When many tourists think of Florida, Disney World, Universal Studios, and other high-ticket tourist destinations come to mind. While these are certainly the most popular among visitors, Florida has plenty of low-key destinations that are every bit as fun or relaxing for your next vacation. Before you mortgage the house for a trip to Orlando, explore a few of these small Florida towns that are perfect for your next escape.

Sanibel Island

Image via Flickr by jthetzel

Situated just off the coast of southwest Florida near Fort Myers and Cape Coral, Sanibel Island is one of Florida’s undiscovered gems. Throughout the year, the island provides many types of activities depending on your interests. From May to October, you have the opportunity to see sea turtles nesting and their babies returning to the water. Peak season from December to April is when the weather is most tolerable for golfing and looking for seashells, while June to September is the best time to hit the open water.

With plenty of activities for all ages and interests, Sanibel Island is an excellent destination. Check out some of the accommodation on the island, which ranges from budget to lavish.

New Smryna Beach

Nestled just south of Daytona Beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast, New Smryna Beach is a sleepy seaside town that’s also known as one of the best places to surf in the state. While surfing traces its roots to the Pacific, modern surfing became popular here in the 1960s — a trend that continues today. Surf lessons are widely available for beginners through advanced.

Once you’re done with a day on the waves, head over to Canal Street. Lined with seafood restaurants, bars, and art galleries, you’ll find a place to stroll around during the day or have a few drinks and listen to live music during the evening.

Apalachicola

For something entirely different, head to the Florida panhandle town of Apalachicola, 70 miles southwest of Tallahassee. Known as a fishing town, this city’s best attribute is its isolation, as it’s over an hour from any major cities. The city has many old buildings in its downtown area offering a nice walk during the day. Restaurants have fresh seafood caught daily, and several bed and breakfasts dot the landscape to provide a unique lodging experience.

Just south of Apalachicola is St. George Island, featuring miles of pristine beaches for you to explore and plenty of vacation homes for a relaxing stay.

Islamorada

Want to go to the Keys without the hefty price tag and crowds? Head to Islamorada. Just 90 minutes south of Miami, this town is also known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World.” Legend has it that the town has the largest shipping fleet within a square mile of anywhere on the planet, giving you an excellent opportunity to find a charter fishing boat. If you aren’t into angling, try snorkeling, swimming, biking, and tanning. These are all top activities in this paradise.

While Miami, Orlando, and Key West are all fantastic vacation spots, take a chance on something different at one of these small Florida towns. You might be surprised just how much you love it.