The Best Places For A Weekend Getaway In Florida

Grayton Beach, Florida
Photo: Facebook/Bud & Alley’s Restaurant

No place is more synonymous with the word “vacation” than Florida. Spanning more than 65,000 miles, nearly every square inch of the Sunshine State has something special to offer. From white sand beaches and sparkling shoreline to mystical everglade forests and serpentine river systems, there’s a reason Florida is the second most visited state and the single most popular retirement destination in the country. Of course, there are the big-ticket attractions like Orlando (Did someone say Mickey Mouse bars?), Key West, and Miami, but the best thing about Florida is there are so many other destinations to explore. From the Panhandle to the southeast coast and everywhere in between, these are the best places to take a weekend getaway in Florida.

01 of 10

The Beaches of 30A

Seaside, Florida
Seaside, Florida.

Stretching for 24 miles along the northwest Gulf Coast of Florida (otherwise known as the Panhandle), this set of charming Florida beach towns is named for its location on Highway 30A. These are the types of beach communities where the houses are perfect shades of pastel, the corner shop is always stocked with ice cream, and there’s nary a high-rise condo in sight. Oh, and the sun never seems to take a day off either. Popular beach towns here include Grayton Beach for a laidback artist collective vibe; Seaside for a bustling, idyllic downtown; Watercolor for family-friendly fun and amazing vistas; and Rosemary Beach for a quiet escape that feels reminiscent of old Europe.

02 of 10

Crystal River

Manatee at Crystal River in Florida
Alastair Pollock Photography / Getty Images

One of the best things about Florida is that its mild temperatures make it a great place to visit year-round. In Crystal River, cooler weather pays off when it comes to spotting the town’s most famous resident, the West Indian manatee. Known as the Manatee Capital of the World, Crystal River is practically teeming with the gentle giants year-round. But when the temperatures drop, manatees seek warmer water in Crystal River’s namesake crystal-clear springs. There, you can easily spot them and even get to swim with them. If you visit in summer, try your hand at scallop hunting in the grassy shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico. 

03 of 10

St. Petersburg

Exterior of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg City, Florida
Jose-Fuste Raga/Getty Images

Tampa’s smaller, funkier little sister is begging for a visit. The town’s vibrant art scene includes not only the Dali Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, but also extensive Chihuly collection and an ever-growing lineup of colorful public murals and installations. There’s plenty of wonderful dining and shopping to discover in the wonderful and walkable downtown. Nearby beaches like St. Pete Beach, Clearwater, and Shell Key Preserve give visitors the opportunity to custom tailor their weekend getaway to include the ideal ratio of exploration and relaxation.  

04 of 10

St. Augustine

St. Augustine, Florida Courtyard

SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images

Voted the Souths’ Best Small Town in 2023, there’s never been a better time to visit this historic Florida town on the northeast coast. As Florida’s oldest city, there are centuries of history to discover here dating back to the 1600s. Visit the Lightner Museum and Flagler College for a bit of Gilded Age opulence, then contrast the experience by grabbing laidback but delicious grub at The Floridian. A nightcap at the nautical tropical tavern known as Boat Drink.

05 of 10


People enjoying Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Florida next to a red lifeguard station
Getty Images

Located just south of Tampa on Florida’s scenic Suncoast, Sarasota is the essential beach destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you want to go shell hunting, kayaking, or take to the open seas on a fishing charter, there’s plenty to do and see. The city’s six barrier islands provide more gorgeous natural landscapes to explore, and you’ll find plenty of lively cocktail bars and seafood spots where you can get a taste of this tropical oasis. 

06 of 10


Silver Glen Springs in Ocala National Forest, Florida
MichaelWarrenPix / Getty Images.

This central Florida town located between Gainesville and Orlando is blessed with gorgeous vistas at every turn. Dubbed the Horse Capital of the World because of its many active horse farms and significant participation in the horse industry, Ocala is a place of rolling green pastureland and scenic views. And just because it's not on the coast doesn't mean water is in short supply. Ocala is home to several impressive natural springs that first put the town on the map as a tourist destination decades ago and are still widely visited for swimming and kayaking today.

07 of 10

Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island
Photo: Peter Unger

This seahorse-shaped barrier island runs for 7 miles along the Gulf Coast and has remained a hidden gem thanks to residents that have preserved its authentic beach village vibe. You won’t find any high rises here, just charming beach cottages where you can set up the ideal weekend away. Stroll Pine Avenue, the town’s original main street, where you’ll find a friendly mix of galleries, bakeries, boutiques, and restaurants. Rent a beach cruiser and explore the town on two wheels or find one of many public access points to the beach.

08 of 10


Naples pier
Naples pier at sunset. Danita Delimont.

They don't call it the Paradise Coast for nothing. Located on the southwest edge of the Florida peninsula, Naples is a charming coastal town known for a unique combination of luxe living and laid-back vibes. Think pure white sand beaches, lots of opportunities to get out on the water, and a community that's dedicated to local conservation efforts. And the islands. Oh, the islands. There are so many unspoiled beaches to explore in the aptly named Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, located just 40 minutes southeast of downtown Naples.

09 of 10

Marco Island

Tigertail Beach in Marco Island


A trip to Marco Island can feel like you’ve discovered the sweet spot of southwest Florida’s Paradise Coast. Less than 20 miles southeast of the luxury riviera of Naples, this island offers the best of all worlds: a relaxed fishing village with tranquil beaches and unspoiled nature as well as oceanfront hotels, delicious dining options, and lots to do both in and out of the water.

10 of 10

Vero Beach

McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach, FL
McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach, FL.

Jessica Sample

Located along the Atlantic Coast, Vero Beach is the perfect getaway for beach lovers who also enjoy exploring destinations rich in art, history, and culture. Start with a visit to McKee Botanical Gardens, which was built in 1932 and is home to exotic animals and will feel like you're walking through a tropical wonderland. For wildlife enthusiasts, visit Indian River Lagoon, a biologically diverse estuary where great blue herons and even osprey have been spotted. Add a dose of adventure (if you dare!) by signing up for guided kayak or paddleboard tours at Vero Tackle & Watersports. And when you're not soaking up the sun and surf, head downtown to shop boutiques and dine at some charming cafes and restaurants.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles