Some beaches have it all.
And some don’t -- a joyous thing when you’re talking about high rises, traffic lights and chain stores.
Check out these five beach towns that are happily lacking.
When you cross the tiny, narrow bridge onto the island of historic Boca Grande, nestled on the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida, expect to find clear, impossibly blue waters, white sand beaches, good shelling, and incredible tarpon fishing -- as well as toes-in-the-sand sunsets. Just 45 minutes from the nearest Interstate exit, this lush, palm-fringed escape has largely remained under the radar. It’s upscale, but hardly pretentious. It’s a place where the famous go to not be famous. And if you do recognize a face, everyone would prefer you keep it to yourself.
Make sure to catch a toes-in-the-sand sunset in Boca Grande.
Mexico Beach has five miles of beaches that are laden with rare, pure-white quartz sand. This little-known escape, located east of Panama City Beach on Florida’s Forgotten Coast, is home to genuine mom-and-pop restaurants and shops. And the fishing is as good as it gets: Charter boats are available for the angler who needs a ride out into the Gulf, and there are no fees to access the City Pier or the City Boat Ramp.
The sand of Mexico Beach is pure white quartz: it will stay cool on your toes during even the hottest months.
Pet-friendly St. George Island, located far out into the Gulf of Mexico in northwest Florida, features empty sweeps of sand and undeveloped beaches where you can reconnect with nature, and discover world class fishing and shelling. St. George Island State Park encompasses 1962 pristine acres at the east end of the island. Don’t forget to explore its small town; it features a lighthouse and several down-home eateries.
St. George Island State Park is an ideal place to reconnect with nature.
Southwest Florida’s Sanibel Island is famed for its shelling, and offers biking, birding and other activities for outdoor lovers. But the island really does have it all: amid the beaches and mangroves, you’ll find a surprising array of shopping and dining options, as well as resorts intent on spoiling you.
Shelling is a must-do on Sanibel Island.
Captiva Island, tiny sister island of Sanibel, offers a laid-back, off-beat vibe, and a visit there feels almost magical. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a grouper sandwich outside under a beach umbrella, hunt for seashells, or just kick back on the shore. Make sure to visit the Bubble Room, a restaurant where it’s Christmas all year long, and take your picture in the giant chair outside Jungle Drums Gallery.
Captiva Island is a study in offbeat charm.
Pictures by Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA