From Pensacola to Key West, the Sunshine State is packed with unique destinations for book lovers.

<p>Courtesy of William Chrisant</p>

Courtesy of William Chrisant

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of an undiscovered bookstore.

The feeling of walking down a quaint, tree-lined downtown street and spotting a historic bookshop, or perhaps the anticipation of a famed author’s visit to a new book seller in town. Or maybe it’s a favorite stop on your Southern vacation each year: the cozy nook where you eagerly devour beach reads and spend hours immersed in the aisles, poring over titles.

Florida has no shortage of wondrous haunts for book lovers, from newer bookstore restaurant concepts to vibrant, longstanding shops that boast frequent author visits and robust writers’ groups. From the panhandle to the Florida Keys, here are some of the Sunshine State’s hottest bookstores and the reasons to add each of them to your bucket list.

Sundog Books

<p>Photo by Kennedy M. Feagan</p>

Photo by Kennedy M. Feagan

Seaside, Florida

With a prime location in the heart of Seaside—a picturesque, walkable beach town northwest of Panama City Beach—Sundog Books was founded alongside the town in the mid-1980s by owners Bob and Linda White, who originally opened the shop in a tiny plywood shack with a tin roof and sand-covered floor. Today, it’s grown into a thriving 1,800-square-foot shop with a strong independent streak, drawing repeat customers for its classics, new releases, thoughtful gifts, and star employee: the White’s playful cattle dog, Glover. Music fans won’t want to miss the funky record shop directly upstairs (Central Square Records) for vintage vinyl and scholarly t-shirts.

Books & Books

<p>Courtesy of Books and Books</p>

Courtesy of Books and Books

Coral Gables, Florida

The flagship store of five across South Florida, the original Books & Books location in upscale Coral Gables offers a literary haven for all who visit. The brainchild of Miami Beach native Mitchell Kaplan—who opened the store in 1982, then co-founded the now-renowned Miami Book Fair two years later—the store offers a curated selection of diverse offerings, as well as more than 300 author events per year and frequent high-profile visitors. Nestled in an elegant 1936 building, a highlight is the shop’s café and sunny, spacious courtyard that beckons visitors to stay awhile.

Hello Again Books

<p>Courtesy of Hello Again Books</p>

Courtesy of Hello Again Books

Cocoa Village, Florida

Perhaps the best kept secret along Florida’s Indian River is Cocoa Village: a spirited historic downtown just 15 minutes from Kennedy Space Center. Among its renaissance of hip restaurants, breweries, galleries and shops, Hello Again Books (established in 2020) brings a breath of fresh air with its boundless creativity, offering a bright, modern space with a floor made from pages of books and an archway built from novels. The women-owned store embraces community and inclusivity, with a wide selection of both used and new inventory and dynamic monthly events for all.

Story & Song Neighborhood Bookstore Bistro

<p>Courtesy of Story &amp; Song</p>

Fernandina Beach, Florida

In lovely Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island—the northernmost city on Florida’s Atlantic coast—time moves slowly. Shop owners greet visitors with friendly banter and the smell of southern cooking wafts from café windows. Once traipsed by pirates and Gilded Age millionaires, this enchanting island boasts an eclectic mix of establishments, including Story & Song Neighborhood Bookstore Bistro, a two-story bookstore and café founded in 2018. Nestled at the entrance of Amelia Park, the shop and its nonprofit foundation continually support local art with performances, teas and literary luncheons and more. A bonus? The shop’s expansive covered patio is the perfect place to savor brunch with a new tome.

Tombolo Books

<p>Courtesy of Tombolo Books</p>

Courtesy of Tombolo Books

St. Petersburg, Florida

Located just west of downtown St. Petersburg in the colorful, artistic Grand Central District, Tombolo Books opened in December 2019: a bright new shining star in a region where other beloved bookstores had closed. Named for a sandbar that connects an island to the mainland (a metaphor for the power of books to connect people and ideas), the female-owned indie bookstore has thrived since opening, offering an ongoing antidote to digital fatigue: book clubs, story hours, author events and legions of books from all genres. The shop also shares a courtyard with local beverage favorites Black Crow Coffee Co. and Squeeze Juice Works.

Key West Island Books

<p>Courtesy of Key West Island Books</p>

Courtesy of Key West Island Books

Key West, Florida

On author Ernest Hemingway’s beloved tropical island home at Florida’s southernmost tip (where he lived throughout the 1930s), a groovy little bookshop has served locals since 1976. Located one block off Key West’s storied Duval Street, Key West Island Books specializes in works by Key West and South Florida authors and churns out an impressive monthly schedule of author readings and book signings. A vast selection of books about local cuisine, history, travel and nature offers rare regional knowledge, and the shop’s resident pug, P.J., brings a relaxed, friendly vibe to all who stop in.

Writer’s Block

<p>Courtesy of Writer&amp;#39;s Block Bookstore</p>

Courtesy of Writer’s Block Bookstore

Winter Park, Florida

Bibliophiles in Central Florida have a special retreat along the posh, cultured main street of Winter Park: Writer’s Block Bookstore on Park Avenue has been attracting enthusiastic crowds since its opening in 2014. Located just 15 minutes northeast of downtown Orlando and an easy walk from the SunRail station, Winter Park’s romantic, brick-paved streets and small-town feel provide an intoxicating backdrop for this shop, which offers thousands of books and gifts, frequent author events and an outdoor covered patio with an espresso bar. A sister location is now open in downtown Winter Garden, just west of Orlando.

Oxford Exchange

<p>Courtesy of Oxford Exchange</p>

Courtesy of Oxford Exchange

Tampa, Florida

Making a home inside a renovated 1891 brick building across from what was once Henry B. Plant’s celebrated Tampa Bay Hotel, Oxford Exchange is much more than a bookstore. An elegant European-inspired business featuring a restaurant, bookstore, coworking space and event venue, the gathering spot is the vision of local brother-and-sister team Blake Casper and Allison Adams, who sought to revive their hometown with inspiration from travels overseas. Open since 2012, the sophisticated space features all the perks of a traditional bookstore along with the chance to dine in an art-filled dining room or a sun-drenched, glass-covered Conservatory. Grab a book and then a table.

Sunshine Book Co

<p>Photo by Beth Merrick</p>

Clermont, Florida

Downtown Clermont has experienced a revival in recent years. Known for generations as the gem of the hills, this city west of Orlando has retained its small-town feel—and has a family-owned downtown bookstore to go with it. Housed inside a sturdy 1915 restored home, Sunshine Book Co. is the vision of fifth-generation Floridian Beth Merrick, a Disney cast member who opened the store in 2021. Along with a diverse selection of books, the shop carries original boutique items made by local artists. Make sure to stop in during many of downtown Clermont’s events, like the weekly Farmers Market or monthly Wine Stroll festivities.

Rohi’s Readery

<p>Photo by Van Richardson</p>

West Palm Beach, Florida

For families looking for a space where all the world’s stories are celebrated, look no further than downtown West Palm Beach’s Rohi’s Readery: an award-winning children’s bookstore with cultural panache. Tucked on a cozy corner of the city’s popular mixed-use shopping and dining destination The Square, the bold and lively store opened in 2021 and carries books rich in themes of inclusion. Dedicated to critical literacy for all, the shop features a reading lounge and an array of ongoing free educational events each month. A highlight: the bookstore’s spectacular annual Diwali “The festival of lights” international celebration each October.

Midtown Reader

<p>Courtesy of Midtown Reader</p>

Courtesy of Midtown Reader

Tallahassee, Florida

In Tallahassee’s bustling Midtown neighborhood just north of downtown, hip dining options and boutiques abound. And the most intriguing business of all has operated in the neighborhood since 2016: Midtown Reader, the capital city’s only locally owned, independent bookstore selling new books. Boasting a diverse slate of cultural programming and literary events, the 1,000-square-foot shop offers a welcoming hot spot for literature in this two-university city. The bookstore also offers slices of sweetness with its very own in-house pie and coffee shop, Piebrary.

Vero Beach Book Center

<p>Courtesy of Vero Beach Book Center</p>

Courtesy of Vero Beach Book Center

Vero Beach, Florida

In the delightful seaside city of Vero Beach along Florida’s eastern coast, a unique book shop has flourished since 1975, when entrepreneurs Tom and Linda Leonard decided the region deserved a high-quality bookstore. Now located in a two-story, seashell-pink building just steps from its original location, the grand and spacious Vero Beach Book Center offers a wonderland of fiction and books for all ages and imaginative, high-quality children’s gifts. Frequent author events and book signings bring excitement to this coastal shop, located along the city’s Miracle Mile shopping district just minutes from the seashore.

Barrel of Books and Games

<p>Photo by Jen Ross</p>

Mount Dora, Florida

An adorable town northwest of Orlando known for its antiques, Mount Dora radiates quintessential American charm. As if dreamed up by Norman Rockwell himself, its downtown is beautifully preserved and offers front porches with rocking chairs, quaint restaurants and walkable streets. And in the heart of its downtown is Barrel of Books and Games: a mainstay that has served local readers since 2011. Located in a stately building on Donnelly Street and owned by the town’s mayor, Crissy Stile, the shop offers traditional literary fare, book signings, ongoing events and an impressive array of nostalgic games for all ages.

The Hidden Lantern Bookstore

<p>Courtesy of The Hidden Lantern Bookstore</p>

Courtesy of The Hidden Lantern Bookstore

Rosemary Beach, Florida

The idyllic beach community of Rosemary Beach along Florida’s Emerald Coast is unique in its upscale mix of New Urbanism and West Indies style — and draws well-heeled vacationers who crave literary inspiration with their white sand beaches. Open since 2011, The Hidden Lantern Bookstore offers visitors everything they need with its curated selection of 15,000 books, distinctive gifts and a spacious children’s section. Find a book and sink into one of the shop’s comfortable blue couches to enjoy the ambiance. Frequent story hours and book signings are also scheduled throughout the year.

William Chrisant and Sons’ Old Florida Book Shop

<p>Courtesy of William Chrisant</p>

Courtesy of William Chrisant

Dania Beach, Florida

In a humble shopping plaza west of Interstate 95 in Dania Beach (a small beach town in Greater Fort Lauderdale), a treasure trove of books awaits at William Chrisant and Sons’ Old Florida Book Shop, where the elder Chrisant has spent decades building a magnificent old-world bookstore. Packed floor to ceiling with more than 50,000 antiquarian books, the store specializes in old books, rare maps, vintage magazines and more. The setting is so other-worldly that the store has become a hot spot for photo shoots and gatherings. If you’re looking for an antique favorite or special edition, this is the place to find it.

The BookMark

<p>Photo by Brittany Henderson</p>

Photo by Brittany Henderson

Neptune Beach, Florida

Half a block from the ocean in sunny Neptune Beach, the independent bookstore The BookMark has prospered since 1990. Under owner Rona Brinlee’s guidance, the shop has grown through the decades, offering visitors a full-service bookstore with a highly trained staff and a busy schedule of year-round author visits. An inviting store with big windows, locals pop in frequently for the shop’s “staff picks” highlighted throughout the store, inspired journals and puzzles and an inventive children’s section.

The Island Bookshop

<p>Photo by John Shaw</p>

Venice, Florida

A laid-back waterfront city north of Fort Myers, the city’s historic downtown (on what locals call “Venice Island”) boasts an independent bookstore that has earned rave reviews since its opening in 2021. The longstanding dream of local university professors Aimee Carol Odette and Michael Garnet Rank, The Island Bookshop showcases the work of local authors and offers monthly events, a “Words and Wine” book club and best sellers for readers for all ages. From poetry and cooking to science fiction and mysteries, you’re sure to find it at this relaxed refuge for readers.

The Dancing Elephant

<p>Photo by Anna Zywczyk</p>

Lake Worth Beach, Florida

Lake Worth Beach’s newest downtown bookstore The Dancing Elephant debuted in 2022 when young entrepreneur Shane Logan, then 24, used investment earnings from years of work as a valet parking attendant to open the shop. Located in a renovated 1923 storefront along the bohemian city’s historic Lake Avenue, the idea started with the purchase of inventory from a closing New Age bookstore, then evolved to include an eclectic mix of books on a variety of topics, including history, art and architecture. The shop also carries crystals, jewelry, and hard-to-find gifts.

Bodacious Bookstore and Café

<p>Courtesy of Bodalicious Bookstore and Cafe</p>

Courtesy of Bodalicious Bookstore and Cafe

Pensacola, Florida

One of the westernmost cities in the Florida panhandle and only 13 miles from Alabama, Pensacola offers rich history and a charming waterfront downtown where boutiques and restaurants inhabit history-filled 19th century buildings. Open since 2019, the Bodacious Bookstore and Café provides local bibliophiles and university students with a downtown hideout to browse, grab a cup of Bodacious Brew and curl up with a new release. A well-kept children’s section and weekly story time are a welcome addition for families, as well as the shop’s prime location in the heart of downtown.

Femme Fire Books

<p>Photo by Vanessa Nicolle</p>

Jacksonville, Florida

Navy veteran Vanessa Nicolle’s original concept for Femme Fire Books started as an online bookstore while on active duty in 2020 that quickly gained a loyal Instagram following. A desire to help diversify the publishing industry inspired her to open a brick-and-mortar location two years later in Jacksonville’s walkable Riverside neighborhood. Situated inside a sublime cottage with brightly painted yellow doors, the store celebrates diversity in literature and has quickly become a favorite with locals for its unique, curated approach.

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