One of the things that makes Florida so special is its abundance of islands. There are over 4,500 islands in the Sunshine State that have an area of 10 acres or more. That makes it the state with the second-highest number of islands, just trailing behind Alaska!
We’ve put together a list of our favorite islands in Florida. From the warm Gulf Coast to the beautiful islands of the Atlantic and all the way down to the tropical Florida Keys, check out the 14 Florida islands that we just can’t get enough of!
Florida Gulf Coast Islands
We’ll start our list of the best Islands in Florida on the beautiful gulf coast, moving from north to south.
Caladesi Island actually a state park. It is one of the last untouched islands on Florida’s Gulf Coast, making it an excellent stop for nature lovers. The nearest town to Caladesi Island is Dunedin, but the island is actually only accessible by boat. The most popular way to get there is by taking the ferry that leaves from nearby Honeymoon Island.
Caladesi Island is an excellent place to kayak, relax on the beach, and search for shells. Visitors can also enjoy fishing and hiking on this pristine island. Caladesi Island State Park is also equipped with a marina for visitors who would like to come over and/or camp on their own boat.
Gasparilla Island/Little Gasparilla Island
The next destination on our list is not one but two islands. You’ll find these two neighboring islands located between Sarasota and Fort Myers. Actually, the islands are just a bit south of the beach towns of Englewood and Venice!
Gasparilla Island can be reached from the mainland by car via the Boca Grande Causeway, and there are plenty of things to do on the island. Be sure to check out Gasparilla Island State Park, as well as the island’s two lighthouses, the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse and the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and Museum.
Little Gasparilla Island, on the other hand, is only accessible by private boat or water taxi. Plus, no cars are allowed on the island, so you will have to rely on golf carts to make your way around the island. Little Gasparilla Island is an excellent place to plan a relaxing escape, as you can find various vacation homes available to rent.
Another island that is only accessible by boat, Cayo Costa is one of the largest barrier islands in Florida. Cayo Costa is an excellent place to enjoy the natural beauty of the Sunshine State, as you’ll find nine miles of untouched beaches on the island. In fact, the only accommodation options on Cayo Costa are campsites, and you can find 30 tent sites inside the state park.
You can enjoy a number of activities on Cayo Costa, such as biking (you can rent bikes on the island), hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, shelling, and more. If you like fishing, cast a line and try to catch some flounder, trout, or snapper. You can take a ferry over to the island from nearby Punta Gorda, Pine Island, or Captiva Island.
Speaking of Captiva Island, if we head just a little farther south down the coast, we’ll find this lovely Gulf Coast escape. At just five miles long, Captiva is a small island located near Cayo Costa, Pine Island, and Sanibel Island. It is a great place to enjoy biking, sailing, birding, water sports, and other outdoor activities. Plus, it has some of the most beautiful white-sand beaches that you’ll find on the Gulf Coast.
You’ll find a number of accommodation options on Captiva Island, but if you’re traveling with kids, perhaps your best option is South Seas Island Resort. It offers a number of organized activities for children, as well as 2.5 miles of pristine beaches. However, there are other resorts and vacation rentals on the island if you are looking for alternative accommodation options.
If you drive down Captiva Island you’ll eventually end up on its beautiful neighbor, Sanibel Island. At 12 miles long and up to 3 miles wide at some points, Sanibel Island is about 20 times the size of nearby Captiva. That means more activities, accommodations, and natural Florida Beauty.
You’ll find some truly spectacular beaches on Sanibel Island, like Bowman’s Beach and Blind Pass Beach, both of which are great places for shelling. There are a number of other attractions that are worth checking out on the island, such as the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village, and the Sanibel Lighthouse. Drive down Periwinkle Way to find the island’s best dining and shopping options.
Our final Gulf Coast island destination is located all the way down near the Everglades, just about a half-hour south of Naples. Marco Island is the largest of Florida’s “Ten Thousand Islands”, a chain of islands and mangrove islets off the southwest coast of the state. Consequently, you’ll find beautiful mangrove-lined estuaries in the area, as well as pristine beaches: Tigertail Beach is one of the best shelling beaches near Naples.
There are plenty of other activities to check out on Marco Island, such as golfing, shopping, dining, fishing, and more. There are also a number of natural refuges in the area that are certainly worth visiting, including Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Collier-Seminole State Park, and Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve.
You can also check out the Briggs Boardwalk on your way out to Marco Island. It’s a fascinating self-guided nature walk where you can learn about the ecosystem, plants, wildlife and more. Plus, it’s a dog-friendly stroll (which we love!). Also, you’re just a short drive away from the world-famous Florida Everglades, which offer an excellent day trip during your stay on Marco Island.
Florida Atlantic Coast Islands
Now let’s move down the Atlantic Coast and explore what beautiful islands this side of Florida has to offer.
You’ll find Amelia Island at the very northern border of the Sunshine State. There are plenty of things to do during your stay at Amelia Island, such as visiting Fort Clinch State Park, located on the northern tip of the island, and exploring the historic downtown Fernandina Beach area. This is a great place to go shopping or grab a bite to eat, as there are plenty of dining options and cute shops downtown.
You have a variety of accommodation options on Amelia Island, ranging from vacation rentals to upscale hotels. Plus, golfers will absolutely love this island. In fact, it was named one of the 25 best golf islands in the world by LINKS Magazine, the only island in the U.S. to make the list! You have a number of beautiful course options to choose between, so be sure to pack your clubs! Finally, while you’re on the island, be sure to check out the oldest standing lighthouse in the whole state, the Amelia Island Lighthouse.
Big Talbot Island
Big Talbot Island is actually one of Florida’s numerous state parks. Big Talbot Island State Park is located right outside of Jacksonville, and it is a great way to escape the city and enjoy some of Florida’s natural wonders. This island is a prime location for bird watching, as you can spot ospreys, terns, pelicans, egrets, herons, owls, painted buntings, and even bald eagles!
Aside from birding, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy on the island. There are numerous paths for bikers and hikers, and the islands beaches are perfect for shelling. If you are interested in exploring the area by water, you can sign up for a guided kayak tour, which will take you through special guided trips. You can also rent a kayak and explore the island’s shores and creeks on your own.
Anastasia Island is located right off the shores of historic St. Augustine. This 14-mile long barrier island has a number of interesting attractions that are worth visiting. First off, the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum is located on the island. You should also check out the nearby Anastasia State Park, where you can explore pristine beaches, untouched tidal marshes, and breathtaking sand dunes.
There are a number of spectacular beaches located on Anastasia Island that are certainly worth visiting. You will want to go to St. Augustine Beach, Butler Beach, and Crescent Beach. And if you happen to be traveling with little ones, another great attraction is the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. For people hoping to stay on the island, you can rent a vacation home or get a room at one of the island’s many hotels.
One of the wealthiest zip codes in the country, the exclusive Fisher Island, located right outside of Miami, is only accessible by boat or ferry. With just a little over 170 acres, Fisher Island is home to some 700 families, only about a third of which live there year-round. If you’re looking for accommodations on the island, you can stay at Provident Luxury Suites Fisher Island or Fisher Island Club and Hotel.
The Fisher Island Club isn’t just a hotel. It also has a spectacular saltwater pool, a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, a fitness center, and more. The club also has a number of upscale dining options. So if you’re looking for a luxurious and exclusive Florida getaway, Fisher Island is an excellent option for you.
If we head just south of Fisher Island, we’ll find Key Biscayne. This is another beautiful island in the Miami area, albeit more accessible than Fisher Island. In fact, you can drive onto Key Biscayne via the Rickenbacker Causeway. Key Biscayne is a beautiful island with two spectacular natural areas: Crandon Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, the latter of which is home to the 19th-century Cape Florida Lighthouse.
Located near Key Biscayne you’ll find a coastal barrier reef and the only federally recognized underwater archeological trail in the country, making it an excellent destination for scuba divers and snorkelers. There are a number of apartment rentals and beach resorts on the island, but for those looking for more upscale accommodation options, you can rent a room at the Ritz-Carlton.
Florida Keys Islands
Finally, let’s head southwest from the mainland and check out these true island gems of the Florida Keys.
Islamorada is not one island but actually six! Islamorada is made up of Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, and the offshore islands of Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key. This village of islands is an excellent place to visit if you like fishing, as it has some of the best saltwater fishing in the world.
This collection of islands is also an excellent destination for snorkelers. One of the most popular attractions in Islamorada is the Theater of the Sea (which by the way, is also dog-friendly!), where you can enjoy interactive dolphin exhibits, sea turtle experiences, and more. You’ll find a number of resorts on Islamorada’s various islands, as well as vacation rentals.
Little Palm Island
Little Palm Island is unique in that the entire island is a private resort! One of the most exclusive resort islands in Florida, Little Palm Island is located just south of Ramrod Key, and the resort offers a motor yacht service to bring guests in from Little Torch Key. This adults-only island is an ideal destination for a relaxing and romantic getaway. There are no televisions nor telephones in any of the rooms, so the resort is perhaps the perfect place to disconnect from the rest of the world.
Little Palm Island Resort has a dining room, though private dining accommodations can also be made. The resort also has a spa, and you can sign up for a variety of other activities during your stay, such as kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, sky diving, and more.
Dry Tortugas is actually a collection of seven small islands located about 70 miles from Key West. Dry Tortugas National Park can be accessed by seaplane or boat. This eco-tourism destination is one of the most interesting places to visit in the Sunshine State, thanks to its remote location and pristine landscape.
You’ll find Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park, which is the largest brick masonry structure in the Americas. The park is also an excellent place for scuba diving and snorkeling, thanks to its pristine waters and coral reefs. Believe it or not, less than 1% of Dry Tortugas National Park is dry ground, so you’ll certainly want to pack your bathing suit to make the most of these islands! Finally, you even have the option to camp on the park’s Garden Key. Just be sure to come prepared for a rustic and remote camping experience!
Which Islands in Florida Are Your Favorite?
So there you have it! These are our favorite islands in Florida, but no matter where you find yourself in the Sunshine State, you’re sure to be in relatively close proximity to a beautiful Florida island. Now that you’ve seen our list of the best islands in Florida to visit, start planning your trip to one of these unique and tropical destinations!
And if you’ve already visited some of these islands in Florida, we’d love to hear in the comments below if you have a favorite and why!