Situated off the coast of Miami, and just south of Miami Beach, is the barrier island known as Key Biscayne. Although it's in close proximity to the hustle and bustle of Miami, it is actually a quiet residential area. This island is a wonderful place to get active and enjoy the delightful warmth of Southern Florida.
Enjoy the three mile long beach at Crandon Park, or take a trip to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area for a spot of kayaking and a tour of the local lighthouse. If this doesn't peak your interest, there are also miles of paved pathways to enjoy activities such as walking, jogging, or cycling.
2. Gasparilla Island
This small barrier island is located off Florida's western coast. Although close to cities like Port Charlotte and Cape Coral, the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed. Named after a Spanish pirate that lived on the island, Gasparilla is one of the few places left where you can still experience old Florida. On Boca Grande Beach, take a lovely morning stroll and dip your toes into the cool ocean water. The southern tip of the island is home to the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, which was first lit in 1890. If you love bird watching, a ride along the Boca Grande Bike Trail is definitely a good idea.
3. Siesta Key
Just off the Sarasota coast is Siesta Key, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. Siesta Key's eight mile long sandy white beach is regularly touted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the United States. The majority of people who visit this beautiful island do so for the beach - there is no better way to spend the day than soaking up the sun and going for a dip in the refreshing ocean.
4. Key Largo
Once you get to the south of Miami and begin exploring the Florida Keys, one of the first things you'll see is Key Largo, As the first major stop in the Florida Key, Key Largo is often overlooked by visitors on their way further south. However, you should definitely stop here. If you love scuba diving, in particular, then Key Largo is somewhere you'll definitely want to spend some time. Head to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for snorkeling and scuba diving, or join a guided tour to head further off the coast.
5. Anna Maria Island
Located south of Tampa and St. Petersburg is another barrier island known as Anna Maria Island. Once more, the beautiful beaches are what draw tourists to the island. Bradenton and Coquina are great beaches for anyone eager to do some swimming or relaxing in the sun. Furthermore, Anna Maria Island has tried to preserve a lot of its history and architecture and, as a result, provides an "Old Florida" feel. A visit to the Anna Maria Island Historical Society can be a brilliant way to learn all about the Timucuan Indians that inhabited the area as well as the subsequent Spanish settlers.
6. Marco Island
If you take the bridge leading off of mainland Florida from Naples, you'll find yourself on Marco Island. Located on the edge of the Everglades, Marco Island is a popular spot for boat tours of Southwest Florida. Furthermore, it's an urban island, and high-rises along the coast provide visitors and residents alike with stunning ocean views. The island is a common destination for romantic sailing cruises, deep-sea fishing charters, and dolphin-spotting expeditions.
Of course, the island also boasts some wonderful beaches. South Marco Beach is known for its majestic sunsets, and Tigertail Beach is known for its shells. At Tigertail beach, always look down, because the beach is littered with shells that you might want to add to your collection.
Approximately one third of the way between Miami and Key West is Islamorada, a city that is technically located on several different islands: Tea Table Key, Plantation Key, and both lower and Upper Matecumbe Keys. This island is sometimes called the Sports Fishing Capital of the World, and it attracts many serious anglers as well as amateur fishing enthusiasts. However, if you would rather admire the fish instead of catching them, Bahia Honda State Park is a popular snorkeling spot. Nearby, at Theater of the Sea, you can swim with dolphins and even sea lions.
8. Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island can be found off the western coast of Florida, in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The whole barrier island is a great vacation spot, known as a quieter, family-friendly destination for travelers. This island also has stunning beaches, but don't expect to find pristine, fine white sand. Instead, the beaches are made up of sand dollars and shells, meaning that there is always something spectacular to admire right at your feet. If you don't feel like a stroll along the beach, take a tour of the island's historic lighthouse, or do some bird watching at the world renowned J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
9. Amelia Island
Off the northeastern part of Florida is Amelia Island, a barrier island in the Sea Islands chain. Once again, this is a Floridian island known for its spectacular beaches. It's also a wonderful recreation destination that boasts activities ranging from golf to boating. Furthermore, if you want to add some history to your trip, be sure to visit Fort Clinch. The original fort still stands overlooking the beach, and the adjacent museum is well worth a visit. Best of all, there a couple of miles of hiking paths surrounding the fort.
10. Key West
This is arguably the most famous island in the whole of Florida. The southernmost part of the island is world-renowned and boasts year-round warm weather and unforgettable nightlife. Whether it's January or June, expect Key West to be in full swing. If you're into your history, be sure to check out Ernest Hemingway's house, or take a tour of Harry S. Truman 's Little White House, where the president liked to do his business during the winter months.
At sunset, head along to Mallory Square for great live entertainment and a great view. Then, make your way to Duval Street and make use of the excellent restaurants and bars that are open until the early hours of the morning.