A Comprehensive Guide To The Islands Off The East Coast Of Florida

With over 4,500 miles of coastline, Florida is dotted with hundreds of islands that offer sandy beaches, fascinating history, and outdoor adventures. For those looking to escape to a tropical island paradise without leaving the continental United States, the islands off the east coast of Florida provide the perfect getaway.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The major islands off the east coast of Florida include the Canaveral National Seashore islands, Merritt Island, the barrier islands of Central Florida, the Keys in South Florida, and various small fishing islands and inlets along the coastline. They provide beautiful beaches, wildlife viewing, historical sites, fishing, boating, kayaking, and relaxing in a laidback island atmosphere.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the many islands that lie off Florida’s east coast, including the best islands for beaches, outdoor recreation, wildlife viewing, and historical sites. We’ll go over the characteristics of each island or island chain, along with the top activities and sights. With turquoise waters, swaying palms, and plenty of seaside charm, the islands of Florida’s Atlantic coast have something for every taste.

Canaveral National Seashore Islands

Overview and Location

Canaveral National Seashore Islands are a group of barrier islands located off the east coast of Florida. Situated between New Smyrna Beach and Titusville, these islands are part of the Canaveral National Seashore, which is a protected area managed by the National Park Service.

The islands offer a pristine and untouched natural environment, making them a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The main islands in the Canaveral National Seashore include Apollo Beach, Playalinda Beach, and Klondike Beach. Each of these islands has its own unique features and attractions, providing visitors with a variety of options to explore.

Best Activities and Sights

The Canaveral National Seashore Islands offer a wide range of activities and sights for visitors to enjoy. Here are some of the top highlights:

1. Beaches: The islands are known for their stunning beaches with soft sand and clear blue waters. Whether you want to relax under the sun, go for a swim, or take a leisurely stroll along the shore, the beaches here are perfect for beach lovers.

2. Wildlife Viewing: The Canaveral National Seashore Islands are home to a diverse range of wildlife, including sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, and various bird species. Visitors can spot these animals in their natural habitat and learn about their conservation efforts.

3. Camping: For those seeking an outdoor adventure, camping on the Canaveral National Seashore Islands is a great option. There are designated camping areas where visitors can set up tents and enjoy a night under the stars.

4. Hiking and Biking: The islands offer several trails for hiking and biking enthusiasts. These trails take you through scenic landscapes, providing breathtaking views of the coastline and the surrounding nature.

5. Fishing: The Canaveral National Seashore Islands are a paradise for fishing enthusiasts. Whether you prefer surf fishing or fishing from a boat, these islands offer abundant opportunities to catch various species of fish.

6. Historic Sites: The islands are also home to historical sites, including the Eldora State House and the Apollo Beach Historic District. These sites provide insights into the rich history and cultural heritage of the region.

To make the most of your visit to the Canaveral National Seashore Islands, it is recommended to check the official website of the National Park Service for the latest information on park hours, fees, and regulations.

So pack your sunscreen, grab your camera, and get ready to explore the natural beauty of these stunning islands off the east coast of Florida!

(Source: https://www.nps.gov/cana/index.htm)

Merritt Island

Merritt Island is a beautiful barrier island located off the east coast of Florida. It is situated between the Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean, making it a popular destination for beachgoers and nature enthusiasts alike.

The island covers an area of approximately 36 square miles and is home to diverse wildlife and stunning natural landscapes.

Overview and Location

Merritt Island is located in Brevard County, about 40 miles east of Orlando. It is connected to the mainland by the Kennedy Space Center Causeway, which provides easy access to the island. The island is also home to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a protected area known for its rich biodiversity and pristine habitats.

One of the notable features of Merritt Island is its proximity to the Kennedy Space Center. Visitors to the island can catch a glimpse of rocket launches and even witness historic space missions. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers a range of interactive exhibits and attractions, providing visitors with an opportunity to learn about space exploration.

Best Activities and Sights

Merritt Island offers a variety of activities and sights for visitors to enjoy. Here are some of the top attractions:

  • Beach Exploration: With its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, Merritt Island is a paradise for beach lovers. Visitors can relax on the sandy shores, go for a swim, or engage in water sports such as kayaking and paddleboarding.
  • Wildlife Spotting: The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for nature enthusiasts. It is home to a wide range of bird species, including the iconic bald eagle. Visitors can explore the refuge’s trails and observation areas to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures.
  • Boating and Fishing: The waters surrounding Merritt Island provide ample opportunities for boating and fishing. Whether you prefer deep-sea fishing or leisurely boat rides along the Indian River, there are plenty of options to choose from.
  • Exploring Historic Sites: History buffs will enjoy visiting the historic sites on Merritt Island. The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located adjacent to the Kennedy Space Center, played a significant role in the early days of space exploration.

    Visitors can take guided tours to learn about the site’s fascinating history.

Barrier Islands of Central Florida

Overview and Location

The barrier islands off the east coast of Florida are a beloved destination for tourists and locals alike. These islands provide a natural barrier between the mainland and the Atlantic Ocean, offering stunning beaches, diverse wildlife, and a range of recreational activities.

Located in Central Florida, these islands stretch from north to south, including popular destinations such as Amelia Island, Anastasia Island, and Canaveral National Seashore.

Amelia Island, situated just off the coast of northeastern Florida, is known for its charming historic district and pristine beaches. Visitors can explore Fernandina Beach, a quaint town with Victorian-era architecture and a vibrant arts scene.

Nature enthusiasts can also enjoy birdwatching, kayaking, and fishing in the area.

Anastasia Island, located near St. Augustine, is famous for its beautiful beaches and the Anastasia State Park. This barrier island offers opportunities for swimming, surfing, and picnicking. Visitors can also explore the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, which provides panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Further south, Canaveral National Seashore is a protected barrier island that offers a unique natural experience. This pristine area is home to diverse ecosystems, including dunes, lagoons, and marshes. Visitors can hike, swim, fish, and even witness sea turtle nesting during the appropriate seasons.

Best Activities and Sights on Each Island

Each of these barrier islands offers a variety of activities and sights to explore.

  • On Amelia Island, visitors can take a horse-drawn carriage tour of the historic district, visit Fort Clinch State Park, or relax on the white sandy beaches.
  • Anastasia Island is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with opportunities for camping, hiking, and wildlife spotting. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Alligator Farm Zoological Park, where you can see rare reptiles up close.
  • At Canaveral National Seashore, visitors can enjoy swimming, boating, and fishing. The pristine beaches are perfect for sunbathing or taking long walks along the shore.

No matter which barrier island you choose to explore off the east coast of Florida, you can expect breathtaking natural beauty, a relaxing atmosphere, and a wide range of activities to suit every interest.

For more information on these barrier islands and their attractions, you can visit the official websites:

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a string of tropical islands located off the southern coast of Florida. This beautiful archipelago is renowned for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life.

The Keys consist of approximately 1,700 islands, stretching over 120 miles from Key Largo to Key West.

Overview and Location

The Florida Keys are divided into five main areas: Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key, and Key West. Each area offers its own unique charm and attractions. Key Largo is known for its world-class diving sites and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Islamorada is a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts, with its abundance of sport fishing opportunities. Marathon is home to the famous Seven Mile Bridge and is a great place for boating and watersports.

Big Pine Key is known for its natural beauty, particularly the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge. Lastly, Key West is the southernmost point in the continental United States and is famous for its lively nightlife and historic sites such as the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.

Best Activities and Sights on Each Key

Key Largo: Aside from diving and snorkeling, Key Largo offers visitors the chance to explore the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park through glass-bottom boat tours. The park is home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States.Islamorada: Known as the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World,” Islamorada offers incredible opportunities for fishing enthusiasts. Visitors can also enjoy kayaking through the mangrove forests or dining at one of the many waterfront restaurants.Marathon: The highlight of Marathon is the iconic Seven Mile Bridge, which connects the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys. Visitors can walk or bike across the bridge and enjoy breathtaking views of the turquoise waters.

Marathon is also a great place for boating, snorkeling, and visiting the Turtle Hospital.

Big Pine Key: Big Pine Key is famous for its unique wildlife, particularly the endangered Key deer. Visitors can explore the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge and catch a glimpse of these adorable creatures in their natural habitat.

The area also offers great opportunities for kayaking and paddleboarding.

Key West: Key West is a vibrant and lively destination with something for everyone. Visitors can explore the historic Old Town, visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, or enjoy the lively atmosphere of Duval Street.

Key West is also known for its spectacular sunsets, which can be enjoyed from Mallory Square.

For more information on the Florida Keys and the various activities and sights on each key, you can visit https://www.fla-keys.com/.

Smaller Islands and Inlets

Overview of Smaller Islands

The East Coast of Florida is home to a myriad of smaller islands and inlets that offer a unique and tranquil getaway for visitors. These islands provide a peaceful retreat from the bustling cities and tourist hotspots, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature and enjoy a slower pace of life.

From the stunning natural landscapes to the diverse wildlife, these smaller islands are a hidden gem waiting to be explored.

One notable smaller island is Peanut Island, located near the Palm Beach Inlet. This small island was originally created as a result of dredging the nearby Lake Worth Inlet, and it has since become a popular destination for boating enthusiasts and outdoor enthusiasts.

Visitors can enjoy a range of activities on Peanut Island, including swimming, snorkeling, and picnicking on the beautiful sandy beaches.

Another smaller island worth mentioning is Honeymoon Island, located just off the coast of Dunedin. This island is known for its pristine white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, making it a perfect spot for swimming and sunbathing.

Honeymoon Island State Park offers visitors the opportunity to explore the island’s natural beauty through hiking trails and wildlife spotting.

These smaller islands provide a unique and intimate experience for visitors, allowing them to connect with nature and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether it’s exploring the hidden coves, snorkeling in the clear waters, or simply relaxing on the beach, these smaller islands offer a peaceful retreat for those seeking a break from the crowds.

Best Activities and Sights on Notable Islands

When visiting the smaller islands off the East Coast of Florida, there are several activities and sights that should not be missed. One such activity is exploring the mangrove forests and estuaries that surround the islands.

These unique ecosystems are home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, and kayaking or paddleboarding through them offers a fascinating glimpse into their natural beauty.

For those interested in history, a visit to Fort Jefferson on Dry Tortugas National Park is a must. This remote island is home to a massive 19th-century fort that played a significant role in the country’s history. Visitors can take guided tours of the fort and learn about its intriguing past.

Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts will be delighted by the vibrant coral reefs and marine life that can be found around the smaller islands. The waters off the East Coast of Florida are teeming with colorful fish, sea turtles, and even the occasional dolphin or manatee.

Exploring these underwater wonders is a truly unforgettable experience.

It’s also worth mentioning that many of these smaller islands offer excellent fishing opportunities. Whether it’s casting a line from the shore or heading out on a fishing charter, anglers can enjoy a day of reeling in a variety of fish species, including snapper, grouper, and tarpon.


With their sugar-sand beaches, abundant wildlife, fascinating history, and laidback tropical vibe, the islands off Florida’s Atlantic coast offer the perfect escape. Whether you’re looking for beachcombing, boating, kayaking, fishing, or just soaking up the sun and salt air, you’ll find your own slice of island paradise along Florida’s eastern shores. The next time you dream of swaying palms, tranquil waters, and sunny skies, set your sights on the captivating coastal isles of the Sunshine State.

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