Discovering the 19 Best Beaches in Florida: Sun, Sand, and Serenity

Discovering the 19 Best Beaches in Florida: Sun, Sand, and Serenity

Florida, hailed as the Sunshine State, is a paradise for beach lovers. Its coastline, stretching over a stunning 1,350 miles, is home to some of the most breathtaking beaches in the United States. We have visited Florida countless times over the years and have been lucky enough to experience so many of its best beaches.

From the iconic Art Deco architecture and pulsating nightlife of Miami Beach to the more tranquil Siesta Key for those who just want to relax. Whether you’re seeking a serene getaway, a family-friendly shore, or a vibrant party scene, Florida’s diverse beaches cater to every whim and fancy.

Best Beaches in Florida

We wanted to help you make the best choice for your next vacation so we came up with our favorite beaches in Florida so we can help make your travels just a little bit easier.

1. South Beach Miami

You might know it for its 1930s art deco vibes, or hot nightlife, but South Beach in Miami also offers powdery white beaches and lots of activities to boot. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, South Beach has two distinct areas that attract different crowds.

Lummus Park and Beach allows topless sunbathing and is a hub of activity with street foods, cyclists, skaters, and more. If you’re looking for a more chill vibe, then the area of First Street Beach at South Point might just be your thing. It is an area popular with surfers in South Beach as well as fishing enthusiasts and families.

Besides surf and sun, you can go shopping at the popular Lincoln Road Mall. To understand the real heartbeat of South Beach, you can take a guided art deco tour, enjoy all sorts of cuisine, Cuban in particular, and dance the night away at any number of clubs.

2. Panama City Beach

Panama city Best beaches in Florida

This is one of the best Florida beaches for the Spring Break crowd as well as for families. With 27 miles of clean, pristine coastline on the Gulf of Mexico, Panama City Beach was voted one of the top 3 beaches in the United States by TripAdvisor. There are a ton of activities you can get into at this beach with beach volleyball, snorkeling, and surfing.

Once you are tired of catching some rays and have had your fill of sand and surf, visit nearby attractions like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. One of the most fun day trips you can do is head to Shell Island where you get a chance to see bottlenose dolphins up close.

Panama City Beach has a lot of holiday vacation rentals available in the high-rise condos along the beach. This can be an economical alternative to staying in a hotel when traveling in a group. The famous George Island State Park is located a 2-hour drive from here.

3. Miami North Beach

best beaches in florida miami beach

It may be more known for glitz and glam and The Real Housewives of Miami, but Miami Beach has more than 12 spectacular beaches to experience. Miami Beach is Florida’s most exciting and cosmopolitan city with art deco buildings, restaurants, nightclubs, and very tanned, attractive people. However, there are distinct areas and sandy stretches within it.

The closest thing to the official Miami Beach would be North Miami Beach. The beach is central and you’ll find locals and tourists alike sunbathing all day long. Since all of it’s quite central, there are a ton of eateries nearby. The beach is also home to the North Beach Bandshell which provides great musical entertainment throughout the year. And of course, after you are done sunning, the nightlife in Miami Beach is second-to-none.  We have covered it all in our post 30 Fun Things to do in Miami, Florida

Getting on the water is the best way to experience the Sunshine State. Take this City Cruise to see the Millionaires mansions of Miami and cruise to the Venetian Islands and South Beach.

4. Clearwater Beach

best beaches in florida - Clearwater Beach in Florida

If you’re looking for one of the best Florida beaches with a real community feel, Clearwater Beach is where it’s at. You will find the public beach staffed with a lifeguard all year long. Art festivals take place throughout the year like the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival. This sand sculpture festival takes place in April attracting artists to create sand sculpture masterpieces.

One of the most pristine beaches, Clearwater is known for its smooth white sands as well as spectacular sunsets. In fact, the sunsets are so spectacular that there is a nightly festival to celebrate them with street musicians and activities for kids. 

Additionally, there’s lots of fun stuff to do near the beach like taking a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or Aspirations Winery. You can even take a boat tour to get familiar with more of Clearwater’s coastline.

5. Daytona Beach

best beaches in florida daytona beach

Daytona Beach may be an obvious choice, but it is one of our favorite beaches in Florida. We used to come here with my family when I was younger to vacation for the winter.

This mammoth beach on the Atlantic Coast is 23 miles long with resorts lining the waterfront. The Halifax River – a lagoon separated from the Atlantic by barrier beaches separates the beach from the city. Daytona is an interesting beach that you can drive on. The Daytona Beach Pier also has attractions and rides and the Daytona Speedway is not too far away.

This can get very busy, especially by the pier, but we recommend staying at Daytona Beach Shores for a romantic escape on Daytona Beach. Ormond Beach is located just north of Daytona Beach and is a quieter option. Read more at: Best Things to do in Daytona Beach.

6. Fort Lauderdale

best beaches in Florida Fort Lauderdale Beach

There is never a dull moment in Fort Lauderdale, with thousands of yachts and cruise ships visiting its coastlines each year. Fort Lauderdale Beach is one of the city’s premier beaches located at the heart of Fort Lauderdale.

Grab an umbrella and beach chair and just soak in the fact that you’re gazing out over the Atlantic Ocean. Or you can get out and get involved in any one of the dozens of activities happening simultaneously on one of Florida’s most beautiful beaches. You can try out parasailing, scuba diving, jet skiing and even rent a boat and take it for a sail.

Although a few decades back, Fort Lauderdale Beach was known for its college party atmosphere, these days it welcomes all kinds of visitors. You’ll find high-end restaurants and live music bars as well as museums, spas, and fun activities for kids like Bluefoot Pirate Adventures.

7. Santa Rosa Beach

Santa Rosa Beach - one of the best beaches in florida

This is one of the best Florida beaches when you’re looking for a mix of things to do with a group. Santa Rosa Beach attracts families to its lengthy coastline running from the Gulf of Mexico to Choctawhatchee Bay. Stretching 26 miles along the northwest coast, Santa Rosa Beach sits in the protected area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

It’s a great alternative to avoid the crowds of Panama City Beach. Beaches near Santa Rosa Beach are Grayton Beach State Park and Blue Mountain Beach.

You’ll find people doing everything from paddleboarding to fishing or simply basking in the sun on beach chairs. Off the beach, there are also a ton of things to do like visiting the local craft breweries or the historic Wesley Mansion which dates back to the late 19th century. You should note that Santa Rosa Beach has experienced a real increase in popularity so you’ll want to get to the beach early in the morning to score a prime spot. 

8. Cocoa Beach

florida beaches - Cocoa Beach Florida

Cocoa Beach is located just south of Cape Canaveral on the Space Coast. It is one of the best places to learn to surf in Florida thanks to its calm waters. But it is also great for pros too.

This area is known as the East Coast surf capital of the United States.  Cocoa Beach is also home to the largest surf shop in the world, Ron Jean Surf Shop is a massive 52,000 square feet. You can find everything from bathing suits to top-of-the-line surfboards in the shop and it’s open 24/7.

Another thing you might want to check out on the east coast is the Barrier Island Sanctuary which is dedicated to the protection of sea turtles. It’s a half-hour drive from the beach and you can go on a guided walk through the sanctuary and learn all about the conservation of sea turtles. This east coast beach is less than an hour’s drive from Orlando and sits on Florida’s East Coast.

9. Pensacola Beach

best beaches in florida White Sand Pensacola Beach Florida

Pensacola Beach sits on Santa Rosa Island and you’ll find that Pensacola Beach is where more of the action takes place while Santa Rosa Beaches are quieter.  The waters surrounding this barrier reef beach are crystal clear and the sands are soft and white.

You’ll find that there are lifeguards on the main beach areas but if you head into more of the quiet areas, you’ll get a beautiful beach, but no lifeguards. You can take dolphin-watching tours from the beach or head out to the pier to go fishing.

There’s an outdoor adventure park available for those looking for something sportier. One of the most fun things to do at Pensacola Beach is to go canoeing at night in glow-in-the-dark boats.

10. Key West

best beaches in florida key west fort zachary taylor national historic site

No list of Florida’s best beaches would be complete without mentioning the laid-back charm of Key West. At the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys, Key West is a blend of beautiful beaches, historic sites, and a lively street life. The beaches here are perfect for snorkeling, with clear waters and vibrant marine life.

If you don’t make it to Dry Tortugas, Key West’s other beaches can be found at Fort Zachary Taylor National Historic Site and Smather’s Beach. Read more at 27 of the Best Things to Do in Key West

11. Sunny Isles Beach

best beaches in florida Sunny Isles Beach

If you prefer being underwater rather than floating on top, then you’re going to want to check out Sunny Isles Beach in Miami Beach. It is famous for its world-class diving and snorkeling. The famous Newport Beach Fishing Pier sits on Sunny Isles Beach too.

And it’s not just for show, you can actually bring your fishing gear and fish here too. Nearby there are lots of cafes to get some high-end lunch. And speaking of high-end the Sunny Isles is known for luxury resorts and luxury living so food and accommodations are on the pricier side. 

12. Naples Beach

best florida beaches naples
Naples Pier

Located along the Gulf of Mexico, Naples Beach is renowned for its miles of soft, white sandy shores, which offer a sense of tranquility and an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The calm and clear waters here are ideal for swimming, making it a great spot for families and individuals looking for a refreshing dip in the sea.

Naples Beach is famous for its 1000-foot-long pier that juts out from its white sand. Named after Naples in Italy, this beach town keeps the Italian tradition alive with a great food scene. The city boasts a charming downtown area, where you can stroll along Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South, exploring upscale boutiques, art galleries, and a variety of dining options.

The area is also close to several nature reserves and parks, such as the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Everglades National Park, where you can experience Florida’s unique wildlife and landscapes through guided tours and hikes.

13. Tigertail Beach Park

From Naples make your way to Marco Island to visit the largest of the Ten Thousand Islands known as the Barrier Islands. You can drive directly from Naples to Marco Island taking the bridges across McIlan Bay and East Marco Bay. Many beaches are private on this island, but luckily there are two beautiful public beaches. One of which is Tigertail Beach.

Tigertail Beach Park offers paddleboard and jet ski rentals plus watersports rentals. You can explore its tidal pools on guided tours or self-guided tours, and there is a bird-watching tower where you can keep an eye out for migrating birds and see overhead views of the beach and lagoon. It was once only a sandbar off the coast of Florida but with shifting weather patterns, it is now connected to the mainland.

14. Oleta River State Park

best beaches in florida Oleta River State Park Beach

Oleta River State Park is for people who like secluded beaches and rugged scenery. It has a 1200-foot beach but most people come to this area for the activities they can do in the water and in the forests. The park has a ton of biking trails and hiking trails throughout.

You can also rent gear to go kayaking and canoeing on the Oleta River which sits in this Florida state park. The fun part about this beach area is that you can sleep over in one of their cabins. There is a youth camping area too, but you’ll have to check with the park for rules and regulations on who can stay there.

15. Grayton Beach State Park

For a mix of nature trails and sand dunes, you’ll want to visit Grayton Beach in Grayton Beach State Park. This Gulf Coast beach draws a completely different crowd than Miami Beach or the Florida Keys beaches. The top beaches on Florida’s southern tip attract flash luxury and paparazzi, but in this state park, you live life on the quieter side with more secluded adventures.

The aquamarine water of Western Lake is the perfect place to swim and do some deep sea fishing as well as get in some paddleboarding. There are almost 100 acres of snowy sand dunes along the coast. The state park beach has restrooms and outdoor showers but you should pack your food and drinks with you before heading here.

16. Siesta Key

Siesta Key Beach Florida popular beaches in florida

Have you ever sat in million-year-old sand? If you visit Siesta Beach you can. It is believed that the sand that’s found on the barrier island of Siesta Key has arrived there over millions of years from the rivers of the Appalachian mountains flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

This sand is almost pure quartz crystals and it is so fine that when you walk on it, it seems to make a bit of a squeaking sound. These sugar-white sands have often been called some of the best sands in the world, making this beach in Siesta Key one of the country’s world-class beaches.

Besides basking in fine white quartz sand, you can enjoy some swimming and snorkeling at Siesta Beach. Nearby is Siesta Key Village which is full of lovely cafes as well as pubs and boutiques for shopping too. You can also rent a bike and take a leisurely sunset cruise through the small beach town.

17. Harry Harris Beach

best beaches in florida key largo

This is the perfect beach to take your children to in the Florida Keys. Harry Harris Beach sits in Harry Harris Park on the largest key among the Florida Keys located in Key Largo. The beach area has a breakwater so the ocean is essentially turned into a pool that’s no higher than 5′ for your kids to swim around in. Key Largo is also one of the best places in Florida to go scuba diving.

If you venture out past the breakwater you can do some snorkeling, scuba diving boating, and fishing too. The beach grounds have a kid’s playground, picnic areas with BBQs as well as clean restroom facilities. You should also pack a picnic as there aren’t really any places close by to get a snack.

18. Dry Tortugas

best beaches in florida dry tortugas

Key West has some of the best beaches in Florida but the most pristine and secluded is the beach at Dry Tortugas National Park. Located 70 miles off the coast of Key West, Dry Tortugas is a great day trip by ferry or seaplane. But you can also stay overnight in the National Park and do some camping to really appreciate these white sand beaches. It’s great for snorkeling too! Check out: Where to Stay in The Florida Keys

19. Sanibel Island

Bowmans Beach best beaches in Florida
Sanibel Island is beautiful

We are happy to report that Sanibel Island is open after the devastating Hurricane Ian in September 2022. They have made an incredible recovery with almost all of the major attractions re-opening. At the time of this writing, the only major things not open are the Lighthouse Fishing Pier and Lighthouse Tower area, but Lighthouse Beach is open.

Don’t miss Bowman’s Beach which is one of the best beaches in Florida, but it is also often voted as one of the best beaches in the United States. Sanibel Island is located just off the coast of Fort Myers and sits in the Gulf of Mexico. The area is known for high-end resorts and seafood restaurants as well as historic architecture.

It’s a sheller’s paradise and one of the most family-friendly areas in the state. The Sanibel Stoop is a term coined for all the people you’re going to see hunched over searching for unique shells on Sanibel beaches. According to area shellers, you’re going to find the most different variety of shells in the morning at low tide.

Florida Beaches Frequently Asked Questions

Best Beaches in Florida sunset at daytona beach

Which beach in Florida has the clearest water?

The beach in Florida renowned for having some of the clearest waters is Destin Beach, located on the Emerald Coast. Destin is part of Florida’s Panhandle, which is less densely populated and developed compared to other parts of the state like Miami Beach or the Keys. It also offers beautiful white sand beaches, a range of accommodation options, and a family-friendly atmosphere, making it a top choice for both relaxation and recreation.

Which side of Florida is best for beaches?

If you’re looking for calm waters, fine sand, and a more relaxed atmosphere, the Gulf Coast might be your ideal choice. If you prefer more active waters, a diverse range of experiences, and access to cultural and historical sites, the Atlantic Coast may be more appealing. Both coasts boast beautiful beaches, so it ultimately comes down to the type of beach experience you desire.

What is the prettiest beach in Florida?

Siesta Key Beach is frequently lauded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida. Located near Sarasota on the Gulf Coast, Siesta Key has this incredible, fine white sand, composed of 99% pure quartz, which stays cool underfoot even in the heat of the sun. The beach’s clear, shallow waters and wide expanse make it perfect for swimming, sunsets and all kinds of beach activities.

What are the warmest Florida beaches?

West, located at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys, consistently boasts some of the warmest beach waters, particularly due to its proximity to the Gulf Stream. Miami Beach and the beaches around the Miami area also offer warm waters year-round, making them popular destinations for those seeking a beach experience even in the cooler months.

Why We Love These Beaches in Florida

As we wrap up our tour of Florida’s finest beaches, remember that each beach has its unique charm and attractions. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, Florida’s beaches offer something special for everyone. So, pack your sunscreen, grab your sunglasses, and get ready to explore the sun-kissed shores of the Sunshine State.

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