The choices are many, yet the answer isn’t so obvious: what are the best beaches in Florida and which is right for me?
We’re two Floridians, one from South Florida and one from Central Florida, with years of experience exploring the best beaches in our home state.
We’ve carefully selected our favorites: small island getaways, unspoiled stretches of sand, family friendly vacation spots, and city reprieves with State Parks and lively beachfront esplanades. Our list of Florida beaches has something for everyone, and we hope it helps you enjoy one of the best things to do in Florida: the beach!
And just imagine, by the end of this article, you’ll be one step closer to sinking your toes in the sand and cold drink in your hand as your worries melt away in the Florida sunshine.
Best South Florida Beaches
From Miami to Jupiter, and everything in between, South Florida is the largest metro area in the Sunshine State featuring cities like Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach.
You’ll come for the action but stay for the beauty – and South Beach has a lot of it. From the historical art deco, the white sand, glimmering waters, and famous Florida sunshine, there’s more to South Beach than just nightlife.
Start your day with a glowing sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean before getting some exercise along Lummus Park, a beachfront promenade featuring volleyball courts, fitness equipment, playgrounds, and ideal for rollerblades, jogging, or a stroller.
Spend the rest of your day sinking your toes in the sand before making your way to the historic art deco walk on Ocean Drive for dinner and a drink. And for the night owls, your evening is just beginning as the bars and nightclubs that make South Beach famous come to life once the sunsets.
🔖 Bookmark for later: Miami is the epicenter of South Florida and the basis for many of the top things to do in the South Florida area!
Call me biased, but Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is my favorite beach in South Florida. Sure, it was down the street from my apartment in Fort Lauderdale, but that only made me appreciate the finer details of the small beach town even more.
The beach is gorgeous – white sand, turquoise water, and one of the only beaches in the US with a coral reef accessible from the shore. Yup, you read that right, you can literally go scuba diving or snorkeling right from shore in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea to discover one of the most vibrant coral reefs in the Western Atlantic.
Additionally, sea turtles are not uncommon on the reef as the beach itself is one of the busiest turtle beach nesting sites in the world.
📚 Related Reading: Scuba diving and snorkeling at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea made our list of 33 Top Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale, what else did?
The beaches on Jupiter Island do not offer a lot of parking or access points, but that is part of what makes these beaches special. The island is mostly residential and protected natural places, so you won’t feel crowded by throngs of beachgoers from towering hotels.
I think one of the most spectacular beaches in Florida is at Blowing Rocks Nature Preserve. The shoreline is covered in limestone that has been eroded by the waves over the years. At low tide, you can walk through the rock formations, and at high tide, you can snorkel the beach to see fish and sea creatures.
Of all the beautiful beaches spanning Florida’s east coast, Hollywood Beach is one of the more interesting. It’s a quiet beach yet always has activity along the car-free Hollywood Beach Broadwalk.
Visit Margaritaville, get some exercise by renting a bicycle, or stroll to North Beach Park for even more reclusiveness. Whatever it is you’re seeking, quietness or action, you’ll be able to find it here, making Hollywood Beach one of the best places to stay in Fort Lauderdale.
Southwest Florida Beaches
Southwest Florida refers to the subtropical oasis surrounding the main cities of Fort Myers and Naples. Here are some of our favorite beaches in this area of the state:
Lovers Key State Park
Fort Myers Beach
Lovers Key State Park might top the list of best Florida beaches – and not too many people know about it yet. The narrow barrier island is a reprieve from the busy public beaches of nearby Fort Myers while serving as a haven for all sorts of outdoor adventures.
Hiking trails wind through subtropical hammock, mangrove channels weave around the island for paddlers, and of course, one of the most secluded beaches in Southwest Florida is just a short walk away from the parking lot.
Bowman’s Beach is a picturesque, isolated beach on Sanibel Island. There is a 5-minute walk from the parking lot to the beach. The area immediately around the beach access will be the busiest. If you are game to walk a little farther in either direction, you will be rewarded with quiet and serenity.
Sanibel and Bowman’s Beach are known for their excellent shelling. This beach offers miles of shoreline for shell-hunters to comb through.
👉 Read Next: The 33 Best Places to Visit in Florida
There’s a reason many Americans want to retire and move to Naples: the beaches are absolutely gorgeous. The most popular of the bunch is Naples Beach. Nestled in a natural setting, beachgoers have all the amenities they need for a serene and relaxing beach day.
But the real attraction is the Historic Naples Pier, an old fishing pier where you can grab an ice cream before witnessing the most vibrant sunset of any Gulf Coast beach.
Marco Beach is the main stretch of sand on Marco Island and one of the most pristine beaches in Florida. The sandy shore is often lined with sand dollars and seashells making it one of the most popular beaches for shelling. Just remember: the early bird gets the worm!
🐚 Combing for shells? So is everyone else! You’ll increase your chance of finding an immaculate shell by getting off the beaten path. This highly rated tour takes you to a remote island where you’ll find some of the largest, intact seashells on the Gulf Coast.
Florida Keys Beaches
With few natural beaches, the Florida Keys are often overlooked when it comes to the best beaches in Florida. However, we’ve come up with a few that are well worth the visit if making the trip to the southernmost point.
Bahia Honda State Park
Big Pine Key
After years of rebuilding the devastation by Hurricane Irma, Bahia Honda State Park stands again amongst world class beaches and, by far, the best beach in the Florida Keys.
You won’t find many nature trails, but the park does possess plenty of water sports like jet skiing, snorkeling, and paddling to keep you busy during your visit. Before you leave, be sure to grab a photo of the iconic ruins of Henry Flagler’s Railroad to Paradise.
The largest beach in Key West is perfect for an afternoon of fishing, snorkeling, sunbathing, or paddling. The beach features water sports rentals, public bathrooms, showers, and a visiting food truck from time to time. My favorite part? The palm lined shore provides just enough afternoon shade for a quick nap before a long night out in Key West.
Florida Panhandle Beaches
Northwest Florida, or the Panhandle, is the most accessible shoreline to the Southern United States and a popular vacation destination for those arriving from the Midwest. These white sand beaches are among Florida’s best.
St. George Island State Park
St. George Island
St. George Island State Park may be the most unspoiled stretch of sand left in Florida. The protected barrier island features miles of undeveloped beach, winding nature trails, biking routes, and paddling excursions through natural wetland. The beach is best suited for those seeking to escape the crowds and immerse themselves into nature.
Henderson Beach State Park
Henderson Beach State Park sits smack dab in the middle of the popular tourist destination, Destin. Although the surrounding town has grown significantly in recent years, the State Park has stayed much the same. Today, it offers fishing opportunities, crowdless beach days, picnic tables and pavilions for groups and families alike.
Within the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Navarre Beach is a small beach town getaway along emerald waters and pristine coasts. Near Pensacola Beach, history buffs will find the nearby historical buildings interesting while outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the 12 miles of undeveloped coastline. Beach bars, cafes, and small seafood restaurants are peppered throughout making Navarre Beach truly a last of its kind.
👉 Did You Know? A few years ago, Navarre Beach won the Travel Lemming Emerging Destination Award as one of the 30 top emerging destinations in the world!
Grayton Beach State Park
Santa Rosa Beach
The stretch of sand between Destin and Panama City Beach is best known as Florida’s Emerald Coast. Fittingly, the water along the banks sparkles like a green gemstone with Grayton Beach State Park being one of the best in the area. Those visiting nearby cities Destin, Panama City Beach, South Walton, or Santa Rosa Beach will find an escape from the crowds and into nature.
Gulf Coast Beaches
Florida’s Suncoast is a group of beaches primarily situated around the Tampa Bay area extending south to Sarasota. Because of the fine, white quartz sand, these are often thought of as the best Florida beaches on the west coast.
Caladesi Island State Park
Caladesi Island State Park is a barrier island located along Florida’s gulf coast. To access this beautiful beach, you must arrive by private boat or the ferry from Honeymoon Island State Park. In addition to the beach, the park offers hiking trails and waterways to kayak.
Caladesi has been voted one of the most beautiful beaches for multiple years. Even with all that attention, the isolated nature of the beach means it rarely gets crowded and the beauty remains unspoiled.
Honeymoon Island State Park
Just north of Caladesi Island, you’ll find Honeymoon Island State Park. This is a great option for those looking to head to the beach later in the day, because there is plenty of parking. Since the beach faces the Gulf of Mexico, this park is one of the best beaches to catch stellar sunsets.
The warm gulf waters are generally fairly calm, which is perfect for children or people who aren’t strong swimmers. For our furry friends, there is also a dog beach located a short walk from the parking area.
👉 Don’t Forget To Pack: It can be hard to carry all your beach accessories through the soft sand, so pick up this Collapsible Wagon to move everything with ease. It even comes with cupholders and a small table!
When it comes to white sand beaches, Clearwater Beach cannot be beat! There is a reason why this is one of the best beaches in Florida. There are so many hotel options directly on the water, but the area doesn’t feel too crowded since there is so much room on the beach.
While Clearwater is a true beach town, there are lots of other activities to do. I recommend visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium because kids love to see the stars from the movie Dolphin Tale.
📚 Related Reading: Clearwater Beach is one of the best day trips from Orlando, but check out our complete list for more ideas!
When it comes to the Sarasota area beaches, Siesta Key Beach gets most of the attention. While Siesta Beach is a beautiful destination, the recent awards and MTV shows have caused the island to become very busy.
Luckily, you can enjoy the same Gulf of Mexico views and gorgeous beaches on nearby Lido Key. There are two main public beaches: Lido Beach is located on the north side of the island and South Lido Beach wraps around the southern tip. I like to head to South Lido Beach because there are shaded picnic tables right next to the beach (although the beach area is not as large as Lido Beach).
The main activity at Caspersen’s Beach is hunting for fossilized shark teeth. This is one of the best Florida beaches to find these treasures, which happen to make excellent souvenirs. The teeth are plentiful in the shallow water and even wash right up onto shore.
This is a smaller beach with dark sand. One plus is that the length of the beach has a boardwalk, so you don’t have to walk in the sand to get from one end to the other.
Since there is limited parking, the area can sometimes fill up. Don’t worry though, just head north to Brohard Beach or Venice Beach, which offer lots of parking spaces and are still a great location for finding shark teeth.
👉 Pro Tip: Rent a sand sifter from the Venice Pier or purchase one at a local store to make your shark teeth hunting even easier!
Atlantic Coast Beaches
Florida’s Atlantic Coast is the longest coastline we’ll reference, covering a span from the Georgia state line all the way south to Port St Lucie. Beachgoers from Orlando or Jacksonville might consider visiting one of these beaches.
Anastasia State Park
Anastasia State Park is located on the northern end of Anastasia Island, where St. Augustine Beach and Crescent Beach are also located. As a designated park, there are no hotels or homes around. The beach feels secluded since you are surrounded by only the ocean and sand dunes.
The park also offers camping, a boat launch, and kayak/canoe rentals. Kayaking through the marshes near the beach is an excellent way to see native wildlife, like dolphins and sea birds.
Daytona Beach has been a popular vacation destination for decades. It is not the spring break hot spot that it used to be, but I think that is for the best. The area is the perfect location for everyone to enjoy the sun and the water.
There are only a couple of Florida beaches that allow driving and parking on the beach, but Daytona Beach is the most famous location. I love being able to leave things in the car and not worry about schlepping a heavy cooler across the sand.
Daytona Beach is not the only fantastic destination in the area though. Ormond Beach, Ponce Inlet, and New Smyrna Beach are all beautiful areas to visit also.
Cocoa Beach has some of the best surfing in Florida. Kelly Slater, one of the greatest professional surfers ever, learned to surf in these waters. If you’re looking to catch some waves, head to Cocoa Beach in the winter, when the surf tends to be better (and the prices are cheaper!)
This is a true beach down, with plenty of surf shops and nature excursions. The beach is obviously the main draw, but if you want a break from the sun and the sand, try deep sea fishing or this inshore fishing excursion.
📚 Related Reading: Orlando is only a one-hour drive from Cocoa. Be sure to take a look at my favorite things to do in Orlando if you’re in the greater Orlando area!
Amelia Island was originally settled by the French in the 1500’s. The town of Fernandina Beach exudes that long and rich history.
Fernandina Beach is located on the northern end of Amelia Island, just south of the Florida/Georgia border. The town is mostly residential, with plenty of vacation homes to rent.
This is the perfect destination for a relaxing beach getaway. You can spend your days by water and head to downtown in the evenings for boutique shopping and dinner at a local restaurant.
Best Florida Beaches FAQs
What part of Florida has the nicest beaches?
Florida’s Gulf Coast, specifically the Suncoast, has the nicest beaches in Florida with its white sand beaches and crystal blue water.
What beach in Florida has the prettiest weather?
With year round, subtropical temperatures, the beaches in South Florida have the prettiest weather of any region of Florida.
Which beach in Florida has the whitest sand?
Siesta Beach on Siesta Key or Lido Beach near Longboat Key in Sarasota has the whitest sand in Florida.
What is the most relaxing beach in Florida?
We find the most relaxing beaches in Florida to be in the panhandle. Everyone is in vacation mode and many of the state parks are less trafficked than other beaches throughout the Sunshine State.
📚 Read Next: The Best Things to Do in South Florida (By a Local!)
So there you have it, the best Florida beaches all in one place. Which Florida beach is the most compelling? Which one would you like to visit most?
Let us know in the comment section below!
Editor’s Note: Katie Lusnia contributed to this article.