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Four Hidden Florida Vaction Spots

If you're already thinking ahead to fall and winter vacations, there's a good chance you're thinking Florida. But for all the popularity of such cold-weather destinations as Miami Beach and Key West, there are plenty of others that offer similar fun-in-the-sun diversions, but are slightly off the beaten tourist track.

Plus, there are those that offer an altogether different experience that defies the Jimmy Buffett-inspired, margarita-sipping Florida norm.

Here are four less-heralded Florida destinations to put on your radar for the months ahead.

Cudjoe Key

Located between the Bacchanalian burg that is Key West and the more humdrum locale of Marathon, Cudjoe Key is a slice of the Florida Keys as they were intended to be. That is, a nature-lovers paradise that feels like an American version of a desolate Caribbean isle.

Wherever you go, you're surrounded by water: the Atlantic Ocean to one side, the Gulf of Mexico to the other. But you're not surrounded by crowds: Cudjoe has no real shopping center whatsoever. In fact, there's barely much beyond houses and the occasional convenience store or run-down restaurant.

The focus here is on aquatic activity of all sorts: fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, you name it. But the best part is that if you're still in search of a "scene," be it bar-hopping or fine dining, Key West is still just an hour away.

Where to stay: You won't find many formal accommodations (hotels, B&Bs) in Cudjoe. But you will find lots of vacation rentals. One good source: the Century 21 Prestige Realty Group (305-745-3340), which handles dozens of rental units within Venture Out, an oceanfront community with a huge pool and other amenities. It's not particularly upscale, but the location can't be beat.
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