Jupiter, Florida, lighthouse with ocean and sky.

11 Top-Rated Small Towns In Florida

The Sunshine State is home to many small towns unlike any other in the whole country. These 11 vibrant towns with various scenes are the top-rated places in Florida that everyone must visit at least once in their life.


Apalachicola, Florida
Apalachicola is a small coastal community on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida's Panhandle. 

The beach town of Apalachicola is charming inside and out-bounded by the Gulf of Mexico. It is the seafood capital of the entire nation, with a moniker of the "Oyster Capital of the World," where every restaurant serves a mouth-watering freshly-caught feast. The little town is historically-renowned for boasting over 900 structures from the 1830s-onward, while the natural pursuits include fresh-air recreation and activities at the Apalachicola National Forest and Tate's Hell State Forest.

There's the Apalachicola Maritime Museum on sailing and shipbuilding with interesting displays, along with the terrific John Gorrie State Museum on the culture of the town and region. Among the countless eateries and fine-dining establishments, the beloved Mile Seafood Market sells fresh oysters, shrimp, and blue crabs, along with other sea treasures. There's plenty of fishing off a charter or personal boating excursion, while some restaurants offer to fry up one's catch for a small fee.


Stunning aerial view during sunrise of Captiva Island and Sanibel Island
Stunning aerial view during sunrise of Captiva Island and Sanibel Island. Editorial credit: Noah Densmore / Shutterstock.com

The country's little darling town-set on the southwest coast makes one fall in love with its gorgeous and Instagrammable topography at first glance. It is a real scenic paradise, from the shoreline cottages draped with bougainvillea to the nation-renowned sunsets many solely come to see and stay for so much more. Along with its sister Sanibel, the island is known for shelling galore, with Captiva boasting scores of lovely beach-scape for year-round combing.

After biking, birding, sailing, or engaging in all the water sports imaginable, one must dig into some of Florida's best seafood at one of the restaurants, many of which are water-bound with views. There are also beachside resorts to access the pristine waters from the doorstep, while more outings include a short drive or boat ride to Sanibel's Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum and must-visit J.N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Cedar Key

Waterfront buildings on stilts in Cedar Key.
Waterfront buildings on stilts in Cedar Key. Editorial credit: JRP Studio / Shutterstock.com.

The island town of Cedar Key is the epitome of everything "low-key" to truly unwind. It is set in the Gulf of Mexico with some of the nation's most pristine nature and beaches for fishing, bird watching, and kayaking. The seafood galore features local favorites like Tony's for the World Champion Clam Chowder or a varied menu at the renowned Cedar Key Bed and Breakfast. The island's highlight must-visits include the old factory ruins and Atsena Otie Old Cemetery.

The tiny town is home to only 800 full-time residents, while the old-fashioned vibe draws in many tourists to experience the old coastal Florida atmosphere. The nature fans rejoice in the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, while the Cedar Key Museum State Park features a home from the 1920s and artifacts on the area's history and busy port-town of the past. The humble fishing village vibe can be felt in the mellow pace unlike anywhere else in the state along the artsy streets lined with picturesque multilevel houses and mom-and-pop stores on stilts.

Crystal River

Manatees, Crystal River, Florida
Manatees, Crystal River, Florida. 

Crystal River is the top-rated town in the state for nature fans and families with kids who have always wished to swim with the gentle manatee giants. The aptly-named town is home to one of Florida's best springs with crystal-clear waters at a constant temperature of 72 degrees for relaxation. It is also beloved by the warm-loving animals, turtles, and schools of fish when the water temperature drops in the Gulf of Mexico.

The snorkelers greatly enjoy the state's purest spring-fed water system with visibility of up to 200 feet. Other varied pastimes to suit all tastes include great golfing at the area's Plantation, which is an eco-friendly 50-year-old and 232-acre resort. The renowned Crystal River Archaeological State Park offers wonderful outings in the fresh air among the olden-days ruins.


Jupiter Lighthouse with ocean view on a sunny spring day
Jupiter Lighthouse with ocean view on a sunny spring day. 

The eastern tiny but growing town of Jupiter is set on the inlet to the Atlantic Ocean with a small-town atmosphere where one can "live largely." It is home to world-famous athletes Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan and endless glam for visiting tourists. Jupiter is perched scenically on a bluff overlooking the Loxahatchee River as one of its many ecological attractions. The rich culture is evident in the historic Jupiter Lighthouse with breathtaking views from up top and a museum with 5,000 years of regional history. The cultured will also love seeing a show over a meal at the famous Wick Theatre and Costume Museum.

The shores call for a stroll along the lavish beachfront mansions to one side and unforgettable sunsets to the other. Families with kids love seeing animals at the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and visiting DuBois Park's protected enclave with a safe place to swim, a playground, and facilities. The white-sanded Carlin Park comes with a beach, tennis courts, playgrounds, and picnic tables near the water. There's also Ocean Cay Park just off the A1A, while the pet owners get a whole beach section designated explicitly for the four-legged friends' enjoyment.


An aerial view of the historic Florida town Matlacha
An aerial view of the historic Florida town Matlacha. 

This humble fishing village from one side and art hub from the other brims with old Florida charm all around. The quirky community with a bohemian vibe is set over a bridge from Pine Island. It is an artist's "safe harbor" with vibrant streets featuring shops, exciting art galleries, and seafood markets. The active can enjoy kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding, swimming, and strolls along the shore to see frolicking dolphins in the distance.

The truly quintessential gem where hippies and traditions complement each other is divided into five eclectic communities to explore. One will find blocks of traditional Florida cottages, along with a community park where free spirits like to hang out. The colorful, postcard-perfect town is a mere hop to Sanibel and Captiva on the state's southwest coast for the beaches galore.

Mount Dora

Mount Dora Lighthouse located at the Port of Mount Dora in Grantham Point Park, Florida
Mount Dora Lighthouse located at the Port of Mount Dora in Grantham Point Park, Florida. 

This big charmer with only 14,000 residents is top-rated for a fall-time visit in Florida. Mount Dora's distinctly quaint downtown district comes with antique shops, eateries, and annual events along the festively-decorated streets. There's the Mount Dora Arts Festival in the first weekend of February, which adds about 200,000 to the population. The various museums will suit all interests, from modern furniture to local history to classic cars.

Mount Dora is adorned by lovely lakes and oak forests that extend a peaceful getaway into nature and fresh air. The lakefront locale offers ample scenic pursuits, leisurely strolls through the century-old historic village with 19th-century architecture, and along the antique shopping avenues. The atmospheric lighthouse and vibrant entertainment scene at night balance out the unbelievably-tranquil vibe during the day. There are also many cozy bed and breakfasts to stay in, with great eateries sprinkled in between. 


A view of Sebring, Florida at sunset
A view of Sebring, Florida at sunset. 

The town home to the nation-renowned Sebring International Raceway boasts an ideal location in central Florida for a quick hop-over from anywhere in the state. "The City on the Circle" speaks for the historic downtown designed as a loop, lined with unique architecture, boutiques, and galleries for strolls and perusing. There are a number of intriguing museums for any taste, including the Military Sea Service Museum, the Museum of Florida Art and Culture (MOFAC), etc. 

Aside from the legendary weekend races, there is a massive automotive facility, along with various outdoor adventures. The picturesque Highlands Hammock State Park calls out to explorers for leisurely strolls in the fresh forest air, while the lake comes brimful with water sports and recreational activities. The park is great for hiking, biking, bird-watching, and scenic photo shoots, as well as setting camp and fishing.


Aerial photo of Venice, Florida near Interstate 75 and Jacaranda.
Aerial photo of Venice, Florida near Interstate 75 and Jacaranda.

The enchanting town on the Gulf Coast of Florida also goes by the terror-infusing name of the "World's Shark Tooth Capital." It features two beaches, with Caspersen Beach famous for finding shark teeth. Venice Beach offers a gorgeous coastline with an offshore coral reef for snorkelers and scuba divers to explore. There's also plenty of swimming, watersports, and sunbathing along the beautiful sanded beaches, followed by an entertainment-filled night out on the town.

The historic downtown boasts a distinctive feel and character like nowhere else in the nation. It brims with magnificent Italian architecture from as early as 1925 and streets filled with a rich and colorful history. One can endlessly admire the northern Italian architecture that looks right from the namesake city in Europe. The former wintering home of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and its Clown College comes with the nation's top-rated community theater, The Venice Theater. The active will enjoy fishing, golfing, and fossil hunting.

Vero Beach

Atlantic Ocean Beach at Vero Beach, Florida
Atlantic Ocean Beach at Vero Beach, Florida. 

Vero Beach barrier island is tucked scenically along the Atlantic's Treasure Coast in the area known as the Gateway to the Tropics. With a perpetual "Best Small Town in Florida" title, the town maintains a humble charm, while the miles-long coastline laden with resorts speaks for itself. Vero Beach is part of the transitional climate zone that lets the vegetation thrive alongside palms and vibrantly-intense flora. The building heights restricted in-town, together with the vast open shores, let one attain real peace and desired level of solitude. There's also the Vero Beach Museum of Art and the history of shipwrecks caused by the notorious offshore reefs.

The ocean's bottom is allegedly laden with historical treasures, including the spot of the recently-sunk vessel, the S.S. Breconshire, that can be sighted from the window of the iconic Ocean Grill restaurant. The nature fans must head to the McKee Jungle Garden and Lion Country Safari, while the active can kayak, paddleboard, and snorkel. The Tracking Station Beach is renowned for surfing, with more surfing, swimming, sunbathing, and scuba diving at the Sebastian Inlet State Park. The town's new food renaissance scene offers many restaurants with farm-to-table dishes and artisan ingredients.

Winter Park

Drone shot over the heart of Central Park in historic Winter Park, Florida
Drone shot over the heart of Central Park in historic Winter Park, Florida. Editorial credit: Noah Densmore / Shutterstock.com

Winter Park resort community is a dialed-down version of Orlando, just north of the state’s amusement capital. It is the top-rated winter scape for a balanced fun, yet relaxing atmosphere. The town is known for arts and culture, with the main street full of galleries, shows, and museums, along with the renowned Sculpture Garden set above Lake Osceola. Park Avenue is the place to shop and eat, with countless restaurants for any taste. There is also golf in the vicinity and the nearby town of Kissimme for a whole other scene.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum offers an impressive collection of American art and Tiffany stained glass, while the Albin Polasek Museum features more than 200 Czech-born American artists’ works along with cultural events on the property. Over 70 green spaces in-town host an array of community events throughout the year, calling for fresh-air strolls, picnics, and relaxation all other days. The town’s Saturday farmers market is a must-visit for its unique placement within a restored train depot.

These top-rated towns in the state house great amounts of history and attractions within their small perimeters that will induce life-long nostalgia to return times again. The wondrous scenery around, from beaches to forests, offers ample fresh-air pursuits to make unforgettable memories.

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