10 Secret (Must-Visit!) Places in Florida That Only Locals Know

Shiny Fish Emporium
Photo: Kara Franker

Ready for an adventure? Forget following the crowds. It's best to listen to the locals, who know where to find the best pubs, fish houses, hikes, and shops⁠—from the Florida panhandle all the way down to the keys. These tucked-away places aren't in the first chapter of your guidebook⁠—and might not be in it at all⁠—and that's how many of us like it. These special spots may be hidden, but they are a favorite for year-round residents in Florida for good reason. From secret gardens to quirky restaurants to wildlife havens, here are 10 must-visit secret spots in Florida.

01 of 10

Walker's Landing in Amelia Island

Walkers Landing
Kara Franker

Walker's Landing is a stunning secret spot to watch a sunset. Wood benches and swings overlook the salt marsh and dock where residents keep kayaks. There's also an elegant-meets-rustic lodge that can be rented out for events and weddings through the neighborhood association or Omni Amelia Island Resort.

70 Marsh Creek Road, Fernandina Beach, Florida 32034

02 of 10

No Name Pub in Big Pine Key

No Name Pub
No Name Pub

Everyone knows that Key West is home to some of the most colorful and historic watering holes in the Sunshine State. But in-the-know travelers start the pub crawl a few islands up the chain on unassuming Big Pine Key, home of the National Key Deer Refuge. No Name Pub got its start in 1931 as a general store and bait and tackle shop. In 1936, the owners added the bar, and patrons started hanging dollar bills on the ceiling and walls. As the locals like to say, "It's a nice place, if you can find it."

30813 Watson Boulevard, Big Pine Key, Florida 33043

03 of 10

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Vero Beach

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
Kara Franker

Home to bird rookeries, fish spawning sites, a butterfly garden, and juvenile sea turtle nurseries, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge consists of 5,400-plus acres of protected lagoons and marshes frequented by endangered species. This National Historic Landmark became the first federal area set aside specifically to protect wildlife. Join a guided nature walk or explore on your own and keep an eye out for bobcats, river otters, manatees, dolphins, and more.

4055 Wildlife Way, Vero Beach, Florida 32963

04 of 10

Cortez Historic Fishing Village in Cortez

Cortez Historic Fishing Village
csfotoimages/Getty Images

Located on a little-known peninsula that juts off the coast of Bradenton, the Cortez Historic Fishing Village is where you'll find one of the few remaining commercial fishing fleets on the waterfront in Florida. Head to a 1920's era fish house called Star Fish Company where you'll find a dockside, hole-in-the-wall-style eatery and market where the catch of the day was swimming just minutes before hitting your plate.

12306 46th Avenue W., Cortez, FL 34215

05 of 10

The Kampong Botanical Garden in Coconut Grove

Kampong Botanical Garden in Coconut Grove
Kara Franker

Most of Miami has no idea that The Kampong secret garden exists (it's camouflaged by layers of rare and exotic plants and guarded by a red gate) in the quirky Coconut Grove neighborhood on Biscayne Bay. Sprawling over 11 lush acres, towering palms and moss-draped oaks provide an umbrella to the former home of Dr. David Fairchild (1869-1954), one of the most famous horticulturists in history. As you explore the Asian-inspired main house, cottages, and grounds, you'll take a step back into time and maybe even find a little Zen along the way.

4013 Douglas Road, Miami, Florida 33133

06 of 10

The Banyan Tree in Islamorada

The Banyan Tree
The Banyan Tree

Tucked away in a tropical garden with orchids, succulents, and a towering Banyan tree, The Banyan Tree is a hidden oasis in Islamorada. Wander through the garden, shop for a Florida Keys-inspired outfit, or take a painting class. The boutique and gardens feature clothing, accessories, jewelry, home décor, and more. On the second Thursday of every month, show up for Creative Plant Night, where you can design terrariums and flower arrangements with friends.

81197 Overseas Highway (Mile Marker 81.2) Islamorada, Florida 33036

07 of 10

Grayton Beer Company in Santa Rosa Beach

Grayton Beer Company
Visit South Walton

Capitalizing on that easy-going, Gulf-Coast state of mind, Grayton Beer Company's taproom features a 25-tap draft wall of their small-batch brews that are all handcrafted on site. Not sure where to start? We love their Beach Blonde Ale. On Saturdays, there's a killer food truck line-up, live music, and a great group of fun-loving folks.

217 Serenoa Road, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

08 of 10

Historic Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs

Historic Sponge Docks
Education Images/Contributor/Getty

Located north of Clearwater, Tarpon Springs is a hotbed of Greek culture and a sponge harvesting industry that dates back more than a century. At the historic Sponge Docks, you'll find shops and a collection of authentic Greek restaurants. Pop into the Spongeroama Sponge Factory, where you'll find a large selection of natural sea sponges, Greek gifts, a museum, and boat tours.

510 Dodecanese Boulevard, Tarpon Springs, Florida 34689

09 of 10

Gordon River Greenway in Naples

Gordon River Greenway
Naples Marco Island Everglades CVB

In Naples, locals know and love the Gordon River Greenway, an elevated nature trail and one of the last unspoiled areas in the region. Weaving through the mangroves, the Greenway features paved pathways, canoe and kayak launches, scenic overlooks for wildlife viewing, and a hidden entrance near the Naples Zoo and Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

1590 Goodlette-Frank Road, Naples, Florida 34102

10 of 10

Shiny Fish Emporium in Anna Maria Island

Shiny Fish Emporium
Kara Franker

Find your inner artist at Shiny Fish Emporium in Anna Maria Island, where you can decorate sand dollars with owners Rebecca and Dan. You'll get the perfect keepsake to take home from vacation, and it's a great activity for the whole family. Equal parts artisan haven and tropical boutique, you could spend hours shopping for unique gifts like colorful kimonos and funky ukuleles.

306 Pine Avenue, Anna Maria, Florida 34216

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