16 Top-Rated Beaches in Florida
Florida's beaches are one of its top attractions, popular for the soft sand, warm weather, and vacation-mode atmosphere that pervades the coastal towns.
Panhandle Florida beaches are some of the best in the state. Running for miles and miles, many of them are in protected national parks with little to no development. With blindingly white, squeaky sand, these beaches are as close to perfect as you can get. The only downside is that the best of the season runs from April to October.
Western Florida's beaches are famous for their incredible sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. These beaches are smaller than their Atlantic cousins, but what they lack in size they make up for in beauty. Lapped by warm, calm, crystalline waters, these beaches tend to be quite laid-back (except for Fort Myers) and are ideal for families.
Beaches along the Atlantic coast are more popular with surfers and water sports enthusiasts. These beaches are exposed to the raw power of the Atlantic Ocean and tend to have large waves and occasional rip currents.
You can find every type of beach environment in Florida, from palm-lined, activity-filled boardwalks to secluded state parks with diverse plant and animal life. Find out more about the state's sun-splashed coast with our list of the best beaches in Florida.
1. Miami Beach
Miami Beach may be one of the more crowded areas, but for those looking for a complete city beach scene, this is the place to be. Miami Beach covers more than seven miles of shoreline, and on hot days, the sand is packed with sunbathers, and onlookers cruise slowly past in their cars to see what's happening.
The southern location means you can enjoy the beaches here at any time of year, although summer is particularly busy.
South Beach is home to the city's Art Deco district, a trendy space adjacent to the pedestrian walkway that runs parallel to the beach. Along here, you will find numerous restaurants and things to do, as well as plenty of entertainment day and night.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Miami
2. Naples Beaches
On Southern Florida's Gulf Coast, the beaches around Naples are spectacular. Powdery white sand and calm water line the shores around this lovely small city.
You can walk from downtown Naples to a beautiful and seemingly endless stretch of soft sand stretching out in both directions. If this is your first visit to Naples or if you want an easy outing from town, head to the historic Naples Pier and find a patch of sand to set up. Depending on the day, you may even be able to join in on a game of beach volleyball.
For something a little more nature oriented, try one of the nearby parks, like Lowdermilk Park, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, or Vanderbilt Beach Park. These parks have facilities for visitors and are often backed by lush natural areas.
If you want to stay in Naples, you can find an assortment of beach resorts and hotels in the area. This is a great destination for a winter beach vacation, as the weather here is consistently warm, even in the deepest, darkest days of January and February.
- Read More: Best Beaches in Naples
3. Fort DeSoto Park Beaches
A naturalist's favorite, Fort DeSoto State Park offers two exceptional stretches of beach. North Beach runs for miles and is wide and wonderful and always changing. Although it takes a bit of a walk to get here, once you reach the water's edge, you won't want to leave. Shallow, warm water extends out into the Gulf of Mexico and is ideal for splashing about or for having an impromptu game of water football. The views out over the Gulf of Mexico will be sure to distract you from your latest bestseller.
East Beach is a more traditional beach. Relatively narrow and long, the beach is an ideal place to catch the sunrise should you be so inclined. The water here is also shallow and tends to have small waves. The views of the Skyway Bridge from here are unparalleled. The only watch out here are the fire ants that inhabit the grass back from the beach.
Both beach areas offer amenities, barbecues, picnic shelters, playgrounds, concessions, and restrooms, while the park is also home to miles of walking trails, two fishing piers, and a historic fort dating from 1900.
The park consists of five keys (islands), which total 1,136 acres, home to the aforementioned white-sand beaches but also a myriad of vital ecological zones, including delicate mangrove swamps.
This is also an important habitat for wildlife, with its beaches the nesting ground for loggerhead turtles from April through September and more than 300 species of birds living among the native plants.
4. Clearwater Beach
On the Gulf Coast, Clearwater Beach is one of the best beaches along the western shores of Florida. This wide band of soft sand is excellent for walking, parking a beach chair, and swimming. A day trip here offers an excellent escape from the city rush of nearby Tampa.
Swim, play in the water, go parasailing, or just take a stroll out to the end of Pier 60 to see what's been caught by the ever-so-patient fishermen. A paved walkway winds its way along the back of the beach and is ideal for a morning run, evening stroll, or for pushing a stroller.
The beach is backed by huge luxury hotels and resorts, and staying here affords you amazing views out over the beach. If you feel like wandering out to the beach, it's mere steps away.
Off the beach, one of the most popular things to do in this area is a visit to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Clearwater is also home to the Philadelphia Phillies' spring training, as well as the annual Clearwater Jazz Festival.
5. Fort Lauderdale Beach
Fort Lauderdale Beach in some ways resembles Miami Beach, backed by a boardwalk lined with hotels and restaurants. The beach is the center of the tourist area in Fort Lauderdale, where people come to soak up the sun, walk or jog along the boardwalk, play games, and enjoy the view.
The beach and boardwalk are also host to various events and entertainment, from street performances to concerts. Two of the beach's seven miles is staffed with lifeguards, who keep a keen eye on bathers year-round.
Other activities are available to tourists, including scuba diving, snorkeling, and jet-skiing. This area is also home to several top resorts, which are particularly popular with families.
6. Siesta Key Beaches
Siesta Key has a fine assortment of beaches that all kind of flow into one another. Just offshore from Sarasota, this beach destination has been the go-to spot for inland residents and visitors for decades.
Pick any one of the six beaches on Siesta Key for your aquatic adventure. The most popular and largest, is Siesta Key Beach. Here, you'll find a lively scene near the main parking lot and facilities; farther north, the beach is wider and quieter. The sand here is white and soft, almost powder-like. This makes it unique among the beaches along Florida's west coast.
Prefer a beach with great snorkeling? Head to the Point of Rocks Beach, and grab your gear to see a kaleidoscope of colorful fish just offshore. If you truly want to get away from the crowds, and crave a bit of nature, head down to the southern park of Siesta Key to Turtle Beach. This beach is often overlooked by the day-tripping crowd.
For a classic Gulf of Mexico sunset, the well-named Sunset Beach can't be beat. Just a short walk from Siesta Village, it's the perfect place to capture that iconic Florida sunset picture to send to your friends in the frozen north.
7. Venice Beach
Venice Beach is well-known for small prehistoric sharks' teeth that can be found in the fine sand. Many people come here to search for these teeth, which come from ancient sharks and have decomposed on the seafloor. Beachgoers can also catch sight of wildlife here, including dolphins, turtles, and various shorebirds.
Beach amenities include concessions and a picnic area, volleyball courts, and boardwalks, as well as conveniences like free parking. Venice Beach is also a popular family beach, and Venice Public Fishing Pier is a great place to stroll out over the water for fantastic views up and down the coast.
At the base of the Venice Fishing Pier is the popular and fun Sharkey's Restaurant. A huge multi-level patio is an ideal place to grab lunch and a cold drink while gazing out at the ocean.
8. Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers Beach is for people who are looking for a true beach town atmosphere. It is located on the shores of Estero island, which is connected to the mainland by bridges.
Fort Myers beach is full of excellent resorts, which are popular with couples and families alike, and it is known for being one of the best beaches in Florida for dolphin-watching.
The soft sand stretches on for miles, but the most popular area is by the pier, where beachgoers sit under umbrellas or enjoy a game of beach volleyball. At the top of the beach are casual restaurants, ice-cream places, and beach apparel stores.
9. Panama City Beach
Located in the Florida Panhandle, Panama City Beach is a popular destination during the warmer months. The incredible white-sand beach runs on for 27 miles, providing a playground for all kinds of activities.
Many local businesses offer exciting things to do, including Jet Ski and boat rentals, paddleboarding, diving, fishing charters, and sightseeing cruises. There are also many family-friendly attractions like a water park, marine park, and other activities near the beach.
Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater hosts free weekly concerts each summer, and there are many annual events, including a pirate festival and even a Florida-style Mardi Gras. For those traveling with four-legged friends, there are dog-friendly areas including a designated doggie beach.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Panama City Beach
10. Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach sits on Florida's Atlantic shore just south of Cape Canaveral, nicknamed the "space coast." Just an hour drive from the theme park capital of the state and the closest beach, Cocoa Beach is a popular day trip for families staying in one of Orlando's many resorts.
It is also known for its waves and wind, attracting those who want to take advantage of great surfing, kiteboarding, and parasailing conditions. For those specifically interested in kiteboarding, if the wind is out of the north or northwest, be sure to take your board and quiver of kites to the 520 Slick (aka Bicentennial Memorial Park) for some of the best flatwater riding in Florida.
Other attractions nearby include the Kennedy Space Center and several museums, including some that are air- and space-themed, as well as others focused on art, natural sciences, and more.
11. Pensacola Beach
At the far western end of the Florida Panhandle lies the city of Pensacola, and just over a long causeway, Pensacola Beach. One of the many great beaches in the area, this beach has a bit of everything for everyone.
For those looking for sand and sun, the beach comes through in spades. Finding a perfect patch of sand on this wide and long beach is never an issue, and with a huge (and free) parking lot just back from the sand, finding a spot is a breeze. The water is crystal clear, and in the height of summer, bathtub warm and perfect for swimming.
If you need a bit of entertainment during your beach day, peel yourself off your towel and stroll over to the pier. Extending nearly 1,500 feet out into the ocean, it provides spectacular views up and down the coast.
If you work up a hunger from all your beach activities, just stroll back across the roadway to find a wide array of restaurants, many with outdoor patios.
Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Pensacola
12. Anna Maria Island Beaches
Flying under most people's beach radar, the incredible beaches of Anna Maria are a taste of Old Florida. For such a small island, Anna Maria packs a punch when it comes to beach options. No less than seven beaches line its Gulf of Mexico shorelines.
Pick one that suits your taste, perhaps one near the lively town center by Bridge Street, or the solitude and big views of Bean Point, or if you are traveling with a big group, head to Coquina Beach. If those four don't tickle your fancy, three others are waiting in the wings for you.
Back from the beaches are rental homes, local restaurants, and low-level hotels, but no massive high-rise condos. This relative under development compared to other Florida beach destinations gives the island a laid-back feel.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts on Anna Maria Island
13. Destin Beaches
Destin is a fun beach town complete with a boardwalk, waterfront restaurants, and a general good-time vibe, and to make it even better, several spectacular beaches are located nearby. One of the best is Henderson State Park. A wide stretch of sand extends for miles east and west beyond the park providing uninterrupted beach walking. Just back from the water's edge are large sand dunes that tower up to 30 feet high.
The blue-green waters that lap the shores here are crystal clear and shallow, making them ideal for families with small children or those who aren't particularly comfortable in the water.
Other beaches in Destin worth spending some time on include the popular John Beasley Park beach and James Lee Beach, or the remote and peaceful settings found at Eglin Matterhorn Beach and Princess Beach.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Destin, FL
14. Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach is a wide stretch of sand with some areas so hard-packed that driving is permitted along the top of the beach. The town itself has long had a reputation associated with spring break, but that has passed, and it now draws a more sedate group of visitors.
The boardwalk and pier area is filled with amusements, rides, games, and concessions, which are open all year-round. Some of the many things to do in the surrounding area include historic attractions like the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation Home. For those with an interest in high-speed excitement, be sure to visit the Daytona International Speedway.
- Read More: Top-Rated Attractions in Daytona Beach, FL
15. St. George Island
St. George Island, reached via a long and scenic causeway and bridge, is one of the Florida Panhandle's undiscovered gems. Known primarily by the residents of Tallahassee, this long stretch of white-sand beach offers a stunning location for sunbathing and swimming, as well as miles of pristine beach for shelling and beachcombing. A small beach town with a few restaurants and stores selling basic supplies is located near the lighthouse.
At the eastern end of the island, the Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George State Park has miles of uninhabited beaches, camping facilities, boat ramps, and picnicking areas. On the Apalachicola Bay side of the park, keep a keen eye out for dolphins. This area is also an excellent place to spot wildlife that nests in the sand, including sea turtles and birds like the black skimmer, least tern, and snowy plover.
St. George Island is located in northern Florida, about two hours from Panama City or Tallahassee.
Official site: www.floridastateparks.org/park/St-George-Island
16. Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park is located at mile marker 37 in the Florida Keys, near Marathon. This park offers one of Florida's most spectacular beaches and, since it is in a state park, it is left in a natural state. The park has three beach areas, Sandspur, Loggerhead, and Calusa, each facing opposite directions, so there is almost always one beach that is not affected by waves and wind.
The most beautiful section is on the outer shore, where Sandspur Beach seems to stretch on endlessly, with plenty of area for walking. Unfortunately, this section of beach was badly damaged by hurricane Irma in 2017 and is closed. The park service has not set a firm reopening date, but restoration efforts continue. Loggerhead and Calusa beaches are both open.
The water in many areas is shallow for a great distance. The beach is best visited during times of lower tide. The smaller beach on the inside offers great views of the old railroad bridge.
Official site: https://www.floridastateparks.org/BahiaHonda
Map of Beaches in Florida
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Florida's East Coast: Of its nearly 1,200 miles of coastline, more than 650 miles of Florida's shores are dedicated beaches, both public and private. On Florida's east coast, St. Augustine has many fascinating attractions in addition to its beaches, including several historic buildings and even a museum about pirates.
West Palm Beach features 47 miles of beaches and plenty of other things to do, from entertainment to museums to wildlife experiences. Around an hour south of here and about 20 miles north of Miami, is Fort Lauderdale.
South Florida: At the southern tip of Florida are the Florida Keys, one of the state's most relaxed and enjoyable areas. One of the most popular tourist destinations in this string of islands is Key West, a laid-back town with a Caribbean feel and an interesting past, once home to Ernest Hemingway. Key West is also known for its numerous top-rated resorts, which range from high-end luxury to family-friendly vacation centers.
Gulf Coast: On the Gulf Coast, north of Fort Myers, Sarasota is packed with great attractions, like Siesta Key Beach, the Ringling Museums, and a living history museum.
To the north via the scenic Sunshine Skyway Bridge, St. Petersburg sits on the Pinellas Peninsula, which creates Tampa Bay. The city and major tourist destination of Tampa are just across the bay, featuring big family attractions like Busch Gardens, as well as several major wildlife attractions like the Big Cat Sanctuary, an aquarium, and a manatee-viewing area open to the public.