The Sunshine State is calling! If you need a break by the coast, maybe it’s time to stop dreaming of sand, sea, and sun, and start booking a real vacation. To help plan your seaside escape, check out our list of the best Florida beaches offering relaxation and recreation any time of year.
Visit These 20 Beautiful Florida Beaches
1. Clearwater Beach
This welcoming beach is nestled on a peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Offering warm gulf waters, sugar-white sand, and plentiful Florida sunshine, Clearwater Beach makes for prime seaside fun. It is cherished by families thanks to its gentle waves and wealth of nearby attractions like vibrant street performers, a paved trail for bicycling, and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Other popular activities include water sports like jet skiing and parasailing, as well as boat tours where dolphin sightings are common. If you’re craving good eats, you’re in luck since there are plenty of restaurants that range from swanky wine bars and steakhouses to cozy sandwich shops and pizza parlors.
2. Siesta Beach – Clearwater Beach
Swimmers flock to this 8-mile stretch of coastline to experience some of the finest and coolest sand in the state. Primarily composed of pure quartz crystals that easily reflect sunlight, the sand is chill in the literal sense—it retains its cool quality even when the weather is particularly hot and humid. That said, with its calm, warm waters and convenient facilities, Siesta Beach is a dreamy seaside destination. Located on Siesta Key, a barrier island situated minutes from the city of Sarasota, this beach is an ideal spot for families, especially since the shore area has fairly shallow water and lifeguards on duty during the summer season. In addition to amenities like picnic tables, changing rooms, and playgrounds, Siesta Beach is also great for beachcombing and kayaking.
3. Clearwater Beach
Sanibel Island is a barrier island on Florida’s southern Gulf Coast offering a serene escape for families and couples. Renowned for having an abundance of seashells, bird species, and “zero traffic lights” (seriously!), it’s an unforgettable place for a coastal getaway. Enjoy a relatively crowd-free beach trip without sacrificing the crystal-clear water and abundant sunlight that you’d expect from the Sunshine State. Sanibel is a delightful slice of paradise for anyone looking to relax. Not to mention, the island is a must-visit for seashell lovers! As for animal enthusiasts, swing by the Darling National Wildlife Refuge to view fascinating critters like crocodiles and endangered manatees.
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4. South Beach – Clearwater Beach
If it’s the bustling, eccentric Miami atmosphere you’re yearning for, don’t discount South Beach, which is colloquially known as SoBe. This famous Florida beach boasts typical crystal-blue Atlantic waters and bright white sand. Known also as the American Riviera, South Beach features A-list shopping, a buzzing nightlife, and stunning photo-worthy art and architecture inspired by the Streamline Moderne and Art Deco styles. If you’re up for a culinary adventure, check out one of many local breweries, wineries, and food tours. Moreover, look forward to lively annual events such as Miami Fashion Week, which is held in March; and Coconut Grove Arts Festival, a three-day exhibition in February showcasing the artwork of hundreds of international craftsmen and artists.
5. Caladesi Island State Park – Clearwater Beach
Looking for the polar opposite of colorful South Beach? Why not visit a secluded island accessible only by boat? Take a short ferry ride from nearby Honeymoon Island to experience the majestic Caladesi Island State Park. The island is home to some of the last unaltered coastlines in Florida. Swim in the balmy Gulf Coast waters, sunbathe on pristine sand, and witness an abundance of natural life while hiking or kayaking around the protected land and waters. If you’re up for al fresco dining, there are several picnic tables and shelters situated close to the beach, as well as picnic pavilions that can be reserved in advance for a fee. Whether exploring the dunes or snapping photos of gopher tortoises, you’re bound for a memorable trip at this state park.
6. Pensacola Beach – Clearwater Beach
Located on the Gulf Islands National Seashore along the Florida Panhandle, Pensacola Beach offers family fun and seaside recreation at its best. The cerulean waters of the gulf are bathtub-warm and ideal for swimming, boating, surfing, and snorkeling. You might even spot a sea turtle or dolphin! When you’re hankering for a bite to eat, check out the Pensacola Beach boardwalk, which highlights a bounty of charming shops and eateries with offerings like fresh seafood and fruity cocktails.
7. Fort de Soto Park – Clearwater Beach
Named one of USA Today’s best Florida beaches for families, Fort de Soto Park has earned many other accolades over the years. It also offers fun and relaxation to fit any family’s style. Whether you just want to unwind on the sandy beach or spend all day boating, swimming, and surfing, this park near St. Petersburg has it all. Additionally, Fort De Soto boasts abundant trails for biking, canoeing, and kayaking; as well as a kid-friendly tidal pool perfect for curious minds and future marine biologists.
8. Lovers Key State Park – Clearwater Beach
Tucked away on a barrier island between Naples and Fort Myers, Lovers Key State Park is a sanctuary for a wide array of wildlife, which includes bald eagles, bottlenose dolphins, manatees, and many more. The area is equally welcoming to humans, especially since it houses miles of pristine sand and warm turquoise waters that beckon visitors to swim, surf, and sunbathe. Fishers can look forward to seasonal catches like redfish, tarpon, and trout. If you can pull yourself away from the beach, spend an afternoon paddling a kayak around the calm waterways or embarking on a hiking adventure via nearby trails.
9. Pass-a-Grille Beach – Clearwater Beach
At the southern end of popular St. Pete Beach, you’ll find Pass-a-Grille Beach. The town of Pass-a-Grille is a quaint and historic beachside community with plenty of shopping opportunities and family-friendly activities. Noteworthy attractions include an outdoor art market, fishing piers, and tennis courts. As for restaurants, you can expect to enjoy a diverse selection of cuisines such as classic Italian and American comfort food. In addition to the requisite white sands and crystal-clear water, the beach boasts a stunning backdrop composed of palm trees and the Spanish-style Don CeSar Hotel in the distance.
10. Fort Lauderdale Beach – Clearwater Beach
Don’t panic: what was once a mecca for keg-toting spring breakers has calmed into a chic vacation destination showcasing high-end shopping and dining establishments. Visitors with a penchant for decently priced small plates and craft cocktails can take advantage of the bountiful happy hour specials at nearby bars and lounges. For a more low-key dining experience, opt for one of numerous casual cafes and weekend brunch spots. As for the coastline itself, Fort Lauderdale Beach features stretches of clean white sand and green-blue waters ideal for sunbathing and swimming. The iconic palm tree-lined promenade winds along the beachfront, which makes this spot great for walking, biking, rollerblading, or simply people-watching, all with a refreshing ice cream cone in hand.
11. Delray Beach
Offering two miles of Atlantic coastline, the charming small city of Delray Beach is part of the greater Miami metropolitan area. Sit back and relax on the warm sand, or head over to Delray Beach Watersports near Casurina Drive and the Seagate Beach Club to rent paddleboarding and snorkeling gear. When you’re ready to explore the downtown area, venture to the Pineapple Grove Arts District, a vibrant mix of art galleries, boutiques, local cafes, and salons. Keep in mind: a visit to Delray Beach is not complete until you swing by the famed Silverball Museum. The museum houses dozens of classic arcade games and vintage pinball machines that date back as far as the 1930s. Just pay admission upfront to enjoy unlimited games without tokens or quarters.
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12. Biscayne National Park – Key Biscayne
Situated in the northern area of the Florida Keys, Biscayne National Park spans more than 170,000 acres. Home to a mangrove swamp, coral limestone, and the Florida Reef, the park is composed of 95% water and effectively preserves the offshore barrier reefs of its eponymous bay. The park features diverse ecosystems with an array of tropical plants and endangered wildlife like Schaus’ swallowtail butterflies and hawksbill sea turtles. Experience Biscayne National Park intimately via snorkeling or embarking on a guided kayak or canoe trip. Certified scuba divers can arrange a private charter for transportation to various diving points along the reef.
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13. Cocoa Beach
If you’re a fan of land, sea, and space, then Cocoa Beach is a must-visit destination. In addition to a lively pier, miles of scenic shoreline, and waves perfect for surfing, Cocoa Beach boasts the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. At the space center, you can tour NASA’s launch headquarters and explore gigantic rockets and launch-pad areas, as well as engage with interactive spaceflight simulators. If you’re lucky and have phenomenal timing, you may even be able to witness a live launch.
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14. Jupiter Beach – Jupiter
When you’re vacationing with your dog in tow, you might want to take him or her along with you to enjoy the sand and surf. At Jupiter Beach on the southeastern coast of Florida, you can do just that! This pet-friendly beach allows dogs to roam off-leash at a designated area near Ocean Cay Park. There’s also a section of the shoreline where dogs are welcome to swim and frolic in the water.
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15. Venice Beach
A former farming and fishing community, this Sarasota County city has since evolved into a renowned beach destination along the white-sanded Gulf Coast. Look forward to spending your days sunbathing, swimming, boating, and shelling. Nicknamed the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World,” Venice Beach features a bounty of fossilized shark teeth hidden in the sand. You can also take a stroll on the pier, and bike around the Venetian Waterway Trail. Make way to the downtown area to admire picturesque northern Italian architecture and landscaped boulevards reminiscent of the city’s European namesake.
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16. Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach is where you can satisfy your love for motorsports and sandy Atlantic coastline. Famous for the annual Daytona 500 NASCAR race, this beach city attracts millions of tourists every year. In the fall, Daytona Beach hosts Biketoberfest, a yearly motorcycle rally. When you’re not attending a motorsports event, you can lounge on the beach; explore the arcades and rides on the boardwalk; or attend free summer concerts at the Daytona Beach Bandshell.
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17. St. George Island
Nestled in the northern Gulf of Mexico off the Florida Panhandle, St. George Island offers a 28-mile stretch of serenity. It exudes an authentic small-town atmosphere since the stringent building codes and low-density zoning laws bar the construction of high rises and chain stores. This pet-friendly barrier island is ideal for swimming and fishing, as well as wildlife viewing at the many marshes. Leashed pets are permitted on the nature trails, the campground, and the public shoreline that is situated outside the boundaries of the park beach. After settling into your cozy coastal cottage or luxury beach house, head out to sunbathe on the beach or dine at a local café.
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18. Panama City Beach
Enjoy the breathtaking Gulf Coast and white sand at Panama City Beach. Home to fishing piers, two protected nature preserves, and plentiful hiking trails, this waterfront town is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Spend an afternoon swimming with dolphins, whale watching, or touring the area by boat. When the sun sets, venture to the Panama City Beach Winery for a romantic date night, or go shopping at Pier Park. Other popular points of interest include the Shipwreck Island Waterpark, Coconut Creek Family Fun Park, and St. Andrews State Park.
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19. Jacksonville Beach
Part of northeastern Florida’s “First Coast” area, this resort city features a stunning coastline and fishing pier. The easygoing ambiance at this beach makes it the perfect place for a relaxing family-friendly getaway. From surfing to playing beach volleyball, there’s something fun for everyone at Jacksonville Beach. When you’re ready to step away from the sand, check out the Beaches Museum and History Park, or enjoy a day at Adventure Landing, the beloved local theme park.
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20. Henderson Beach State Park – Destin
Situated along the emerald waters of the gorgeous Gulf Coast, this state park boasts sugar-white sand that hails from the Appalachian Mountains. Made of fine granules of quartz crystal, the sand at Henderson Beach State Park is strikingly bright. Additionally, the park offers coastal scrub and beautiful sand dunes where a variety of birds and plants live. Visitors can go swimming, hiking, bicycling, and wildlife viewing. The campground area has an outdoor shower area where you can rinse off sand after spending a fun-filled day at the park.
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This article was written by Katie Vaughan.