In a state surrounded by water on 3 sides, the number of beaches to choose from can be overwhelming, but we’ve got you covered with a list of some of the best beaches in Florida.
With natural wonders in the Everglades, exhilarating theme parks, and exciting nightlife, it’s no wonder tourists flock to the Sunshine State, but the number one reason Florida has attracted people from all over the world is for the state’s absolutely stunning beaches. Where there’s a will, there’s a wave. No matter where you are in the state, some of the nicest beaches in Florida are no more than 2 hours away.
Going to the beach is one of the definitive summer must-dos, and since it’s summer all year round in The Sunshine State, these are some of the top Florida beaches to visit for a great vacation (or even staycation for the locals).
12 Prettiest Beaches in Florida
On the northeast coast of the Sunshine State lies one of the nicest beaches in Florida – Amelia Island. Tourists and locals alike visit this barrier island for a refreshing dip in the pristine waters and to admire the plethora of native wildlife.
Amelia Island is the perfect spot for a peaceful getaway whether guests prefer to stroll along the shore of one of the top Florida beaches, lounge under an umbrella with a favorite beach read, or explore the historical sights on the island influenced by the French, Spanish, and English at different points in time.
Perhaps one of the most magnificent experiences on Amelia Island is to go horseback riding on the beach! It’s the only state park in Florida that allows it.
Visitors have to opportunity to get a closer look at the real Florida, including the salt marshes, coastal maritime forests, and the stunning beaches where shells and shark teeth are waiting to be discovered.
The George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier offers fisherman a place to cast their lines in hopes of a good catch. Fishing bait, tackle supplies as well as snacks and refreshments are available at the On the Line bait and Tackle Shop nearby.
Not only is Amelia Island home to some of the best beaches in Florida, it also offers an array of accommodations from luxury hotels to adorable beachfront condos.
One of the top Florida beaches is literally at the top of the state, at the western-most point on the panhandle.
Locals and tourists come to Pensacola Beach for its emerald waters and sugar-white sand. The lively bunch populates the main beach while those looking for a serene beach experience head to the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The luckiest beachgoers may even spot a turtle nest between March and October, which is turtle nesting season.
The Footprints in the Sand Eco-Trail features educational signs and QR codes with information about the local wildlife and plant life. Those who are up for a longer, slightly more rigorous hike can opt for the 6.9-mile stretch of the Florida Trail that ends at the historic Fort Pickens.
The clean, wide beaches along Florida’s Space Coast offer something for everyone, whether it’s a calm, peaceful day under the sunshine or a fast-paced adventure that gets your blood pumping. The beautiful, warm waters and versatility of Cocoa Beach make it one of the nicest beaches in Florida.
The Cocoa Beach Pier is a great spot if you’re looking for some excitement. Visitors can dine at any one the delicious restaurants, have a drink during happy hour, or shop at a quaint boutique while live music fills the air.
The pier also provides great fishing spots and a killer view of the Atlantic Ocean. Beach, water sport, and fishing equipment rentals are available, not to mention the beach volleyball court for a great game.
Though there are countless wind and water sports to participate in like stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, or parasailing, one of the top things to do in Cocoa Beach is surf.
For a taste of Cocoa Beach’s surf culture, head to the beach early in the morning to watch locals and pros alike catch some waves or check out some of the local shops that create custom, handcrafted surfboards and stand-up paddleboards. The iconic Ron Jon Surf Shop, which is the largest surf shop in the world, is a can’t-miss either, not to mention it’s open 24 hours.
There are 4 main parks with access to one of the best beaches in Florida:
- Alan Shepard Park – Named after famed NASA astronaut, the park offers a great view of the shuttle launches – it’s quite a sight to behold. It’s within walking distance of popular retail establishments and also features picnic tables as well as shower and restroom facilities. The parking fee is $2.50/hr. or $15/day per vehicle.
- Sidney Fisher Park – This family-friendly beach park also has picnic tables, but with the added bonus of a playground. The parking fee is $2.50/hr. or $15/day per vehicle.
- Lori Wilson Park – One of the nicest beaches in Florida is accessible through Lori Wilson Park, which has a lovely nature trail boardwalk through the Maritime Hammock Preserve. Besides the picnic tables as well as shower and restroom facilities, there’s also a dog park. Best of all, parking is free!
- Robert P. Murkshe Memorial Park – Though there are no pets allowed on this stretch of beach, there is a pavilion as well as restrooms and showers for guests. Parking is free.
Honeymoon Island State Park features numerous amenities and a spectacular sunset that make it one of the top Florida beaches locals and tourists love to visit. It is truly one of the best beaches near Tampa!
The Main Beach has a wide expanse of soft, powdery sand where families settle down for their beach day with coolers, umbrellas, and water sports gear. It’s the beach that’s closest to the parking lot as well as the restrooms and café, which is why it’s usually the busiest on a weekend or holiday.
For those with furry friends, you’d be happy to know that Honeymoon Island is pet-friendly! There’s even the dedicated Dog Beach, which not only allows dogs on a 6-foot leash, but it’s great for fishing as well. As it’s on Hurricane Pass, though, swimming might not be the best idea due to the rougher waters.
On the northern end of the island is a quieter, more tranquil beach for those looking to spend a peaceful day enjoying the salty breeze, collecting shells, or admiring the wildlife. Though the Main Beach has the soft sand, this one does have lots of shells and rocks, so come prepared with water shoes if you plan on taking a dip in the ocean.
Though these are some of the nicest beaches in Florida for different reasons, Honeymoon Island also has about 3 miles of hiking trails through one of the last remaining slash pine forests, brimming with wildlife.
The incredible variety of birds such as osprey and eagles also attracts birdwatchers to Honeymoon Island. Visitors can check out the Nature Center if they’d like to learn more about the wildlife in the area as well as the flora and fauna.
The history of the island is also a fun little bonus. The story goes that in the 1940s, Clinton M. Washburn, in an effort to rebrand the island since it was previously named Hog Island, announced that newlyweds could apply for a free vacation to Honeymoon Island.
Couples would stay in cottages with names like “Love Nest,” though there was no electricity or plumbing, and enjoyed activities such as swimming, fishing, and exploring the island.
Visitors these days can look at old photos of the honeymooners at the Nature Center and learn a little bit more about this unusual history. For instance, what is now Honeymoon Island used to be much bigger until a hurricane split it in two about 100 years ago – Caladesi State Park, another one of the nicest beaches in Florida, makes up the other half.
Caladesi State Park
Surprisingly, this beautiful barrier island paradise has remained largely undeveloped, making it one of the best beaches in Florida for those who prefer a quiet, peaceful beach trip.
Visitors to Caladesi Island State Park can bring their fishing gear and hope for a good catch (as long as state fishing regulations are adhered to) or pack a picnic to enjoy at any of the pavilions while the kids have fun in the playground. The tranquil hiking trails and paths along the dunes can be so relaxing as well.
For a unique experience, paddle a kayak through the mangroves on the island or try camping on a boat! The marina is equipped with electrical service and water hookups as well as a grill for a completely different camping experience.
If you’re up for a bit of a walk, Caladesi Island State Park is also accessible by foot from Clearwater Beach since Dunedin Pass was filled in by Hurricane Elena in 1985, though many would consider 6 miles quite a far walk.
The most convenient way to get there is via boat; if you’re in luck, you might even see some dolphins making a splash! The Caladesi Ferry is available to take visitors to one of the top beaches in Florida while others arrive on private boats, but Florida locals insist that the best way to visit the island is by kayak and will even rent them out at a more affordable rate than a rental company.
Going to the beach is definitely one of the best things to do in Florida, and according to Trip Advisor, Clearwater Beach was the country’s #1 beach for multiple years! Perhaps it’s the calm ocean waters, the powdery white sand, or the limitless recreations in the area that make it one of the top beaches in Florida.
This positively vibrant beach is teeming with activity from street performers and local artists to people rollerblading along Pier 60, rock climbing, or going down the inflatable slide!
Thrill-seekers can also rent jet skis and waverunners or go snorkeling, scuba diving, or parasailing while fishing enthusiasts can enjoy spearfishing or even charter a boat with a professional.
The fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down, either. In fact, Clearwater Beach is one of the nicest beaches in Florida because of its spectacular sunsets. Pier 60 actually hosts a nightly sunset celebration featuring live music, buskers, and local artisans.
Throughout the month, the Sunset Cinema screens great movies the whole family can enjoy as well. How perfect would it be to watch Pirates of the Caribbean on the beach?!
Besides the amazing things going on every day, Clearwater Beach hosts numerous events and festivals throughout the year like the Clearwater Offshore Nationals for boating enthusiasts, the John’s Pass Seafood Festival for the foodies, and the Sugar Sand Festival that showcases incredible sand sculptures!
Ultimately, this is one of the best beaches in Florida because of …well… the actual beach. The waters are so calm, which makes it ideal for a relaxing day, and the city does a great job of maintaining the cleanliness of the beach, raking the superfine sand daily in the early morning. It’s also one of the only beaches nearby with lifeguards on duty all year long.
Beer Can Island (Longboat Key)
For those who want to get away from it all, or at least feel like they are, Beer Can Island is one of the best beaches in Florida to escape to. The soft white sand, turquoise waters, driftwood, and fallen trees of this hidden gem in Florida almost make it feel as if it was deserted.
It’s the perfect oasis if you’re looking for a quiet, private day at the beach to walk along the shore or hang a hammock between the trees and enjoy the breeze, though you should be wary of the rip currents.
Before you visit, keep in mind that there are no amenities or facilities, so plan accordingly. This secluded Florida beach is accessible by boat or along either Broadway Street or North Shore Road on foot.
As its name suggests, Siesta Key is one of the top Florida beaches to come and relax. The powdery white sand, tranquil ocean waves, and soft, salty breeze are huge draws.
Many vacation rentals and hotels in Siesta Key are right on the sand with really convenient beach access. Visitors can charter a boat, rent vehicles and equipment for water sports, or book a fun excursion like parasailing or snorkeling.
There’s free yoga on the beach in the mornings and an exhilarating Siesta Key Drum Circle on Sunday evenings that can make anyone feel the beat and move with it. The evenings are filled with live music coming from multiple sandy beach bars, the scents of delicious, fresh seafood from nearby restaurants, or the friendly lights of a local ice cream shop.
When not directly on the beach, opt to ride a bike around town to the small boutiques and cafés in Siesta Key Village and feel the fresh breeze for a laid-back experience or use the free trolley to get around.
Just south of Sarasota lies 14 miles of some of the best beaches in Florida – Venice Beach.
Like many top Florida beaches along the Gulf Coast, Venice Beach has soft, pristine sand to dig your feet into and settle down for a fantastic day of sunbathing or kick around during an awesome game of beach volleyball at one of the two courts available.
Visitors can bring their own grub and set up in the picnic area. Alternatively, there’s a concession stand as well as numerous cafes and restaurants along the shore. Lifeguards are on duty year-round, so there’s no worry about safety, and there are restrooms and outdoor showers available for guests to wash away the sand and salt of the day. Even better, the parking is free!
The beautiful, warm Gulf waters make Venice Beach one of the nicest beaches in Florida that’s ideal for swimming and boating. Beachcombing is one of the locals’ favorite pastimes as the beach is brimming with treasures like fossilized shark teeth and lovely shells.
During turtle nesting season (May – October), lucky beachgoers may even spot turtle nests or turtles hatching and making their way back to the ocean! It’s important to be mindful of these events so as not to disturb these amazing marine creatures.
The Venice Public Fishing Pier is a great place to not only fish but also spot dolphins and shorebirds, not to mention it’s right by the only dog-friendly beach in Venice, Brohard Park.
Visitors can also walk or bike along the paths through the Venetian Waterway Park, where they may even spot alligators in the water. At the end of the trail, guests are rewarded with the ruggedly beautiful Caspersen Beach. Though it’s not as immaculate and manicured as the main Venice Beach, the soft sand is complemented by dramatic rock formations that make this spot something special.
The wide expanse of a gradually sloping shoreline with the softest sand is one reason that Fort Myers Beach is one of the nicest beaches in Florida. This vacation paradise is dotted with both luxury resorts and quaint condos, such as this wonderfully bright and cheery beachside studio, as well as the pier, fresh seafood restaurants, tiki bars, the Times Square shopping district, and much more.
Relaxing at the beach could mean setting up a lounge chair and laying under the sun or calmly canoeing through the mangrove forests, spotting dolphins or gentle manatees in the ocean.
Adventurous visitors can opt to go parasailing, ride a catamaran, or even try a sunset or full-moon excursion on a stand-up paddleboard. Treasure hunters will enjoy geo-seeking in Lovers Key State Park and boaters can fish for trout, redfish, or tarpon (so long as state regulations are followed).
Lovers Key State Park not only has a beautiful stretch of one of the best beaches in Florida, it also offers miles of hiking and biking trails. The state park is a paradise for birdwatchers as there are over 40 species of birds that have been recorded, 17 of which are on the designated species list.
As a bonus, two of the top Florida beaches, Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, are easily accessible just off the coast of Fort Myers Beach. Sanibel Island is known for its unusual lighthouse, the “Sanibel Stoop” as guests collect shells, and the amazing sunsets. Captiva Island, on the other hand, is much more secluded since about half the stretch of beach is exclusively for guests of the main resort on this tiny island.
Bahia Honda Key
The palm-lined beach of Bahia Honda State Park is the perfect view on a lovely, bright day in the Florida sunshine. It’s considered one of the top Florida beaches these days, but originally gained popularity when it became a stop along the railroad that Henry Flagler built all the way down to Key West.
Travelers would hop off the train to enjoy the balmy, salty ocean breeze and admire the spectacular view of the ocean. Unfortunately, the railroad track was destroyed by a hurricane in 1935 and the Overseas Highway was built over it, though the use of that bridge ceased in 1972.
Visitors can choose from any of the 3 beaches located at Bahia Honda State Park. On the west end of the island is Calusa, the smallest beach. Sandspur is the largest beach in the state park and is located along the southeast side of the island. The shallow water at the Loggerhead beach on the south side makes it ideal for families with young children.
Bahia Honda State Park lends itself to snorkeling or scuba diving for beginners because of its shallow waters that are bursting with tropical fish, coral, and other marine life. Kayak rentals are available as well or visitors can try geocaching, a real-life treasure hunting game.
As if the crystal-clear water wasn’t enough to entice visitors, Bahia Honda State Park is home to some rare flora and fauna that can be found along the three nature trails, one of which leads up to the bridge for a fantastic bird’s eye view of the island. The Great Florida Birding Trail here is perfect for bird enthusiasts, who can spot birds from the trails below or the bridge above.
Bahia Honda State Park has cabins and campgrounds where visitors can spend the night as well as a marina for the boaters.
Key West is known for many things, but generally not sandy beaches because the shores are usually rocky. Smathers Beach, though, is one of the top Florida beaches because visitors not only enjoy everything unique to Key West itself but when they go to the beach, there’s soft sand beneath their toes instead of rocks; the sand was originally imported.
Smathers Beach is the largest in the city and offers visitors so many activities and amenities. Along with the beach volleyball courts, vendors line the beach to rent jet skis and the like or snorkeling equipment. People can also book a windsurfing or parasailing adventure for a bit of a thrill.
During the busy season especially, there are plenty of food trucks where people can grab a delicious bite from a local business. This clean beach with plenty of shade and countless activities also make it a popular Spring Break destination.
There are restrooms and shower facilities available. Hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other rental properties are generally in keeping with the overall laid-back vibe of Key West with the added bonus of being right by one of the best beaches in Florida.
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