Not-So-Distant Shores

July 2020

Ready to get back to the beach but don’t want to navigate the crowds? It might surprise you to learn that Florida still has miles of out-of-the-way beaches where you can enjoy some sun and sand in a more peaceful setting than the usual hot spots. If you’re looking for a secluded beach getaway, consider visiting these hidden gems.

St. George Island

Located just off North Florida’s Gulf Coast, the 28-mile St. George Island is one of the last inhabited yet unspoiled barrier islands in Florida. It’s a serene, pet-friendly, vacation paradise.

The island consistently rates as one of the top beaches in the U.S., with uncrowded expanses for sunning and shelling, clear Gulf waters for swimming and fishing, and pristine marshes for wildlife viewing.

St. George Island is protected by low-density zoning and strict building codes. This makes the island a tranquil beach community with no high rises or chain stores. Visitors can rent a quaint beach cottage, a multi-story luxury beach home, or rooms at one of the two island hotels or inns.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Located 70 miles west of Key West across open water, this most-remote national park is a true escape, accessible only by ferry or seaplane. But you won’t miss civilization. The Dry Tortugas are like something you’d conjure up in a dream.

The park is dominated by Fort Jefferson, the largest brick building in the Western Hemisphere. Surrounded by impossibly crystalline, turquoise-hued waters, its beaches are lush with sugary sand that begs you to ditch your sandals.

You can kick back on the beach, snorkel the living reef, or explore. You can even camp there, with the music of the surf to lull you to sleep.

Caladesi Island State Park

Voted one of the top beaches in the U.S., Caladesi Island State Park’s beach is a pristine, unspoiled island haven off the coast of Clearwater Beach.

One of Florida’s few remaining undeveloped barrier islands and accessible only by boat, Caladesi Island is rich with beauty and tranquility. Warm breezes rifle through lone palms and patches of sea oats. Shorebirds call above crystal waters. The soft white sand on Caladesi Beach beckons you to sink in, to rest awhile.

You don’t have to do anything on Caladesi Island. That’s the joy of its 3-mile beachfront. But if you choose, you can enjoy a picnic lunch under the pavilions and go angling, kayaking, birding, or hiking through several distinct habitats.

Best of all, it’s possible to find total peace in this paradise. If you go to Caladesi Beach during the week, you’re likely to find yourself virtually alone. Soak up the solitude.

Santa Rosa Beach

Located along a 26-mile stretch of Northwest Florida’s famed Emerald Coast, Santa Rosa Beach is one of 16 distinct beach neighborhoods in South Walton County, each with its own traditions, charm, and visual style.

The community of Santa Rosa Beach offers luxury beach houses, upscale dining, and the unique artist colony known as Gulf Place. It also provides several entrances to Point Washington State Forest, a 15,000-acre preserve with more than 10 natural communities.

In fact, all of South Walton is renowned for natural scenic beauty, turquoise waters, and sugar-sand beaches, including one of Travel + Leisure magazine’s “Best Beaches on Earth” for families.