12 Florida Islands You've Probably Never Heard Of

Cayo Costa State Park, Boca Grande
Photo: Jupiterimages / Getty Images

Dreams of an island vacation conjure up images of sugary, white-sand beaches, crystalline waters, and swaying palms—and perhaps niggling thoughts about the undoubtedly long flight it might take to get there. But a secret island escape is much closer than you think: Florida is full of hundreds (maybe even thousands!) of them. Here, we're revealing 12 of our favorite little islands in Florida. Pack your sense of adventure and make sure you have access to a boat. You're going to need both to explore these hidden gems scattered throughout the Sunshine State's glittering waters.

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Wesley's Island

Wesley's Island, Florida
Courtesy of Visit St. Lucie County

A seven-acre island at the west end of the Fort Pierce Inlet in St. Lucie County, Wesley's Island is a bird habitat for at least 29 species. The tiny island is home to brown and white pelicans, roseate spoonbills, owls, ospreys, terns, herons, egrets, and other shore birds. Only accessible by boat, it's also a great place for hiking and fishing.

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Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge
Courtesy of Kara Franker

Why explore just one secret island, when you can explore lots of them? Despite the name, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is a maze of hundreds of mangrove islands and narrow waterways. Launch your expedition via boat from Marco Island and then cruise southeast through Cape Romano. Keep your eyes peeled for a funky set of nearly 40-year-old white dome structures offshore near Caxambas Island. It's a great spot for snorkeling.

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Little Talbot Island

Little Talbot Island
Courtesy of Kara Franker

One of the few remaining undeveloped islands along the northeast coast of Florida, Little Talbot Island is a nature lover's paradise. It has a unique combination of salt marshes and rolling dune beaches—the perfect habitat for a variety of wildlife like bobcats, river otters, sea turtles, and the Painted Bunting, a colorful songbird that migrates yearly to Little Talbot Island to nest and raise their young.

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Jack Island

Jack Island
Courtesy of Visit St. Lucie County

One of the mangrove islands hidden inside little-known Jack Island Preserve State Park in North Hutchinson Island, Jack Island provides solitude and ample opportunities to spot wildlife. A primitive trail system encircles the island where you'll find an observation tower, but little else—unless you count the marsh rabbits, white ibis, sand crabs, alligators, and numerous other native inhabitants.

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Hoagen Key

Hoagen Key
Courtesy of Kara Franker

A tiny island located just off the coast of Boca Grande in the Gasparilla Sound, Hoagen Key has been a favorite spot for locals (who kayak here) for years. The area has a rich history and was home to the ancient Calusa tribe who likely fished in and around those same waters. Today, it's still a great spot for fishing, and the Boca Grande Pass is the tarpon capital of the world. Make sure you also explore the nearby Gasparilla Island State Park, home of the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, which was built in 1890.

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Pelican Island

Pelican Island
Courtesy of Kara Franker

The oldest bird sanctuary in America, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge was established by President Theodore Roosevelt to save brown pelicans and other birds. Pelicans were disappearing at an alarming rate because of the bird hat craze at the turn of the 19th century (they were targeted for their feathers). Today 30 species fly freely throughout Pelican Island and the surrounding archipelagos off the coast of Vero Beach.

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Big Munson Island and Little Munson Island

Little Munson Island
Courtesy of Kara Franker

Located off Big Pine Key in the lower Florida Keys, Big Munson Island is an unspoiled 100-acre refuge that the Boy Scouts of America use as part of their Florida National High Adventure Sea Base program, where young scouts camp out in primitive conditions and learn to sail. Nearby Little Munson Island is home to the Robinson Caruso-style Little Palm Island Resort & Spa.

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Blowing Rocks Preserve

Blowing Rocks Preserve
Courtesy of Martin County Office of Tourism

This craggy shoreline is truly a unique sight to behold. Visitors have seen saltwater shoot upwards of 50 feet during extreme high tides. Located in Hobe Sound at the southernmost tip of the Indian River Lagoon, the Blowing Rocks Preserve is a sanctuary for sea turtles including loggerhead, green, and leatherback. The Nature Conservancy has managed the beaches and wetlands since 1969, and the barrier island is home to the largest rocky Anastasia limestone shoreline on the U.S. Atlantic coast.

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Greer Island

Geer Island
Courtesy of Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Situated at the northern tip of picturesque Longboat Key, Greer Island is a secluded paradise on Florida's west coast. Arrive by boat or walk there during low tide, but make sure you hightail it off the island before the tide rises, or you could get stranded. (Although getting stuck on a gorgeous sandy beach doesn't sound like the worst thing ever, so long as you've packed snacks.)

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Peanut Island

Peanut Island
Courtesy of Discover the Palm Beaches

It's hard to imagine that bustling South Florida has a secret island, but while locals know about Peanut Island, few visitors have heard of it. Located in Palm Beach County, Peanut Island is an 80-acre sanctuary and a favorite spot for local boaters. In the 1960s, the tiny island was home to a nuclear bunker for President John F. Kennedy. Today families anchor vessels surrounding the island for a fun-filled day of swimming and snorkeling.

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Cayo Costa State Park

Cayo Costa State Park
Jupiterimages / Getty Images

Just a short boat or ferry ride from Captiva, this little sliver of old Florida feels like a far-flung escape. Cayo Costa State Park's nine miles of undeveloped white-sand beaches are primed for shelling and birdwatching, and it's not unheard of to see manatees, porpoises, or sea turtles swimming in the waters nearby. If you're searching for an off-the-grid getaway, extend your stay on the island by booking one of the park's rustic cabins or campsites.

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St. Vincent Island

Water Shuttle to St Vincent Island, FL
Joe_Potato

Nine miles southwest of Apalachicola, the St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge comprises about 12,300 acres of protected lands. Surrounded by Apalachicola Bay and Saint Vincent Sound on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, the barrier island is flush with wildlife, from migratory birds to alligators to multiple varieties of sea turtles. It's accessible only by kayak or boat (you also can schedule a shuttle, pictured at right, if you don't have a vessel of your own), but once you're there, you can explore on foot or by bike thanks to a large network of trails.

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