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Florida's 13 Most Underrated Towns To Visit In 2024
Dated: February 9 2024
There is no shortage of exciting destinations to visit in Florida, but some places tend to steal the spotlight from others. While it is easy to succumb to the allure of Miami’s electric nightlife and the charisma of Orlando’s world-renowned theme parks, the Sunshine State is rife with charming pint-sized locations that have generally been overlooked. Beyond the crowded metro areas where the neon lights never cease to glow, these small towns present a quieter, less congested setting for a relaxed retreat.
From cute coastal villages to adorable artsy communities and scenic lakeside locales, these underexplored gems have more to offer than many travelers realize. They promise a fresh experience, with rare historical landmarks, unique cultural adventures, and remarkable outdoor pursuits. Whether your idea of a fun vacation involves lazily strolling through vibrant downtowns, relaxing on sandy shores, or getting lost in the wild outdoors, consider prioritizing these underrated towns in your 2024 Florida itinerary.
This lovely waterfront town on the shores of Lake Apopka doesn’t get enough credit as a travel destination. Despite its scenic natural beauty, punctuated with rolling green hills and glistening lake waters, it somehow manages to stay under the radar for most tourists. Driving along the Green Mountain Scenic Byway, which cuts through Montverde, gives you a preview of the town’s unique natural beauty. However, you will have to step out of the car to discover gems like Lake Florence Park. This cozy nature space provides a serene setting, ideal for relaxing and unwinding as you take in panoramic vistas of Lake Florence.
Montverde’s overall laid-back vibe calls for a tee time, and the Club at Bella Collina lets you practice your swing in one of Central Florida’s top golf and country clubs. The venue hosts a world-class golf course and an array of other luxurious amenities, including the Spa at Bella Collina, which will come in handy after the last putt.
This laidback lakeside community is famous for its historic district, which houses well-preserved structures with several antique shops. Exploring the town center reveals sites like the Mount Dora History Museum, where you can peek into local history between the 1880s and 1930s. Meanwhile, Palm Island Park showcases the superb natural scenery surrounding Mount Dora. The 8-acre oasis hosts picnic shelters and trails, with a picturesque boardwalk that spoils you with stunning views of Lake Dora. One of the best experiences in the town involves interacting with the tight-knit community, and the Mount Dora Village Market presents the ideal opportunity. Besides shopping for farm-fresh produce, chatting up the energized vendors always makes up for a fun cultural experience. Mount Dora is also famous for its festivals, and among its most anticipated is the Mount Dora Arts Festival, scheduled for February 3 & 4, 2024.
Although it rarely makes the headlines in Florida travel magazines, this Amelia Island destination is a charming base for multiple outdoor adventures. But before heading to the open spaces, you can stop by the Amelia Island Museum of History for some insightful background to the town. The facility is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and sheds light on local cultural and historical heritage. Main Beach Park is a popular hub in Fernandina Beach, drawing vacationers looking to sunbathe, swim, picnic, and play beach volleyball.
Hikers will fancy taking on Egans Creek Greenway Trail, a scenic 2.2-mile route passing through a hardwood and salt marsh landscape with bird-watching opportunities. Getting onto the water is a must-have experience in Fernandina Beach, and Amelia Adventures organizes fun kayaking, canoeing, and boating tours to explore the area's beauty.
Often overlooked for Panhandle favorites like Destin and Panama City Beach, Seaside is a picture-perfect destination with easygoing vibes worth checking out. The soothing beach scenery is perfect for unwinding, and you can make the most of this four minutes west of the town at Grayton Beach State Park. This coastal oasis offers delightful pavilions on the white sands and secluded shoreline trails. Aquatic fun lovers can also kayak, swim, or paddleboard for fun on the water. Seaside also boasts an impressive arts scene, with several art centers showcasing local creations. At Fusion Art Glass, you can admire sophisticated glass art by various American artists.
Alternatively, you can catch an exciting live show at the small but popular REP Theater, featuring plays, musicals, and magic shows. After working up an appetite for exploring the top attractions in Seaside, be sure to stop by Great Southern Café for a taste of sumptuous Southern cuisine.
Travelers experience pleasant “Old Florida” vibes and trademark Southern hospitality in this fishing village in Franklin County. Apalachicola has an impressive cluster of historic buildings offering a window into state history. The Orman House Historic State Park is an excellent example of 19th-century architectural styles in the town. It was built in 1838, sporting a fantastic mix of Greek Revival of Federal styles. Outdoor enthusiasts can find a nice picnic spot inside Lafayette Park, home to large oak trees and a lengthy pier with fantastic views of Apalachicola Bay.
Apalachicola also features a rich seafood heritage dating back over a century ago. You can sample this exciting culture at one of the many joints in the town, including Apalachicola Seafood Grill. Better yet, wait for the Florida Seafood Festival in November 2024 for a more massive experience.
Yankeetown sits along the Gulf Coast in north central Florida and is one of the state's best-kept secrets for outdoor enthusiasts. It offers abundant recreational opportunities, from relaxing beaches and scenic hiking trails to world-class fishing and boating. At Bird Creek Beach, you’ll find a serene natural escape to enjoy an unspoiled sandy shoreline in near solitude. Nature lovers will find hidden gems at the 413-acre Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve, home to unspoiled wetlands, salt marshes, and forested islands ideal for hiking and wildlife viewing.
The Winding River Garden also offers a cozy respite along the riverbank, perfect for picnicking amid lush landscapes. Despite boasting breathtaking natural beauty and abundant recreational opportunities, Yankeetown remains remarkably under-visited.
With top destinations like Daytona Beach and Orlando sitting less than an hour away, DeLand can be an easy oversight for many tourists, but this bustling college town in Volusia County has much to offer. It is known for its rich arts and culture scene, which you can credit to the presence of Stetson University. Venues like the Museum of Art-DeLand and Athens Theater captivate audiences with fascinating visual and performance art. Stetson Mansion is among the more prominent historical markers in the town, and a tour takes you back to the late 19th century when it was constructed.
For some outdoor fun, the Hontoon Island State Park presents endless opportunities across its over 1600-acre expanse, from hiking and cycling to fishing and kayaking. Finally, DeLand hosts some of the biggest events in Central Florida, highlighted by the Volusia County Fair and the popular DeLand Fall Festival of Arts, to be held on November 24, 2024.
Arcadia boasts a quaint Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places, housing a collection of old gems that take you on a fascinating journey back in time. Strolling through the neighborhood, you’ll encounter the Arcadia Opera House, an exciting museum from the early 20th century. Housed inside is a vast collection of artifacts and antique items documenting the past. But there is more to this tiny DeSoto County town, including exciting water-based activities along the Peace River. You can rent a kayak from Canoe Outpost-Peace River for a laidback paddling session with a chance to spot local wildlife.
Elsewhere, the Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo stages a must-see spectacle in the town. The arena draws top cowboys and girls from around the country to compete in rodeo events like roping, barrel racing, and bronc riding
This adorable barrier island community oozes small-town vibes, serving as the perfect seaside escape along the Gulf of Mexico. Miles of sandy shores and fantastic water views beckon travelers to Madeira Beach. Most visitors flock to John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk to explore the 1,100-foot promenade. It hosts an eclectic mix of restaurants, antique stores, and merchandise shops, giving the area an upbeat atmosphere. Beachgoers will prefer the serene setting of Archibald Beach Park, with sprawling sugar-white shores providing the perfect way to lounge, relax, and savor the stunning scenery.
If you travel with kids, Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center is ideal for spending a day with family. It houses various species, including alligators, turtles, lizards, and other marine animals. Afterwards, you can take them to Beach Fun & Games for more family-friendly entertainment, with over 30 games to select.
For a small town in south-central Florida, Sebring delivers a jam-packed tourist experience with something for everyone. It has a couple of historical attractions, highlighted by the Sebring Downtown Historic District. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it houses a cluster of old structures with Classical Revival architecture and maintains a rustic atmosphere worth experiencing. Meanwhile, the Military Sea Services Museum looks into America’s military maritime heritage by exhibiting various Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines artifacts.
After taking in enough of local history, you can explore its natural wonders at Highlands Hammock State Park. This ecologically diverse, 9,000-acre oasis impresses with its mix of habitats, flora, and fauna. Finally, you can’t miss out on the Sebring International Raceway, with an opportunity to experience an adrenaline-inducing race.
Although most tourists focus on the more fancied Tampa nearby, Dunedin has all it takes to deliver just as satisfying an experience. From beautiful beaches and charming art centers to fine dining restaurants, it is a gem waiting to be discovered. Honeymoon Island State Park highlights the coastal attractions in Dunedin, stretching 385 acres with 4 miles of shoreline to take advantage of. Further inland, you’ll come across Hammond Park, which has a system of nature trails, a butterfly garden, boardwalks, a playground, and disc golf course.
The local art scene is nothing to scoff at, and the community shows appreciation for the arts with a host of charming venues. Connoisseurs will enjoy fabulous creations at the Painted Fish Gallery or Dunedin Fine Art Center.
This artsy beach community near St. Petersburg gets its charismatic personality from the surrounding natural beauty and a collection of artists, musicians, and writers that call it home. Its laid-back vibe is evident in its walkable downtown, where you can visit the Gulfport History Museum to explore local history. The center displays old photographs, articles, and other memorabilia referencing Gulfport’s colorful history. Art lovers can join their peers at the world-class Catherine A Hickman Theater to catch live performances, from concerts and plays to dance. Stepping outside, Cam Bayou Nature Park presents multiple recreational opportunities in a green setting surrounded by marshes and mangrove forests. You can choose from fishing, kayaking, dog walking, and hiking to spend quality time outdoors. Lastly, try shopping at the Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market to sample fresh produce from the farm or hunt for handcrafted souvenirs.
This lowkey Gulf of Mexico enclave offers a peaceful escape, with pristine nature and a wealth of history to explore. Outdoor adventures abound in the many open spaces in Cedar Key, including the picturesque Cedar Key Fishing Pier. This is a beautiful spot to watch the spectacular sunset and spot dolphins in the water. Cedar Key also houses the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, which sprawls over 800 acres. A haven for local wildlife, it is home to over 200,000 shorebirds and provides exciting photography and fishing opportunities.
Cedar Key’s captivating history is well-preserved and showcased at the Cedar Key Historical Society. A museum tour uncovers fascinating tales about the town, with an opportunity to browse a fine collection of artifacts, photographs, and other archives. Meanwhile, the Cedar Key Museum State Park boasts the title of the town’s first museum. It was founded by Saint Clair Whitman in his home and showcases items like Native Indian artifacts and sea shells.
Throughout Florida, many hidden gems offer authentic experiences off the beaten path. The towns highlighted here represent just a sample of delightful destinations across the state. Whether seeking historic coastal charm, artsy small-town vibes, or natural beauty, there is a place poised to delight explorers willing to stray from the crowded corridors. Visiting these off-the-radar spots allows travelers to immerse themselves in genuine Florida, living away from the tourist traps. In 2024, consider veering your vacation plans toward one of Florida's underrated towns.
An accomplished veteran of the Orlando real estate market, Allyn Maycumber brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his partnership with ERA Grizzard Real Estate. Buying and selling real estate i....
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