Florida's Best Beaches

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Key Biscayne
(©Meg Pukel)
Key Biscayne

Some of Miami's great treasures are the beaches of the barrier island Key Biscayne. Shallow, crystal-clear waters and plentiful amenities at Crandon Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park make the island one of the most family-friendly Miami beaches. In stark contrast to the hubbub of South Beach, Key Biscayne is full of history and natural beauty. Climb to the top of the Cape Florida Lighthouse, built in 1825, for stunning views of the Miami skyline as well as the snorkelers exploring the coastal barrier reef and only federally recognized underwater archaeological trail in the United States. Come for sunrise or sunset to have the beach all to yourself.

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Clearwater Beach, Florida
(©Visit St. Pete/Clearwater)
Clearwater Beach, Florida

Known for snowy-white sand and serene Gulf water on Florida's West Coast near Tampa Bay, Clearwater Beach consistently ranks among the top beaches in the world thanks to it’s winning combination of unique sand, plentiful sun, clean and clear water and ample fun. It’s perhaps Florida’s best and most celebrated example of a white-sand beach. White-sand, found throughout the Tampa Bay area, is velvety and glisteningly snow-white, reflecting the Florida sun so it doesn’t get too hot no matter the air temperature. Families love how the soft and forgiving sand gradually slopes beneath knee to ankle-high waves—ideal conditions for kids to take their first splash. Plus, there’s enough activities, restaurants and shops within walking distance of the beach to fill an entire summer of fun.

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Daytona Beach
(©Visit Florida)
Daytona Beach

Your best choice for that old-school Florida vacation, Daytona is renown as America’s Most Famous Beach. Not only can you drive on the mid-Florida Atlantic beach, but it’s the home of NASCAR, which sports a recent $400 million renovation to its legendary Speedway. There’s also a classic boardwalk and pier complete with rides and a arcade. Farther south visitors find a more relaxed, historic and serene side of the destination where the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse offers stunning views of natural beauty far away from the crowds.

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Siesta Key Florida
(©Visit Sarasota)
Siesta Key

Sarasota's gateway to the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the island with luxurious amenities and a relaxed vibe has a history of being recognized as one of Florida’s best beaches. Contemporary condos and resorts along with classic old-Florida seaside motels and retreats dot the coast where a classically kitsch beach town offers seafood shacks, tiki bars and souvenir shops galore. The main attraction is the wide, white sand beaches that are so soft they squeak when stepped upon and perfect for beach volley ball, skim boarding and many other beach-based sports and activities.

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Jetty Park in Canaveral Florida
(©Space Coast Office of Tourism)
Cape Canaveral

The birthplace of the US Space Program is also home to a variety of Florida’s best beaches. The east coast barrier island of Canaveral National Seashore is a sanctuary for both people and wildlife. A critically important habitat for nesting sea turtles, the protected seashore counts thousands of Green, Loggerhead and Leatherback nests each year. Just north of Port Canaveral, where Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise ships dock, lies Jetty Park, a favorite beach for surfers and sunbathers alike. This oasis by the ocean offers amenities including changing rooms, a playground and jetty perfect for fishing along with front-row seats to incoming and outgoing cruise ships and submarines as well as rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center.

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Port St. Joe, Florida
(©Gulf County Tourist Development Council)
Port St. Joe

A “small town with a big heart," the formerly bustling seaport along Northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast is one of the Sunshine State’s most restful retreats. Another of Florida’s famous soft-white sand dune beaches, the destination is a favorite for snorkeling, fishing and dining along the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. History abounds in this naturally scenic destination distinguished by southern hospitality. A walkable downtown full of boutiques and antique shops, quiet bistros, pocket parks, and a waterfront marina invite visitors to partake in leisurely sunset strolls. Plus, the historic Cape San Blas Lighthouse now stands tall over the St. Joseph Bay following its successful move in 2014.

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Anna Maria Island Florida
(©Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Anna Maria Island

Clear waters, white sands, relaxing vibes are the signature of the beaches along Anna Maria Island. Bradenton’s barrier island has strict building regulations that work to preserve its distinctive beach town aesthetic. Several piers are popular for fishing. Ultimate seclusion can be found on Bean Point. And the southern mouth of Tampa Bay and the Manatee River makes for excellent boating. Visitors from around the world make their winters here to enjoy a laid-back and relaxed dining, shopping and nightlife scene.

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Sanibel Island Florida
(©Naples, Marco Islando, Everglades CVB)
Sanibel Island

With a unique east-west orientation, opposed to most islands stretched north to south, this unique barrier island is gifted with sandy beaches chock-full of shells. Its 15 miles of beaches and 250 kinds of shells, Sanibel consistently wins awards for being the best shelling beach and one of the best beaches in Florida. Aside from shelling, visitors love biking, fishing, boating and bird watching throughout the pristine habitat. But guests are far from roughing it. Beachfront or bayside hotels, resorts, inns, cottages, condos and home rentals are plentiful along with tons of pet-friendly dining and shopping make this destination the ultimate getaway.

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Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park
(©Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB)
Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park

Located on a barrier island on Florida's southwest coast near Naples, this popular destination boasts one of the most pristine stretches of beach in the world. With endless views and breathtaking sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico, the beach is also a popular habitat for shorebirds and wildlife. Snorkeling a natural and protected reef is one of the island’s most popular activities along with hiking, bird-watching, fishing and shelling.

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Fernandina Beach
(©Daron Dean/Visit Florida)
Fernandina Beach

One hour north of Jacksonville lies the peaceful and relaxing Victorian town of Fernandina Beach. Distinctive southern charm, rich history and massive oak trees draped with Spanish moss create an relaxing allure for visitors who appreciate the finer things in life. Boutique shopping along Centre Street, historic Fort Clinch State Park and the Amelia Island Lighthouse paired with wide, windswept beaches, unrivaled golf  and accommodations of all kinds make Florida’s northernmost beach a quiet retreat or families looking for adventures.

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Navarre Beach
(©Santa Rosa County Tourism Development Office)
Navarre Beach

Just east of Pensacola along the northwestern coast of the state’s panhandle, Navarre features sands as fine as confection sugar, solitude and serenity. It’s a welcome respite from the bustle of Destin. For those who prefer active lifestyles, the area described as Florida’s playground invites visitors to explore their own adventure by paddle, peddle or zip line. There’s also the west coast’s longest fishing pier and a protected marine sanctuary and national seashore popular with snorkelers, divers, hikers and bikers.

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Perdido Key
(©Visit Perdido Key)
Perdido Key

A narrow strip of land along Florida's Panhandle bordering Alabama and consistently named a best beach by Dr. Beach, an annual rating of the top 10 beaches in the world, Perdido Key stretches only 16 miles, 60 percent of which are located within federal or state parks, and is one of only a few unblemished stretches of wilderness left along the Florida Panhandle. At sunset, locals and visitors alike belly up the Flora-Bama bar that straddles the state line. With a cult-like following, the watering hole hosts an annual Mullet Toss tournament every year where participants attempt to throw a dead fish as far as they can across the state line.

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Anne's Beach Islamorada Florida
(©Katie Wheeler/Flickr Creative Commons)
Islamorada, Florida

Many the beaches on the small island in the Florida Keys are tiny, almost hidden narrow stretches of sand tucked between shallow, warm waters and dense mangrove forests. But if you find them, they’re more than worth the effort. Anne’s Beach is a favorite escape with a boardwalk through mangroves, covered picnic tables and clothing optional. The beach behind Islamorada Public Library has groomed landscaping, playground equipment along the water and a large picnic area alongside a sandy beach. Sea Oats Beach is the longest, with white sand, wild sea oats and a full mile of open water grass flats for wade fishing.

By Justin Braun

With roughly 1,200 miles of coastline, Florida possesses the most beaches in the contiguous United States. It’s only natural that it would have some of the nation’s best. Whether you prefer the quiet solitude of windswept dunes, the squeak of powder white sands or postcard-perfect seaside villages, Florida has a beach for everyone’s style.

The North Florida coast, spanning Amelia Island south to Ponce Inlet, is full of history. Home to St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, the First Coast was also the historic playground for the rich and the famous in exclusive enclaves in Jacksonville and on Amelia Island. The Central Florida coast runs from Daytona, birthplace of NASCAR, through Canaveral, birthplace of NASA, with beaches so wide you can drive on them.  

Visitors to Florida’s West Coast come for the soft sand and the calm, crystal-clear Gulf waters but end up falling in love with the quaint beach towns lining the shores. South Florida is synonymous for beach party but there’s much more to Miami and it’s surrounding beaches than meets the eye. Many beaches have waved away the Spring Break scene for a more family friendly vibe, making for plenty of fun in the sun for everyone. 

For those looking to go off the beaten boardwalk, here’s your guide to Florida’s best beaches.

Florida's Best Beaches

Justin Braun
About the author

“An adventurer at heart, I...