When looking to spend time on the beach in the US there is no better option then Florida. Yes there are other beaches around the country but nothing compares to the emerald colored water, white sand, and overall beauty of Florida beaches!
In full disclosure we are beach people, which I am sure you would have figured out as you read through this article. It is like when we get close to the ocean we can smell the ocean breeze and can feel the stress melting away. We have reached our happy place.
We have given beaches in other states a try and yes we still appreciate the ocean breeze but after traveling the country for the last 3 years we can say with confidence that if you are looking for a beach vacation then head to Florida!
Here is our list of the top 25+ beaches to visit in Florida. From a beach that you have to take a 2 hour boat ride to get to, to a white sand beach that feels like you are walking on a cloud! Florida has it all.
We had to start with one of our favorite beaches: Grayton Beach which is a little town located between Destin and Panama City Beach. We love it since it is hard to find a Florida beach that isn’t packed with people, buildings, and is just overly busy.
Grayton Beach is a state park that is located on the water. Since it is a state park there are no big buildings or restaurants to mess with the natural beauty of the water and the beach. They have a campground which is about a 10 minute walk to the beach.
You can pay to get a day pass or a Florida State Park pass to come into the beach. Since you have to pay it keeps the number of people down. Don’t get me wrong on a nice weekend day it can get crowded but still doesn’t compare to other beaches in Florida!
You can also walk on the beach down to the town of Grayton - you will have to cross the point where the lake and ocean meet so be prepared to get a little wet. But it is all part of the adventure! Then in Grayton there are some awesome restaurants to stop at for happy hour or dinner.
If you time it right you could also be there when they do a turtle release from the Oceanarium in Destin. We happened to be there when this happened and it was amazing to see a rehabilitated turtle being released back into the ocean!
You can also hop on your bike and hit the miles and miles of trails that run along A1A. We really enjoyed taking our bikes into Seaside for dinner and to see Airstream row - a line of food trucks made out of Airstreams!
I don’t think we ever get tired of seeing white sand and Pensacola does not disappoint. One of our favorite places to go in Pensacola is Fort Pickens. You drive down a 4 mile long road to get back to the Fort that has white sand dunes on each side. They actually have to bring in a snow blow to clear the sand off of the street!
There are a few stops you can make on the way in to get out and head over to the beach or to take a short hike up the sand dunes. While you are at the top of the sand dunes there is a chance you will hear the Blue Angles soaring above you.
It is quite the site to see the Blue Angles fly by you! If you are there on a Wednesday you can head over to watch the Blue Angles practice - for FREE!
Pensacola also has the whole beach scene where you can head out to the beach for the day then head over to one of the beachfront restaurants to eat or to grab a drink.
Just be sure to do some research on the weather as the Florida Panhandle can get cold in December, January, and February.
This is another of our favorites. Maybe because it is right down the street from Grayton Beach! Destin is part of the Emerald Coast - named that due to the gorgeous emerald color of the ocean water. It also boasts beautiful white sand beaches.
Destin is a much busier place then Grayton Beach and has every resturant and store that you could want. They also offer a variety of attractions like the Pirate boat, dolphin cruise, go-carts, bowling, and more.
What I like about Destin is you can be on the beach looking out at the ocean and get that peaceful nature vibe and then head a few hundred yards out to the main road and find all the business of a city.
There are a variety of restaurants you can walk to that are located right on the beach. This is definitely our favorite way of eating! There are also chair rental places, parasailing, jet skiing, and everything else you are looking for to have an awesome beach vacation.
Once known as a top college spring break location it now has more of a family vibe to it. They got control of the party scene by not allowing alcohol on the beach. No alcohol then no college spring break parties!
Panama City Beach or the PCB has a similar feel to the Destin area. The beautiful emerald colored water and the white sand beach. PCB also has many high tower hotels and condo complexes and it is always fun to sit out on the balcony looking out over the water and watching an ocean sunset.
When we were there we sat on the balcony off the room on the 15th floor of the building and watched sting rays swim in the water. The water is that clear!! It was fun to watch them and we tried to yell down to the swimmers to warn them. But of course they couldn't hear us. As you always hear the sting rays were more afraid of the humans so any time they got close they sped away. A good outcome for all.
If you are looking for a true Florida nature beach escape Cape San Blas is the spot for you. The list of things to do in Cape San Blas is short but that is the beauty of it. This location is all about kicking back and relaxing on the beach during the day and under the stars at night.
If you do like an active vacation there are walking and biking paths. Or you could ride a horse on the beach! There aren’t many places you can ride a horse on the beach so if this is something you would love to do this is the place to do it.
If peace and quiet, relaxation, and a chill vibe is what you are looking for then this is the beach for you!
West Coast Florida Beaches
Clearwater beach has a really fun beach city vibe to it. You can chill out on the beach and then head over to the boardwalk area to grab a bite to eat or do some shopping. Surprisingly the beach isn’t huge but it has the nice signature white sand beaches.
St Pete’s beach has a long stretch of undeveloped beach which means you wouldn’t have to be fighting with the high-rise hotels that are so popular among Florida beaches. Yet you can still find places to rent kayaks, paddleboards, or just plan to hang out at the beach for the day.
St. Pete’s is also home to the famous pink hotel The Don CeSar and if you have ever been or seen it you know what I am talking about!
Here is another beach location that has less people and miles and miles of beach to explore. Granted the beach doesn’t have the pristine white sand and the water isn’t quite as clear a some of the other beach locations. But it doesn’t take away from the natural beauty of the area.
You will find a handful of nice local resturants. With a lot of them on the water or very close to it. There aren’t any high rise hotels here but instead the beach is lined with houses and smaller condo or air bnb options.
If you are looking to go somewhere different and a little off the beaten path this is the place for you.
I have visited Siesta Key multiple times during our family trips as a kid and now with my own family. When I think of beautiful Florida beaches I almost always picture Siesta Key. As a kid I remember walking on to the beach and being amazed at how powder soft and white the sand was!
The beach area here is probably the largest in Florida and stretches a good 100 yards or more between the parking lot and the ocean water. Leaving plenty of space to play beach volleyball, frisbee, or football.
When Florida beaches are hopping during spring break or a nice weekend Siesta Key is a great option since there is so much space. They also have a playground and concession stand located next to the parking lot.
Marco Island is the only developed area in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands. It is located just north of the Everglades and the tropical atmosphere is why people come back here again and again! Known for its luxury resorts Marco island is the perfect Florida playground getaway with beaches, fishing, excursions and lots of shells to find while you explore the pristine beaches.
Another west coast beach location is Naples. Located far enough south to have nice weather most of the year Naples is known for luxury and family fun. There are shops galore and the beach scene is what you would expect of a Florida beach on the gulf. Lots of white sand and beautiful ocean water to play in!
There with kids be sure to check out the Lowdermilk Beach Park. Then make a visit to Clam Pass Park that has 35 acres of coastal habitat along with a beautiful white sand beach.
Looking for the beach town tourist vibe Fort Myers Beach has you covered. The beach has plenty of room for everyone and the boardwalk area offers restaurants, bars, and desserts that everyone in the family will enjoy!
Yes sometimes touristy places can be pretty cool and Fort Myers Beach doesn’t disappoint! There are ton of places to do water sports, go shopping, visit the spa, the list goes on and on. If you are looking for variety Fort Myers beach is a great option.
South Florida Beaches
If you are asking yourself if it is worth it to drive the extra hours to get down into the Florida Keys the answer is YES. Don’t question it don’t overthink it just go.
Bahia Honda is one of many state parks in the Florida Keys and it is a gem. Please note that beaches in the Keys are not the same as the rest of Florida. Due to the reef that surrounds the keys the beaches don’t have that soft white sand that you may expect in Florida. This doesn’t mean that some don’t and it definitely doesn’t mean that you can’t still have an amazing beach day!
The beach it’s self is small which means if it is busy it is pretty packed. But if you get there on time you can get prime sitting at one of the covered pavilions/picnic table spots. You can also rent kayaks from here, hike on the trails, and walk out on the old 7 mile bridge.
The beach on the less popular side of the park offers a long stretch of a small beach that is perfect for taking a walk on and catching a beautiful sunset.
Sombrero beach is probably the most Floridaish (is that a word??) beach that the Keys has. The sand is pretty soft and it has more of a true beach vibe to it. There is usually plenty of room to find a spot and if you bring a paddle board or kayak you can go out a little ways and usually spot sharks and fish in the water.
They have multiple pavilions here along with a bathhouse and a playground. This is definitely more of a locals beach then a tourist spot.
Higgs beach in Key West is a great stop to make with your family. The beach isn’t usually overly busy and there is a nice pier that you can walk on to. Plus there is a restaurant right there on the beach, volleyball, and a playground.
Take note the water is VERY shallow for a long way out so if you are looking to go snorkeling this is not the place for you. But with young kids it is a great fit!
Located at the bottom of Key West is Fort Zachary Taylor state park. There is an entrance fee but it is worth it. Once in you can go and explore the fort before heading over to the beach. Be aware the beach is nice but not the soft white sand. Water shoes would be a good idea.
They also have a concession stand with beer, food, and other options plus a bathhouse. This is also a great place to come back to watch the sunset. There is a grassy field to the side of the beach and it is perfect for seeing the sun set with the sunset cruise sailboats floating by.
Cocoa Plum Beach
Another local spot, this beach doesn’t have as much of an area for sitting back to relax on the beach but is perfect for exploring the ocean. You can go out for 50 yards or more and it only gets a foot or so deep. It is also a perfect place to hunt for clams!
We always enjoy going here since it is less busy and it is fun to just walk around in the water or to head way out yet not have to swim at all!
This bucket list location is a MUST if you are in the Florida Keys. Yes you have to get up at 6am and take a 70 mile 2 hour+ boat ride to get there. But it is AMAZING!! You get to the island and once on it you can explore the fort and walk along these beautiful beaches.
Our favorite beach was the one that was filled with literally 100’s of huge conch shells. It was also amazing to be that far out and to just get the sense of peace being in an area that so few people have been.
You can camp on the island and we would love to do that the next time we are here. It is not an in expensive trip but it really is worth it. Just be sure to have your dramamine!
Welcome to Miami! Miami has the famous South Beach and it is quite the spot. You know when you think of Miami and think of girls in tiny bikinis and muscle heads walking around. Yup it totally is that! But all that aside it is beautiful and we loved the Cuban vibe that the area has.
With 23 miles of beach you are sure to find one that you like when you visit Fort Lauderdale. Located north of Miami it is another location that is almost guaranteed to have good weather year round.
Looking for a quite quaint beach you will find it here. Looking for one that has more activities to do you will find that too. With multiple beaches to pick from Fort Lauderdale is a great location for anyone that loves the beach!
Palm Beach is located on the Atlantic side and I have come to realize that we just don’t like that side as much. Yes it is perfect for boogie boarding or surfing but if you are looking for the crystal clear water and soft white sand beaches we prefer the Gulf side.
All that aside Palm Beach has a large beach area and is a great place to look for shells. There was plenty of space on the beach when were there and also lots to do in the area.
Locals tip: Want to miss the crowds at Palm beach, but enjoy the same great waters? Head less than an hour north to Martin County so a spectacular time!
East Coast Florida Beaches
Looking to take a drive on the beach?! Then Daytona beach is the place for you. There aren’t many places where you can do this but in Daytona you can. How cool is that. Driving on the beach not your thing no worries there are beaches where cars aren’t allowed so you can enjoy a nice beach day.
You can also visit the Daytona Beach pier, interactive water fountain or listen to free live music at the bandshell. Needless to say there is lots of fun things to do when you visit Daytona Beach.
Looking to do some surfing? Jacksonville Beach is the place for you! Located in the northeast part of the state Jacksonville Beach offers all of the same great amenities that the beaches throughout Florida have. The difference is it also offers waves that are perfect for surfing!
Besides surfing there is a variety of water sports, golfing, restaurants, and fishing opportunities.
St. Augustine provides a variety of different beaches and none of them disappoint. You can also find yummy seafood restaurants along A1A beachfront avenue. Did you just sing that last part like I do every time?! A1A Beachfront Avenue!
They also offer a splashpad for kids by the beach, fishing and watersports. I do have to add if you visit St. Augustine beaches be sure to check out this amazing city too. There are so many cool things to do and so much history!
Amelia Island is a barrier island in northeast Florida and offers 13 miles of beautiful beach that is normally less crowded then other areas in the Florida. They also have a variety of native wildlife that you can see. If you are looking for a unique beach vacation then Amelia Island is definitely worth checking out!