World-class beaches surrounded by the Atlantic and Gulf Coast, plus year-round sunshine? It’s no wonder the Florida coast is booming! But, how do you pick from 825 miles of white sand beaches and warm water?
We’re going to help you out and share the best beaches in Florida and everything you need to know about picking your perfect beach destination in the Sunshine State.
From family-friendly beaches to a party beach town, there’s something for everyone! Looking to go fishing, jet skiing, or just relax on the sand? Florida beaches offer fun for all.
1. St. Pete Beach
St. Pete Beach takes up the entirety of Long Key Island. Most people fly into St. Petersburg or Tampa International Airport, then commute to the one-of-a-kind island via rental car, taxi, van, or bus. Once part of the larger city–St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach became a separate municipality in 1957.
Over the years, the beach has gained popularity amongst tourists looking for an uncrowded waterfront within a reasonable distance of lively attractions. For instance, St. Pete Beach is a mere 28 miles from Downtown Tampa’s busy nightlife. This lowkey Florida vacation spot consists of three public beaches–Pass-a-Grille, Upham, and County.
The three parks occupy the longest span of undeveloped land in their region, making for peaceful and spacious waterfronts. Visitors will also find restrooms, showers, and water fountains along each beach. Pass-a-Grille and Upham also have food available. Regardless of the park you visit, there are plenty of fun things to do nearby!
Things to Do
- Walk around Corey Avenue and find an abundance of shopping, restaurants, and friendly faces.
- Check out The Don CeSar, a towering pink resort. It’s known as Florida’s Pink Palace and it’s visible from most of St. Pete. Constructed in 1928, the historic building has served as an affluent resort, WWII army hospital, VA Headquarters, and the backdrop of notorious movies like Once Upon a Time in America.
2. Clearwater Beach
Considered one of the top beaches for relaxing, Clearwater Beach is a well-known public waterfront located off the Gulf of Mexico and accessible via the I-75/I-275. Despite the beach’s popularity, it was once a simple island.
In the early 1900s, Colonel Tate bought the southern half of the island for $200 while L. H. Malone and C. B. Bouton purchased the northern half for $175. They added a pier and bathhouses for recreational use, but the beach was only accessible by ferry. A few years later, a wooden bridge connected the beach to the rest of the city, prompting the first hotel’s construction. Since then, the Memorial Causeway has replaced the wooden bridge and numerous hotels have welcomed multiple locals and tourists.
Visitors can enjoy watersports like jet skiing, parasailing, and beach volleyball. The beach also has restrooms, picnic areas, bike racks, and lifeguards.
Things to Do
- Stroll Pier 60–a 1080-foot pier with pavilions, fishing rentals, concession stands, telescopes, entertainment, and nightly sunset celebrations.
- Visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a rehabilitation refuge with multiple exhibits, boat tours, and hands-on experiences.
3. Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key
Bahia Honda Beach is just off mile Marker 37 in the Florida Keys. This tropical-feeling key is accessible from US Route 1 and the Overseas Highway.
In 1912, the Florida East Coast Railway connected Bahia Beach and the other Key West islands to Florida’s mainland. When the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane destroyed the railway, it was simply paved with asphalt and renamed the Overseas Highway.
Although the highway’s name and build are different, it’s still filled with spectacular views of Florida’s glittering waters. After making the scenic drive to Bahia Honda State Park, delight in one of Florida’s most charming clear water beaches, complete with restrooms, changing stations, showers, a concession, and picnic pavilions.
Things to Do
- Camp out in your tent or RV at the state park.
- Have fun at the park with various activities such as exploring nature trails, fishing, and kayaking on the beach.
- Head to the Bahia Honda Bridge during sunset to watch stars illuminate the shoreline. Bahia Honda is the darkest location in the Keys and the perfect place to stargaze.
4. Siesta Key Beach
Siesta Key Beach is on Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast and is only accessible by the Siesta Key North or Stickney Point Bridge. Take I-75 and get off on Exit 205 or 207. Upon arrival, you’ll quickly see why it’s considered one of the best beaches in Florida.
Situated on a once-secluded island, Captain Louis Roberts, E.M. Arbogast, and Harry Higel transformed Siesta Key into a pristine community. Together, they constructed lodging, roads, and the first bridge, bringing attention to the beach.
The popular white sand beach now has 12 access points open to the public and is especially busy during spring and summer. Fortunately, Siesta Key’s 8-mile stretch of enticing beachfront leaves plenty of room for everyone to enjoy themselves!
The beach also provides picnic pavilions, lifeguards, a playground, volleyball nets, concession stands, restrooms, and beach wheelchairs. Considered one of the best family beaches in Florida, the free Siesta Key Breeze Trolley makes it easy to explore the area.
Things to Do
- Peruse the boutiques, bars, restaurants, and shops at Siesta Key Village.
- Dance around the beach drum circle before sunset. Every Sunday, artists, dancers, musicians, locals, and tourists gather at the beach’s main access point.
5. Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel Island
Located on Sanibel Island, between Fort Myers and Captiva, Bowman’s Beach Park is Sanibel’s most prominent waterfront. Although well-known, its secluded location is set away from hotels and other attractions. Therefore, the beach is less lively than others but perfect for peace-seekers.
To get to the beach, take I-75 to Exit 131, turn onto Summerlin Road. Then, get on the Sanibel Island Causeway. Once you arrive, you’ll be surprised to know Sanibel Island saw no permanent settlers until after the Civil War. Since then, it’s become one of Florida’s most alluring cities frequented by politicians, authors, and celebrities.
The Pulitzer-prize winner Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling had the largest impact on the region. Darling fought to preserve Sanibel’s ecosystem and eventually helped establish the JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Sanibel Island’s focus on preservation explains Bowman’s lack of infrastructure but oh-so tranquil atmosphere.
Although isolated, the public beach has abundant amenities, including restrooms, outdoor showers, changing rooms, and oversized vehicle parking. You can also find barbecue grills, picnic tables, nature trails, and canoe/kayak launching.
Things to Do
- Go shelling! Unlike most islands, Sanibel’s shore sits east to west, but the water runs south to north. Therefore, the current often leaves behind stunning seashells.
- Visit the JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The exhibit contains a wildlife drive, interactive exhibits, and hands-on activities.
6. Lummus Park Beach, South Beach
There’s a good chance you’ve seen Lummus Park Beach in a movie or on a postcard. This beautiful beach spans 10 miles across the Atlantic Ocean and Miami’s famous Ocean Drive, between 5th Street and 14th Place.
If you’re coming from Miami International Airport, expect a half-hour commute to Lummus Park. There’s an abundance of transportation services frequently driving to and from South Beach. If you already reside in Miami, reach the beach via one of the four causeways: MacArthur, Venetian, Julia Tuttle, or John F. Kennedy.
Lummus Beach’s famous white sand, mineral-colored watered, and Miami-feel attract plenty of visitors. Luckily, the public beach contains 74 beachy yet urban acres to spread out on. The park also includes two outdoor gyms, playgrounds, restrooms, volleyball courts, water fountains, paved trails, and pavilions.
Lummus Park wasn’t always South Beach’s most spirited region. In the early 1900s, Miami brothers, James and John Lummas, purchased 400 acres of less than promising farmland. A few years later, the Lummus brothers sold their farmland and it became the Lummus Beach we know and love today!
Things to Do
- Find nostalgia at the Art Deco Historic District. Located between 5th and 23rd Street, you’ll recognize the district by its bright, retro, and pastel infrastructure.
- Visit the Time Out Market, just 0.9 miles north of Lummus Beach. You’ll come across 24 restaurants, eight bars, lively music, and endless shopping opportunities.
7. Fort Lauderdale Beach
Fort Lauderdale Beach is on Florida’s east coast, just off the Atlantic Ocean. Most visitors fly into the Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. From there, they take US Route 1 north via rental car, taxi, or bus to the SE 17th Causeway/FL-A1A, into the busy city, and onto the public beach.
Before Fort Lauderdale became a trendy beach, it was a WWII US Naval Base. After the war, soldiers relocated their families to the area, increasing the population. By 1970, Fort Lauderdale ran out of room for development, resulting in the region’s suburbs. As families moved to the suburbs, the beach attracted a different crowd and became especially loved by young kids.
In the late 1980s, college kids flocked to Fort Lauderdale to party. While it still has attractive nightlife, the region has transformed into a versatile beachfront with fun activities for everyone. On-site amenities include grills, picnic tables, daytime lifeguards, outdoor showers, and restrooms. Get active at the basketball court, volleyball court, and playground.
If you’re interested in fishing, take an off-shore fishing tour or fish on your own at night or early morning.
Things to Do
- Dubbed the “Venice of America,” don’t miss a gondola ride through the famous canals situated on Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway.
- Bike through the Riverwalk off Las Olas Boulevard on the banks of New River. The regional park consists of breathtaking views, restaurants, museums, and more.
- Enjoy the beach with your dog in the Canine Beach area.
8. Pensacola Beach
Pensacola Beach is on Santa Rosa Island off the Florida coast. Finding the public oceanfront is simple as the Pensacola Bay Bridge is accessible from the 1-10, 1-65, US-98, and I-110.
Once you arrive, you’ll learn why Pensacola’s year-round sunshine and bright white sand have always been popular. As soon as the 1931 causeway was complete, multiple locals and tourists flocked to the Gulf Coast beach. The region’s first recreational center, Pensacola Beach Casino, regularly hosted boxing matches, beauty pageants, fishing tournaments, and much more.
Today, Pensacola Beach is just as cherished. Energized yet tranquil–there’s plenty to see and do for everyone who visits. During your stay, you can find restrooms, showers, grills, picnic tables, and lifeguards along the beachfront.
Things to Do
- Go parasailing over the emerald water for a unique view of Santa Rosa Island. Find parasailing services on the Pensacola Beach boardwalk.
- Go fishing from the Pensacola Beach Pier.
- Conveniently located just 9 miles west of the beachfront, the Fort Pickens historic military fort is a must-see.
Navarre Beach is east of Pensacola on the northwestern part of Florida’s panhandle. It’s positioned off of US-98 and State Road 87 and is accessible from either highway.
Founders Colonel Wyman and his French wife named the land after a Spanish territory near France. Unfortunately, Wyman couldn’t keep his land through The Great Depression. He sold it to Santa Rosa County, who kept the name, Navarre.
Navarre is now one of Florida’s fastest-growing communities, yet one of the least crowded Florida beaches. Not only is there plenty of unoccupied shores, but Navarre Beach also has the longest pier in Florida and on the Gulf of Mexico at 1,545 feet long. A walk down the pier provides visitors with an unmatched view of the Gulf Coast.
In addition to a peaceful waterfront and the longest beach pier, the public beach has restrooms, showers, beach wheelchairs, pavilion rentals, and lifeguards.
Things to Do
- Visit the Sea Turtle Conservation Center on the beach. The center features a 15,000-gallon pool that’s home to Sweet Pea, the rescue.
- Snorkel at one of Navarre Beach’s artificial reefs to swim alongside sea turtles, jellyfish, and other colorful sea creatures.
10. Henderson Beach State Park
Henderson Beach State Park is in Northwest Florida off the Gulf Coast. Finding the beach is as easy as taking the I-10 or I-75 to Route 98 then continuing until Henderson Beach Road. Eventually, you’ll find one of the best-kept Florida Gulf Coast beaches.
Formerly owned by Burney M. Henderson, he sold the park to Florida in 1983. Eight years later, the land became part of the Save Our Coast program and opened as a state park. Preservation methods closely protect the region’s ecosystem, so don’t be surprised if you see intriguing birds enjoying the view alongside you or dolphins leaping from the ocean!
Despite its busy wildlife, the beach is less busy than other Emerald Coast waterfronts. The park includes beach wheelchairs, picnic pavilions, grills, restrooms, showers, and a playground.
Things to Do
- Hike the 0.75-mile nature trail that weaves through sand dunes and native scrub.
- Camp at one of the park’s 60 sites. The tent or RV camps provide water and electrical hookups, grills, picnic tables, an indoor bathroom with showers, a central dump station, and washers and dryers.
11. Grayton Beach State Park, Santa Rosa Beach
Grayton Beach State Park is located south of US-98, along Florida’s notorious 30A highway, nestled between Panama City Beach and Destin. The land was granted to the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials in 1965 and officially opened in 1968.
Over the years, Florida acquired more land for the park, eventually resulting in the current 2,000-acre region complete with picnic pavilions, picnic tables, restrooms, a boat ramp, and beach wheelchairs. During your visit to Grayton’s beachfront, you’ll likely find multiple campers, Floridian wildlife, and an awe-striking sunset if you stick around!
Truly a nature lover’s paradise, this park is perfect for anyone seeking a unique oceanside experience. Like most of Florida’s state parks, the land is well-preserved and filled with outdoor fun for everyone.
Things to Do
- Hike or bike a 4.5-mile trail through the forest filled with native shrub alongside the massive dune lake called Western Lake.
- Snorkel through the Underwater Museum of Art–the US’s first-ever underwater sculpture garden that serves as a habitat for marine life.
12. Cocoa Beach
Access Cocoa Beach via the I-95 South’s 205A exit. The exit leads to Route 528, also known as the Beachline. Eventually, the Beachline turns into A1A and drops drivers off right on beautiful Cocoa.
In recognition of Cocoa’s potential, attorney Gus Edwards bought and developed Cocoa Beach in the 1920s. Eventually, the developed region became a city but didn’t gain popularity until the rise of America’s space program. In the sixties, the Kennedy Space Center was built near the beach, welcoming the program’s employees.
Cocoa’s bright coastal landscape quickly began attracting families and still does. Only one hour from Disneyworld, families often head to the beach to relax after a tiring week at the amusement park.
Spanning 6 miles, visitors can choose from Cocoa Beach’s four public oceanside parks: Alan Shephard, Sidney Fisher, Lori Wilson, or Robert P. Murkshe. The parks’ amenities include restrooms, showers, picnic tables, kids’ playgrounds, a heated public swimming pool, tennis complex, and skate park, and weekend lifeguards.
Things to Do
- Westgate Beach Pier is the best way to experience Cocoa. It’s filled with live music, shopping, fishing, and much more.
- Visit the Kennedy Space Center to learn more about its influence on the region, see historic spacecrafts, partake in exhibits, and witness a space launch!
13. Crandon Park, Key Biscayne
Situated on South Florida’s Atlantic Coast, Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park is easily accessible from Miami via the Rickenbacker Causeway.
The 2-mile stretch of sandy beachfront is considered a must-see for Miami vacationers. It’s equipped with boat ramps, concessions, docks, facility rentals, picnic pavilions, restrooms, and tennis courts. There’s also a marina, nature center, and trails.
Although beach access is free, the waterfront feels like an affluent vacation spot. Visitors often boast about Crandon’s cabana rentals, complete with a private shower and parking spot. A short 10 minutes from Miami, a cabana on one of the best Florida beaches seems like the perfect escape from the busy city.
Visitors can thank the Matheson family for Crandon Beach. In the 1940s, the Matheson’s donated their former coconut plantation to Miami-Dade county, under the condition it became a park. Crandon is now one of the best-preserved beaches with an abundance of unique outdoor activities for everyone to enjoy!
Things to Do
- Get cozy with Key Bisycane’s sea creatures through a guided snorkel tour at Biscayne National Park.
- Spend the day at Crandon’s golf course. The facility overlooks the sparkling Atlantic coast and is rated a top 10 course.
14. George Island State Park Beach, St. George Island
Located in northwestern Florida, St. George Island State Park is accessible via the I75/I10 and Bryant Patton Memorial Bridge.
In addition to boundless beaches, St. George Island also has a rich history. The island has been the site of a British explorer’s shipwreck, used for WWII training, and even harvested for turpentine. Florida acquired the exclusive piece of land in 1963 and officially opened it as a state park in 1980.
George Island State Park has beach wheelchairs, picnic pavilions, a kids’ playground, restrooms, and showers. However, the beach’s night sky is by far the most impressive. Saturn, Jupiter, the Milky Way, and the International Space Station are visible from the secluded beach. Find the park’s observation platform and witness them for yourself!
While the waterfront doesn’t see as much excitement as its early days, its rich landscape provides a peaceful Gulf Coast getaway.
Things to Do
- After a night of stargazing, head back to the observation platform during the day to birdwatch. St. George is home to nearly 300 different birds, including rare and endangered species.
- Visit the St. George Island Lighthouse Museum and learn more about the Island’s rich history and enduring lighthouse!
15. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Key West
Fort Zachary Taylor’s Beach is located on the southern portion of Key West and is accessible from US-1. A Florida jewel and National Historical Monument, Fort Zachary Taylor is one of the best beaches in Florida for history.
The park provides guests with beach wheelchairs, picnic tables, grills, concessions, showers, and restrooms. Aside from complimentary amenities, visitors can delve into the park’s rich history or voyage the nature trail to learn why the region is a state and national treasure.
If you plan on swimming, bring along your water shoes! The beloved beach is symbolic of a river because of its rocky bottom. Although we suggest water shoes, you can ditch the goggles. Fort Zach’s water is as clear as glass.
Things to Do
- Tour Fort Zachary Taylor to see the world’s largest collection of Civil War armament, and learn what role the park played in the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
- Snorkel or scuba dive alongside tropical fish like parrotfish, lobsters, and more.
Escape to One of the Best Beaches in Florida
Beaches in Florida are amongst the best vacation spots in the country and the world. Not only is the Sunshine State’s vibrant landscape incredible, but it also offers a memorable beach experience for everyone.
We hope this guide to the best Florida vacation spots helps you find the perfect beach destination!