Whether on a family trip, backpacking, cross-country US road trip, or flash-packing around the world, you must check out the best Florida beaches on the East & West Coast.
Are you dreaming of white sands, the sound of the ocean, and taking a nap under a palm tree? Do you want nothing more than to spend all day splashing in the saltwater and searching for seashells?
It sounds like it’s time you take a trip down to one of the best beach state parks in Florida. You don’t need to take a fancy Caribbean vacation or to hop on a cruise to visit a tropical paradise.
Florida is the Sunshine State for a reason, and with over 660 miles of beach, you can be sure you will find exactly what you’re looking for.
Related: How safe is to visit Florida now?
The hard part is just picking which of the many beautiful beaches is right for you!
26 Best Beaches in Florida to Visit 2021 + MAP
- Panama City Beach
- Destin Beach
- Mexico Beach
- South Walton Beaches
- Amelia Island
- St. Augustine Beach
- Cocoa Beach
- Honeymoon Island State Park
- Clearwater Beach
- Vero Beach
- Pass-a-Grille Beach, St. Petersburg
- Fort De Soto Park, Tierra Verde
- Anna Maria Island
- Longboat Key
- Siesta Key, Sarasota
- Blowing Rocks Preserve, Jupiter
- Jupiter Dog Beach
- Lighthouse Beach Park, Sanibel Island
- Captiva Island
- Bonita Beach Dog, Fort Myers
- Naples Beach
- South Beach, Miami
- Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- Smathers Beach
- Rest Beach
FAQs about beaches in Florida
- What’s the prettiest beach in Florida?
Sanibel Island Beach is considered the prettiest beach in Florida along with Clearwater, Cocoa, and Panama City Beaches that are ranked among the best and most popular.
- What beach in Florida has the clearest water?
Destin and Panama City Beaches have the clearest water in Florida. Both are located on the West Coast in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Which side of Florida has the best beaches?
Both sides of Florida have fantastic beaches. The Atlantic Ocean has more wave action. Therefore, the East Coast of Florida has a lot to offer in terms of water sports. It’s a great choice for water sports lovers and adventure enthusiasts.
On the other hand, the Gulf Coast features white-sand beaches and calm, crystal clear waters. It’s the best option for serenity seekers and families with small kids.
- What’s the cheapest month to go to Florida?
The cheapest months to visit Florida are May, June, and September. You can find bargain flights, hotels, as well as activities. You can also expect mild weather with just light rainfall and fewer crowds.
Note: Beaches are sorted from North to South
26 Best Beaches in Florida on East & West Coast
1. Panama City Beach
The Panama City Beach features 27 miles of white sand beaches and is also home to St Andrews state park and Camp Helen state park. The beach has many public beach access points and legendary attractions.
The Panama beach waters are famous with scuba drivers and anglers who enjoy the dozens of artificial reefs located offshore.
The coastline of the beach angles slightly to the west, which makes it possible for you to view the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
2. Destin Beach
If you drive across the state horizontally from St. Augustine to the west coast, you basically end up in Destin Beach.
Although all the Florida beaches on this list are lovely, there’s something particularly special about Destin.
The water here feels warm and welcoming for most of the year, it’s crystal clear and the waves are calm, and the sand is super white.
Destin is also a popular boating and fishing destination. You can hire a deep-sea charter to take you out and maybe come back with a big enough fish to feed the whole family!
3. Mexico Beach
Mexico Beach in Florida is in Bay County and located 25 miles southeast of Panama City. The beach was damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018 but is now open for residents and visitors to enjoy.
Mexico Beach is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida. The sugar-like white sand contains evenly sized quartz crystals. There are no silt-bearing rivers in Mexico Beach which keeps the sand pure and white.
Fishing is highly popular in Mexico Beach. You can fish for grouper, Spanish mackerel, or pompano and have a great time on the boat. The marina, charters, and canal access to the Gulf of Mexico is waiting for you.
If you are looking for fresh-caught seafood or live entertainment, the restaurants on Mexico Beach are some of the finest in Florida.
In addition, there are vacation rental communities, campgrounds, gulf coast vacation rentals, and some of the best Florida’s RV parks.
4. South Walton Beaches
Finding the beach of your dreams is the easiest thing in the world when you have more than 50 beaches and bay access available at one single place.
Each beach along the 26 miles of shoreline that made up the South Walton Beaches has its own style. So make sure which one you wanna visit before you go. Some of them are more family-oriented, some are a better fit for couples, and others work better for backpackers who want to relax inside their camping tents.
But, whichever you choose, you can be certain you will be visiting an immaculately clean beach by both the State and the local public services.
If you are a wildlife enthusiast, you can’t miss the sea turtle season! The conservation department employees will be handy and willing to provide you with information and tips to enjoy the place while protecting the fauna.
Keep in mind that tents larger than 10×10 are not allowed to avoid crowding and keep social distancing. Also, no charcoal grills or glass containers are permitted on the beach for the safety of all visitors.
5. Amelia Island
What if you’re more of a sunrise person than a sunset-chaser? Not to worry. All you have to do is head to Amelia Island and you can enjoy both!
This pristine beach destination is not too far from the city of Jacksonville on the east coast of Florida. But, depending on where you are during the late afternoon, you can enjoy a beautifully-painted sunset sky then wake up the next morning and watch the sun come up on the beach.
Throughout the day, bask in the homey setting of Amelia Island and watch as your kids roam free on a practically empty beach.
This Florida beach doesn’t get too crowded. It’s nice if you just want some alone time with the kiddos.
6. St. Augustine Beach
St. Augustine is the small-town alternative to going to Cocoa. The surf here is also pretty good if you know where to go. It’s best in the very early morning and there are some days when the waves aren’t too high, but it gets the job done.
Old St. Augustine is home to a few laid-back surf shops and if you pop in, the locals will give you some hints on what part of St. Augustine Beach to go to.
While you’re in town, enjoy the historic fort, the street shops, and the delicious food. There’s a charm in this old town unlike anywhere else in Florida.
7. Cocoa Beach
For those who are seeking a bit of adventure, the best place to go is Cocoa Beach.
This is where Florida’s surfing crowd loves to go to catch a few waves. It’s where you can count on decent swells throughout the year, and sometimes, some pretty high waves are available on a good day.
You’re definitely gonna have a great time here!
8. Honeymoon Island State Park
As the name suggests, Honeymoon Island is a secluded, paradise-like state park perfect for those looking to recharge in tranquility.
It offers more than four miles of white-sand beaches, great for swimming, fishing, sunbathing, and beachcombing. Nature lovers will appreciate the three-mile trail through one of the last remaining virgin slash pine forests full of osprey, bald eagle, and horned owls. On the ground, you can spot gopher tortoises, raccoons, or armadillos.
Its proximity to the bustling Tampa makes it a perfect weekend getaway from the city. If you’ve got time to explore the area, another pristine state park, Caladesi Island, is accessible by ferry.
9. Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach is a gleam of impeccable beaches as well as inviting waters. Clearwater Beach has many attractions, family-friendly lodgings, fine restaurants, and offers exciting beach activities.
The atmosphere in Clearwater beach is inviting. At its marine aquarium, you will come across Winter the Dolphin, star of a Dolphin tale movie.
Clearwater beach is worth it with attractions like this and the numerous beach activities such as air tours. The innumerable options Clearwater offers will make the whole crew happy when you visit.
10. Vero Beach
Ranked as the #4 happiest seaside city in the US!
Vero Beach is a discerning city located along the Florida Atlantic coast. It’s a sanctuary for many activities like water sports, fishing, and golf.
Peaceful museums, beaches, nature tours, and a wide range of hotels, make Vero beach a formidable destination for vacations. Art galleries and parks in Vero Beach offer access to attractive river networks and inlets where manatees roam. Vero Beach also offers delectable cuisine.
11. Pass-a-Grille Beach, St. Petersburg
Pass-a-Grille is a quiet beach located in one of the state parks near Tampa. It’s a place you wouldn’t know about unless someone from Florida told you about it, but it’s definitely one you need to check out.
The waves at Pass-a-Grille are almost always small. It’s a calm place where all the locals know each other and the dive bars treat you like family. You can enjoy the art market on the weekends or come during a weekday to enjoy having the beach practically all to yourself.
As you can see in the video above, Pass-a-Grille has a lovely & relaxing family vibe.
Plan to stay for the sunset here. You won’t regret it.
12. Fort De Soto Park, Tierra Verde
Put Fort De Soto Park at the top of your list if you want to go camping while on a trip to Florida. This is an outdoor experience like no other.
Camping on the beach means you get to fall asleep to the soothing sounds of the ocean and wake up to watch the tide roll in.
It’s a beautiful way to discover a new connection to the ocean and a bigger appreciation for nature as a whole.
13. Anna Maria Island
This seven-mile-long island on Florida’s Gulf Coast is one of the best-kept secrets of the Sunshine State. It’s particularly popular for its sugar-sand beaches, nature trails, and laid-back atmosphere.
Explore the wonders of the island on foot, bike, or rollerblades, and join both other visitors and locals in scuba diving, snorkeling, or fishing. Feeling tired? Sit back and relax under the shade of an umbrella and just wait for a breathtaking sunset.
Anna Maria Island not only boasts spectacular beaches but also offers a plethora of unique dining spots, shops, and galleries. No wonder that it’s been a popular hideaway of many celebrities.
14. Longboat Key
Up next on the list is Longboat Key. Not too far from the charming city of Sarasota, Longboat Key awaits to welcome visitors to paradise. This is the place to be if you never want to go further than a few blocks while on vacation.
The island has everything you could want. Staying at a beach resort here puts you front row for all the beautiful sunsets and for early morning beach runs. Throughout the day, you can hang out at one of the many beach bars and restaurants, then dress up for fancier dining in the evening.
15. Siesta Key, Sarasota
Just up the road from Longboat Key is a special little place called Siesta Key.
This is one of the most popular beaches in Florida; it welcomes thousands and thousands of tourists and Florida residents each year.
A day at Siesta Key feels like taking a trip to the beach and having friends over in your backyard. There’s a strong family-oriented vibe on the beach and plenty for people of all ages to enjoy.
There are cookout areas and picnic spots as well as volleyball courts and room to play beach soccer or toss around a football.
16. Blowing Rocks Preserve, Jupiter
Blowing Rocks Preserve isn’t exactly a place where you can set up your umbrella and stick around all day. But, it’s definitely worth visiting if you’re in the area.
This part of Florida’s coast is home to a limestone shelf that’s over 100,000 years old. It’s also a popular nesting area for sea turtles every single year. If you come during the right time (and get to the beach early enough) you may see a few new babies crawling their way to the sea!
17. Jupiter Dog Beach
As great as it is to take the whole family to the beach, it’s not as fun if your four-legged family members can’t go. Thankfully, there are plenty of dog-friendly beaches in Florida that accommodate everyone!
One of the best ones to go to is Jupiter Dog Beach. This dog beach is the largest on the east coast, with a total of 2.5 miles for your furry friends to frolic and meet other dogs. Meanwhile, you can get to know other owners or enjoy all your favorite classic beach activities.
18. Lighthouse Beach Park, Sanibel Island
Another popular west-coast destination in Florida is Sanibel Island. There are a few nice beaches on this strip of land to choose from, but the best is arguably Lighthouse Beach Park.
The most unique thing you’ll notice about Sanibel as a whole is that it runs east-west rather than north-south. This allows visitors to enjoy a relatively low, easy-going tide and to search for truly special seashells. Most of the shells that wash up here are still mostly intact if not 100% still together.
Once you’re done searching the sand for shells, make sure you take a stroll on the boardwalk by the lighthouse.
19. Captiva Island
Hands down, of the best beaches you’re gonna find in the area. The turquoise waters and sugar-white sand beaches definitely worth the USD $25 per 2 hours or $40 per day.
Captiva Island is located near Fort Myers off Florida’s Gulf Coast and it’s all about outdoor activities. If you are into biking, sailing, birdwatching, swimming and other water adventures, look no more!
But, if you are more of a slow-traveler looking for leisurely-paced adventures, and don’t want to return home more exhausted than when you left, you probably should consider booking a room at the South Seas Island Resort. It encompasses a beautiful Gulf and 330-acres of natural beauty on the tip of Captiva Island.
This place also has 2.5 miles of beaches, a great restaurant, and even programs for children so you can make the most of your stay.
Regardless of the type of traveler you are, consider these two things before you go. Parking can be a bit difficult so make sure to get there early. Internet connection is a bit slow in some areas. But you shouldn’t be working anyway!
20. Bonita Dog Beach, Fort Myers
Jupiter Dog Beach is great, but it doesn’t do much for you if you’re planning a trip on Florida’s west coast. There are a few areas on this side of Florida that are happy to welcome pets, including Bonita Beach.
This dog beach in the Fort Myers area is completely off-leash and sits on a shoreline that is calm and shallow. It’s great for small dogs as well as for small children, but adults of two and four legs will love it, too.
21. Naples Beach
Some of the best beaches in the world are located in Naples in Southwest Florida. The city is right on the Gulf of Mexico and has many miles of coastline.
The average January water temperature is about 66⁰F , which makes Naples a year-round destination.
One of the most popular destinations is Vanderbilt Beach in North Naples. Here you are welcomed by beachfront resorts including the Ritz-Carlton. Plenty of bar-hopping and beachcombing in this area!
Walk along the beach until you get to Clam Pass Preserve Park that opens up to incredible nature sites and a scenic boardwalk through habitat you will only see in this part of the world.
The beaches in Naples are full of soft white sugar-like sand. People come to Naples just to go shelling for that ultimate seashell.
The west coast is a great place to see over water sunsets. These sunsets make the beaches in Naples crowded in the evenings.
Make a reservation at an of the beachside restaurants for an amazing dining experience while watching the most gorgeous sunsets in Florida.
22. South Beach, Miami
Let’s get this one out of the way. Miami’s South Beach is arguably the most well-known of all Florida beaches. It’s where many tourists – both domestic and international – flock to in order to get a feel for the sun, sand, and saltwater.
South Beach is the ideal choice if you’re looking to party in paradise. There are all kinds of luxury VIP events on the water, plenty of fine dining, and the sunrises are definitely worth waking up (or staying up) for. It’s not hard to find a yacht to rent around here and you’re not too far from Key West, either.
But, if you want a family-friendly place to bring the kids and unwind, you’re better off going to another beach on this list.
23. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne
There are only a small number of Miami locals that frequent South Beach. The hidden gem that they all go to is Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne.
Depending on where you’re staying in Miami, Key Biscayne can be almost 2 hours or less than 1 hour away. Still, it’s definitely worth the drive.
The state park has done a great job of preserving the natural beauty of this tiny island.
It’s a fun place to bring a boat down and enjoy a calm day on the water or to watch the waves roll in and out in peace.
24. Dry Tortugas National Park
The Dry Tortugas National Park is located 70 miles of Key West, Florida. It’s often said that what really makes a great beach all depends on the type of traveler. But Tortugas has so much to offer that it would be difficult to find someone who can get bored!
Some Americans like wide, open and deserted beaches, while others prefer beach parties every day. Tortugas offer a combination of adventures that won’t disappoint you. From snorkeling and diving, to boating where you can bring your own boat to explore the National Park. And lots of swimming! The 99% of the park is literally made of crystal clear waters! So get your best swimsuit and get your best natural tan.
How to make it to Dry Tortugas National Park?
There are two ways to make it there. First, you can take a ferry which is roughly a 2.5 hour boat ride out to the park. The ferry will offer you a sack breakfast before you leave. Or second, take a seaplane ride! It is only a 35 minutes flight and you get to see turtles, dolphins, sharks and other wildlife on your way to the place.
Pro-tip: If you are not a seasoned sailor, take some Dramamine before you leave. You don’t want to get seasick and ruin your otherwise wonderful experience!
25. Smathers Beach
Smathers beach is located on the south side of Florida along the Atlantic Ocean. Smathers Beach is the right destination for water sports lovers and those looking to have a quiet time in the sun.
When you visit Smathers Beach, you can spend your day kayaking, snorkeling, or playing beach volleyball with your friends. Smathers Beach is quiet in the morning, and you can enjoy a stroll along the sand as you watch the sunrise. Smathers beach offers you a tranquil experience.
26. Rest Beach
Rest Beach is located in the Key West shore and it’s definitely one of the best beaches in Key West, FL.
It has a sandy beach with palm trees, and also boasts of convenient facilities. It is a small park but uncrowded and restful.
Rest Beach has shower facilities and restrooms. The palm trees in the area offer plenty of good shady spots. The beach offers plenty of activities, like swimming and fishing. It is also a nice place to watch sea life and enjoy the soothing ocean view.
Discover the Best Beaches in Florida for Yourself!
You can read about all the best beaches in Florida all you want, but you won’t truly understand just how amazing they are until you’re standing on the shore for yourself.
Of course, it’s not like you can visit all of these Sunshine State destinations in one day. However, you can start planning your next tropical vacation right now and cross a few of these beaches off your list!
We hope you’ve found some interesting spots to spend your holiday or stop during your road trip! Feel free to comment below with some feedback or suggestions.
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