About the only resemblance Venice has to its Italian namesake is that it's an island in the sea. Venice has scenic, tan-sand beaches but is otherwise an extremely quiet seaside town that's most popular with retirees and families with young kids, who enjoy hunting for shark's teeth.
Beaches of South Walton & Scenic Highway 30A
Sandwiched between Destin and Panama City along Scenic Hwy 30A, these 15 unincorporated communities make up what is collectively known as Santa Rosa Beach or the Beaches of South Walton. Each town has its own identity, although most are masterplanned resort towns with architecture following set themes.
For sun-worshippers and salty dogs alike, Sarasota’s Keys offer an irresistible combination of fabulous beaches, laid-back living and endless watery pursuits. Geographically, the Keys are a series of barrier islands that stretch 35 miles from south of Sarasota north to Anna Maria Island across the causeway from Bradenton.
Fort Pierce has a sleepy feel to it, but includes top sport fishing and some great beaches. Downtown, though newly renovated, often feels like a ghost town, with lots of vacancies and few people. Orange Ave is the main drag, far more vibrant than adjoining blocks. For sleeping options, Stuart and Jensen Beach are a better bet.
The end of the track is an old Florida fishing village of raised houses, turquoise water and scattershot emerald-green mangrove islands. Hwy 29 runs south through town into the peaceful residential island of Chokoloskee, past a great psychedelic mural of a gator on a shed.
Canaveral National Seashore
Part of America's national-park system, spectacular Canaveral National Seashore includes 24 miles of undeveloped white-sand beach. Two roads squeeze along a skinny bridge of barrier island, one heading 6 miles south from the small beach town of New Smyrna Beach and another 6 miles north from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Flagler Beach & Around
Just 30 miles north of Daytona, isolated Flagler Beach is far removed from the towering hotels, dizzying lights and tire-tracked sands of its rowdy neighbor. On a 6-mile stretch of beach, this string of modest residences and smattering of shops has a three-story cap on buildings to preserve its spectacular sunrises and an end-of-the-earth feel.
At first blush Grassy Key seems pretty sedate. Well spotted; Grassy is very much an island of few attractions and lots of RV lots and trailer parks. These little villages were once the heart of the Keys, where retirees, escapists, fishermen and the waitstaff who served them lived, drank and dreamed (of a drink).
About 12 miles southwest of Pensacola, off Hwy 292 (which becomes Hwy 182), the easternmost Florida piece of the Gulf Islands National Seashore spans Perdido Key's crystalline waters. These dunes are home to the endangered Perdido Key beach mouse, which blends in well with the white-quartz sands here.
Built by Disney from the swamps in 1994, tiny Celebration is small-town America like you imagine it may have once been…before John Cheever, David Lynch and Desperate Housewives introduced irony; before strip malls; before leaf blowers. We could wonder what goes on behind closed doors, but why? Relax over coffee while the kids play in the splash fountain and watch the ducks.