What do you do on a vacation in Florida? For most visitors the answer is simple: Grab a cold beverage and head directly to the nearest beach. Considering the state is surrounded on three sides by the ocean—and ringed with gorgeous beaches—it’s no surprise many vacationers don’t stray far from the sand. While beach days are great, if you’re looking for something else to do besides tan and play Spikeball, you’re in luck. When it comes to nature and outdoor recreation, the Sunshine State has much more to offer than just sandy beaches and there are plenty of excellent cabin rentalsin Florida to serve as a base to do it all.
To really get a taste for Florida’s unique landscapes, you have to venture inland. Its subtropical climate provides a home for a wide range of plants and animals not found in other states. In the south, Everglades National Park sprawls across 1.5 million acres of freshwater sloughs, tropical hammocks, pinelands, stands of cypress, mangroves, and more. Big Cypress National Preserve, located just to the north, encompasses another 729,000 acres of Big Cypress Swamp. Both places offer plentiful hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and various ranger-led tours and activities, and you’ll have the chance to spot rare wildlife, like manatees and roseate spoonbills.
There are three national forests spread across the northern part of the state, including Apalachicola National Forest near Tallahassee, which offers trails for biking and hiking as well as great spots for fishing. The 1,500-mile-long Florida Trail is the state’s answer to the Appalachian Trail—it runs from the Florida Panhandle all the way down through Big Cypress National Preserve, passing through a variety of subtropical landscapes along the way. The state is also dotted with 700 natural springs, some of which you can snorkel in (keep an eye out for visiting manatees), and 175 state parks.
Of course, there’s lots to do on the ocean as well and you don't have to be in Miami or Tampa to do it. You can rent a boat, book a fishing charter, or snorkel and dive along the massive Florida Reef, which stretches 350 miles along the state’s southeastern coast and through the Florida Keys.
Late fall through early spring is generally the best time to visit; summers in Florida can be oppressively hot and humid. (Though keep in mind that northern Florida can get chilly in the winter.) Also beware of hurricane season, which stretches from June to the end of November. Expect an afternoon rain shower, but trust that it'll pass.
The cabins below will help you get a taste of everything Florida has to offer. For those used to dusty log cabins in the woods, you’ll notice that the picks below are decidedly beachy (think tile floors, airy spaces, lots of bright decor). Take a break from the knotty pine—this is Florida, after all.
Vibe: Family-style Beach House
Traveling in a group? The five-bed 30A Beach House has enough room for everyone. Renovated from top to bottom, it features a spacious full kitchen for cooking family meals and a big living room for movie nights and board games, plus a large porch and a gas grill, and a washer and dryer. But the best part is what’s outside: It’s just a five-minute walk to the public access beach, and Panama City isn't far if you need something from town.
Vibe: Historic Charmer
Places like this offer a level of architectural charm you’ll rarely find in a hotel. The Jesse is a restored 1903 cottage located right in the historic quarter of Pensacola. It has been fully renovated and boasts a modern kitchen, new floors, and a chic sitting area. Walk into town to explore Pensacola’s shops and restaurants, drive out to the barrier islands, charter a deep sea fishing adventure, and then unwind after it all with a cocktail on the home’s tiny-but-stately front porch.
Vibe: Backyard Beauty
Located on a wooded property with a nicely manicured yard, Southern Cross is the kind of rental you’ll be happy to check-in at after a day in the sun. The light-filled, tastefully decorated beach cabin features a full kitchen, a full bathroom, and a queen-sized bed tucked away in the bedroom. It’s just a half-mile ride to the beach (two bikes are included), and you’ll have access to a firepit and chairs right outside your door i.e. bring stuff for s'mores.
Vibe: Party House
You didn’t travel all the way to Florida to be subtle about your family vacation, so why not splurge on a private island getaway? Book this place. The pet-friendly cabin checks all the boxes for a delightfully over-the-top Florida-rustic vibe: Bamboo furniture, a thatched roof outdoor dining area, hundreds of beer bottles displayed in the kitchen. Kitsch aside, it also offers some great outdoor amenities, including hammocks, an outdoor shower, an open-air kitchen, a private beach, and your own Boston Whaler. Yes, you read that right—this house comes with a boat.
Vibe: Beachy Clean
Bright, white, and beachy, this home is a far cry from a backwoods cabin. It’s a great pick for exploring the Keys, and it offers a ton of space for a couple or a small group. Take in the sea breeze on the two covered porches, walk to nearby restaurants, or cool off in the pool. It also includes access to a dock, and there are charter fishing operations nearby if you want to try to catch your own dinner.
Vibe: Seeing Double
Couples’ trips work best when you’re not living on top of each other, so rent this pair of cozy cabins located side by side. You can’t beat the neighborhood—they’re parked right in the historic core of gorgeous Key West—and they feature full kitchens, full bathrooms, and a shady backyard that’s perfect for al fresco dining. There’s also an outdoor shower for rinsing the sand and salt off after a day at the beach and it's pet-friendly, too.
Vibe: Treehouse Sans Trees
This spacious Airbnb home serves up a treehouse aesthetic (minus the precarious climb up a ladder) thanks to its exposed wood beams and the large A-frame-style window in the bedroom. There’s plenty of room for a family or a group, and the beach is just a five-minute walk away. Better yet, the house is a short drive from historic St. Augustine, the oldest continually inhabited city in the U.S.
Vibe: Oceanside A-frame
You’d have to rent a boat to get closer to the ocean than this handsome cabin. It’s a classic A-frame design located steps from the beach, and it’s a stunner. The pet-friendly vacation rental comes with a full kitchen and bath, and the monochrome interior aesthetic keeps the focus on the incredible ocean views. Amenities include wifi, washer/dryer, air conditioning, and a queen bed plus two singles. The best perch might be from the bed in the loft: Imagine waking up every morning and looking straight out to the sea.
Vibe: Perched Above the Farm
Tired of the beach? Try this central Florida escape. It’s located on a quiet horse farm, and yes, you can feed the horses—the owners leave carrots in the fridge for that purpose. The treehouse design offers sweeping views of the adjacent fields, especially while sitting on the elevated deck. The bed is surrounded by windows that make it feel like you're sleeping in a screened porch, and there’s a full bathroom and kitchenette as well. There are a number of lakes and parks nearby and, yes, Disney World and the other Orlando theme parks are a short drive away, if you must.
Vibe: Tropical Oasis
Located on the Gulf Coast just south of Sarasota, this backyard Florida cabin rental packs a lot into a small package. It features a lofted bed, a kitchenette, a full bathroom with a shower, and even a small sitting area, and it’s located just steps from a heated pool. You’ll also have access to two bikes for cruising to the beach (two miles away), or you can walk to the owners’ dock to catch the sun setting over the Intracoastal Waterway.
Vibe: A-frame on the Water
This little A-frame may be the smallest cabin rental on this list but it's big on access to some amazing areas in the Sunshine State. That starts with the pond it's set on—one side of the A opens up, garage door style, so you can bring the breeze inside (there's a bug net if you want to sleep with it open). Farther afield, there's the expansive Ocala National Forest, and Silver Springs State Park offers glass bottom boat tours and opportunities to paddle with manatees. Take note that there's no air conditioning and wifi could be spotty—this rustic cabin is more of a glamping experience—but there is a zebra on the property. Yes, a zebra.