Overlooked Florida Beach Towns To Visit That Aren't Miami

For millions of vacationers each year, nowhere quite says sun, sand, and sea more than Miami. The Magic City is synonymous with the best things Florida has to offer for summer getaways: glorious weather, sandy beaches, warm blue waters, and a touch of the exotic. It has served as a resort hotspot since its rapid development as a tourist destination in the '20s and '30s, famous for its Art Deco architecture, pastel shades, and gorgeous sunsets. Modern-day Miami is attracting droves of visitors each year with its famous beaches, vibrant nightlife, and thriving arts scene. However, the hustle and bustle of Miami might not be what all vacationers are looking for.

But surely it can't be the only great beach town in a state famous for its 825 miles of stunning coastline, right? Absolutely! There are plenty of other waterside havens in The Sunshine State to host getaways for families, foodies, and water sports enthusiasts. So, let's take a look at some of Florida's overlooked gems that are just begging for a place on your next summer vacation travel itinerary.

Beach towns within easy reach of Miami

There are several great overlooked beach towns not far from Miami that are perfect for a day trip or overnighter. Fort Lauderdale has emerged as a more laid-back alternative to the Magic City, offering many of the same attractions and amenities but without the bustle. A little further up the coast is Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, a small beach town known as "Florida's Beach Diving Capital" with coral reefs to explore just 100 yards offshore.

Further to the north beyond swanky Palm Beach is Jupiter, famed for its beautiful mangroves, historic lighthouse, and wealth of tiki bars. In the opposite direction, you can head along the keys until you hit Islamorada, a coastal village spread across six idyllic islands. With its palm trees and crystal-clear waters, it's a haven for snorkeling, scuba diving, and, with its reputation as the "Sport-fishing capital of the world," taking a boat out and seeing what you can reel in.

If you fancy switching salt water for fresh water, you can head inland to Lake Placid, voted "America's Most Interesting Town." It lives up to its billing with an array of vibrant murals, water sports, a lively arts scene, wine tasting, and a Clown School and Museum. Over on the Gulf Coast, you're never very far from water on Marco Island with its canals interlinked with residential streets. Lastly, to the north on a narrow spit of land is Captiva Island with its gorgeous uncrowded beaches and friendly marine life.

Overlooked beach towns in other parts of Florida

While the southern tip of Florida often draws the most attention thanks to the weather, there are plenty of wonderful spots in the rest of the state. Just about as far away from those twin hubs as you can get in the state is Seaside on the Panhandle, a small beach community so picture-perfect that it stood in for Jim Carrey's hometown in "The Truman Show." It became the world's first New Urbanist town in the '80s, designed for walking and cycling rather than motorists. Now it's a great place to wander as well as enjoying the sun and sea.

On the Atlantic side about three-and-a-half hours' drive from Miami, Cocoa Beach is a fun getaway. And, if you time your visit right, you might get to see a rocket blasting off from nearby Cape Canaveral. To the north of America's spaceport, you will also find the quiet town of New Smyrna Beach which has developed a reputation as one of Florida's most underrated destinations, offering an array of wildlife, unspoiled beaches, and unpretentious local cooking.

On the Gulf Coast of the peninsula, Clearwater Beach has developed a reputation as a family-friendly beach town with calm and shallow waters, plus plenty of amenities and restaurants to choose from. To the south across Tampa Bay, you will find Anna Maria Island. Between the charming facades of its low-rise buildings to the old-school wooden pier, it's a world away from the hotels and condos towering over Miami's South Beach.