The Greatest Florida Islands for Your Vacation

There’s a simple reason as to why images of palm leaves, clear blue waters, and white sandy beaches enter the mind when one attempts to picture the perfect island vacation. It’s because the iconography of the over 4,500 Florida islands located in Florida’s archipelago is akin to the idyllic summertime retreat, and thanks to this useful article detailing the best islands that the Sunshine State has to offer from Southern Living Magazine, you’re one step closer to making that unforgettable island vacation yours in the near future.

The Sunshine State doesn’t necessarily need an overabundant amount of help when it comes to attracting tourists to make their way down to Florida in the summer months for some rest and relaxation. Not only is Florida the country’s fourth most populous state, but it also has a long-standing history of alluring an enormous amount of visitors in the summer months to its wide selection of vacation spots, welcoming beaches, and amusement parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. 

In fact, in 2021 the state’s tourism industry was responsible for welcoming 122.4 million visitors, which was a decrease from the record 131.4 million visitors in  2019, and with early recent statistics indicating that “Florida had 30.8 million tourist visits between last October and December, a slight increase over the fourth quarter in 2019,” this upcoming summer is looking to be just as promising for the domestic tourism magnet.

Because there’s such a proclivity for vacationers to automatically have palm trees and destinations like Orlando or Pensacola enter their minds when they’re beginning to plan out a summer retreat, it’s all the more alluring to escape to an isle off the coast of Florida so that you can enjoy the scenery, personality, and natural majesty of the state without all of the crowds. Luckily, Southern Living’s Betsy Cribb has compiled this list of the seven best Florida islands in the state for your next trip. These locations range from barrier islands such as Amelia Island, which is located only a less-than-an-hour drive away from Jacksonville, Florida, while still toting a State Park that invites you to peruse its “over 200 acres of unspoiled wilderness along the southern tip of Amelia Island.” Seriously, if you’re looking for a destination that is straight out of an idyllic beach read or cathartic third act in a romantic drama, make it a point to book a trip to Amelia Island, as it’s “the only Florida State Park that offers horseback riding on its beaches” thanks to Kelly Seahorse Ranch.

Another stand-out island from the list is one that prides itself on offering its visitors “all of the modern conveniences that most vacationers have come to expect, but [also] has tempered its growth by clearly placing quality offerings above quantity.” Such is life on the barrier islands that blends both a relaxing and family-friendly atmosphere, Sanibel Island. Located only two and a half hours from Tampa, this fish hook-shaped island treasure is indicative of a bygone era when it comes to American vacation spots. This is because it’s filled with 17,000 acres of lush, picturesque landscape that’s framed by the San Carlos Bay and the Gulf of Mexico while also having no stoplights, high-rise buildings, nightclubs, or big-chain grocery stores.

Because of these carefully-implemented regulations when it comes to city planning, Sanibel Island offers its guests a comfortable, memorable experience where they feel transported to another world entirely. In fact, this attention to detail in the experience is most present in the fact that Sanibel Island is most known for its outrageous abundance of pastel-colored seashells that are quite literally calling out for tourists to bring home with them to remember the times they had on the island.

Additionally, the island features the world-famous J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and its approximately  “6,000 acres of mangrove jungles and wetlands [that] encompass a large portion of the island.”  Nearly 70% of the island’s total 17,000 acres are protected, ensuring that the magic of Sanibel Island will be preserved for your next trip to its sandy shores and many years afterward.

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