5 off-the-beaten path Florida destinations to avoid spring break crowds

Caladesi Island. Image via Shutterstock/Jerome LABOUYRIE.

By Crystal Harlan

March 12, 2024

Florida is a popular destination for college kids on spring break, but the Sunshine State is a big place, so if you’re looking to avoid crowded beaches, traffic, and wild parties, You’ve got plenty of great options.

The obvious places to avoid during spring break are Daytona Beach, Panama City, Cocoa Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. In fact, some of these cities, including Miami, have implemented parking, traffic, and beach access restrictions to keep unruly spring break crowds in line after an escalation in violent crime in recent years.

Fortunately, there are plenty of destinations—whether you want to get away for one day or the whole week—where you can escape the masses and enjoy some tranquility.

Caladesi Island

This Florida State Park is a pristine barrier island located along the Gulf of Mexico, just north of Clearwater. To enjoy the island’s natural beauty, white sandy beaches, and crystal-clear waters, you have to take a private boat or ferry from Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin. That extra step to access the island helps keep crowds down to a minimum. The island is predominantly natural, but there are picnic areas, restrooms, and a concession stand. Caladesi Island consistently ranks in the annual Dr. Beach Top 10 list, snagging first place in 2008.

Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park

Speaking of Dr. Beach, this state park in the Florida Panhandle ranked #1 on his list in 2023, which comes as little surprise as the destination is renowned for its uncrowded beaches and white sugar sand. Located on St. George Island, the beach is easily accessible by bridge. St. George Island State Park is home to a variety of ecosystems, including dunes, salt marshes, pine forests, and tidal zones. For visitors looking to immerse themselves in nature, there are campsites for both tents and RVs.

Mount Dora

This charming city, about 35 miles northwest of Orlando, is known for its historic downtown, full of antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. You’ll find more antiques at Renninger’s Antique Market, a sprawling antique center, flea market, and farmer’s market with 200 vendor booths. For lodging, Mount Dora doesn’t lack in quaint bed and breakfasts, inns and boutique hotels, including historic Lakeside Inn, the longest continually operating hotel in Florida. The city is nestled next to Lake Dora, which offers plenty of water activities from boat tours and seaplane rides to skiing and wakeboarding.

Florida Caverns State Park

Located in the Panhandle near the town of Marianna, this state park is known for its extensive limestone cave system. Cavern tours are available on a first-come first-serve basis Thursday through Monday, allowing visitors to observe cave formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, and draperies. The park also offers outdoor hiking trails through pine forests and hardwood hammocks, canoeing and kayaking on the Chipola River, and tent and RV campsites.

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens opened in 1977 and was named after George Morikami, a Japanese immigrant who donated his farm to Palm Beach County. The site originally served as a way for Japanese farmers to settle in the area during the early 20th century. The gardens cover 16 acres and reflect different historical periods and styles of Japanese garden design, providing visitors with a serene and contemplative environment. Features include koi ponds, waterfalls, bonsai trees, rock gardens, and walking paths, as well as a traditional tea house where visitors can experience Japanese tea ceremonies The museum features rotating exhibitions that showcase various aspects of Japanese art, culture, and history.

RELATED: 10 Small Towns in Florida That You Must Visit



  • Crystal Harlan

    Crystal is a bilingual editor and writer with over 20 years of experience in digital and print media. She is currently based in Florida, but has lived in small towns in the Midwest, Caracas, New York City, and Madrid, where she earned her MA in Spanish literature.



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