As a Floridian, I might be a bit biased, but the Sunshine State can’t be beat. A typical Florida itinerary includes the beach, theme park, or both — both great options — but the state is also full of picture-perfect islands, from small private oases to well-known hot spots. Some have must-visit beaches, while others have can’t-miss attractions. Scan the list below to find some of the best islands in Florida.
While most people know Key West as a favorite cruise ship stop or the longest drive within the Florida Keys archipelago (it’s the southernmost point of the continental United States, after all), it’s actually an island city connected to the mainland via the Overseas Highway. On this funky, eclectic, anything-goes island, you can get out on the water, snap photos of six-toed cats and free-roaming roosters, follow in the footsteps of famous artists and writers, and do whatever it takes to let your hair down.
If world-class arts, culture, and shopping you can enjoy with feet still sandy from the beach sounds right up your alley, Palm Beach is for you. This laid-back beach town also happens to be one of the wealthiest zip codes in America, and while it often gets lumped in discussions of the wider umbrella of Palm Beach County, Palm Beach proper is an eight-square-mile barrier island with plenty to discover beneath its polished surface.
Thirteen miles of beaches plus luxury resorts and golf courses sprinkled across untouched acreage make Amelia Island a must-visit Florida island destination. With a location in northeast Florida — and as the southernmost island in the Sea Islands chain — Amelia Island feels more Southern than tropical, and it has the charm to prove it.
Little Palm Island
You can’t make a list of the best islands in Florida without including Little Palm Island, the only private island resort in the U.S. It’s the epitome of island luxury, with a spa, restaurant, and 15 thatched-roof bungalows — all with over-the-top amenities like a copper soaking tub featuring ocean views — spread across its four tranquil acres. Since the only ways to reach the island are via private boat, seaplane, or car (with a 10-minute motor yacht transfer from Little Torch Key), the journey is part of the fun. A stay here will set you back a pretty penny, but you can’t put a price tag on this level of pampering, can you?
Anna Maria Island
Seeking a family-friendly getaway that’s sure to involve Old Florida charm, the great outdoors, beautiful beaches, and dolphins? Look no further than Anna Maria Island, where you can eat, paddle, or spend the day showing yourself around by bike (the island is only seven miles long and 1.5 miles wide). It’s not only a treasured island, but also one of the best beach towns in Florida.
Sanibel and Captiva Islands
While the sibling islands of Sanibel and Captiva remain in recovery from the destruction of Hurricane Ian, these once-popular vacation destinations need the support of visitors more than ever as they rebuild. The beaches will bounce back, wildlife will return, and restaurants, bars, and hotels will reopen — and the hospitality industry will remember who showed up when they were struck down.
Each week, the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce updates their list of establishments that are back open for business (there are many restaurants, stores, and places to stay already), so those with a passion for shelling and a heart full of grace are welcome to visit.
Tiny Peanut Island is a local’s hideaway in the Palm Beach County. Located where the Lake Worth Lagoon meets the Palm Beach Inlet, the waters here are crystal-clear and filled with tropical fish and marine life. While the only way to stay overnight is to camp (there are no hotels, restaurants, or other establishments on the island), visitors can spend the day snorkeling and picnicking. If you don’t have a private boat, you can access Peanut Island via the regularly running shuttle.
Not a lot of islands have a posh Ritz-Carlton resort, two large parks (one of them a state park), a 19th-century lighthouse, and a causeway connecting them to the heart of a vibrant and diverse global city, but Key Biscayne — which clocks in just under two square miles — fits the bill. Located just off the coast of Miami’s happening downtown, this peaceful island will make you feel like you’ve teleported straight to the tropics, with lots of wide-open space, swaying palm trees, and blue waters, yet the Magic City’s skyline is never far from view.
St. George Island
For something a bit different from the usual Florida routine, head to St. George Island, an uncrowded, 28-mile retreat in the Gulf of Mexico just off the northern Florida Panhandle. Don’t expect a buzzy hot spot — the quiet vibe is protected by low-density zoning laws and strict building height restrictions. There are no high-rises or gimmicky chains here, and the residents want to keep it that way. Plan to stay in one of the island’s two inns or book a beach cottage for a tranquil trip on Florida’s Forgotten Coast.
This southwest Florida barrier island is a favorite among visitors thanks to the blue-green Gulf waters lapping the sands of its beautiful beaches. One segment, Little Gasparilla Island, has no bridges; you can only get there by private boat or water taxi, and once you arrive, the main mode of transportation is golf cart. Or, stick to Gasparilla Island’s largest town, Boca Grande, and book a stay at the Gasparilla Inn & Club for Old Florida at its finest.