Florida is like a romantic partner: You know it well, yet it’s still capable of surprising and delighting you.
Whether you’ve visited Florida before, never been, or are familiar with one region but curious about others, this Florida overview will help you to discover another side — the romantic side — of America’s popular getaway state. Use it as a guide to the best places to honeymoon down South.
Florida’s 1,800-mile coastline, carpeted with white sand and washed by clear, warm waters, awaits your romantic discovery. Blissful as it is, the beach is but one of the many attractions of Florida: Land and sea adventures, art exploration rustic trails, even once-in-a lifetime experiences figure in an intrepid couple's itinerary.
Together you can explore underwater Florida, where tropical fish emerge from coral caves to personally greet you. Or sports Florida, where the two of you can perfect your golf or tennis game at a full-service resort. Then there’s mega-attractions Florida, where high-tech wizardry delivers towering thrills. And historic Florida, revealing 400 years of history in the most romantic places.
Which direction should you take? Florida is divided into nine tourism regions, each with attractions and places to stay. On the following pages, you can read a about each and find useful links to hotels and airports to start researching your trip.
When you’re ready, head south. And continue traveling in that direction till you reach America’s warm, welcoming, and yes, romantic, tropics.
Northeast Florida: Romantic Amelia Island and Beyond
Whether sailing, swimming, building sand castles, or horseback riding, couples revel in exploring the wide Atlantic beaches of northeast Florida. Here sunrise is an occasion worth waking for (you can always draw the curtains and go right back to bed afterwards).
A secluded barrier island located on 1,350 acres between the sugary beaches of the Atlantic and the tidal marshes of the Intracoastal Waterway, Amelia Island resorts offer championship golf, pristine beaches, nature programs, and restaurants. Local attractions include Amelia Island’s scenic Victorian seaport village and Jacksonville Landing, a festive waterfront marketplace.
Where to Stay
Two well-established, full-service island properties provide couples with a wealth of outdoor activities — or just the opportunity to kick back and relax.
The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island
Insulated from the outside world, guests can stroll the dune-lined beachfront, play golf or tennis, swim indoors or outside, and savor the fine restaurants at the hotel. The spa menu of couples treatments includes a tandem massage or facial in a spa suite for two as well as a couples healing bath and massage. Private evening wood-burning fires at the Courtyard can be booked, while a romantic fire on the beach, complete with an attendant and two blankets to take home, is available between November 1st and April 30th, in keeping with turtle season, which begins May 1st.
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort
Lovers praise the great service and gorgeous views at this more-affordable place.
The Old South
When it comes to the Old South, it doesn’t get much older than St. Augustine, founded 1565. Today St. Augustine offers a mix of history, golf, and Florida sunshine.
Carriage rides through the historic district, art galleries lining narrow, ancient streets, and sights like Castillo de San Marcos provide romantic Old World experiences.
Like much of northeast Florida, Ponte Vedra Beach was little more than sandy wilderness a century ago. Its transformation into a refined seaside community coincided with the 1928 opening of the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. Today, it stills lures guest with its palm-fringed beach, golf courses, spa, swimming pools, and restaurants.
Lodge & Club at Ponte Vedra Beach
Located midway between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, this property evokes a seaside European village. A fountain courtyard, wrought-iron lampposts, classic archways, and lush trellises add to the romantic ambience. Rooms feature an oceanfront patio or balcony, an ideal place to share a kiss under the stars.
A Word of Warning
One of the northernmost parts of Florida, it gets cold here in winter. Don't expect to see snow, but don't count on swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, either. Also, hotels in this area are couples-friendly, but family-friendly as well. Although there is plenty of room for everyone, check school vacation schedules to know when kids will be out in force.
Central East Florida: Romantic Daytona - Cape Canaveral - Vero Beach
One of the world’s most famous beaches, Daytona has an unrivaled ocean park atmosphere. Romantics need only come equipped with the determination to have a good time. Everything else can be rented on the beach: water floats, boogie boards, lounge chairs, even bikes and motorbikes. And yes, you can drive on the sand — as long as you do it in designated areas and obey the 10 mph speed limit.
Mecca for motorsports fans, Daytona is home to Speed Park drag racing, the Klassix car collection, Richard Petty’s Driving Experience, and Daytona USA, located just outside the famous International Speedway…all guaranteed to get your motors running.
If space travel excites you even more, launch your trip at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex. Guided tours highlight the past, present, and future of cosmic journeys.
Lodging choices are plentiful in the area. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, midway between Cape Canaveral and the Palm Beaches, stands out as a romantic seaside retreat. It combines the classic charm of Old Florida with Disney quality.
Central Florida: Romantic Orlando - Kissimmee - Winter Haven
Theme parks, exhibits, rides, and roller coasters all give Florida visitors more reasons than ever to head inland. And now that Victoria & Albert's restaurant at Disney's Grand Floridian restricts guests to age 10 and older, adults have one romantic space free from the cries of babies.
Discovery Cove, adjacent to SeaWorld Orlando, is a tropical oasis where visitors can swim among dolphins and other sea creatures. (Requiring reservations keeps crowds manageable.)
Offering some of the most affordable hotel rates in Florida, Polk County is a short drive from these major attractions – but a good distance from crowds and lines. Towns like Winter Haven, Lakeland, and Cypress Gardens show visitors the lush, unhurried side of Florida.
There you’ll find miles of fragrant citrus groves as well as the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. If you stop at a grower’s before you leave, you can ship fresh Florida oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit home.
Southeast Florida: Romantic Miami - Fort Lauderdale - Boca - Palm Beach
You don't have to be a millionaire to feel like one on your honeymoon; just pick a place like Florida's Gold Coast where the wealthy flock...and enjoy the fantasy that you're one of them as you celebrate your vacation.
For generations couples have headed to Miami for the warm, the sun, the beach, and nightlife excitement. From Coconut Grove to Miami’s Latin-beat, Art-Deco district to the beaches, it's non-stop stimulation. Miami also draws many of the country's best chefs, so be prepared for a gourmet experience.
Life’s a beach along Florida's Gold Coast. With more than 300 miles of navigable inland waterways, Fort Lauderdale is a sun-worshiper’s and boater’s paradise. Journey by sailboat, water taxi, yacht, even trusty car to encounter everything from palatial mansions to Everglades swampland.
Watersports, dining, cruises, museums, shopping, even horse-drawn carriage rides all vie for your attention here. . Fashionable Las Olas Boulevard, the upscale Galleria Mall, and mammoth Sawgrass Mills (350 outlet stores and growing) all sell designer wares. There’s also the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop (largest flea market in the south) and Dania’s Antiques Row to ensure you don’t leave Broward County empty-handed.
The seaside town of Boca Raton and its centerpiece resort were built in the 1920s by Addison Mizner, and they've been drawing honeymoon couples ever since. The Boca Raton Resort & Club's impeccable pedigree—it's now a member of the prestigious Waldorf Astoria Collection—reflects well on couples with classy taste—or nest-building lovebirds intent on climbing social and corporate ladders.
If you view tony Palm Beach county strictly by the numbers – 47 miles of coastline, a thousand tennis courts, more than 150 golf courses, 40 museums, more than 2,000 restaurants and nightclubs , and an average temperature of 78 degrees — it adds up to one of the most eclectic tropical locations a vacationer could want.
The Breakers hotel is a Palm Beach landmark whose architecture is in the style of an Italian Renaissance villa. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the majestic, extravagantly designed, more-than-full-service Breakers has kept up with the times and remains the most prestigious address when visiting Palm Beach. More like a meticulously maintained private estate than a hotel, The Breakers enclave stretches across 140 prime oceanfront acres.
Florida Keys: Romantic Key Largo - Islamorada - Key West
Key West, made famous by Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams and Jimmy Buffett, is still a powerful magnet for honeymoon couples. Just 150 miles south of Miami, this is where you’ll find world-class deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and parasailing.
Old Town is the pulsing heart of the Conch Republic, the tongue-in-cheek breakaway nation of the Florida Keys. The giant concrete buoy at the end of South Street marks what is proclaimed to be the Southernmost point in the United States.
To reach the Keys, head south on U.S. 1, and keep driving till all you see on either side are clear, warm, impossibly blue-green waters. You’ve reached the Overseas Highway, which connects that glorious necklace of coral islands, the Florida Keys. The first mile marker is No. 127, indicating the distance in miles from Key West.
Key Largo, the northernmost isle, is home to John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park, the nation’s first underwater preserve. Divers in its canyons witness tropical fish swimming by in an unending spectacle of color and form.
The park offers guided walks, canoe trips, a glass-bottom boat tour, picnicking, fishing, and boating. And the 510’ U.S.S. Spiegel Grove is the largest divable wreck in American waters.
The waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico that edge the Keys teem with 225 species of game fish. Visitors to Islamorada, sportfishing capital of the world, seek out tuna, dolphin, and giant blue marlin in the deep.
Backcountry waters harbor tarpon and bonefish. Cruise into the warm turquoise waters, throw out a line, and it's likely you'll come back with dinner (although you won't have to cook it yourselves.
Prefer to sleep with the fishes, rather than catch them? Scuba down to Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, which rests 30 feet below sea level.
Key West, 120 miles further south, is as laid-back a place as you might expect to find at land’s end. Six-toed cats, jugglers and musicians, flamboyant folk, and self-proclaimed parrotheads are all part of the passing parade. Join them at sunset by Mallory Square Dock to toast another day in paradise.
Casa Marina, a Waldorf=Astoria resort, was conceived by the railroad tycoon Henry Flagler as a throwback to Roaring Twenties glamour and romance. His intention was to accommodate the wealthy passengers of his railroad, which linked Key West and Florida’s mainland.
Southwest Florida: Romantic Sanibel Island - Fort Myers - Naples
An oasis for 21st-century explorers, Charlotte Harbor and the surrounding Gulf Islands make it easy to recall this state was once a wilderness. Here you can paddle a canoe across cypress swamps where alligators, panthers, even bison, still roam.
Osprey and bald eagles soar over the area’s 219 miles of coastline. And endless barrier islands yield peaceful coves and scenic marinas. Of course, you won’t be the first ecotourist; Ponce de Leon plied these waters in 1513. Sanibel Island, a tropical-island getaway on the Lee Island Coast, is connected to the mainland by a three-mile-long causeway. Known worldwide for its shelling, Sanibel Beach receives more than 200 varieties each morning.
Can’t find that special shell? A local institution for more than 50 years, North Fort Myers’ Shell Factory claims "the world's largest collection of rare shells, corals, sponges, and fossils from the seven seas." An entire room is devoted to shell jewelry. In the Pearl Pavilion, visitors pluck pearls from Japanese oysters and select their own settings.
The loveliest city on Florida's Gulf Coast, Naples has an upscale air with great restaurants, shops, and hotels. But what really makes honeymoon couples swoon are the pristine beaches and daily sunsets celebrated at Naples Pier.
Open to the public, Naples beaches are clean and wide, with soft white sand. Unlike many beach communities, visitors don't find stores and restaurants facing the shoreline. Here you'll find uninterrupted nature unless you choose a beachfront hotel
Central West Florida: Romantic Clearwater - St. Pete - Longboat Key - Bradenton
No wonder the nearby Clearwater area rocks with watersports; it has some of the broadest beaches on the Gulf Coast. Jet skis, water bikes, parasails, and boats for every kind of fishing adventure rent at the Clearwater Beach Marina.
Importantly, the area is gaining recognition for its ecotourism efforts. Clearwater Marine Aquarium, for example, not only shelters dolphin, otters, and sea turtles; it also teaches visitors how to help protect them.
Located on southwest Florida's barrier island chain and an easy drive from Dunedin, Clearwater, Tampa, and St. Petersburg, Honeymoon Island State Park is a destination for sun-sand-and-surf lovers along the Gulf of Mexico.
St. Petersburg is home to Fort DeSoto Park (rated among America’s top-ten beaches). Yet it also surrounds visitors with man-made beauty. The Museum of Fine Arts, Salvador Dali Museum, Chihuly Collection (glass, glass, glass), and Florida International Museum all mount world-class, international exhibitions throughout the year.
A pink, 361-room Italianate mansion on Tampa Bay with a speakeasy downstairs and a modern spa attached to it, St. Petersburg's historic Vinoy Renaissance Resort first opened in 1925 but has kept up with the times in its own charming way.
North Central Florida: Romantic Tallahassee - Gainesville - Apalachicola
Close to the Georgia border, north-central Florida is the state’s least-known area and also among its most rustic and affordable. Yet it holds a number of treasures:
Along the Gulf shore, unblemished beaches, hidden coves, and mysterious bayous hug the Nature Coast.
Inland, Tallahassee’s Civil War-era plantations and Gainesville’s Historic District both vigilantly preserve the past.
And if you like oysters, detour to Apalachicola. More than 90 percent of the state's annual harvest emerges from its bay — and you won’t fine fresher seafood anywhere.
North West Florida: The Romantic Panhandle
Does the sand along the 24-mile Emerald Coast appear whiter and brighter in contrast to the area's brilliant waters - or would it look that dazzling anywhere? Ponder this and other questions of the universe while savoring the simple pleasures in northwest Florida, which includes Pensacola. Okaloosa, and Destin.
A waterfront community, Pensacola is known for its sugar-white sand, Southern hospitality, and scenic vistas. In and around Historic Pensacola Village, museums, antebellum homes, and the Colonial Archeological Trail provide evidence of the city's 400-year multi-cultural past. Follow a day of activity with an evening's entertainment.
Pensacola's restored downtown area supports a variety of restaurants, shops, and nightclubs. Sounds of everything from Dixieland to disco emanate from the Seville Quarter, the city's answer to Bourbon Street.
Spirited seaside celebrations; splashing, canoeing, or tubing in the cool, clear Blackwater River; challenging golf links; the largest charter-boat fleet in the state; superlative underwater shelling; and undeniably fresh Gulf seafood lure travelers to the affordable part of the state that's been called the Redneck Riviera. When's the best time to visit? Bargain-hunters will find the season's lowest lodging rates October through February.