The Gulf Coast of Florida's warm waters and beautiful beaches attract spring breakers, snowbirds, and families from all over. With popular beaches spanning the entire coastline of the Gulf of Mexico, there are lovely beaches worth checking out, whether you're close to the state's panhandle or further south near the Everglades.
1. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park - North Naples
This 199-acre state park just north of Naples is home to unspoiled, gorgeous beaches and an array of other outdoor activities. With a wide variety of plant and animal life, Delnor-Wiggins is a great destination for wildlife and plant enthusiasts, as well as watersport fans. Its clear blue waters are not only great to look at but perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. Active beach goers can rent kayaks or take a boat at using one of the park's boat launch. If you plan to stay on land, make sure to lookout for the beautiful shells that the tide carries to shore.
2. Caladesi Island State Park - Dunedin
North of Clearwater Beach sits Caladesi, a beautiful island off of the Gulf Coast. Grab your swimsuit and leave the car behind when you takeoff to the island, as it it's only accessible by car and ferry. For those looking for some action, bring your hiking shoes to explore its scenic trails, walk along the wooden boardwalks for sand-free strolling, or opt to stay near the water by paddling through the park's three-mile kayak trail. The island is sheltered by Honeymoon Island, so the waters off the beach are placid and clear and excellent for children or inexperienced swimmers. For the cherry on top, visitors don't have to worry about packing snacks, as food and drink can be purchased on the island.
3. Clam Pass County Park - Naples
Situated in North Naples is Clam Pass, a park that sprawls across 35 acres of mangrove forest and coastal dunes still inhabited by the smaller species of Florida wildlife. The beach is over half a mile long with shallow water and gentle waves, making it a great beach to enjoy with children. A beach concession offers food, drinks and beach equipment rentals, including kayaks, canoes, windsurfers and catamarans. A handicapped beach wheelchair can also be rented at the concession stand, for those in need. The park's free tram, which runs all day, makes getting from one end of the park to another easy. For those that arrive via car, parking is $8, though the beach itself does not charge admission.
4. Clearwater Beach - Clearwater
The stunning, sprawling, and very popular Clearwater Beach sits off the coast of Clearwater. Its lovely sand and flat terrain make it the perfect place for children to run around and the perfect place for a fun game of paddleball or volleyball, as many beach volleyball tournaments are held on the beach every year. If you're not too tired after a long day in the sun, head to Sunset at Pier 60, a nightly festival where locals and tourists gather to watch the sunset. Ready to plan your visit? Schedule your trip for September to catch the famous Super Boat National Championship, October for the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, or visit in the spring to catch a Philadelphia Phillies spring training baseball game.
5. Crescent Beach - Siesta Key
Image Credit: Florida Flight Training Center
The gorgeous, white sands and stunning blue waters of Siesta Key's Crescent Beach have earned it the title as not only one of the nicest beaches on the Gulf but in the U.S. This public beach is popular for its quiet, secluded feel. At the southern most part of the beach is Point of Rocks, an area popular among snorkelers and divers for its coral formations and marine life. Here's a fun fact for you: in 1987, Crescent Beach was named to have "The World's Finest, Whitest Sand™" at the Great International Sand Challenge in 1987!
6. Fort De Soto Park - St Petersburg
This picturesque Fort De Soto Park spans five keys off the shore of St. Petersburg. The islands were once used for military fortifications, hence its name. With over 1000 acres for its visitors to explore, the park truly is home to an abundance of natural beauty and things to do. Birdwatchers can look out for the whopping 328 species of birds that inhabit the islands and beach goers should keep an eye out for the loggerhead sea turtles that nest on the beaches from early spring to late summer. With canoe trails, nature trails, white sand beaches, sheltered picnic areas, boat launches, playgrounds, camping sites, and more, it's impossible to feel bored while visiting Fort De Soto Park.
7. Grayton Beach State Park - Grayton Beach
Grayton Beach is located on the Emerald Coast of the Florida panhandle, named for its clear, emerald green water. The mile-long beach boasts white sand and is excellent for swimming and sunbathing. Development near the beach is restricted so the beach remains a choice birding and hiking location. Canoe and kayak rentals are available, as is a boat ramp to launch your own watercraft. Visitors opting to visit off-season in the autumn can see thousands of monarch butterflies migrating south toward Mexico. Continue the fun by stopping by YOLO Board to rent stand up paddle boards and surf boards and end the day relaxing at the pet and child friendly Grayton Beer Company taproom for some delicious local, craft beer.
8. Panama City Beach and Pier - Panama City Beach
Like many of the Gulf's beaches, Panama City Beach is characterized by white sand and an extremely wide expanse of calm, shallow water, which attract more than 300,000 people each year, mainly in the spring and summer. To avoid the mad rush of spring breakers, it's best to plan your trip for the fall, when the crowds have gone and the water is still warm. Scuba divers and snorkelers can check out the natural and artificial reefs offshore. The city is home to popular attractions for visitors of all ages, including Shipwreck Island Waterpark, WonderWorks (an educational amusement park), and five championship golf courses including the award winning The Nicklaus Course at Bay Point.
9. Alison Hagerup Beach Park - Captiva Island
Formerly called Captiva Beach, Alison Hagerup Beach is known as one of the most romantic beaches in the state. Its location at the northern most part of Captiva Island makes it one of the most picturesque places to watch the sunset. Conveniently, its parking lot is open to visitors from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and costs $2.00 per hour, making it a great beach to visit any time day to night. Those looking for some extra fun in the sun should head over to YOLO Watersports to rent waverunners or arrange for parasailing. Nature lovers of all ages must check out Sanibel's “Ding” Darling, a 6,354-acre wildlife refuge with hundreds of species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Come meal time, head to Sanibel's Lazy Flamingo for some seriously hot, hot wings and Florida bar food or visit Captiva's quirky The Bubble Room, a one-of-a-kind restaurant whose fabulous desserts will keep you coming back for more.
10. Venice Municipal Beach - Venice
With parking, a concession stand for snacks, two sand volleyball courts, a picnic area and boardwalks, the Venice Municipal Beach has it all. Named the shark tooth capital of the world, Venice beach is also one of the best places in the country to find shark teeth, so keep your eyes peeled, beach goers! If you'd like a break from the sun and the sand, head on over to the Venice Area Audubon Rookery to see a variety of Herons and Egrets during nesting months.
This article was written by content contributor Stina Schwebke and edited by Tripping.com Content Specialist Lexi Perman.
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