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10 Delightful small towns in Florida to visit on your next vacation

Discover small towns in Florida that offer unique charm and memorable experiences.

  • Mount Dora : Vintage charm with antique shops, festivals, and picturesque lake views.
  • Apalachicola : Seafood haven known for fresh oysters, historic architecture, and natural beauty.
  • Seaside : Picturesque coastal escape with vibrant arts scene, boutique shops, and beautiful beaches.
  • Saint Augustine : Historic sites, Spanish colonial architecture, and pristine beaches.
  • Venice : Italian-inspired town famous for fossilized shark teeth, cultural events, and scenic parks.

Florida is famous for its bustling cities and expansive beaches, but it also boasts numerous small towns that provide a charming escape from the hustle and bustle. These lesser-known gems are packed with character, history, and unparalleled beauty. Here’s a look at 10 delightful small towns in Florida to explore on your next vacation.

Mount dora : a vintage retreat

Mount Dora, located in Central Florida, offers a delightful retreat with its vintage charm and rich history. This quaint town is renowned for its antique shops, festivals, and picturesque lake views.

Start your journey in Mount Dora by visiting the downtown area, where you’ll find the renowned Mount Dora Center for the Arts. This center hosts numerous art exhibits and events throughout the year, making it a cultural hub in this small town. Don’t miss the annual Mount Dora Arts Festival held in February, which attracts artists and visitors from all around the country.

Mount Dora is also famous for its numerous antique shops and local boutiques. Renninger’s Antique Center & Farmer’s Market is a must-visit spot for antique enthusiasts. The sprawling market features an array of collectibles, vintage items, and local produce, providing a unique shopping experience.

These attractions provide a glimpse into Mount Dora’s storied past, with many buildings reflecting early 20th-century architecture. The town also offers boat tours on Lake Dora, providing stunning views and a serene atmosphere. The Mount Dora Lighthouse, the only inland lighthouse in Florida, is another highlight, offering beautiful sunset views over the lake.

Apalachicola : a seafood haven

Apalachicola, located in Florida’s Panhandle, is a seafood lover’s paradise famous for its fresh oysters and maritime history. This historic town on the Gulf Coast offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Known for its vibrant seafood industry, Apalachicola has a rich culinary scene. Don’t miss dining at one of the local seafood restaurants, where you can savor fresh oysters, shrimp, and crab. The Apalachicola Seafood Grill is a popular spot offering a delicious array of seafood dishes.

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The town is steeped in history, with numerous preserved homes and buildings dating back to the 19th century. The Raney House Museum, which offers a peek into Apalachicola’s antebellum past, is a must-visit. Another significant landmark is the Orman House Historic State Park, offering guided tours of this well-preserved 1838 mansion.

Apalachicola’s scenic beauty is also worth exploring. The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve is one of the largest of its kind in the country and is perfect for hiking, birdwatching, and nature photography. Riverfront parks and the nearby St. George Island State Park offer additional outdoor activities.

Seaside : a picturesque coastal escape

Seaside is a master-planned community in Northwest Florida that epitomizes coastal charm. This pedestrian-friendly town is famous for its pastel-colored cottages and beautiful beaches, making it an idyllic vacation destination.

Visitors to Seaside often begin their exploration at the town center, which features a variety of boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. The town is renowned for its emphasis on new urbanism, evident in its well-designed, walkable streets and public spaces. The Seaside Amphitheater, a central gathering spot, frequently hosts concerts, outdoor films, and events.

The beaches in Seaside are some of the most picturesque in Florida. Pristine white sands and clear blue waters make these beaches perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. Nearby, the Seaside Chapel, an architectural gem, provides a quiet place for reflection and photography.

Seaside is also known for its cultural offerings. The town hosts the Seaside Writers Conference, drawing authors and literary enthusiasts each year. Additionally, the Seaside Repertory Theatre – often referred to as “The Rep” – offers live performances ranging from classical plays to contemporary productions, ensuring a vibrant arts scene.

Saint augustine : america’s oldest city

Saint Augustine, located on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, is the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the continental United States. Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, this small town is a treasure trove of historical landmarks and Spanish colonial architecture.

The heart of Saint Augustine is its historic downtown, featuring cobblestone streets, charming shops, and historic sites. The Castillo de San Marcos, a well-preserved 17th-century Spanish fort, is a significant attraction. A tour of this national monument provides a glimpse into the military history and colonial conflicts of the era.

Another must-see in Saint Augustine is the Lightner Museum, located in the former Alcazar Hotel built by Henry Flagler. The museum houses an eclectic collection of art, artifacts, and antiques, offering a journey through time. Adjacent to it is the Flagler College, housed in the grand Ponce de León Hotel, known for its Spanish Renaissance Revival architecture.

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For a scenic experience, visit the Saint Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. Climbing the lighthouse offers stunning views of the coastline and a fascinating look into the area’s maritime history. Saint Augustine’s beaches, like Saint Augustine Beach and Vilano Beach, also offer relaxing spots for sun and surf just a short drive from downtown.

Venice : a touch of italy in florida

Venice, located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is often referred to as the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World.” This charming town combines beautiful beaches with a historic downtown area inspired by its Italian namesake.

Venice’s downtown is a delightful area to explore, with streets lined with Mediterranean-style buildings, lush greenery, and boutique shops. The Venice Theatre, one of the largest community theaters in the United States, offers a range of performances from musicals to dramas, contributing to the town’s vibrant cultural scene.

Casperen Beach is a major attraction in Venice, especially for those interested in fossil hunting. The beach is renowned for its abundance of fossilized shark teeth, which visitors can collect along the shore. The Venice Fishing Pier is another hotspot, providing excellent fishing opportunities and stunning sunsets over the Gulf.

The Venetian Waterway Park offers picturesque trails along the Intracoastal Waterway, perfect for walking, biking, and enjoying the local wildlife. Venice also hosts numerous events, such as the annual Venice Shark’s Tooth Festival, which celebrates the town’s unique fossil finds and offers art, music, and food.

Florida’s small towns, with their unique charms and attractions, provide a delightful alternative to the state’s more commercialized destinations. From the historical depths of Saint Augustine to the coastal allure of Seaside, each town offers something special for visitors. So, next time you plan a Florida vacation, consider exploring these hidden gems for an unforgettable experience.

Lance Brownfield