As a native-born Floridian, it was sometimes hard not taking all the beautiful beaches and scenery for granted growing up. I grew up living less than 20 or so minutes from the beach, often not thinking about how many people dream of visiting or living there!
Most of our friends post pictures on Facebook and Instagram with #ILiveWhereYouVacation in the captions, bragging about a place they were born into by chance, not by choice. But many of them have chosen to stay there because it really is one of the most unique landscapes on Earth.
Between the Everglades (a location and environment unlike any other in the US) and the largest amount of coastline of any state, Florida has plenty to offer, especially for couples looking to elope. Although my husband and I now live in Colorado (mountains make my heart sing!), we had a beautiful wedding in Florida and I fly back a few times a year to photograph other weddings and elopements there.
Today I wanted to feature some of my personal favorites (and bucket-list places I have yet to go to!) in my home state that would make for perfect places to elope in Florida.
Please note: be sure to check with all local parks, national forests, and/or municipalities regarding permits that may be required before eloping to one of these locations.
Located in the middle of the Gulf Coast side of Florida, Tampa Bay has SO many unique spots for couples to elope. The obvious and popular choices are mostly beaches like St. Pete Beach, Redington Beach, Fort De Soto, or Clearwater Beach, but I also have a few lesser known favorites that most tourists from out of state don’t know about.
It’s also where my hometown of St. Petersburg is located, with a booming downtown scene along the bay on one side and a bunch of local beach bars and drop-dead-gorgeous sunsets on the other!
The Florida Keys
If you’re looking for the ultimate tropical paradise vibe for your elopement, Key West and the other Florida Keys need to be on your list of considerations. Granted, it is a very popular spot for tourists from all over the world, but you can avoid most of the crowds (and summer heat) by visiting between March and May when most “snowbirds” have left but before hurricane season begins.
The Keys have dozens of islands, so although many people end up at the southernmost tip in Key West, many of the other towns and resorts in the area may offer more seclusion and intimacy for an elopement while still giving you plenty of dolphin sightings, palm trees, and oceanside views.
Of all the gorgeous places in Florida, I’m still shocked I haven’t been here myself. But I can only imagine how perfect the oldest city in the US would be for a destination elopement. Filled to the brim with historic buildings and significance dating back to the 1500s, it’ll make any history-buff or architect lover’s heart sing. And with the beaches of this town being on the East coast, you can start your elopement off with an intimate and calming sunrise ceremony.
No, seriously. While the bigger cruiselines are less eco-friendly and more crowded (think: not so intimate or private for elopements), you can take smaller boats, catamarans or other ships out onto the open water to elope. However, this may not be best for the faint of heart, since the movement of waves can make people seasick (like me, but motion sickness medicine taken in advance works wonders!).
But if you’re at all up for it, you can have some of the best views of the ocean without strangers walking behind you during your ceremony on the beach, and even get a chance to do some fishing, snorkeling or scuba diving during your elopement!
PS – I even dabble in underwater photography, so we could combine both above and BELOW water for your elopement!
Destin + Pensacola
If you’ll be traveling in from nearby states like Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana, cities like Destin or Pensacola on the panhandle may be easiest for you to access. Just like beaches farther down the Gulf Coast, you’ll still have the opportunity to see some beautiful wildlife, colorful sunsets, and relaxing scenery.
Florida isn’t just a tropical paradise out in the wild. It’s also got some of the most stunning botanical gardens in the country — and the best part? They’re almost always open year-round! This means you don’t have to worry as much about winter weather killing off some of the pretty greenery you’ll want in your photo backdrops, and you can have a much more flexible schedule than in other states.
Some of the best botanic gardens in Florida include:
- Sunken Gardens, St. Petersburg
- Florida Botanical Gardens, Largo
- Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota
- Naples Botanical Garden
- Mounts Botanical Garden, Palm Beach
- Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales
- Miami Beach Botanical Garden
You can even have a ceremony at a botanical garden followed up with a sunset session for your elopement at one of the nearby beaches! The best of both worlds.
Luxury Resorts and Hotels
For something a bit more upscale than the usual elopement locations in Florida, there are countless four and five star hotel resorts across the state. Just to name a few: Ritz-Carlton Naples, The Don Cesar, and the Vinoy are all great options I’ve personally been to!
On the Gulf Coast, The Ringling is one of my favorite locations, although I have yet to photograph an elopement there (you could be the first!). The architecture alone is by far more unique than hundreds of others in Florida. It’ll make you feel like you’re not even in the US, and has a variety of unique backdrops and gardens to explore. The Ringling is also in the heart of Sarasota, so you’re super close to the beaches, St. Armand’s Circle (where a friend of mine owns an adorable boutique!), and tons of other activities.
If you’re not just looking for a pretty backdrop of sand and sea, but also love tall trees, open fields, and wildlife, here are some of my personal favorite parks and trails to consider for something a bit more adventurous (and often far more secluded/private than everything else on this list):
- Boyd Hill Nature Preserve
- Big Cypress National Preserve
- Fort De Soto Park
- Kelly Park/Rock Springs
- Rainbow Springs State Park
- Paynes Prairie
- Blowing Rocks Preserve
These are some of my favorite areas because some of the coolest wildlife (birds, alligators, dragonflies, etc) live there. Many people also don’t know about the state’s landscape, which includes limestone: creating dozens of great cold springs with the clearest water you’ve ever seen!
Hire an Elopement Photographer in Florida — Who’s From There!
Knowing all the ins and outs of such a big state like Florida for eloping couples takes time. Not only was I born there, but I lived in Florida for over 20 years and still come back every year. Talk to me today about setting up an intimate elopement or destination wedding for you and your soulmate!