7 Hidden Gems of Florida
A trip to Florida doesn’t have to be a week long, over the top, theme park extravaganza where you go home sun burned and exhausted. Maybe you’ve avoided traveling to Florida because you don’t want to spend your time uncomfortable in a crowded tourist trap. However, not all of Florida is like that. In fact, there are some sweet spots in the sunshine state that offer quiet little weekend getaways. No huge crowds, no theme parks, just beautiful scenery, relaxing destinations, and natural outdoor adventures. Here are seven hidden gems of Florida.
Someone else’s hometown could easily be your next weekend getaway. Our Managing Editor, Elena, recently shared with us all her favorite things to do in her city, Naples, Florida. Her Local’s Guide for A Weekend in Naples gives you places to visit and some of the best local restaurants for a “Seekender” type getaway. A Seekender getaway is a weekend trip over 2 or 3 days. The Seekender is a traveler who knows you don’t have to wait until an annual vacation that’s a week long to seek out new experiences. You can take quick getaways any weekend to places all over, and these short trips fulfill your wanderlust without wearing you out, using up all your time off work, or breaking the bank. Elena travels around Florida quite a bit, and as a resident of the Sunshine State she has been able to discover real Florida, the Florida the travel agents often miss. In all these real destinations, there is the ideal hotel for you to call home during your Seekender trip. Hampton by Hilton has locations all over the United States, and there are locations in nearly all of these Florida destinations.
The Weekend Destinations
1. Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale is famous for its gorgeous beaches, and if you want to lay by the shore and listen to the waves go in and out, add this destination to your list for a quick trip. There is so much more to this south Florida city than sunbathing though. This city is full of adventure. In just a couple days you can kayak, take an airboat tour, and you can even try flyboarding (by strapping jets to your feet and soaring above the water). The sunsets here are unreal. Everywhere you turn you are surrounded by postcard perfect views.
When visiting Fort Lauderdale, stay at the Hampton by Hilton at Cypress Creek near Pompano Beach.
The Sunshine State’s capital city is an ideal destination for a quiet couple’s weekend or a fun family trip. Visit this college town that is so much more than a college town, and you can explore the Florida outdoors by kayaking, visiting the Wakulla Springs State Park, or simply strolling through the Alfred B. McClay Gardens. Bring your camera because the opportunities for photos are all around. Tallahassee is also full of trendy, local restaurants that will please foodies and families alike. Plan to arrive on a Friday afternoon and stay all weekend for a north Florida getaway you won’t soon forget.
When visiting Tallahassee, stay at the Hampton by Hilton at Tallahassee Central.
3. The Everglades
When you hear the Everglades, you probably have visions of alligators and snakes circling in your head. However, the Everglades isn’t just home to creepy crawly Florida critters. Head down south to this area of Florida. There is a National Park there called Ten Thousand Islands full of blue water and mangroves. The Everglades is also home to a ridiculously fun Seafood Festival every year where you can chow down on the freshest seafood, listen to country music, and enjoy games and other fair activities. The charm and character in this part of Florida will draw you in quickly during your weekend getaway. Life moves a little slower here which is a welcome change when you want to relax for a few days and unwind.
When visiting the Everglades, stay at the Hampton by Hilton at Homestead.
This city is another gem in Northern Florida. Tourists travel right near here and don’t realize what a great place it is. This is a sweet, quiet getaway. Ocala has a rich history. Visit the historic district to see Victorian architecture and a bunch of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, like the Coca Cola building, the Marion Hotel, and the Ritz Historic Inn. Ocala is also know as a center for horse racing. Thoroughbred race horses have been coming out of Ocala for a long time. See horse farms or even go horseback riding here. The natural beauty of Ocala will mesmerize everyone in your family. Just driving through you will find fields of wildflowers that will enchant you. Silver Springs State Park should be on your weekend getaway list for Ocala.
When visiting Ocala, stay at the Hampton by Hilton at Ocala.
5. Gulf County
If you want a secluded destination for your weekend away, visit Gulf County. Gulf County, Florida is one of the best kept secrets in Florida. The beaches here are amazing. There are no giant resorts junking up the view. Come here to check out from real life and live like a beach local. You can sit with your toes in the sand all day long. If you want a little action, kayak or horseback ride. Gulf County has maintained its natural state. No chain restaurants or tourist traps here. Nothing will come between you and the beautiful environment here on the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf County is conveniently located in North Florida, so residents of nearby states like Alabama and Georgia can drive in for a quick visit.
When visiting Gulf County, stay at the Hampton by Hilton at Panama City.
6. Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Off the coast of Naples are two pristine islands, and you can visit them both in one weekend. These islands are as natural as you can get. If you and your kids like to collect shells, this is the place to go. Here you will find 250 different kinds of shells. There are 15 miles of untouched beaches. This is also a bird watcher’s paradise with over 230 types of birds. Choose from some amazing restaurants on the islands. Go fishing if you want to catch your own dinner. There are tons of bike trails too. This is island living at its best.
When visiting Captiva and Sanibel Islands, stay at the Hampton by Hilton at Fort Meyers Beach/Sanibel Gateway.
7. Amelia Island
Amelia Island is an oasis in northeastern Florida. Plan a weekend here to golf, soak up the sun on uncrowded, pristine beaches, or time your trip for one of the many festivals that happen here year round. If you desire some quiet time in nature, Amelia Island offers plenty of that. You can take in centuries-old live oaks, the Atlantic Ocean, gorgeous beaches, and lush marshes. Come here to wander through the storybook scenery. Breathe it in for the weekend and then go back to real life feeling renewed and refreshed.
When visiting Amelia Island, stay at the Hampton by Hilton at Amelia Island at Fernandina Beach
Get yourself to Florida for a spur of the moment weekend getaway. Embrace the seekender lifestyle, and go on an adventure somewhere new. Skip the travel agent and an exhausting trip to somewhere overcrowded and overpriced. Visit authentic Florida to understand the richness of the Sunshine State. You can visit any one of these cities for 2 or 3 days for whatever you need to get out of a getaway.
Staying at a Hampton by Hilton makes weekend travel easy.
- The rooms are always ridiculously comfortable and clean.
- Breakfast is served daily, and if you need to eat and run, they’ve got Hampton’s On the Run™ Breakfast Bags you can grab as you run out the door.
- Hampton by Hilton makes it affordable to make weekender getaways a part of your lifestyle.
- The 100% Hampton Guarantee means they will make sure you are happy with your stay.
Relax if you want to relax. Pick a bunch of restaurants if you’re a foodie and like to try new things. Try a new activity if you are looking for some excitement. Real Florida offers real experiences for real people. Share your Florida adventures with us by using #Seekender.
If you’ve never planned a quick trip, check out How to Plan a Weekend Getaway for some helpful tips.
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Elena is the managing editor for Daily Mom. She enjoys traveling, spending time with her daughter, running several businesses, working on Daily Mom, playing volleyball, going to the gym, photographing and reading. You can contact her via email.