Florida is home to world-famous beaches, theme parks, and cities. But beyond the well-known tourist spots, there are tons of hidden gems waiting to be explored. From pristine parks to historic sites and charming small towns, this list reveals some of the best kept secrets in Florida. Get ready to start planning your next Sunshine State adventure!
Whether you want to surround yourself with nature, soak up some history and culture, eat at local restaurants, or simply escape the crowds, these hidden gems in Florida offer memorable experiences.
Natural Hidden Gems in Florida
Get out into nature by visiting these gorgeous parks, springs, islands, and other spots for outdoor recreation in Florida.
1. Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Ichetucknee Springs emerges from an underground cave system to create crystal clear spring runs perfect for tubing and swimming. The cool 72 degree water will keep you refreshed even on a hot summer day. And you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous nature, including wetlands, hammocks, and colorful wildflowers.
It’s no wonder this is one of Florida’s most popular places for tubing adventures that allow you to relax and soak up the scenery. Just be sure to arrive early in the day since the park limits the number of tubers to prevent overcrowding.
2. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
At Paynes Prairie, you can witness Florida’s natural beauty and even glimpse wildlife in their natural habitat. Expect to see bison, wild horses, and a wide variety of birds at this fascinating protected area with diverse ecosystems.
There are multiple hiking trails as well as opportunities for camping, horseback riding, and canoeing. For birdwatchers, a 50 foot tall observation tower provides panoramic views. The best wildlife viewing is near the park’s wet prairie.
3. Cayo Costa State Park
Accessible only by boat, Cayo Costa Island feels blissfully remote. Nine miles of beautiful beach await, often empty of people even during busy seasons. The pearl white sand and turquoise water look like a tropical dream.
Nature lovers will also enjoy spotting wildlife native to the island, including gopher tortoises, raccoons, migratory birds, and colorful butterflies. Just arrive prepared and pack supplies, including plenty of water. Facilities and food are very limited on the island.
4. Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
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This unusual geological formation almost looks like something out of a fairy tale. The Devil’s Millhopper sinkhole drops 120 feet into the ground and funnels rainfall into an underground river. You can climb 232 steps down into the sinkhole to see water trickles and lush plant life.
There are also nature trails winding through the park to admire wildflowers and to spot birds and squirrels playing in the towering trees. It’s one of the most unique places to visit in north Florida.
5. Caladesi Island State Park
Consistently ranked one of the best beaches in the United States, remote Caladesi Island feels like your own private paradise. The white sand is almost squeaky soft, and the tranquil waters shine in beautiful shades of green and blue.
The whole island is a protected nature preserve, with habitats that include mangroves, oak hammocks, and scrub. You’ll share the beaches with gorgeous birds, like ospreys and herons, as well as sea turtles laying their nests. Just take the ferry over from Honeymoon Island and be prepared to walk or kayak to access beach areas.
6. Silver Springs State Park
As the largest artesian spring in the United States, Silver Springs delivers over 500 million gallons of crystal clear water per day. You can see down 130 feet into Silver River as you kayak or canoe. Expect sights like wild monkeys, alligators, eagles nesting, and the nature park’s famous glass bottom boat tours.
On land, there are multiple hiking trails winding through natural habitats including pine flatwoods, sandhills, and wet prairies. Be sure to see the park’s visitor center with educational wildlife exhibits too.
7. Weeki Wachee Springs
At the famous Weeki Wachee Springs, you can watch the live mermaid show as the sirens perform their enchanting undersea routine while actually swimming in the cool spring below. But the best way to experience the river spring yourself is by renting a kayak, paddleboard or tube for a magical journey surrounded by nature.
As you float along, admire the lush vegetation, tiny tropical fish swimming below, and the river’s rocky limestone bottom. manatees also frequent the area during winter months. This state park provides both nature and old Florida charm.
Historic Hidden Gems in Florida
In addition to natural sites, Florida overflows with rich history. Check out these cultural spots and historic towns that offer a window into the state’s past.
8. Ybor City Historic District – Tampa
For an immersive experience into Tampa’s history, visit Ybor City, a former cigar manufacturing community with brick-lined streets full of preserved buildings.
Founded in the 1880s, this National Historic Landmark District transports you back in time through tours of cigar factories, museum exhibits, and restored architecture.
Don’t miss the gorgeous Ybor City Museum State Park set in an old bakery with dioramas depicting life a century ago. And when you work up an appetite, Ybor City also shines with diverse cuisine from Cuban restaurants to German beer halls.
9. Castillo de San Marcos – St. Augustine
As the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, Castillo de San Marcos protected the Spanish empire’s claims along the Atlantic coast for over 200 years. Today this National Monument continues to guard over the Matanzas Bay in St. Augustine, withstanding over 300 years of battles and sieges.
Touring the imposing fortress, you’ll uncover fascinating history and admire the fort’s impressive construction. Costumed reenactors often frequent the grounds too.
And you can’t beat the panoramic views overlooking historic St. Augustine, known as the oldest continuously occupied European settlement within U.S. borders.
10. Koreshan State Historic Site
To experience a relic of Florida’s odder history, walk the lush grounds of the Koreshan State Historic Site near Fort Myers. This cult community dates back to 1894 when leader Cyrus Teed brought followers here to build his utopian settlement called the Koreshan Unity.
While the group disbanded after the leader’s death, many of their quirky buildings remain at this state park. Explore their old communal dining hall, printing building, bakery/store, and more unique architecture. The botanical gardens provide a scenic backdrop, especially when flowers bloom.
11. Historic Pensacola Village
For a scenic walk back through time, Historic Pensacola Village perfectly captures the area’s heritage across two centuries, from early Spanish settlers to Victorian era expansion.
Within the oak-lined downtown streets, you’ll discover a historic district filled with preserved homes and museums for self-guided exploration.
Highlights include gorgeous Victorian mansions like the 1871 T.T. Wentworth, Jr Museum and the 1907 French Creole Lavalle House Museum, as well as the region’s first Jail dating back to the early 1800s.
You can easily spend hours peeking into the properties while appreciating the neighborhood’s rich history.
12. Flagler College – St. Augustine
Wander through the elaborate Ponce de Leon Hall, centerpiece of Flagler College in St. Augustine. The former Hotel Ponce de Leon, an icon of Henry Flagler’s Gilded Age railroad resorts, now serves as the college’s hallmark building. Marble interiors, stained glass windows, elaborate woodwork ceilings and more ooze decadent vintage vibes.
The hotel was built in the late 1800s, during St. Augustine’s rise as a popular winter retreat for America’s elite. You can take a guided tour or simply explore this National Historic Landmark yourself, traveling back in time as you admire the striking Spanish Renaissance Revival architecture.
Charming Towns & Cities
In addition to nature escapes and historic sites, Florida overflows with captivating small towns and cities with immense Southern charm.
13. Mount Dora
With its artsy vibe, historic downtown, and shimmering lakes, quaint Mount Dora charms visitors who appreciate laidback sophistication. You can spend an entire afternoon shopping the boutiques and poking through antique shops and artwork galleries that line the charming streets.
Pop into Renninger’s Antique Center, one of the South’s largest antique malls spanning over 200,000 square feet. And save time for a meal with luscious lakefront views, before capping off the night with seasonal events or cultural shows at the elegant Mount Dora Community Building.
14. Cedar Key
On a tiny island along Florida’s Nature Coast, Cedar Key transports visitors back in time with Old Florida fishing village vibes. The mellow mood here perfectly matches the town’s motto “Nice People, Nice Place.”
Meander along Dock Street to check out art galleries and shops selling locally made goods, or book a kayak tour to witness incredible nature around the islands.
And don’t leave Cedar Key without indulging in their famous oysters and clams pulled fresh from the Gulf. The island practically overflows with seafood shacks and restaurants ready to deliver.
One look at the gorgeous oak trees and sweet downtown dotted with shops and cafes, and it’s easy to see why National Geographic named Madison one of America’s most charming small towns.
This North Florida haven provides both Southern hospitality and stunning scenery. Pop into the various Madison boutiques before sitting down for a mouthwatering meal of farm-to-table cuisine or soul food cooking at venues like The Triangle Restaurant or Rosie’s Cafe and Grill.
Then walk it all off while snapping photos under the canopy of centennial oak trees lining the street or along the nature trail circling lovely Lake Frances.
16. Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp
For over a century, mediums and psychics have flocked to the tiny Central Florida town of Cassadaga. Founded in 1894, when medium George Colby received guidance from spirits to build a spiritualist community, the town still attracts those seeking psychic readings, seances, healing crystals, and metaphysical bookstores.
You can book your own reading, take a guided tour to learn more about the camp’s history, or simply browse the mystical shops filled with incense, candles, and more. Just 40 minutes from Orlando, Cassadaga offers a truly unique detour for the spiritually curious.
17. Flagler Beach
Escape the rowdier beach towns along Florida’s Atlantic Coast by heading north to Flagler Beach, where laidback vibes rule. This friendly small surf community dishes out stunning seascapes, fishing piers perfect for watching sunrise or sunset, and a charming oceanfront brewery selling locally crafted beers with water views.
Looking for some history? Take a short drive over to nearby Washington Oaks Gardens State Park to see lush formal gardens and centuries old coquina rock formations hugging the shoreline.
18. Mount Dora
Head inland from the beaches to soak up the artsy charm of Mount Dora, an old railroad town now bursting with shops, cafes and cultural attractions. Spend an afternoon browsing downtown’s many antique stores and boutiques before sitting down for a lakefront dinner as the sunset paints colorful hues across the water.
Looking for quirky things to do in Florida beyond typical tourist attractions? Scope out these fascinating finds and unexpected adventures.
The elaborate rock garden Coral Castle would already seem like a marvel, with sculptures weighing up to 30 tons each seemingly defying the laws of physics.
But when you learn this sprawling sculpture park was built secretly overnight by a single man, Latvian immigrant Edward Leedskalnin, the mystery only deepens.
Leedskalnin refused to allow anyone to view his work in process over the 28 years he constructed the site entirely alone. Coral Castle remains an intriguing roadside oddity near Homestead south of Miami.
Learn about the potential secret building methods Leedskalnin may have used and get lost wandering the impressive construction.
Channel your inner paleontologist (or your kids’ adventurous side) by hunting for prehistoric shark teeth, which abundantly dot the northern Florida shores. Some of the best shark tooth hunting happens along Amelia Island beaches, where lucky seekers find megalodon teeth dating back over 2 million years.
Stop by the Amelia Island Museum of History to see giant megalodon jaws up close and learn more about these prehistoric predators before you start your own quest to uncover shark teeth treasures along the shoreline.
21. 1929 Historic Bok Sanctuary Tower Carillon
Rising over Lake Wales ridge in central Florida, art deco Bok Tower emits melodic bell tones from one of the world’s finest carillons. Sitting on Iron Mountain, one of the highest points in peninsular Florida, the neo-Gothic and art deco inspired tower was built by publisher Edward Bok in the 1920s as a bird sanctuary and sanctuary for people to experience peace, beauty and music with panoramic vista views of citrus groves and pine forests.
The 205-foot tall stone and coquina tower contains a 60-bell carillon, one of the largest in the world. Visitors can climb the tower’s 200 steps to see the brass pipes and resonating bells that chime melodies across the sanctuary multiple times a day. The tower’s gothic Mediterranean architecture and surrounding ornamental gardens further elevate Bok Sanctuary into a serene work of art.
Those are just a taste of the under-the-radar gems sprinkled across Florida beyond the typical tourist haunts. From unspoiled nature to charming small towns and oddball roadside attractions, there’s no shortage of hidden finds in the Sunshine State ready to captivate during your next adventure.
What hidden spots in Florida would you add to the list? Share your favorite offbeat finds in the comments!