Florida is the next Southern state on our list for “small-town gem excavation.” You’re familiar with the beloved panhandle towns along 30A Highway and the historic streets of St. Augustine, but today, we’re digging deeper into lesser-known charmers around the state. From manatee-filled, crystal-blue springs to antique-studded main streets, get to know these six small Florida towns worth visiting.

Tarpon Springs


This idyllic fishing town is perched on the Gulf of Mexico, just 45 minutes north of St. Petersburg (a slightly larger town we also adore). Greek immigrants built Tarpon Springs’ sponge industry, which once outstripped citrus as Florida’s main export, and prompted its moniker “sponge capital of the world.”

People walking around downtown Tarpon Springs FL

Visitors and Floridians love this town’s 51 miles of waterfront allure, working docks, Greek bakeries, and charming downtown center. Image: VisitStPeteClearwater.com


Walk the sponge docks to see this strange trade still in action, then stroll down Dodecanese Boulevard for eateries, art galleries, and antique stores — most housed in old 1800s buildings. No trip is complete without a pastry or pita from the famed Hellas Bakery. Culture seekers should check the schedule at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts and Cultural Center, while outdoor lovers will revel in the lively scene at waterfront Fred Howard Park.

DeFuniak Springs


An hour from Destin and a three-and-a-half-hour ride from Birmingham, this little town has an extensive history and quite a few storied buildings. Around the town lake was a once-gated resort campus built during the Victorian era and known to the country as “The Education Resort of the South.” The Florida Chautauqua Assembly drew Northerners to warmer climates to hear keynote speakers and enjoy performances of all kinds for a multi-week program from 1885 to 1927.

DeFuniak Springs Florida little public library and an oak tree

Founded in 1866, the longest continually operating library in the state is perched right on famous Circle Drive. Holly Williams loves this tiny town; we think you will, too! Image: Holly Williams (@thesouthernwander via Instagram)


Grab a coffee and pastry at Perla Baking Co. before wandering the central district peppered with antique stores, eateries, and hundreds of historic structures. On the famed Circle Drive, visit the oldest continually operated library in the state for a photo op and a dose of history. Mid-day, fuel up at Bogey’s before or after doing a little treasure hunting of your own along Cholokka Boulevard. When it’s time for bed, head to your rustic cabin or glamping suite at Twin Lakes Camp Resort. (You know we love a funky campground!)

Vero Beach


To experience beachside revelry on Florida’s beloved “Treasure Coast” without West Palm Beach price tags, Vero Beach is the gem for you. There’s golf galore, pristine beaches, shopping, and a rich artistic culture. Like many small towns in Florida, pirate activity and railroad construction changed everything. Vero Beach was formed around the Indian River citrus trade and baseball, surprisingly, until their MLB spring training host status shifted to Arizona.

Main pond and lots of green trees at McKee Botanical Gardens

Citrus magnate Waldo Sexton purchased the 80-acre tract of tropical land in 1922, and it has become an award-winning botanical garden you’ll have to see to believe. Image: McKee Botanical Gardens


Beautiful white sand beaches and frozen cocktails are calling your name, but there is much to do off-beach. Once you’ve gotten your fill of downtown’s Art Deco architecture and art galleries, head to the Vero Beach Museum of Art or see what McClarty Treasure Museum is STILL finding ashore from the 1700s ship sinking. No trip is complete without a visit to the whimsical oceanside world of McKee Botanical Garden. Stay at the legendary and funky Driftwood Resort, or snag a burger at Waldo’s adjoining cafe. If you’re more into grilled than fried, Citrus offers upscale waterfront dining at its finest.



Founded after Spain relinquished Florida to the United States in 1821, Micanopy (pronounced MICK · uh · NO · pee) is Florida’s oldest inland town and is often called “The Little Town That Time Forgot.” Named for a famous Seminole chief, this town is dotted with giant oak trees drenched in Spanish moss. It’s just 10 miles south of Gainesville and a worthwhile veer off the beaten path — especially for the retail inclined.

Micanopy FL downtown

Downtown Micanopy is known for its antiques and curios shops. Image: A.G. Graham


Follow State Road 441 — the fabled road in Tom Petty’s tune “American Girl” — to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The park nurtures 20 distinct biological communities home to alligators, bison, horses, nearly 300 species of bird, and many more. Start your day with coffee from Mosswood Farm Store & Bakehouse, then grab a Cuban, Reuben, or BLT at Old Florida Cafe for lunch. Stay at the 1845-opened Herlong Mansion Bed & Breakfast for Southern opulence mixed with homey charm.

Crystal River


Since becoming a popular train stop in the early 1900s, visitors have been awe-struck by this area’s natural beauty and bountiful crystal-clear springs. Citrus County remains THE spot in Florida for eco-tourism, and it’s easy to merge four small towns into one. Explore Crystal River, Inverness, Floral City, and Homosassa — 6 to 14 miles from each other — while you’re there. The area’s warm, spring-fed waters attract the continent’s largest manatee population each winter, and it’s the only place in North America where you can legally swim and snorkel with these fascinating, docile giants.

The Cove Pub & Resort in Inverness, FL

The Cove Resort & Pub is a hidden oasis in Inverness with fresh catch (fried if you prefer) and great views. Image: Discover Crystal River Florida via Facebook


Swim with manatees! Pete’s Pier Marina is one centrally located option out of the dozens of outfitters that lead manatee, kayak, SUP, and boat tours of the expansive aquatic terrain. The Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park is a refuge and rehabilitation center for manatees. There are also alligators, black bears, Florida panthers, red wolves, Key deer, flamingos, whooping cranes, and other endangered species that need protection and research.

Citrus County has been a fisherman’s dream for hundreds of years: salt or fresh, novice or pro. Charter a trip in the open Gulf, or fish for giant bass in the Apopka lakes near Inverness. On foot, Withlacoochee State Trail is a rail-to-trail triumph with more than 46 miles of paved recreation and bicycle trail. Pop over to the nearby Homosassa fishing village for music, letterpress history, and fabulous country cooking at Olde Mill House Gallery and Printing Museum & Cafe. For overnight, you’ll find many B&Bs like the magical Crystal Blue Lagoon Bed & Breakfast. You can even rent a floating houseboat.

Fernandina Beach


Fernandina Beach is filled with Victorian homes, pretty brick buildings, and oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. This friendly village is tucked away in the northeast corner of Florida (near Georgia) on Amelia Island, unique because eight different flags flew over it during its tumultuous past.

People dining outside downtown in Fernandina Beach, FL

To best experience the town, book a room in a charming Victorian-era bed and breakfast (there are about a dozen!) and get the innkeepers’ go-to recommendations for food, drinks, music, and more. Image: AmeliaIsland.com


Enjoy miles of peaceful Atlantic beaches and check off historic landmarks like Florida’s oldest continuously operating bar, The Palace Saloon, and the state’s oldest working lighthouse: The Amelia Island Lighthouse. History and outdoorsy types will love Fort Clinch State Park, and Centre Street is the epicenter of shopping of eating. Try the catch of the day at Salty Pelican or indulge at Verandah.

Florida has so many hidden small towns to discover … seaside, Gulf-side, and everywhere in between. Happy travels! And, be sure to revisit our articles about small towns in:


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Zoe Yarborough
About the Author
Zoe Yarborough

Zoe is a StyleBlueprint staff writer, Charlotte native, Washington & Lee graduate, and Nashville transplant of eleven years. She teaches Pilates, helps manage recording artists, and likes to "research" Germantown's food scene.