This Hidden Island In The Southeast Makes For A Perfect Warm Winter Escape

People seeking a reprieve from colder temperatures often flock to the Gulf Coast of Florida, known for its calm waters, mild weather, and bright days. One of the Sunshine State's most underrated destinations is Don Pedro Island, a perfect place for your next warm winter getaway. Nestled between Knight Island and Little Gasparilla Island, off the coast of Cape Haze, Don Pedro is part of a larger chain of sandy barrier islands that extend down Florida's southwestern coastline. 

The island makes up a portion of the 230-acre Don Pedro Island State Park, which is home to wild beaches, dunes, mangroves, and other coastal habitats. With average daily temperatures between the high 60s to mid-70 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, Don Pedro is an ideal Southeastern spot to relax, rejuvenate, and soak up the sun without worrying about huge beach crowds. To plan the ultimate escape to Don Pedro, you should know a few things beforehand.

How to get to the island and where to stay

Unlike many other Florida islands, no bridges or highways connect Don Pedro Island to the Florida mainland. To reach this pristine destination, you'll have to hop on a private boat or take a water taxi across Lemon Bay, the intracoastal waterway. Captiva Cruises is a trusted company that offers affordable ferry rides to this subtropical island. When planning your warm trip to Don Pedro, be sure to first check the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's website for any possible closures.

Since Don Pedro Island is open for day use only, you'll have to find lodging nearby. Luckily, there are tons of beachy options. Just 30 minutes south of Don Pedro Island is the Boca Grande Hotel, a resort-like — yet reasonably priced — hotel on the gorgeous Gasparilla Island. For more oceanfront views of the Gulf Coast, consider staying at the Manasota Key Resort on Manasota Key. Like Don Pedro, this small barrier island boasts a beautiful beach and is quieter than other Florida vacation spots.

Activities at Don Pedro Island State Park

Don Pedro Island State Park offers plenty of activities for families, nature enthusiasts, and beach bums. The Florida park is separated into two sections: the island and the Land Base, which is attached to the mainland. Don Pedro Island offers year-round swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, though it's important to note that the water is chillier in winter. If you want to skip wading in the salty waters, other favorite pastimes in the island portion of the park include sunbathing, shelling, boating, and wildlife viewing. As you stroll along the island, you're certain to see a variety of shorebirds. You may even catch a glimpse of endangered animals native to this Gulf Coast destination, such as the West Indian manatee or gopher tortoise.

On the land base portion of Don Pedro, even more, nature trails weave through tidal swamps and mesic flatwoods. Additionally, renting a kayak or canoe to explore the mangrove-lined Lemon Bay is a must for outdoorsy travelers. After a long day of adventuring or just lazing about in the sand, the island has picnic pavilions with grills where you can grab a bite and watch the famous Florida sunset. For your own slice of summer-like solitude, make your way to Don Pedro Island.