Top 10 Florida Getaway Spots for the Laid-Back Traveler

The variety of potential Florida getaway destinations is astounding. With options for every type of traveler, Florida vacations can be whatever you make of them. We find people usually discuss big the big cities – Miami, Orlando, St. Petersburg, etc. – but we want to cater this post towards laid back travelers seeking a low-key tropical getaway. Whether you’re looking for a coastal retreat in a small fishing village, a lazy river ride down a crystal clear spring fed river, or some casual hikes through the Spanish moss riddled oaks of the old state, Florida is an option worth considering.

picturesque Ringling Museum of Fine Arts in Sarasota

1. Sarasota

Home to the world famous Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota boasts a love for great food, art, and beautiful Gulf Coast sunsets. Its geography makes it one of the best boating areas on the Gulf and provides abundant options for chartering a bountiful fishing experience. Head out to St. Armands Circle or Siesta Key to enjoy the beaches, restaurants, and eclectic shops but be aware it these tourist spots can get a little crowded on weekends. Check out our detailed guide of Sarasota to find a local’s recommendations on avoiding tourist traps on your relaxing Florida getaway.

Make sure to take advantage of the wide array of restaurants in the area. Downtown Sarasota has a plethora of options and you can’t really go wrong with the quality of dining experience. Alternatively, there are dining options from every price point with a bay-front view, which is good because eating on the water is a must when you’re in Florida. If you feel so inclined, there are also plenty of shopping areas catered to both tourists and locals.

If you have an extra day in your itinerary, pay a visit to Pinecraft, the little Amish community in the middle of residential Sarasota. The Ringling Museum has a wonderful fine arts collection and an amusing history of Ringling Bros Circus. Or if you’re more interested in exploring the Florida fauna, take a few hikes through Myakka River State Park where you’re almost guaranteed to see some wild alligators in the water. Don’t miss the Mote Marine Aquarium for an up-close look at Florida’s marine life. They practice humane animal care and have a rescue program for dolphins and whales, so you can confidently support humane practices.

Pelican at Cedar Key in Florida

2. Cedar Key

Cedar Key is a small Gulf Coast fishing village that exudes character. You’ll find there’s not a lot to explore on this tiny island, and that you can do most of it in one day on a golf cart rental. The rest of your time here will be spent on a charming condo balcony overlooking the shoreline or at the strip of old wooden waterfront restaurants. You’ll be sure to enjoy a seafood platter or a classic burger in paradise with a cold drink in hand.

Don’t leave without renting a golf cart or kayak to get the most out of this quaint little key. I also encourage you to get in touch with your inner chef and explore the fresh seafood shops around the area. Pick up some fresh fish, local oysters, and the classic favorites – smoked mullet and smoked mullet dip – as appetizers for your coastal feast. Seriously, I implore you to try the smoked mullet in either form on a cracker. Regardless of how you choose to spend your time in Cedar Key, you’ll leave feeling relaxed and recharged.

Take a look at our full itinerary for a weekend in Cedar Key here!

St Augustine Harbor in Florida, USA

3. St. Augustine

Okay, okay… St. Augustine isn’t exactly a small town, but it can be very relaxing. If you’re a history buff, foodie, or a lover of all things paranormal, you’ll love this historic Florida city. One point of interest that is definitely worth exploring is the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. They do charge an admission fee, but it’s worth it to explore this important point in Florida history. If you don’t go for the facts, go for the views! Check out other forts and museums around the area as well.

Don’t miss The Old City on your trip. Marvel at the beautiful architecture, the simple shops and restaurants, and the cobblestone streets for a little immersion in the past. Be sure to stop by the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum for a look at the iconic lighthouse; if you’re inclined towards the paranormal, check out their Dark of the Moon tour to enter the lighthouse and take your chances at a ghostly encounter.

While there may be some gimmicky things to do in St. Augustine, don’t dismiss it as a relaxing Florida getaway. Of course, your travel style dictates the pace of your vacation as much as the location does and there’s nothing wrong with picking a quiet cottage or a beachside bungalow and kicking back on the beach. Do take advantage of the wide variety of restaurants around the area though.

Sanibel Island Lighthouse in Florida reflecting off the shallow water at sunset

4. Sanibel Island

If you’re seeking a family-friendly beach destination, this Gulf Coast getaway hits the mark. Sanibel Island is home to an abundance of seashells and even has a Sea shell Museum. Walk the sandy beaches and keep an eye on the ground for shark teeth to add to your collection. Head down to the end of the island to enjoy the lighthouse park to enjoy the water with a view of the lighthouse.

One thing besides the beaches Sanibel has to offer is great sailing opportunity. We recommend hiring a sailboat to tour the waters around the island. Or if you want a look at a variety of birds, fish, manatees, and reptiles, go explore the national wildlife refuge. There are plenty of dining options on the island and you’ll find a variety of unique shops around town. Your kids will love Sanibel and you’ll find nothing but good vibes and relaxation in this sunny Florida getaway location.

Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida

5. Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral

If you’re a fan of tech or space travel, Cape Canaveral needs to be part of your Florida vacation itinerary. With multiple museums and the Kennedy Space Center a short drive away, the Space Coast is fundamental to explore your extraterrestrial side. Not into the space stuff? That’s fine. Cocoa Beach offers great surf and beautiful Atlantic beaches to enjoy the water. Explore the Cocoa Beach Pier for some waterside restaurants, bars, and stores.

For something a little more energized, try out Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures for some fun zip lines and obstacle courses. Or take a ride out to the Atlantic and test your luck on a casino cruise. Regardless of your interests, the Space Coast has activities that are fun for the whole family. We highly recommend considering it for your Florida getaway if you’re traveling with kids.

sailboat in the crystal blue waters of the Florida Keys

6. The Florida Keys

There’s a caveat with this one. You need a boat to really get the most out of the Keys… whether you have your own or hire one, you’ll have a good time. Bring a snorkel and some fins or rent them, because the snorkeling in these Caribbean waters is out of this world. There are plenty of good locations along the 126 miles of Keys, and you have options from laid back Key Largo all the way to party central Key West. You won’t regret getting out on this crystal blue water. Don’t forget your sunscreen though!

Seafood is a must-have anywhere in Florida, but it’s even more so in the Keys. I recommend trying to catch your own for the fun and experience because there’s an abundance around here. Though, if that sounds like too much work, you won’t regret picking some up at a local market or one of the many restaurants scatter along the island chain. If your BNB or hotel has a grill and you’re comfortable enough around coals, throw some fresh snapper or grouper on there with some salt, pepper, and lemon. You can thank me later.

the Naples pier at sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

7. Naples

Looking for a little luxury? Naples is another beautiful Gulf Coast vacation spot. But don’t be fooled – there’s more to do than sit on the beach with a fancy cocktail in hand (although that doesn’t sound bad at all). This upscale seaside town is home to several nature preserves, parks, and museums that are worth a visit. I especially recommend perusing the local botanical gardens and exploring the mangrove networks with a manatee kayak tour.

Really though, Naples is best enjoyed as a premium hotspot to splurge on some good food and accommodations. For most of us, we either have money or have time, so if you’re the former and want to splurge on your scarce vacation days, this is the place for you. Rent a fishing charter, a beachside condo with a view, and explore the high quality dining locales for a great trip. And before you leave the Gulf Coast, be sure to take in the picturesque sunset from the beach or pier.

manatees in Florida

8. Crystal River

If you ask a local about their favorite Florida getaway destination, they may point you to Crystal River. Known for its prime natural springs, this river is home to many manatees and offers a refreshing dip in the middle of summer. Coupled with the springs, the local wildlife refuges offer plenty of opportunity to get in touch with the nature that makes the area so well known. The Sunshine State has a tendency to be hot, so if you’re visiting in May through September, you’ll want to stay near the water.

There are plenty of waterfront vacation rentals in the area, so take advantage of those while you’re here. Pick a place you’ll enjoy spending time at because, while there are some nice beaches and the river, this is a great location to kick back and relax on a dock. Add Crystal River to your Florida vacation itinerary. You won’t regret your experience here.

the alligators at the Everglades National Park are modern reminders of their ancient dinosaur ancestors

9. Everglades National Park

This Florida getaway destination is less about a specific city and more about choosing a place that’s accessible to the Everglades. Whether you’re staying near Naples, Marco Island, Miami’s metro area, Kissimmee (very close to Disney World), or even Key Largo, you can make a relaxing day trip out of this huge expanse of southern Florida. While there are some great trails scattered across this national park, the best way to see it is by boat. Rent an airboat and observe an abundance of alligators in their natural habitat.

You’ll usually be able to spot a few gators along Alligator Alley, the alias for I-75 through the Everglades. However, if you didn’t get your fix and don’t want to commit to an airboat ride, take a hike or seek out a responsible alligator farm. Here, you’ll be able to watch some shows and feed the gators. If you’re not bothered by the proximity, you can find some gator to eat at most nearby dining locations. You may even be able to try some at the farm itself.

The Ichetucknee Springs in Florida are a perfect place to

10. Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Our favorite hidden gem of a Florida getaway vacation spot is the Ichetucknee River. Like Crystal River, this lazy river is fed by springs and offers an incredible relief from the hot sun. In order to truly enjoy the river, rent a tube and bring a snorkel. If you’re traveling with family or friends, bring something to ties the tubes together so some people can snorkel while others ride the raft.

I recommend camping or renting a cabin in the area for easy access. Pair some good weather with a well-made camp fire and some company and you’re bound to have a great time. For all you foodies out there, I put together an assortment of tried and true camping meals here. Obviously, if you’re not tired of the classic hot dog and marshmallows on a stick, go for it. No judgement here!

Ready to Plan Your Florida Getaway Vacation?

If so, be sure to check out some of our local guides on Florida destinations. We strive to bring you personalized travel content and informative guides to help you plan your perfect vacations. Alternatively, feel free to share your travel experiences or ask us about anything travel related by commenting below or contacting us here!

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