15 Best Secret Islands in Florida

  • Need an easy weekend getaway or family vacation? These Florida islands are unique hidden gems and close to home — but still deliver a true tropical experience. Take a look at these unexpected coastlines, private-island resorts and secret beaches in Florida and see if you can find a spot for your towel — just try not to let the word get out too much.

  • Boardwalk Burney Park
    Amelia IslandAmelia Island
  • Amelia Island

  • Located north of Jacksonville, Amelia Island edges coastal Georgia. Take the Amelia River Cruise for a scenic tour of the barrier island — beachgoers will love the surf, sea oats and sand dunes. Find sharks' teeth along the shore and at the pier at Fort Clinch State Park, and sample true southern hospitality with a stay at one of Amelia Island Plantation's tranquil villas. The island beckons with 13 miles of beaches and well-preserved historic district of Victorian architecture steeped in Old Southern charm. June through August is peak beach season with warm temperatures and a temperate ocean; the shoulder or 'secret' season of late fall and early winter is a favorite for those seeking fewer crowds and better bargains. Heading into December, temps can drop into the 30s at night, so pack that jacket — but if you're in search of a deal, it's the absolute best time to go.

  • best islands in florida: grove isle
    Grove IsleCoconut Grove
  • Grove Isle

  • Past the towers of downtown Miami and the café-lined streets of Coconut Grove sits a tiny bridge leading to the lush 20- acre privat island resort of Grove Isle Hotel & Spa. Oversize palms, canopied beds, adults- only beaches and the Bali-inspired spa will make you forget city life. But here you can still marvel at the urban views of twinkling lights over Biscayne Bay — while you dine at the Gibraltar on brandy-infused lobster bisque.

  • best islands in florida: alligator point
    Alligator PointAlligator Point
  • Alligator Point

  • This rural beach community in the Big Bend is shaped like an alligator, hence the name. Not exactly an island, but Alligator Point's skinny peninsula does measure about 1,000 feet wide at one point. Its unpopulated shoreline, low- rise beach houses (many rentals) and over a 100 part-time residents make this island the perfect place to escape. Now you can too!

  • best islands in florida: fisher island
    Fisher IslandFisher Island
  • Fisher Island

  • Follow I-395 till you reach Terminal Isle — your destination is the auto-ferry headed for the historic island set on Biscayne Bay off a busy Miami Beach causeway. Just seven minutes from the mainland, this enclave is where big rollers reside and vacay. At the Fisher Island Club & Resort, stay at luxe circa-1925 cottages of the Vanderbilt estate and tee off at a seaside golf course.

  • best islands in florida: gasparilla island
    Gasparilla IslandShutterstock
  • Gasparilla Island

  • Cross an unassuming toll bridge onto this charming Gulf coast barrier island — home to the classic 1913 Gasparilla Inn & Club. This Boca Grande hideaway screams Old Florida, and the Inn's adorable cottages are ideal for families. Don't miss a visit to Banyan Street for its namesake trees, and stop by funky Temptation for lunch. (Be sure to traverse the island via golf cart — it's how the locals do it.)

  • best islands in florida: jupiter island
    Jupiter IslandDebbie Snow
  • Jupiter Island

  • Ginormous private homes with names like "T. Woods" and "C. Dion" on their mailboxes occupy the lion's share of this private barrier island's 3.6 miles. However, there's plenty here to entice mere mortals beyond the gilded gates: miles of secluded white-sand beaches and the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, a breeding site for the Atlantic loggerhead sea turtle.

  • best islands in florida: marco island
    Marco IslandLarry Nighswander
  • Marco Island

  • On Marco Island, you're on the edge of the Everglades, but with a vibe this tropical, you'd never know it. The six-mile island boasts canal-lined streets and a usually-empty crescent-shaped sandy beach that faces the Gulf of Mexico. Keep the islands theme going, and head into the Ten Thousand Islands with tour guide Brian Scuderi, who leads a small caravan of WaveRunners through the Everglades' mangrove maze.

  • best islands in florida: merritt island
    Merritt IslandMerritt Island
  • Merritt Island

  • Come here to feel the ground rumble during a shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center on the north end of this barrier island. On the other end of the spectrum, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is home to some of the most impressive wildlife in Florida — featuring the state's best birding sights and appearances by elusive Florida panthers.

  • best islands in florida: palm island
    Palm IslandiStock
  • Palm Island

  • A three-minute ferryboat ride across the Intracoastal Waterway drops you and your car on Palm Island. (It's the only access to this very narrow, seven-mile-long isle nestled in the Charlotte Harbor area of Southwest Florida.) The Palm Island Resort's villas are just steps from the Gulf of Mexico. You'll find plenty of sea- shells and birds of all sorts — like terns, pelicans, egrets and more — to watch.

  • best islands in florida: st. vincent island
    St. Vincent IslandCorbis / Alamy
  • St. Vincent Island

  • Undeveloped St. Vincent Island on the northwest Gulf of Mexico invites you to its sand ridges, tidal marshes and pine forests, where native white-tailed deer and endangered red wolves enjoy a life unfettered. It's offshore from the mouth of the Apalachicola River, famous for Florida oysters. Stay at the Gibson Inn in Apalach, as the locals call it, for a weekend outdoors.

  • best islands in florida: sunset key
    Sunset KeySunset Key
  • Sunset Key

  • Just 500 yards off Key West, this man-made island is home to Sunset Key's 40 guest cottages. Ferry over for a sunset dinner on the sands at Latitudes for Florida lobster and locally caught yellowtail snapper or gp ahead and rent a cottage for the experience of living on a private island. Boats to and from Key West run 24 hours a day for late mainland fun.

  • best islands in florida:  Big Talbot Island
    Big Talbot IslandShutterstock
  • Big Talbot Island

  • Big Talbot Island will wow you with its dramatic 20-foot bluffs that define its jagged Atlantic shoreline. Paired with a sandy stretch nicknamed Boneyard Beach for the skeletons of cedar and oak trees, this state park is a nature photographer's dream. You can stop at neighboring Little Talbot Island State Park, where salt marshes abound.

  • best islands in florida: cedar key
    Cedar KeyAlamy
  • Cedar Key

  • Nestled in the less developed Big Bend area of the state, this rustic Gulf of Mexico fishing village and artists' colony delivers peace and quiet. Bird-watch from a kayak, fish from the town's pier, eat fresh clam chowder made from farm-raised local clams and just kick back at one of the many cozy vacation rentals (you won't find any high-rises here).

  • best islands in florida: pine island
    Pine IslandJon Whittle
  • Pine Island

  • Drive across a bridge with a grand name — the "World's Most Fishingest" — into Matlacha, a colorful art-gallery community that leads to Pine Island. A few miles more and you're at the island's only four-way stop, where mangroves, charming cottages, fruit-tree nurseries and the occasional eatery like Red's Fresh Seafood House & Tavern dot the streets. Stay at the Bokeelia Tarpon Inn for a knockout view of Charlotte Harbor and a 300-foot-long fishing pier just steps away.

  • best islands in florida: little palm island
    Little Palm IslandAmy Mikler
  • Little Palm Island

  • Step onto the boat, turn off your cell phone and prepare to meet true paradise. Little Palm Island is 2½ miles off Overseas Highway in Little Torch Key, near Key West, but it feels like a secluded, self- contained universe. On the boat trip over to Little Palm Island, the resort's staffers help the outside world fade from your mind by encouraging you to drink their complimentary signature cocktail, the Gumby Slumber (refreshing rum and fruit juices topped with coconut shavings).