Florida, with over 1,000 miles of coastline, is without a doubt one of the best places in the world for a beach holiday. Fort Lauderdale is a great place to start, but Miami is also a popular option, while the barrier island of Anna Maria is worth exploring for those who want to avoid the crowds. Amazing weather is virtually guaranteed, with temperatures usually around 80 degrees. With countless options to choose from it can be difficult to know which beaches to visit first, so here is our guide to 15 of the best beaches that people should check out during their time in Florida.
1. South Beach
South Beach is certainly the most famous beach in Florida and it is well worth checking out, although the scene is not for everyone. South Beach tends to be extremely busy but the sand is soft and the water is clear. The nightlife around South Beach is some of the best available anywhere in America, so if you want to party then South Beach should definitely be added to your itinerary. South Beach is particularly popular with celebrities, so keep your eyes open for famous faces during your visit. Powerboat and jetski rides are among the best activities at South Beach.
2. Fort Walton Beach
A world away from the celebrity paradise of South Beach is Fort Walton Beach. Located on the state’s Gulf Coast, the powdery white sand is some of the most beautiful of anywhere in America. A great place for families, there are a lot of attractions such as aquariums, museums and parks away from the beach itself. The Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base is definitely worth taking time out of your schedule to see. Fort Walton Beach has a great range of restaurants to choose from and the nightlife is also very lively, so there is something for everything here.
3. Daytona Beach
Along with South Beach, Daytona Beach is one of the most famous beaches in America, if not the whole world. The 23 miles of sand may be filled with Spring Break revellers at the busiest time of the year, but Daytona is amazingly scenic. The surrounding area might be a little rough and ready – there are a lot of biker bars nearby – but for an afternoon relaxing on a sandy stretch there are few better places to go in Florida than Daytona Beach. The NASCAR Coke Zero 400 race in July is among Daytona’s biggest events, as well as January’s 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race.
4. Siesta Beach
This beach claims to have the softest sand in the United States and anyone who has visited Siesta Beach during a holiday in Florida will find it very hard to argue with that glowing assessment. Sunsets are particularly beautiful in this part of the state, while there are plenty of recreational activities to enjoy at Siesta Beach too, with volleyball and soccer among the most popular things to do here. The sea is extremely calm at Siesta Beach – so there is no surfing – and the beach is less than a mile long, but it really is a must-visit spot. The beach, which is located in relaxing Sarasota, was named TripAdvisor’s best beach in the US in 2015.
5. St George Island State Park
This barrier island is a great place to visit for anyone who wants to get away from the crowds found in Florida’s main cities and towns. With miles and miles of unspoiled and undeveloped beaches, St George Island State Park is a superb Florida retreat. Fishing is particularly popular here, with redfish, flounder, Spanish mackerel, sea trout, whiting and pompano among the local fish. There is also ample opportunities for hiking, swimming, canoeing and boating – as well as sunbathing, of course. The beach at St George Island State Park was ranked as the third best in America by Forbes in 2013.
6. Barefoot Beach
Barefoot Beach can be found on one of the last undeveloped barrier islands on Florida’s south-west coast, while Barefoot Beach Preserve has well over 300 miles of unspoiled natural land. Despite being undeveloped, the beach still has amenities such as public restrooms and showers. The beach is a good place to spot dolphins, while other nearby wildlife includes the protected gopher tortoise. The natural surroundings mean visitors can relax on a quiet beach, with sabal palm, gumbo-limbo and sea grape trees all around them. Barefoot Beach is truly remarkable and a must-visit spot for anyone holidaying in Florida.
7. Pensacola Beach
Pensacola Beach has been named in the top five of TripAdvisor’s best beaches in the US and it is easy to see why it is so highly-rated and beloved by both tourists and locals alike. Located in the northwest corner of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, Pensacola is a hive of activity, but the beach feels remote and secluded. Novelty houses such as the Dome of a Home can be viewed near the beach. Dr Beach and the Travel Channel have also highlighted Pensacola Beach as one of the best beaches to relax on in America.
8. Destin Beach
Destin Beach is particularly popular with families, who flock to this corner of Florida due to the friendly, intimate atmosphere, as well as the fact it is located in one of the most affordable places in the state. Destin, which is nicknamed the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village, is a peninsula which is connected to the mainland of Florida by a bridge, helping it to feel like a holiday hideaway. Seafood aficionados will find a lot to love about a trip to Destin, with around 20 different species to choose from. Just south of the border with Alabama, Destin Beach has some of the purest white sand in the state. However, it can get chilly and it has probably the coldest water in Florida too.
9. St Pete Beach
In central-west Florida, on the Gulf, is St Pete Beach. Soft sugar sand beaches are the main attraction here, but a wide choice of beachfront accommodation also makes it extremely popular with all types of people. Away from the beach itself, the town is home to The Pier, which is a big dining and shopping complex. St Pete Beach can be easily reached from St Petersburg, Clearwater and Tampa and it is not far from all the world-renowned attractions of Orlando either. The iconic Don CeSar resort is phenomenally popular with people who want to stay close to the glorious fine sands of St Pete Beach.
10. Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach has a well-earned reputation as one of the best beaches in America. The beach, which is one of the best places in Florida from which to spot dolphins, is a three-mile stretch on the Gulf Coast. Beach volleyball is really popular at Clearwater Beach, while away from the sandy shores there are museums and aquariums to visit too. Some $30 million has been spent on the beach and its stunning surroundings – it is a perfect relaxation spot. Clearwater Beach is famous for its nightly sunset celebrations, which host a wide range of enjoyable entertainment.
11. Hollywood Beach
A TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Winner, Hollywood Beach is Florida’s answer to the sandy stretches found on the opposite coast of America. The boardwalk – named one of America’s Best Beach Boardwalks by Travel + Leisure magazine – is a beautiful spot for a quiet walk and it is lined with an appealing array of pizza places and ice cream shops. Hollywood Beach has a quintessentially old Florida feel unlike many of the other popular places in this list. Free nightly entertainment is available for visitors at the beach theatre, while there is a wide range of watersports on offer at the beach too.
12. Bean Point Beach
For Florida visitors who are on the hunt for a laid-back paradise, there are few better places to go in the state that Bean Point Beach, which can be found on the barrier island of Anna Maria. There are a lot of popular tourist activities in this stunning part of Florida, such as golfing and fishing. Away from the beach, it is well worth soaking up the knowledge and information at the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum. The beach at Bean Point is right at the most northern tip of Anna Maria, with the scenery particularly beautiful here during the stunning sunsets.
13. Key Biscayne
A lighthouse at the southern end of the beach is one of Key Biscayne’s main landmarks, with the beach having a great family feel. The calmness of the water means there are almost no waves here, which means no surfers, contributing to the lack of crowds at Key Biscayne. While a lot of the beaches in Miami can be brash and loud, Key Biscayne is brilliant for children. One of the best things about Key Biscayne is its close proximity to a pair of parks – it is located in between Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park to the south and to the north is Crandon Park.
14. St Joseph Peninsula State Park
With many miles of perfect white sand, visiting St Joseph Peninsula State Park is a must for anyone heading to Florida for the first time. Surrounded by the waters of St Joseph’s Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, the state park covers some 2,500 acres, with the tip of the peninsula home to the massive Wilderness Preserve. The great climate makes St Joseph Peninsula State Park popular all-year round, but the beaches rarely get busy, especially compared to the city-based sandy stretches found elsewhere in Florida. The park is also famous for its 35-foot-high sand dunes.
15. Panama City Beach
The Florida Ironman race in November takes place at Panama City Beach, which is also the home of some of the state’s biggest Spring Break celebrations, earning it the dubious nickname of the Spring Break Capital of the World. The beautiful beach itself is certainly one of the most stunning in Florida, but the surrounding area can be a little bit rough and ready. Near the beach itself there are a couple of state parks that are well worth visiting, while the excellent waterfront restaurants serve up fresh local seafood to die for. Avoid Panama City Beach in March and April as this is when tens of thousands of students descend on the area.