14 Overlooked Florida Towns That Should Make Your Travel List

Pass on the theme parks and check out these hidden-gem destinations.

Smathers beach at Sunrise Key West
Updated May 28, 2024
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When you think of visiting Florida, you likely imagine theme parks in Orlando or ritzy beachfront stays in Miami. But the Sunshine State is host to many hidden gems from the panhandle to the Atlantic coast.

Ready to step up your travel game? Here are a few great towns in Florida worth visiting that you may not have heard as much about.

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Lake Wales

Nick Fox/Adobe The Singing Tower Lake Wales Florida

This small inland town is home to Bok Tower gardens, lush citrus groves, and rodeos. It’s also the location of Spook Hill, a magnetic hill where a car put in neutral will be mysteriously pulled uphill.


Kristina Blokhin/Adobe modern home by beach Florida

This picturesque small town in northwest Florida is next to Grayton Beach State Park. It’s a small resort town with pastel-colored homes and white picket fences that border sugar-white sand beaches. It hosts the 30A Songwriters Festival each year.

Cedar Key

Margaret Burlingham/Adobe American flag in street Cedar Key

This old-fashioned fishing village is home to several famous seafood restaurants and the Fall Seafood Festival. It’s next to Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, where you can find bald eagles, manatees, and grizzly bears. The Cedar Key Museum State Park has seashells and 19th-century Native American artifacts on display.

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Crystal River

Sunshower Shots/Adobe Crystal River Archaeological State Park Florida

This city in western Florida is next to Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to many manatees year-round. Once you’re done viewing the wildlife, check out the pottery, jewelry, sculpture, paintings, and photography offered by the Franklin Anderson Gallery of Arts, which represents local Florida artists.


Photoman/Adobe Indian River Titusville Florida

Just a short drive away from the Kennedy Space Center, Titusville is home to the Astronaut Hall of Fame and the Spacewalk Hall of Fame. It provides an ideal view for rocket launches. You can also sample the local delicacy, rock shrimp, at one of its seafood restaurants.


SR Productions/Adobe Volusia County Courthouse DeLand Florida

This small town is known as the “Psychic Capital of the World” as it has an outsized share of psychic mediums, healers, and spiritualists. The Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp resides here and offers spiritual healing and communication with spirits.

If spiritualism isn’t your thing, you can also enjoy the Horseshoe Park and Fairy Walk Trail, which has whimsical fairy houses and sparkling beads along the way.

Mount Dora

Creative Studio 79/Adobe Aerial view of Mount Dora Florida

This charming small town features many antique shops and historic sites. Mount Dora’s Modernism Museum focuses on the studio art movement, which blends the arts with furniture.

Mount Dora is also home to Lighthouse Park, which has a 35-foot brick lighthouse and is the only inland freshwater lighthouse in the state. There are also several festivals, including the annual Scottish Highland Festival, Jane Austen Fest, and the Mount Dora Blueberry Festival.


SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Gainesville Florida USA Skyline

This might not be the first city you think of as a tourist destination, but as the home of the University of Florida, there are plenty of sporting events, concerts, festivals, and other events to draw you to Gainesville. Visit the Butterfly Rainforest or the Florida Museum of Natural History if you’re into science or the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art if you’re the creative type.


Sunshower Shots/Adobe pathway through southern live oak trees

Just west of the more famous Ft. Lauderdale, Davie is home to the Flamingo Gardens Botanical Garden and Wildlife Preserve. The Bergeron Rodeo Grounds are also a big attraction, featuring circuses, monster trucks, horse and dog shows, and car shows, along with a professional rodeo.

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Sunshower Shots/Adobe Brooksville water tower and Country Depot

This town is at the center of several agritourism attractions, such as Frazier and Sweetfield Farms. If you’re a golfer, you’ll enjoy visiting one of the area’s many golf courses and country clubs.


SailingAway/Adobe Loxahatchee River from Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse

Located just north of Palm Beach, Jupiter is a great place to explore the various beaches and parks or take a scenic bike ride along the riverwalk. Its unique location on the Jupiter Inlet allows visitors to kayak through freshwater or scuba dive the coral reefs just off the shore.


Adriana/Adobe Pelican at old Florida fishing village

One of the last fishing villages in Florida, Cortez is home to the Florida Maritime Museum and a pirate adventure ship. Situated on the Gulf Coast, many other attractions center around the water, including parasailing, kayaking, and deep-sea fishing.

Ponce de Leon

Felix Mizioznikov/Adobe Ponce De Leon Lighthouse inlet Florida

Named for the famous Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon is near a beautiful state park that shares its namesake. Visit the park to see gopher tortoises, alligators, otters, and beavers. You can also camp at the nearby Vortex Spring, which features an underwater adventure zone.


Paul Hakimata/Adobe Destin Florida Emerald coast

Though it’s far under the radar of Miami and Orlando, Destin is a tourist destination that has something for everyone. Enjoy hip eateries and shops along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk or a day in the white-sugar sands at Henderson Beach State Park or James Lee Beach. In October, the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo and Seafood Festival delight myriads of visitors.

Bottom line

Anthony Giarrusso/Adobe View from apartment condo in Florida

Sometimes a trip off the beaten path is rewarded with new experiences. Taking a chance on some of these lesser-known destinations could be exactly what your Florida vacation needs.

Whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with manatees, scenic views at a historic lighthouse, or a festival with unique antiques and amazing seafood, discover your next incredible adventure in one of these overlooked Florida towns. Just make sure to bring your favorite travel credit card.

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Jenni Sisson

Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.