Florida is a top tourism spot in the United States. Vacationers love the beaches, theme parks, and the nature you don’t see anywhere else. Some places in Florida can get crowded, though, because they’re so popular. If you’re looking for Florida vacation ideas that don’t involve being around lots of people, check out these places to go to get away from crowds in Florida.
1. Find a quiet island in the Gulf of Mexico
Off the southwestern coast of Florida are several barrier islands you can reach only by boat or plane. Because you can’t get there by land, they typically aren’t crowded. These islands include Cayo Costa, North Captiva, Don Pedro Island, Little Gasparilla Island, Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, and Keewaydin Island. Mostly, these islands are studded with high-end homes, but you can stay at a resort or vacation rental on most islands. You can camp on Cayo Costa.
If you can’t stay overnight, you can visit Cabbage Key’s restaurant or bar (said to be the origin of Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise”) or visit Don Pedro Island State Park for the day.
2. Don’t forget the Forgotten Coast and Big Bend area
Where Florida’s panhandle joins the peninsula, it creates a curve in the Gulf of Mexico known as the Big Bend. From roughly Cape San Blas to Cedar Key, this part of Florida is full of quiet natural areas and small towns. Part of the Big Bend area south of Apalachicola National Forest is called the Forgotten Coast, where you’ll find forests, the historical small town of Apalachicola, St. George Island State Park, and Bald Point State Park.
Keep going east on US 98, and you’ll run into St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge — known for great waterfowl birding and being part of the monarch butterfly migration route. Nearby Wakulla Springs State Park, one of the state’s first-magnitude freshwater springs, lets you take a glass-bottom boat tour of the spring head.
State lands preserve the eastern part of the Big Bend, where the coast is laid out with salt marshes instead of sandy beaches. Visit the small coastal towns of Steinhatchee, Horseshoe Beach, Suwannee, and Cedar Key for fishing or just a quiet getaway.
3. Get away from crowds in Florida in the Talbot Islands
North of Jacksonville on the Atlantic shore, there’s a series of islands that lead to the Georgia border. Many people know of Amelia Island, where the city of Fernandina Beach boasts the state’s oldest bar. But south of there lie Big Talbot and Little Talbot Islands, where the beach and coastal maritime forests are left mostly undeveloped. Explore them at Little Talbot Island State Park (where you can camp) and Big Talbot Island State Park. The islands are a great place to kayak in the salt marshes.
4. Find some open spaces south of Orlando
Central Florida is a tourism hot spot because of the theme parks and other attractions there. Few central Florida vacationers travel farther south, though, where there’s a lot of peaceful nature to explore.
Although most tourists associate the name Kissimmee with nearby Walt Disney World, Kissimmee is also the name of a river that flows into Lake Okeechobee farther south. Lake Kissimmee is known for its largemouth bass fishing. On its shore, you’ll find Lake Kissimmee State Park, where you can get away from crowds on the trails or in the campground. The river flows down next to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, which is a Dark Sky Park providing excellent stargazing. The bonus for the crowd-averse is that it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere.
Lake life is what it’s all about in Sebring and Lake Placid. But you can also find nature at Highlands Hammock State Park and Lake June in Winter Scrub Preserve State Park. One of Sebring’s biggest attractions is Sebring International Raceway, where you will find crowds during race events.
Southwest of Sebring you’ll find the town of Arcadia. The historical downtown welcomes unrushed walking. Mostly, though, visitors head to the Peace River to canoe or kayak and look for fossils.
5. Go remote in the Everglades
If you really want to get away from people, get out into the backcountry of the Everglades. This will require a boat. Paddle the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway of the Ten Thousand Islands — best for experienced paddlers or with an Everglades wilderness guide. You don’t have to paddle the whole thing to get away from it all — you can paddle to an island near the mainland and stay put for a while.
6. National forests let you get away from crowds in Florida
A lot of vacationers don’t think about forests when they think of Florida, but they’re there — 1.2 million acres of national forest. The largest is the Apalachicola west of capital Tallahassee in the panhandle. Here, you can access rivers and lakes and almost 250 miles of trails. Over in the northern-central part of Florida, Osceola National Forest is an old-Florida area with swamps, forests, and lakes. And north of Orlando, Ocala National Forest is known for its freshwater springs and black bears. Ocala is the most visited forest of the three, so you might find some recreation areas to be crowded, especially on weekends.
Tourist areas can get congested, but there are places you can go to get away from crowds in Florida. These are a few that let you enjoy a Florida getaway that’s not packed with other travelers.