Florida is home to a number of popular destinations that attract families of all shapes and sizes. Its many stunning beaches provide a fun and often more affordable alternative to the amusement parks that draw large crowds into the state each year. Family-friendly necessities like gentle waves and shallow waters, as well as parking and public restrooms can be difficult to find in one place, but you’ll have no trouble finding most—if not all—of these staples at any of the beaches on our list! From soft, pearly sands to boardwalks packed with rides and restaurants, these destinations are sure to captivate young and old alike. Here are our picks for the top 10 Florida beach destinations the whole family will enjoy:
10. Bowman’s Beach - Sanibel Island
Thanks to this island’s unique geography, a visit at high tide means shells aplenty for your family to uncover. While Sanibel Island sports 15 miles of tempting beaches, Bowman’s Beach offers the best amenities for families with small children. The beach is a brief five minute walk from a parking area, where there are public restrooms with showers for rinsing off the sand after a day of shelling. Water shoes are recommended for your visit to Bowman’s Beach, as sharp shells may present a hazard to little feet. Bring along a meal to enjoy seaside in the beach’s picnic area and spend the day fishing off the boardwalk or sifting for shells. If you're feeling the need for speed after a day of relaxing on the beach, book an outing with Sanibel Thriller, the area's only high speed tour boat. While in town, head over to The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, the only museum in the country solely devoted to shells, to view their global collection of beautiful shells. To satisfy the afternoon sweet tooth, visit Bennett's Fresh Roast to get your hands on their world famous donuts or try the delicious orange crunch cake at The Bubble Room in Captiva.
9. Pensacola Beach - Pensacola
Pensacola, Florida promises fun for old and young alike, starting at the pristine Pensacola Beach. Lifeguards are on duty every day from 9:30PM to 6PM, so you’ll be safe and secure body surfing and boogie boarding in the emerald waves of the Gulf of Mexico. Public restrooms and showers, as well as seaside eateries and gear shops make it easy to stay entertained beachside, yet the city of Pensacola beckons! Historic Pensacola provides a whole host of activities, from pre-civil war forts like Fort Barrancas to the Pensacola Children’s Museum and The National Naval Aviation Museum (the world’s largest Naval Aviation museum), so be sure to budget ample time to explore the city!
8. Fort Myers Beach - Estero Island
Fort Myers Beach makes our list due to its seven miles of sugary white sand. The wide, gently sloping shores and calm waters create perfect conditions for new swimmers. If you’re of the adventurous sort, take advantage of the activities available from seaside vendors, such as parasailing or sea kayaking, which can be rented at a number of nearby suppliers, like a local favorite Holiday Water Sports. You may also want to book a boat tour for you and your family, as the waters surrounding Fort Myers are teaming with dolphins that flock to the local mangrove forests. If so, head to Good Time Charters to book your dolphin cruise or marine life safari!
7. Clearwater Beach - Clearwater
Clearwater Beach was a hidden gem of the gulf until quite recently, but nowadays this beach bustles with visitors from open to close! Filled with family-friendly amenities like volleyball courts, a playground, and beachside concessions, rest assured that all will find something fun to fill their time at Clearwater Beach. And while you may wind up paying upwards of $30 to park for the day, the beautiful blue waters, powdery white shores, and numerous shops and restaurants nearby will help to justify the expense. For an extra-special activity, take the family on Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise. The town of Clearwater has taken its recent rise in popularity in stride, and now hosts an annual Ironman competition, as well as the nationally-renowned Clearwater Jazz Festival, a must-experience event for jazz fans.
6. Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park - Naples
Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park caters to outdoor enthusiasts. Equipped with boat ramps and bike paths, your family can explore this gulf island both by land and by sea! Snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming are all popular thanks to the calm, clear waters off of Naples, Florida. The park is equipped with restrooms, showers, as well as picnic areas and a concession stand; however, there is better fare to be had in Naples proper. For a unique family outing during your visit, schedule a trip with Manatee Eco-tour Sightseeing Adventure to spot some of the area's beloved animals. Lastly, with over 700 restaurants, you’re certain to find a meal that will appeal to even the pickiest of eaters in your family, and crowd-pleasing ice cream at the fan-favorite Royal Scoop.
5. John D. MacArthur State Park - Palm Beach
This clean and uncrowded beach offers a number of amenities that appeal to its younger guests and their parents. It costs just $5 to enter the park and trams run regularly from the parking area to the beach for those with lots of gear to lug. Though it may be the lone Atlantic beach on our list, MacArthur Beach State Park offers clear, blue waters teaming with schools of tropical fish. Be sure to bring along snorkel gear for the stronger swimmers in your family. Young children will be happily entertained by the beach’s playground area, as well as by the supple grey sands, perfect for constructing sand castles. Kayak rentals are available beachside if you feel like getting up-close and personal with some reef squid and manatees, which inhabit the water surrounding Palm Beach. Families with animal-lovers should make sure to stop by the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, home to a variety of exhibits including live sea turtles among other creatures, and McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary, home to hundreds of animals, from big cats to alligators and snakes.
4. Fort Walton Beach - Fort Walton Beach
The secret is finally out that Florida’s panhandle is home to some of the state’s finest beaches, including our pick for #4. Kids will enjoy snorkeling in the expansive shallows under the watchful eye of lifeguards who stay on duty from open to close, while those seeking a challenge can hire a surf instructor in town at a number of spots, including Fluid Surf Shop. Need a break from the beach? Head to Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park to see an array of marinelife, stroll along the boardwalk or the pier, or escape to one of the town’s two public golf courses.
3. Coquina Beach - Bradenton
Named for the colorful shells that wash ashore with each tide, Coquina Beach is a great place to gather these small tokens as a reminder of your family’s new favorite beach in Florida! When you’re not scouring the shoreline for coquinas, pull out a pair of binoculars and scan the waters for manatees and dolphins, which frequent the waters off Anna Maria Island, or head to the Parker Manatee Aquarium in Bradenton. With waters temperatures averaging 82 degrees year-round, and soft, idyllic white sand, Coquina Beach is great for relaxing in the surf or sand alike. Free parking, playground access, and public restrooms with showers make Coquina Beach an ideal beach for parents with children in tow.
2. North Beach - Fort De Soto Park
A natural lagoon formed by a sandbar will keep your little ones in water that rarely rises above three feet in depth at North Beach in Fort De Soto Park. The excellent water quality provides a great environment for snorkeling and watching minnows dart back and forth beneath the calm waves. North Beach supplies family-friendly staples like restrooms, showers, and lifeguards posted at regular intervals. Unmarred by high rise hotels or noisy boardwalks, North Beach offers the opportunity to appreciate the natural splendor of gulf coast. Once you have already paid the nominal drive-in fee of $5 to enter the park, why not rent a couple of kayaks from shops along the beach and buy an ice cream treat from North Beach’s snack shack? If your family has a dog in tow, you can also check out Fort De Soto Park’s Dog Beach, located adjacent to the island’s dog park.
1. Siesta Beach - Siesta Key FL
With crystalline waters and the self-declared “whitest and finest sands in the world,” this is a beach the whole family will certainly appreciate! Siesta Beach boasts a playground for little ones and volleyball for the older crowd, while beach runs and yoga classes provide an outlet for adults in your group. Grab a snack at the beachside snack bar and relax at the shaded picnic tables to beat the heat. Keep an eye out for some of Florida’s rare and majestic wildlife that frequents Siesta Beach, such as manatees, egrets, and pelicans. After a day of fun exploring the shallow water for shells, shower off at the public restrooms and make your way to one of the many boat tour and watersport businesses in town to book any of a wide array of trips, from parasailing to snorkeling, or even a sunset cruise. Siesta Beach offers a year-long vacation season thanks its balmy coastal climate. Just be wary of planning a weekend trip as the beach gets crowded early and finding parking can be a challenge. Traveling with kids? With a waterfall, canopy walk, and 100 year old Bayan Tree, kids will love exploring the Children’s Rainforest Garden at Selby Gardens.
This article was written by Tej Reddy and edited by Tripping.com Content Specialist Lexi Perman.