High rise condominium complexes and sprawling resorts litter the Florida coastline. When you are packed in a hotel or resort with hundreds of people, you never get to truly appreciate the beauty and relaxation that Florida offers.
You can drive from Tampa/Clearwater down to Fort Myers Beach and see the same cookie cutter highrises all along the coast, the only thing that changes is the zip code. Many people despise Florida, citing the often horrendous traffic on the beach roads and generic strip malls that line the tourist trap beach towns. Let’s go in a different direction, and find parts of Florida that are untouched by big development.
South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
I promised to go into areas of Florida that haven’t been turned into tourist traps. Have you ever heard of South Ponte Vedra Beach? Most people haven’t, and the people that call this beautiful stretch of beach home don’t mind one bit. Located 20 miles South of Jacksonville Beach and 20 miles North of St. Augustine, this little cluster of homes on the quiet A1A Highway is about as serene as it gets.
South Ponte Vedra doesn’t have any shops, restaurants or convenience stores within the city limits, but is a quick 10 minute drive North from the small town of Ponte Vedra which has a multitude of restaurants and grocery stores. This distance might be a detractor for some, but if you are going for a true, relaxing, Old Florida beach vacation; this might be exactly what you are looking for.
Our favorite “Old Florida” beachfront cottage rental here (pictured above) is located on the Southern edge of South Ponte Vedra, across from the beautiful Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. You have the beach off your back deck and views of the preserve off the front of the house. As far as tranquility and relaxation go, it doesn’t get much better than this. This 2 bedroom cottage has a huge back deck with panoramic views of the beach, along with an outdoor shower for rinsing off after a lazy day on the sand. The rooftop deck with views for miles down the coast is just icing on the cake. VRBO Review Score: 4.9/5 (71 reviews) More info: Check Availability and Rates
North Captiva Island,FL
North Captiva Island is only accessible by ferry or small plane, and is completely one of a kind. With no actual roads, this is as “Old Florida” as it gets. While there are no paved roads, golf cart paths zig zag the entire island, linking beachfront houses and cabins to the fantastic restaurants here.
While the thought of staying on an island you can only reach by boat may seem daunting, there are several companies on the island that make it simple. They will pick you up on the mainland, drive you to the ferry dock, and have your groceries waiting for you in the fridge of your beachfront Florida cottage. While you will pay a premium for this service, the rates of North Captiva house rentals is usually about half of what you would pay for a rental on the mainland. The truth is people haven’t figured this out yet. In short, even after paying to have groceries and all your luggage delivered straight to your beachfront cottage, you come out way ahead.
Our favorite North Captiva house rental isn’t the fanciest or most luxury rental on the island. There are houses on North Captiva that will make your jaw drop, many celebrities like Tom Hanks have houses here. But this house is located on the most beautiful, picturesque location in South Florida. There aren’t too many rentals that give you your own private point, with access to both the ocean and the calm waters of the sound. An added bonus is that your own private boat and fishing dock is steps from your back door (and the fishing off the deep water dock is fantastic). There’s a reason that this hidden gem gets a unblemished perfect 5/5 review score from nearly 50 renters. VRBO Review Score: 5.0/5.0 (49 reviews) More info: Check Availability and Rates
Little Gasparilla Island, FL
Little Gasparilla Island is another island only accessible by ferry/water taxi. This island is truly a hidden gem, without any form of development. This little known island has some absolute bargains in rental prices, at least for now. When vacationers figure out how easy it is to use the water taxi prices will go up. Located in between the island of Boca Grande and Don Pedro, you can fly into either Punta Gorda (PGD) or Fort Myers (RSW) and are just a 15 minute drive to the ferry dock.
While there are no restaurants on the island, the water taxi is 3 minutes away and will pick you up around the clock (just give them a half hour or so notice). Most Little Gasparilla cottage rentals come with golf carts which you can use the explore the island and its miles of beautiful beaches.
Our favorite Little Gasparilla Island cottage rental is located directly on the beach, just steps from the surf. You can’t beat falling asleep to the sound of the waves just feet from your bed. If you are looking for true relaxation and seclusion, this hidden gem Florida beachfront cottage is tough to beat. It is renting for $265 a night at the time of posting, and I’m not sure there is a bigger bargain out there. VRBO Review Score: 4.9/5.0 (64 reviews) More info: Check Availability and Rates
Somewhere between Melbourne Beach and Wabasso Beach, FL
Our last two hidden gem beachfront cottages are back on the Atlantic coast of Florida. The 25 mile stretch of beach on the A1A highway between Melbourne Beach and Wabasso Beach doesn’t have any big towns, only unincorporated villages and quaint seaside restaurants. Our favorite restuarant in this area is the Long Point Cafe(check the reviews https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34434-d793883-Reviews-Long_Point_Cafe-Melbourne_Beach_Brevard_County_Florida.html) located just North of the Sebastian Inlet. The fish tacos there are to die for. But there’s about a dozen awesome restaurants along this stretch of A1A, so no matter where you pick to stay food is a short drive away.
Anyways, on to the cottages. Our favorite rental in this area is a beautifully renovated 2 BR beachfront cottage with an absolutely massive deck. The kitchen is stunning, and the views of the beach from the living room and kitchen are incredible. You have to see the pictures of this unit to appreciate how well done the renovations are. Located across from the Indian River State Park, there is no shortage of outdoor activities close by. The houses are located fairly far apart in this area, so for most of the year you can walk off the deck down to what feels like your own private beach. Since this unit is so newly renovated, there aren’t many reviews yet, but don’t let that stop you, Shireen is a 5 star host. VRBO Review Score: 5.0/5.0 (2 reviews) More info: Check Availability and Rates
Our last and certainly not least rental is perfect if you need just a bit more space, the only 3BR on our list. When it comes to VRBO reviews, it’s tough to maintain a perfect 5/5 rating with 50 or more reviews, but this is another one of those rare listings that accomplishes a perfect average review rating. With it’s own pool, this is a perfect house rental for entertaining a little bigger group. The owners supply everything you need for the beach, from umbrellas and chairs to even coolers. The views from the house are fantastic as you will see. If you need that extra 3rd bedroom we can’t recommend this rental enough. VRBO Review Score: 5.0/5.0 (50 reviews) More info: Check Availability and Rates