With just over a month before the kids start heading back to school in Southwest Florida, there’s still time for a summer getaway. And if you’ve already done the Orlando theme parks or maybe one of the cities, why not check out some of the amazing Florida small towns?

One thing is a constant here in Fort Myers and Naples. The traffic. 10 to 15 years ago, 41 would be nearly vacant in late June. Now it’s like no one ever leaves. And what’s with the latest trend in Naples of waiting until someone is almost to the intersection and then pulling out in front of them? I’ve seen some crazy stuff lately.

Except for Sunday mornings. Pro tip, here. If you want to drive on 41 like it’s the old days, head down 41 in Bonita Springs Sunday morning around 9 am. There’s almost no one on the roads, and the locals that are out know that the left lane is for crime.

Aside from Sunday mornings, traffic doesn’t let up. So let’s take a look at some amazing Florida small towns to get away for a bit. Some are close, others are a full day drive. But all are in Florida. Sometimes I forget just how big this state is. And even though the population of Florida is growing rapidly, you can still find places that hold onto that small town charm.

World Atlas helped put together a list. But I’m building upon it with all that I know from living here 20+ years. I live in Estero, and I can always hear traffic from 41. I came here from a little town of about 2,500 people. So when I can get away from that noise it’s a blessing.

If you’re the same, here’s a list of 9 amazing Florida small towns to spend your summer vacation.

  • Captiva

    I know, I’m quite aware that Hurricane Ian really ravaged the island. But a lot of the places have opened back up. And the beaches are gorgeous. You can book at ‘Tween Waters or a rental from Sunset Captiva Rental Homes. Get some of that famous cake at Boops by the Bubble Room or dinner at the Mucky Duck. Sure, the island isn’t perfect. We’re a ways from that. But if you’re looking to escape crowds this summer, this is your spot. Here’s a list of what is open. EDIT: Just after I wrote this, Sanibel announced that all their beaches were now open.

    Sanibel Island and Captiva Island: Find Vacation & Travel Information

    City of Sanibel Proclamation 20-040 Requires Face Coverings at Indoor Places 50 years of sanibel Live Beach Cams Open Businesses Shop Sancap Where to Stay

  • Fernandina Beach

    Fernandina Beach is on the Atlantic Coast near the Florida-Georgia border. A focal point is Amelia Island, and according to the town’s websiteAmelia Island is the southernmost of the Sea Islands, a chain of barrier islands stretching along the east coast of the United States from South Carolina to Florida. It is thirteen miles long and approximately four miles wide at its widest point.” A little town of about 13,000 people with a ton of history dating back into the 1500’s. It’s about a 5 1/2 hour drive from SWFL.

    Visiting

    Fernandina Beach is a city in Nassau County, Florida on Amelia Island. It is the northernmost city on Florida's Atlantic coast, and is one of the principal municipalities comprising Greater Jacksonville. The area was first inhabited by the Timucuan Indian tribe.

  • Fort Pierce

    Fort Pierce is on the east coast just north of Lake Okeechobee and is home to the National UDT Navy SEAL museum. You can explore the Indian River Lagoon or ride horses on the beach. With a population of about 48,000 there’s amenities but still a small town feel. 

  • Islamorada

    We all know Islamorada as the place where Robbie’s is. That super touristy spot we all stop at on the way to Key West. But there’s actually a lot more to the town with a population of just over 7,000. Islamorada is 6 keys with adventures such as exploring coral reefs and dolphin encounters. The History of Diving Museum includes a 16th-century treasure chest. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park is a former quarry. Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park has tropical forest. Indian Key Historic State Park is a tiny island with 1800s ruins.

    Islamorada, FL | Official Website

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  • New Smyrna Beach

    New Smyrna Beach is located south of Daytona Beach. With a population just above 30,000, it’s a surf hub known for its beaches. Most famously the Canaveral National Seashore. The  Smyrna Dunes Park has views of Ponce Inlet and the lighthouse. Downtown’s palm-lined Canal Street Historic District has art galleries, shops and if you’re feeling education, the New Smyrna Museum of History. The Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum is another must. The displays are set up in an 1899 church.

    New Smyrna Beach, FL - Official Website | Official Website

    FDOT project to replace hydraulic cylinders underway; next one-night closure scheduled 7 p.m. April 29 to 7 a.m. April 30 Read on...

    I also love that you can back your SUV right up onto the beach.

  • St. Augustine

    St. Augustine’s population of 14,500 really keeps the charm of the oldest city in the U.S. St. Augustine was founded 55 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock You’ll see great examples of Spanish colonial architecture as well as Atlantic Ocean beaches. The sandy St. Augustine Beach and tranquil Crescent Beach. Anastasia State Park is a protected wildlife sanctuary. The Castillo de San Marcos is a 17th-century Spanish stone fortress with views of the St. Augustine Inlet. If you’re looking to add some history to your summer getaway, this has it all. And if you hit Orlando at the right time, you can make the drive from SWFL in under 5 hours.  Check the website and plan ahead, “There’s so much to do, you’re going to want to stay one more day.” 

    St. Augustine & Ponte Vedra VCB | Florida's Historic Coast

    Explore St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra, Florida and find the best things to do on this historic coast. Enjoy beaches, guided tours, shopping and more!

  • St. Pete's Beach

    The barrier island known as St. Pete’s Beach has a population under 9,000. It’s a great getaway that’s not too far of a drive. Beach wise it’s not really better than anything we have here in SWFL, but I’ve always wanted to check out the pink Don CeSar Hotel. They also have the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum, which displays postcards and other artifacts in a 1917 church. I’ve only ever gone to St. Pete’s Beach to party, so I’m not sure what it’d be like with kids. Check it out.

    St. Pete Beach, FL | Official Website

    Welcome to the official website for the City of St. Pete Beach, Florida. Learn more about our beautiful city and amenities we offer.

  • Vero Beach

    Vero Beach is another east coast town just north of Lake O. Population 16,707. Mostly a beach town if you want to escape the super warm waters of the Gulf for the warm Atlantic waters. Last check the water at Vero Beach is 77 degrees compared to the 84 degrees we have on Fort Myers beach. Other things to explore are the McKee Botanical Garden with tropical plants and water lily–filled streams.  Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge shelters brown pelicans. 

    Vero Beach, FL | Official Website

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  • Cypress Gardens

    Cypress Gardens was originally a theme park dating back to 1932. Flower gardens, water ski show, and a hotspot for Hollywood celebrities. The gardens have gone through several owners before becoming it’s latest version – Legoland. Legoland introduced a lot of new to the park, but kept some legacy like the daily water ski shows and the great Banyan tree that was planted in 1939. The full story of Cypress Gardens is pretty crazy, you can find it all here.

  • Not finding what you're looking for?

    There’s more ideas here. Summer goes by fast. We’ll be starting back To School promotions in just a few weeks. But you still got time.

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