Off The Beaten Path Florida: 20 Hidden Gems Revealed by a Local!

Florida is a dream destination for anyone seeking the best beaches in the country. But now, you are about to find out the most incredible off-the-beaten-path in Florida that will just blow your mind! From tubing in the natural springs to caves, waterfalls, reefs, and all in between. I am about to introduce you to the best-hidden gems in Florida that only some locals know about. Are you ready!?

Perhaps I am biased, as I moved to Florida 16 years ago and I call this place “home”. It means I have been exploring every corner of the Sunshine State. I know Florida like the back of my hand, which is why I am sharing the top off the beaten path in Florida that you need to add to your bucket list!

This guide is packed with insider tips on how to visit the best off-the-beaten path in Florida. So, without further ado, pack your sunscreen and camera and get ready to explore the off-the-beaten-path in Florida, and discover some new treasures at the Sunset State!

Best hidden gems in Florida
The hidden paradise of Ten Thousand Islands in Florida, USA

Read Next: 30 Amazing Dream Destinations for Adventure Lover

Off-The-Beaten-Path Florida for Beach Lovers

1. Explore the Honeymoon Island State Park

Best hidden gems in Florida
Honeymoon Island is a true gem in Florida

Let’s start this amazing list of Off the Beaten Paths in Florida with my backyard. Located near Clearwater and St Petersburg, Honeymoon Island is one of the best off the beaten path in Florida!  It features stunning white sandy beaches and is a great place to go to enjoy a relaxing afternoon. Perfect to stay away from the crowds!  The beauty of Honeymoon Island is that it’s very well preserved, and you can easily spend the whole day here. Bring a picnic or do a barbecue. You will find loads of barbecues and picnic tables by the beach.

  • Go hiking: You will also find hiking trails, such as the Osprey Trail where you can observe the majestic American eagles!
  • Enjoy the Beach: You can also walk along the beach and enjoy the gorgeous views of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Go Island Hop: You can take a ferry to Caladesi Island
  • February to May is the best time to visit. It’s warm and dry!
  • It’s very easy to reach Honeymoon Island from the mainland. No need to take a ferry, there is a bridge! Once you cross it, you will have to pay the state park entrance fee ($8 per vehicle) but it’s well worth it!
  • Swimwear is a must on Honeymoon Island! You will want to swim and relax on the beach. If you are walking along the beach, make sure you are wearing shoes as there are mangroves and some roots might be sticking out of the sand.

There are no accommodations on the island, the best place to stay near Honeymoon Island is Clearwater, the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach is located at the stunning Clearwater Beach and the rooms have an ocean view. 

Read More: The Best Things to Do in Orland for Adults

2. Go Kayak to Caladesi Island – a real gem in Florida

One of the best things to do in Florida
Caladesi Island was elected the #1 Beach in 2018

Caladesi Island is considered a wild oasis in Florida, this hidden gem in Florida was elected the number one beach in the U.S. in 2018 The beach is the main reason people visit Caladesi Island. It stretches for 4 miles from the North tip of the Island to Dunedin Pass. The beach is pristine, with crystal water, and white sands, surrounded by nature and framed with the blue sky almost all year long. Going kayaking to this paradise is considered one of the best things to do in Florida.  

  • Explore the island: Spend the day on the island, swimming, working on your tan, and relaxing in this tranquil paradise.
  • Go kayak on the 3-mile trail exploring the mangrove forest.
  • Enjoy the wildlife: Enjoy the bird sanctuary, including ospreys, pink roseate spoonbills, eagles, and hundreds of migratory birds. 
  • Go kayaking around the island: as in the clear water, you spot the local wildlife – spot dolphins, horseshoe crabs, live shells, and stingrays. Occasionally you will also spot manatees.
  • You can rent a kayak at Sail Honeymoon
  • You can take a ferry from Honeymoon Island or Clearwater Beach to go visit Caladesi Island.
  • Another alternative to the ferry or kayak is exploring Caladesi Island by walking north on Clearwater Beach. Where Caladesi was once a separate island, a few years ago, and deposits connected it to Clearwater Beach.
  • A picnic area, playground, restrooms, a Caladesi Cafe, and showers are available on the island. 

The charming Meranova Guest Inn is located very close to the Dunedin Marina, with an outdoor swimming pool and bar and stunning views. This Bed & Breakfast has continental and a la carte breakfast and rooms with a terrace.

3. Soak in the sun at Bean Point Beach (a real off-the-beaten-path Florida)

Bean Point Beach is a hidden paradise on Anna Maria Island, Florida

If you love finding the beaten path in Florida, Bean Point Beach is the perfect beach for you. This is the most beautiful beach on Anna Maria Island in my opinion. The Bean Point Beach is located at the furthest north point on Anna Maria Island, and you can enter it at a crossroad on North Bay Blvd. and North Shore Dr. Perfect for a relaxing day on this wild and natural beach. Couples love it because of the lack of amenities, it makes a tranquil beach. it is also an amazing spot for pictures, especially during sunset.

  • Take a yoga class: Occassionaly yoga and painting classes are held at Bean Point Beach
  • Enjoy the wildlife: This is a bird and turtle sanctuary and shorebirds and sea turtles nest along Bean Point Beach, so beware of the marked areas
  • Take Pictures: It is great to watch the sunrise and sunset and take pictures
  • Relax and enjoy the views: Once you find this hidden gem on Anna Maria Island, you can have the opportunity to even see some manatees and dolphins splashing around in the water.
  • Bean Point Beach is located in a residential area, and there is no public parking
  • There are no amenities on the beach, so take plenty of water and snacks with you
  • No pets or alcohol are allowed on this beach

I recommend renting a beach house on Anna Maria Island to enjoy the most of this island paradise

4. Visit Juno Beach to see the Densest Sea Turtle in the World!

Florida things to do
Jupiter, Florida, the USA at Jupiter Inlet Light.

Juno Beach sits between Jupiter and West Palm Beach, and it is home to the unspoiled coastline, blissfully laid-back vibes, and the home of the most beloved residents, sea turtles! Juno Beach is one of my favorite places to visit in Florida. I love that it isn’t as touristy as other spots and has many interesting activities nearby for those days when it’s not beach weather.

  • Loggerhead Marine Life Center: This place rescues turtles and after nursing them back to health either releases them back into the wild or cares for them permanently at their facility. The best part is admission is free, though donations are much appreciated! Check out their gift shop—they sell local goods and lots of environmentally friendly products.
  • Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse: This charming little lighthouse is the perfect background if you’re looking for a cute and original Instagram picture. There are lots of little trails along the water, scenic views, and even a little hammock hangout.
  • The Square Grouper: Directly across the inlet from Jupiter Lighthouse, you’ll find a funky little tiki bar called the Square Grouper. It’s the perfect spot to grab some cocktails and appetizers after a long day at the beach. If you time your visit late enough, you may even catch some live music.
  • Go surf: With excellent waves, Juno Beach Park is a popular spot for surfers, kiteboarders, and swimmers.


  • If you’re planning a trip to Florida, the best time to visit Florida is between October and May. 
  • The Juno Beach Pier is the main hub of activity in town, and you can find a Pier House with a bait shop, snack bar, and pole rentals. 
  • From May through October, Juno Beach is the densest sea turtle nesting ground in the world.

A great option is the Hampton Inn in Juno Beach, within walking distance of the beach and near many recreational activities.

5. Blowing Rocks Preserve

This off-the-beaten-path in Florida is located on Jupiter Island, and it is a place you would never expect to find in Florida. Blowing Rocks Preserve is very unique, You will find here miles of sandy beaches, with craggy limestone shore that looks like it belongs in Maine or Hawaii. Some of the rock formations are sharp and prickly; others are smooth and wave-worn.

Towards the southern end of the preserve, the rocks are worn into shapes not much higher than the sand and erosion has caused bowl-like holes and swirling lumps. Some of the caves are tall enough to stand in, with natural benches formed by the erosive power of the tides. Virtually all have natural chimneys exposing the sky above.


  • Explore the Preserve: Blowing Rocks Preserve offers several short walks for exploring the site.
  • Go Snorkeling: You can swim or snorkel at Blowing Rock Beach, but if there are waves or it is high tide, you’re safer swimming at another beach. When the sea is calm, the rocks make for good snorkeling.
  • Turtle sanctuary: The Preserve is a nesting site for four species of sea turtles: Loggerhead, Green, Leatherback, and Hawksbill. Each year, from March to October, more than 600 sea turtles avoid the light pollution of developed areas and use this dark stretch of beach to lay their eggs. 


  • The parking is ample, if the oceanfront lot is full, you can park across the street at the education center
  • Pets are not allowed at the Blowing Rocks Preserve
  • Blowing Rocks Preserve is located in Hobe Sound on narrow Jupiter Island, a barrier island between the Indian River Lagoon and the ocean.

ACCOMMODATION: Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa has a private beach, poolside bar, onsite restaurants and spa, and other top-tier amenities

READ NEXT: 23 Amazing Things to do on Anna Maria Island, FL

Off-The-Beaten-Path Florida for Nature Lovers

6. Explore the Ten Thousand Island Wildlife Refugee

The dolphin in Ten Thousand Islands
Ten Thousand Islands boat tour is the highlight as you can see the islands from a close distance and observe the marine life

Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), is one of the most hidden paradises in Florida. A maze of mangroves, where the waters of the Everglades meet the Gulf Coast, forming a labyrinth of water, and it is the second-largest mangrove forest in the world, only surpassed by Bangladesh. Ten Thousand Islands in Florida is for anyone looking for an authentic adventure while enjoying some solitude, and being immersed in nature, and for anyone who seeks off-the-beaten-path destinations. 


  • Go kayaking: Rent a kayak to go explore the labyrinths of mangrove
  • Enjoy the very diverse wildlife: with more than 200 species of birds, raccoons, river otters, dolphins, and manatees and if you are lucky, you can also spot bobcats and Florida panthers.
  • Go Island hop: Go on a boat tour to visit hundreds of islands.
  • Take an Airboat to the Everglades: airboat tour from Miami will take you to glide across a river of grass on a small airboat and experience the Florida Everglades and the rich wildlife.
  • Go camping: on one of the designed islands.


  • Ten Thousand Islands boat tour is the highlight of your visit, as you can see the islands and the wildlife, and I recommend booking your tour in advance to guarantee you don’t miss this awesome activity in Ten Thousand Islands.
  • Book a tour for an Airboat at the Everglades National Park, as it is the best way to experience the South Florida Everglades, observe the close distance the wildlife, including alligators, and take education and an exciting airboat tour of the National Park.
  • Many come from far just to eat at the local restaurants in the Ten Thousand Islands area. All the restaurants are owned by a local who has resided here for years.

ACCOMMODATION: The best place to stay is at Everglades City at the Ivey House an eco-friendly hotel only 15 minutes walk from the main attractions.

7. Go swim with Manatees at Crystal River

Swimming with manatees at Crystal River

There are so many places I could recommend for a road trip in Florida, but one of the weirdest, most beautiful, and unique has to be the Manatee Swim in Crystal River, Florida.  A true definition of a hidden gem, many Floridians have never heard of Crystal River. I’m not sure how that is even possible though – as it is the only place in the United States where you can legally swim with wild manatees. Every year in Florida, as soon as the animals sense the coming winter, they seek out warm locations. One such site is the natural springs dotted around Crystal River. In fact, this area is the most significant winter refuge from Manatees in the entire world.  


  • Go snorkeling at the famous Three Sisters Springs: This spot alone attracts around 500 manatees annually thanks to its ample vegetation and temperate waters. Swimming in the aqua blue water of the aptly named Crystal River with my pudgy aquatic friends is easily one of my favorite things I have ever done. You can get really get right up close and personal with them. Just make sure you do your research, as sadly, some operators are more ethical and devoted than others. 
  • Rent a kayak: Birds Underwater has a kayak service where you get a map and instructions and can head out on your own to search for manatees. You cannot swim with them this way, but the area – King Bay – is an easy-to-navigate circle with around 660 acres of water to explore.
  • Have brunch at Tea House 650: This rustic little spot has great service, outdoor and indoor seating, homemade packing, and an awe-inspiring collection of tea. Should you want to make it boozy, they also have very fun tea cocktails.


  • If one of your Florida bucket lists is to swim with these gentle giants, there are plenty of tour operators in Crystal River to choose from. Just make sure you do your research, as sadly, some operators are more ethical and devoted than others.
  • I recommend Crystal River Small Group Swim with Manatee Tour. It is imperative we all respect these animals and only swim with them in the designed areas, to ensure that manatee swimming here remains sustainable so future travelers can have the privilege of a one-on-one experience. It is something you will remember for the rest of your lifetime. I know I won’t soon forget it! 

ACCOMMODATION: Plantation on Crystal River, Ascend Hotel Collection is a beautiful 232-acre Crystal River resort featuring a golf course and 4 on-site restaurants, located only 1.1 miles to the Three Sisters Spring.

8. Go Horse ride at the beach at Palma Sola Bay

Palma Sola Bay horse ride is an off the beaten path in Florida

Did you know you can ride a horse at the beach in Florida? Probably you will answer “no”. This is a real off-the-beaten path in Florida, even for us, locals. Palma Sola Bay is located on Anna Maria Island. But don’t worry if you don’t have a horse, or if you cannot bring your horse to your vacation on the island – you can have this experience by going on a tour with the Beach horse. While in the water with your horse, the trainer will teach you how to do some tricks on the horse. It is so fascinating to watch the magnificent animals having so much fun. This is a great thing to do on Anna Maria Island, especially if you are traveling with kids.


  • Explore the Beaches: Visit the beaches on Anna Maria Island, which are often considered some of the best beaches in Florida.
  • Enjoy the water sports: such as fishing, sailing, water skiing, and jet skiing along the entire causeway
  • Enjoy the amazing local food: You will find amazing restaurants on Anna Maria Island with fresh seafood.


ACCOMMODATION:  Renting a beach house on Anna Maria Island is the best way to explore the area

9. Go Kayaking on Weeki Wachee River

off the beaten path Florida

Weeki Wachee River is one of the best places to go kayaking in Florida, and it is absolutely one of my favorite things to do in Florida. The Weeki Wachee is known for its stunning beauty, with the clarity at the headsprings being 68- feet of visibility, ranking with the clearest freshwaters found on Earth! This river makes you a sense of enchantment, as the mild 5-mile-per-hour current carries your kayak downstream, and each winding curve reveals a vista of lush greenery in the middle of magnificent nature.  


  • Find the Caves: Weeki Wachee River has an extensive network of subterranean caves, and you can try to find them.
  • Enjoy the Wildlife: Along the river, you can see many types of animals including the famous Florida (West Indian) manatee, alligators, raccoons, otters, and numerous birds.
  • Go for a swim: I am a person who really doesn’t like cold water, but this river has some serious “magical powers” that attract you!


  • Since the opening of the canoe outfitter at the headsprings, Weeki Wachee is very popular and can be crowded especially on weekends.
  • Don’t disturb the animals, especially the manatees. Appreciate the magnitude of these gentle giants without disturbing them and be a responsible traveler

ACCOMMODATION:  Waterfront Beach Home is a wonderful 3 bedroom and 2 bathroom house on the water.

10. Visit the Sinkholes in Gainsville

one of the best things to do in Florida
Sinkholes in Gainsville is a real gem in Florida

The city of Gainesville is located in north-central Florida, a little less than two hours from Orlando. It is home to the University of Florida, but it’s a lot more than your typical college town. Because of its location, there are a lot of fun things to do in Gainesville, including visiting multiple sinkholes. Two places to see sinkholes are Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park and Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.


  • Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park: This site has been attracting visitors since the early 1880s. The sinkhole is in the middle of a pine forest and is 120 feet deep! It’s lush and cool because of the shade. Fossils and shells have been found in the area too, making it a great place to learn about Florida’s natural history. The entrance fee is $4 per vehicle.
  • Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park: With multiple trails, including a raised boardwalk, this site is a perfect place to spend some time outdoors. The boardwalk takes you right over the marsh area, close to the Alachua Sink, a sinkhole that acts as the main drain for the marsh. The entrance fee is $6 per vehicle.


  • Both parks are easy to get to by car and can be toured within a couple of hours.
  • They are open year-round, but summer months are particularly hot so you won’t see as much wildlife.
  • Wear sunblock and drink plenty of water if you do visit during the summer months.

ACCOMMODATION: Holiday Inn is a great option, with a great location and expresses check-in and check-out.

11. Falling Water State Park

off the beaten path Florida
Falling Water is an off the beaten path in Florida for your bucket list

Another off-the-beaten path in Florida for your bucket list! The Falling Water State Park is home to Florida’s tallest natural waterfall, which rushes 73 feet down the wall of a massive sinkhole. With 100-foot a deep and 20-foot wide cylindrical pit into which flows a small stream that drops 73 feet to the bottom of the sink.


  • Watch the butterflies: You can see the stunning native migrating butterflies in the butterfly garden.
  • Go hiking: There are 3 short nature trails that will take you around the state park
  • Go Swimming: you can find a 2-acre freshwater lake with a white sand beach that you can swim


  • The State Park is located at 1130 State Park Road – Chipley FL 32428
  • Plan your visit to coincide with the recent heavy rain, so there will be lots of water

ACCOMMODATION: There is a Quality Inn close by, which is a good option if you are visiting the park

12. Florida Caverns State Park

off the beaten path Florida
A real gem in Florida, the Caverns State Park is a must-visit

And with all the diversity, did you expect to also find this hidden gem in Florida? The Caverns State Park is a true gem, boasting gorgeous hikes, a swimming hole, and campsites for those eager to stay overnight! It is located 3-miles north of Marianna on State Road 166 and is a great camping and day trip destination

Home to the only air-filled caves open to the public in Florida, be sure to explore and take a cave tour to see the stunning limestone formations, soda straws, and draperies. Call to reserve your spot as these tours are very popular. Cool off later with a dip at the Blue Hole Spring, or go for a hike. Bring comfortable shoes and be prepared for a day of exploring the caves and appreciating nature.


  • Go camping: This 1,500-acre park has 38 campsites, for both recreational vehicles and tents. All sites are within a short walk or bike ride to the Blue Hole day-use area
  • Explore the State Park: Cycling, horseback riding, and hiking are great ways to discover beautiful scenery unique to Florida Caverns State Park.
  • Go Geo-Seeking: It is an outdoor game using hand-held global positioning systems (GPS) devices. This high-tech treasure hunt is a great way to learn geography. Participants use location coordinates to find caches. Some caches are easy to find; others are more difficult.


  • The State Park is open from 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year.
  • Cave tours are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST, Thursday through Monday.  
  • You will pay a fee of $5 per vehicle and $10.75 per adult

ACCOMMODATION: Fairfield Inn & Suites Marianna is a great option if you are visiting the State Park, with a pool and breakfast included.

Off-The-Beaten-Path Florida for Adventure Lovers

13. Surfing in Jacksonville

off the beaten path Florida
Surfing in Jacksonville

Jacksonville is the ideal place to try something new and one of the best things to do in Florida. It is filled with adventure activities and some of the best surf in the state. Whether you are a seasoned pro or brand new to surfing there is a break for you in Jacksonville. The best surf spot near Jacksonville is located in Hanna Park. This surf spot is called “the poles” and is best suited to intermediate and advanced surfers. Another intermediate spot is on each side of Jackson Pier. There are left and right-hand breaks.  For the best conditions, head to either spot in the winter.


  • Stroll Jax Pier for ocean views: When you are all surfed out, you can find plenty to do.
  • Explore the Sea Walk Pavilion: which often has live music and other events like outdoor movies in the evenings.
  • Enjoy the Beaches: There are over 22 miles of white sand beaches near Jacksonville. 
  • Visit the Fort Clinch State Park: The construction began on the fort in 1736 and it continued to play an active role in American history up until WWII. It is now a museum.


  • If you are a surfer newbie, there are lots of surf shops that offer rentals and lessons near Jacksonville Beach. You’ll find everything from one-on-one lessons to group lessons, and surf packages.
  • Some of the most popular beaches in Jacksonville include American Beach, Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach. To get there, hop on the Beaches Trolley bus which runs by all the best beaches in Jacksonville.

ACCOMMODATION: A great option is the Residence Inn By Mariott, featuring an outdoor pool, fitness center, bar, and lounge.

14. Kayak To See the Bioluminescent is an Off Beaten Path in Florida

off the beaten path Florida
Kayaking to see the bioluminescence is a real gem in Florida

This is certainly an off-the-beaten path in Florida you need to add to your bucket list. In the warm and dark bay waters of some places in Florida lies a natural phenomenon of glowing blue waters alive with an activity called bioluminescence. They are microorganisms that occur widely in marine waterways in the summertime typically when the temperature is at its peak and the water is calm.

The swirling of your hand or the paddle stroke ignites the bioluminescence. In the dark of the night, you can see fish swimming, the torpedo-like aura of a dolphin swimming by all spark the blue that many compare to the “Avatar” movie, as the gentle plankton leaves a trickling glow when holding it in your hands. It is just a must-see on your trip to Florida.


  • See the Wildlife: If it is your lucky day, you can even see manatees swimming by and watch the tails light up the water.


  • Where: I recommend taking this Bioluminescence Kayak Tour, which includes Kayaks or Canoes, all paddling gear, lights for your kayak, bottled water, instruction, and guides. If you are booking a tour, you need to pay to book in advance because availability is limited.
  • If you have your own kayak, plan at least 2 hours to go on the dark water to see this magnificent experience.
  • Kayaking in Florida is one of the most up-close and personal ways to experience dinoflagellate bioluminescence
  • If you are booking a tour, you need to pay to book in advance because availability is limited.

ACCOMMODATION: the  Monumental Hotel Orlando is a great option. It is close to many of Orlando’s main sites. The hotel offers modern accommodations, an outdoor pool, a hot tub, and free Wi-Fi

15. Go Camping in Bahia Honda State Park

off the beaten path Florida
Bahia Honda State Park is a real off the beaten path in Florida

If you are adventure-minded and looking for an off-the-beaten-path in Florida, I will highly recommend camping in Bahia Honda State Park, one of the best campgrounds in Florida.

Located in the Florida Keys, Bahia Honda State Park is off mile marker 37 and spans over 500 acres of lush land. It is a fantastic spot to experience the best of nature and outdoor activities, with the famous bridge and offshore island. There are three campgrounds in the State Park that consist of 80 campsites where you pitch your tent or park your RV. Each campsite has an electric and water facility and offers a fire ring, grate, and picnic table.


  • Explore the white sand beaches: where you can do sunbathing, swim, and snorkel. The water temperature is perfect for swimming and crystal clear.
  • Keep Active: Bahia Honda State Park offers plenty of outdoor recreational activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, and windsurfing.
  • Go Hiking: Hike to the top of the old bridge and enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire island.
  • Enjoy the Unique sunset: Don’t miss the magnificent sunset, take as many pictures as you can.


  • If you are not comfortable with camping, you can rent a cabin which is pretty affordable.
  • Bahia Honda can be visited at any time of the year, however for the best beach weather, visit in the months of March, April, and December.

ACCOMMODATION: Make sure to reserve your campsite before visiting the Bahia Honda campground, online reservation is available through the Reserve America site.

16. Dry Tortugas National Park

florida hidden gems
Dry Tortuga is one of the best-kept secrets in Florida

This off-the-beaten-path in Florida is a cluster of 7 islands about 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West. Dry Tortugas is a great destination that combines the beautiful coastlines of Florida with a splash of history, and it is home to some great snorkeling exploration in the United States. Dry Tortugas is only accessible by boat or seaplane, and the National Park is well-knowing for the magnificent Fort Jefferson, the stunning blue waters, the incredible coral reefs, and the rich marine life.


  • Go snorkeling: With less than 1% of Dry Tortugas National Park being dry ground, the best way to see this remarkable national treasure is by getting in the water.
  • Go Camping: Its remote location also makes it a great place for stargazing campers
  • Wildlife viewing: You will find a diverse natural history and a variety of wildlife both above and underwater. From birds to sea turtles and coral reefs, the park is a paradise for wildlife viewing.


  • The only way to access Dry Tortugas is by seaplane or ferry
  • The ferry will take about 2 hours, and once you are on the island you are free to roam for 4 hours to tour the fort and take in the beach activities
  • You need to plan your visit ahead, due to the park’s remote location and limited transportation options.

ACCOMMODATION: The Coco Plum is an amazing option, located in the heart of Key West with an amazing made-to-order breakfast and heated outdoor pool.

17. Go scuba dive at Molasses Reefs

florida hidden gems
Molasses Reef in Florida

This incredible hidden gem in Florida is a coral reef located within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, just southeast offshore of the island of Key Largo. The Molasses Reef has been made into a “Sanctuary Preservation Area” offering a vibrant underwater reef system. Most of the coral reefs in the Keys exhibit a large amount and variety of marine life due to protections in place


  • Enjoy the corals: with hundreds of species of critters, and most of the corals found in the Caribbean are represented here: elkhorn, staghorn, star, brain, and fire corals, as well as many soft corals like sea fans, and gorgonians.
  • Swim with the turtles: Sea turtles, hawksbills & loggerheads, are also common.
  • Swim with sharks: The Caribbean Reef Shark is also seen frequently on the reef
  • Explore the nooks and crannies: In the nooks and crannies of the many coral heads found on the reef you can find Nurse sharks, coral crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and Green Moray eels


  • Molasses Reef is hard to miss from the surface since a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather station is located right next to it.
  • The best way to explore the Molasses Reef is to join a Key Largo Snorkeling Tour with makes, fins, and vest included.
  • You can also hire a private charter to the Key Largo Reef to enjoy a personalized experience with the captain and crew

ACCOMMODATION: You will love the Almond Tree Inn is only 14-min from the beach and features an outdoor pool, hot tub, and continental breakfast

Off-The-Beaten-Path Florida for History & Culture Lovers

18. Winter Park

off the beaten path Florida
Things to do in Orlando Florida for adults

Winter Park is one of the highlights for adults looking to visit Orlando and find many great things to do in this area. It is only 20 minutes northeast of downtown Orlando, Winter Park gained its name after the arrival of the South Florida Railroad in 1880. Today, Winter Park’s highlight is Park Avenue, a tree-lined, cobblestone street bursting with eateries, museums, and some of Orlando’s best areas for shopping. Winter Park is also a great place for outdoor enthusiasts, including a robust park system and a gorgeous chain of lakes.


  • Go shopping: If you like shopping, you will adore Winter Park. Here you can find boutiques and also outposts from nationally recognized retailers.
  • Explore the amazing cuisine: Some of Orlando’s top culinary artists ply their trade in Winter Park, including James Beard-nominated chefs James and Julie Petrakis of The Ravenous Pig, a seasonal gastropub. Other local favorites in the Park Avenue area include steaks and seafood at blu on the avenue, French cuisine at Chez Vincent
  • Take a scenic boat tour: Winter Park’s chain of lakes (12 in all) includes 2,781 acres of pristine waterways, and the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour is a fun, relaxing way to experience it.
  • Enjoy the Garden: Take an afternoon walk at the Mead Garden and admire the relaxed pace.


  • There are great things to do in Orlando for Adults such as wineries, breweries, parks, and other things you should take advantage of to explore while you are in Winter Park.
  • Located only Approximately 20 minutes northeast of downtown Orlando

ACCOMMODATION: An excellent option is the Alfond Inn, a beautiful hotel located in Winter Park with a restaurant serving amazing food, including brunch.

19. Visit the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

Vizcaya Museum and gardens to add to your bucket list Florida
Vizcaya Museum

Miami is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Florida with a number of well-known attractions, pristine beaches, and unique art and culture scenes like Art Deco buildings and Wynwood graffiti; Furthermore, the Everglades and the Florida Keys are on the outskirt of the city center that is only a few-hour drive away.

Located in the center, however, there’s a beautiful place that may somehow fall out of the tourist radar – Villa Vizcaya and its gardens. Villa Vizcaya is a private mansion and estate belonging to the wealthy businessman James Deering, completed in 1923. Today, the site has become a museum and is open to the public. 


  • Explore the Villa: The villa also has a lot of interesting design elements and rooms to explore. The architectural style of the villa is one-of-a-kind in the world, you won’t see it anywhere else. The main building is a peculiar mix of Mediterranean Revival and Baroque architectural styles based on the Veneto and Tuscan Renaissance models. 
  • Enjoy the Garden: There is an extensive Italian renaissance garden with a native woodland landscape and a historic village outbuildings compound. 
  • Stone Barge Mermaid Statue: The most eye-catching piece of art in the museum. Shaped like a boat overlooking the Biscayne Bay and beyond, the giant aquatic sculpture has not much practical value but is only an extravagant piece that highlights the owner’s wealth, and appreciation of beauty. 


  • The villa is located less than 3 miles away from Downtown Miami, and it can be reached by taking the metro to the Vizcaya Station, with a short 10-minute walk.
  • Make sure you buy your Vizcaya Museum & Gardens Ticket in advance.

ACCOMMODATION:  Avalon Hotel is a 1-minute walk from the famous Miami Beach, and features an on-site bar and restaurant as well as free Wi-fi.

20. Visit the Ringling Circus Museum

Bucket list in Florida
Ringling Museum

One of the most unique attractions in Sarasota is The Ringling – the sprawling estate of the kings of the circus, the Ringlings, the owners of Ringling Bros., and Barnum & Bailey Circus that was producing the Greatest Show on Earth from 1871 till 2017.

The most interesting part of the Ringling is the Circus Museum where you can see many circus props, performers’ costumes, and even train cars that were used to transport the circus. The centerpiece of the Circus Museum is a 3,800 square-foot operational Circus Model, a 44,000-piece re-creation of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®’s Circus combined shows from 1919 to 1938.


  • Museum of Art: which is filled with many priceless objects from ancient and Medieval artifacts to European Art
  • Bayfront Gardens: botanical gardens with several distinct sections: rose garden, dwarf garden, arboretum, etc.
  • Visit the CA’ D’ZAN: a magnificent mansion where the king of the circus and his wife used to live. You can take a tour or just enjoy it outside.
  • Visit the Historic Asolo Theater: where you can catch various art performances.


  • To really enjoy everything that the Ringling has to offer I would recommend at least 1 full day dedicated to it.
  • Dining venues within the Ringling may be closed during the pandemic but there are 2 picnic facilities available.
  • When you are visiting the area, don’t forget to check out other great attractions on Anna Maria Island too

ACCOMMODATION: A great option is the Siesta Key Palms Resort, featuring 2 outdoor pools and on-site BBQ facilities, and it is only 9.6 mi from the Ringling Museum.

Florida Off The Beaten Path: Packing Essentials

  • Florida Guide Book: Prepare in advance for your trip. Here are some of the excellent Florida guidebooks that can help you to prepare for your trip to Orlando, Florida.
  • Kayak: If you are planning to go kayaking in Florida, this inflatable kayak is a great option for portability and it weighs only 20 lbs.
  • Sunscreen: While you are out exploring, make sure to protect yourself from the sun. I recommend the Stream 2 Sea Sunscream and they are reef-safe
  • Sunglasses and hat: Don’t forget to pack your pair of sunglasses, you will need them!
  • Swimsuit: The water may be chilly, but I recommend planning at least a half-day at the beach, so pack that travel beach bag!
  • Beach Towel: This travel towel is a must to be used at the beach, on a picnic, or even as a blanket.
  • Dry Bag: This dry bag is a must on your packing list if you are planning to go kayaking and keep your belongings safe and dry.
  • Reusable water bottle: Never travel anywhere without a reusable water bottle. Remain hydrated without wasting single-use plastic bottles!
  • Bring your Camera: The sites off the beaten path in Florida are incredible, so don’t forget your camera, or check some great options for great value here

Off the Beaten Path Florida Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this list of the best off-the-beaten-path Florida. The Sunshine State has much more to offer with many other great choices, including that Florida is home to the best killer key lime pie on the whole Planet!

This list was prepared with some of the top Florida things to do and to give you some inspiration for your Florida bucket list.

If you love this article, I also recommend:

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10 thoughts on “Off The Beaten Path Florida: 20 Hidden Gems Revealed by a Local!”

  1. I want to swim with a manatee!!! I can’t believe how much there is to do in Florida! Thanks for the ideas.

  2. What an inspiring list! I’ve been to almost all US states but somehow have never made it to Florida – so it’s high on my list! I’m particularly interested in swimming with manatees!

  3. Hey Paula, this is an excellent round up. We go every year to see my in laws in Florida and we are always looking for new corners of the state to explore. Thanks for this inspiration!

    Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is one of my favorite places to bring the kids; the mermaids are back!

  4. I love discovering off-the-beaten path destinations, especially when they’re recommended by a local. Great post, Paula! 🙂

  5. I have visited the Ringling Circus Museum and can concur – GO VISIT! I love your hidden gems. I will definitely consult this post before my next visit to Florida. Thank you!

  6. Hi Terri, yes the Ringling Circus is an amazing place and I am so glad you enjoyed this article.

  7. Thanks Lina – this list could be super long if I would continue writing about all the off-the-beaten path I have and continue finding in Florida. I will most likely have to write a second revision of this post soon.

  8. Catherine, I agree with you that Weeki Wachee is one of the best places. What a great destination for kids, families, couples and friends. I try to go as often as I can, and my dogs love there too.

  9. hey Katy, OMG! Really? you need to come to Florida and let me know when you are in the area and I will be so happy to show you around.

  10. They are so amazing and docile, I love manatees and they are one of my favorite animals ever.

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