St. George Island in 30 seconds

By Lauren Tjaden

Some beaches have it all. And some don’t -- which is a joyous thing when you’re talking about highrises, traffic lights and chain stores. Check out these five small beach towns in Florida that are happily lacking.

1. Boca Grande

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. That's why it's one of the best small beach towns in Florida. 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.

- Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA

2. St. George Island

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.

- Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA

3. Sanibel Island

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.

- Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA

4. Captiva Island

Captiva Island, tiny sister island of Sanibel, offers a laid-back, off-beat vibe, and a visit there feels almost magical. It’s one of the best small beach towns in Florida and a 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.

Video tour of Fort Myers and Sanibel and Captiva islands

Places to Remember