or not. Options are endless for all personalities and ages.
2.) Pensacola: Ahhhh…a place that makes you feel like you have just about the whole beach to yourself!
Similar to Destin and just over an hour away, Pensacola is another Florida beach paradise with beautiful water and sand on the Emerald Coast. I went during the fall and it was hot enough to get in the water and crowds were essentially nonexistent.
Even if you are not a Jimmy Buffet fan, Margaritaville is a fantastic place to stay. The rooms are ginormous, the pool is super relaxing and there is a nice variety of food options. Most noteworthy perhaps, is their exceptional customer service. I hope to go back ASAP!
3.) The Florida Keys: Go here for all the Wanderlusty feels…
Driving through the Florida Keys is such an extraordinary experience. Once you are on the scenic Overseas Highwway, you are surrounded by beautiful turquoise water and you just may spot rare birds and other unexpected wildlife, random islands and gorgeous views for miles (113, to be exact).
Each Key has it’s own personality and you really don’t need signs to know when you are driving through a new one. For instance, Key Largo is filled with pastel colors, fun shops and scuba diving businesses. You will certainly know when you arrive in Big Pine Key because you will begin to notice deer popping up. When you get to Key West, you will again feel in a totally new and fun place filled with interesting characters and endless sights (plus Key Lime everything you can think of).
If money is no object, treat yourself to a truly Bora Bora type experience and stay in one of these oceanfront bungalows at Little Palm Island Resort (it will only cost you a little over 1k per night!). Sadly, I am still saving up for these dreamy accommodations!
If not, you can also have a dreamy experience at Cheeca Lodge & Spa for less than a third of the cost for these oceanfront, soaking tub from the balcony quarters. The resort fee includes access to kayaks, paddle boards, bicycles, golf, tennis, fishing and more! If you do like to fish (and can catch one), you can have your catch prepared for dinner in your style of choice at the on property Atlantic’s Edge restaurant.
On my Bucket List…
4.) Little Gasparilla Island: The ultimate Island experience as you literally have to travel by boat to get here (awesome!)
With no commercial establishments on the whole island, you are sure to feel like you have gone a seriously long way from home. Think bird watches, nature walks, collecting unique shells, fishing and kayaking. This island is only accessible by boat and golf cart rentals are recommended to travel around the island. Little Gasparilla Island is one of the few dog friendly beaches in Florida, which makes it even better if you ask me! I spotted waterfront condos on VRBO for as little as $40 per night or private waterfront homes for $121 and up.
5.) Captiva & Sanibel Islands: The perfect spot for shell collectors!
This island has no traffic lights and over 200 types of birds and shells! Not to mention, several unique shops and restaurants that you will not find anywhere else. This place seems to have the best of both worlds for indoor and outdoor fun!
I mean…how cute are these little beach cottages at Captiva Island Inn Bed & Breakfast? You can also stay in a single room or opt for a larger vacation home. The cottages and suites are directly between the beach and the bay. Even better, you will get your choice of two award-winning onsite restaurants for free breakfast.
Choose from R.C. Otter’s or Keylime Bistro…yum! At night, they offer live music from local bands too. Southern Living mentions both dining options among the favorite eating spots on the whole island!