Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
The peninsula of Florida offers thousands of miles of coastline and beaches, from the Atlantic on the east, the state’s “panhandle” in the northwest, and the Gulf Coast with postcard-perfect sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.
These are some of the most beautiful places in Florida, and each one is worth taking the time to explore. While it seems impossible to narrow down the beach options to a “best of” list, we do have some favorites to share.
The best regions for a Florida beach getaway
From Panama City Beach to the southernmost point of the U.S. in Key West, there’s an overwhelming number of Florida beach vacation options. Not sure where to start? Let’s begin by breaking down each region.
Atlantic Coast beaches
There are three sections of the Atlantic coast: the Northeast, Central East and Southeast. Each region is further divided into “coasts.” The First Coast is found at the northeastern end of Florida. The Space Coast is in the central region. And, in the southeastern portion of the state, you’ll find the Treasure Coast, Gold Coast and Florida Keys.
The Panhandle is a gorgeous part of the state, with the type of sugar-soft sand beaches that most people dream about. Accommodations here won’t drain your pocket as quickly as a stay in Miami or Naples.
The Panhandle stretches from the Florida-Alabama border near Pensacola east to the state capital of Tallahassee. In between those two points are plenty of beach towns like Fort Walton, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe. There are also standout nature reserves such as Apalachicola National Forest, Tate’s Hell State Forest and Wakulla Springs.
Gulf Coast beaches
What is the lure of Florida’s Gulf Coast? Cities like Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples populate the area and are home to excellent hotels, restaurants and shopping. Those vibrant destinations are paired with barrier islands and miles upon miles of beachfront — all with incredible sunset views over the Gulf of Mexico.
Whether you’re looking for a nightclub offering salsa dancing or a hidden cove where you can spy manatees, you’ll find it on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Now that you’ve been fully downloaded on the geography, it’s time to dive into our list of the 17 best beaches in Florida.
Ponte Vedra Beach
The St. Augustine area, home to Ponte Vedra Beach, is an excellent place to decamp for a sunshine-filled vacation. This Atlantic Coast enclave is just a 35-mile drive southeast of Jacksonville International Airport (JAX). While you might know this area due to its affiliation with the PGA Tour, Floridians vacation here for the wide beaches made from coquina shells and Appalachian quartz.
The 40-foot sand dunes are some of the highest on any Florida beach and while there are plenty of palm trees in sight, visitors are also treated to stately live oaks draped with Spanish moss and maritime hammocks. Dogs are allowed on this beach and there are picnic tables and grills at the South Ponte Vedra Beach recreation area.
People from across the U.S. have probably heard about famed Cocoa Beach, which is actually a group of beaches that span 72 miles along the Atlantic Ocean. On a barrier island, the secluded stretch of sand at Playalinda Beach within Canaveral National Seashore is a can’t-miss destination.
If you’re cruising out of Port Canaveral, a visit to the 3-acre beach at Jetty Park is in order. There’s a 1,500-foot fishing pier on-site, along with covered picnic pavilions, showers and restrooms. You can rent chairs, umbrellas, kayaks and boogie boards from vendors on the beach.
Surfers congregate around Cocoa Beach Pier, where there are also some good restaurants and shopping. The 5-acre Alan Shepard Park with its oceanfront picnic areas is also popular, as is the 10-acre Sidney Fischer Park with picnic pavilions, showers and restrooms.
Four recreation areas make up Vero Beach, a tony enclave on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. If you’re a Disney fan, you may already be familiar with Wabasso Beach Park since it’s right next door to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. It’s a wonderful wide stretch of golden sand with calm waters that are great for swimming.
North of Wabasso is Golden Sands Beach Park, where you can swim and snorkel (lifeguards are on duty) and enjoy a picnic lunch. Seating and grills are on-site. Jaycee Park is on the southern end of Vero Beach; it’s a massive 8-acre oceanfront park with an on-site restaurant, playground, boardwalk and picnic area. There’s also a buoyed swimming area.
Finally, just about a mile south of Jaycee Park is Humiston Beach Park, which is close to Vero Beach’s shopping district and hosts many festivals throughout the year.
Nestled between West Palm Beach and Jupiter, Juno is best known for its nesting sea turtles (from May to October) that bring tourists to the barrier island sandwiched between the Atlantic and Intracoastal.
Year-round, the Juno Beach Pier attracts plenty of fishing activity, as well as sightseers and sunrise chasers looking for prime viewing spots. Additionally, the beach brings surfers and kiteboarders looking to catch large swells among the salty breezes.
Get to know more about the area’s turtle-famed history at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, paddle through mangroves at Juno Dunes Natural Area and wind down with plenty of haunts dedicated to craft brews and live tunes.
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
If you want to know what Southeast Florida looked like before industrialization and commercialization, look no further than Singer Island in Palm Beach County. It’s a barrier island along the Atlantic Coast and home to John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.
Visitors come for the swimming, snorkeling and fishing opportunities, but there are also nature trails, a playground, picnic areas and a place to rent kayaks. There’s a 1,600-foot boardwalk leading to the beach that stretches 2 miles along the coast.
If you’ve got kids and beach toys in tow, take the complimentary tram and save that walk. Just be aware that there is no lifeguard on duty at this beach.
Maybe you’ve already heard everything you need to know about South Beach, Miami’s hot spot. But we have to include it on the list because it’s not just the place to visit in Miami — it’s also one of the most famous beaches in America. The 2.2-mile white sand beach on the Gold Coast stretches from 23rd Street south to the tip of the barrier island.
Lummus Park is known to bring the volleyballers, while the adjacent promenade is great for breezy dog walks and jogs. Ocean Drive runs parallel to the beach, and the area between 5th and 15th streets is probably the most touristy and certainly the busiest.
Storied art deco hotels line the beach and even if you’re not staying nearby, you must visit and spend some time walking along the water’s edge here to see all the glamorous locals and visitors.
Bahia Honda State Park
An island located in the lower Florida Keys, this beach is a tropical destination framed by iconic palm trees and known for its pristine, crystal-clear waters. A popular spot for birding — especially to see species wading and along the shore — it’s known to bring in nature lovers.
A hot spot for boaters, you can also park for the day and enjoy some time paddling or snorkeling. You can even stargaze at night since there’s such low light pollution in the area. For your convenience, there are cabins and a campground, concession stands and a restaurant, picnic pavilions, shower stations and restrooms. Plus, leashed pets are permitted in certain areas of the park.
While Bahia Honda may have once been a hidden Keys gem, it’s no longer a secret. Arrive early to avoid park closures when it’s at capacity.
Fort Jefferson Beach
It’s remote, it’s isolated and you’ll need to take a long ride by ferry or short ride by seaplane to get here, but the shores of Fort Jefferson Beach in Dry Tortugas National Park are arguably the best in the Florida Keys.
Just 70 miles from Key West, the historic 19th-century fort atop a remote island housed soldiers throughout the Civil War before being designated a national monument. Today, it sits empty, save for the few tourists who visit each day to walk its halls and snorkel its sandy shores, where tropical fish and living coral are easily seen in the shallow, clear waters.
Panama City Beach
The thing to remember when planning a Florida beach vacation is that there is a lot of coastline. So, when we say “Panama City Beach,” you may think of a mile or two of sand on the state’s Emerald Coast — but it’s actually 27 miles of sand along the Panhandle with nearly 100 public access points.
If you’re looking for solitude and sunshine, check out the eastern edge of Panama City Beach. Look to Shell Island, a 7-mile-long barrier island — it’s only accessible by boat, but it’s worth the extra effort.
If you want an undeveloped beach without the boat ride, check out nearby St. Andrews State Park, where you can also book a campsite. Families (and anyone looking for a more energetic vibe) prefer Pier Park, which offers thousands of square feet of shopping right alongside the beach and a variety of oceanfront restaurants.
If you’re seeking a laid-back refuge, consider a trip to “Florida’s most relaxing place,” along the Emerald Coast, situated on Santa Rosa Island just west of Destin.
For watersports, there’s snorkeling and diving, or you can explore the beautiful surroundings on a hike or bike ride. Plus, the 1,500-foot fishing pier sits 30 feet above the water offering great casting conditions.
Visit local wildlife at the Gulf Breeze Zoo, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge and Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center, then grab a bite at one of the award-winning eateries known for fresh fare paired with stunning seaside views.
St. Pete Beach
St. Pete Beach has been a major tourist destination since the Don CeSar Hotel was first built in 1928; the distinctive pink palace was designed as a homage to a Moorish-style estate.
The beach, along a barrier island just west of St. Petersburg, is a draw because it offers both undeveloped stretches of sand along with places where you can indulge in water sports like kiteboarding, windsurfing, parasailing and stand-up paddleboarding.
The revitalized 26-acre St. Pete Pier overlooking Tampa Bay debuted in May 2020. It’s a place to walk, cycle, swim, shop and more. Restaurants like Doc Ford’s Rum Bar, Fresco’s Waterfront Bistro and Driftwood Cafe line the pier.
With its soft, sugar-white beaches and shallow waters, Clearwater Beach is a top spot for families. One of the state’s widest beaches, it’s perfect for everything from kite flying to sandcastle building.
Wind down at the beach’s iconic Pier 60, which has been hosting nightly sunset events complete with live music, entertainers and arts and crafts vendors for decades.
The 1,080-foot fishing pier is the premier spot to try to catch the “green flash” as the sun takes its last dip into the Gulf. Visit in April for the annual Sugar Sand Festival, when artists from around the world create jaw-dropping sculptures made entirely of sand.
Siesta Key Beach
It’s wide enough to accommodate beach volleyball games, sandcastle building and its fair share of sunbathers. The sand is fine, fluffy and bright white, and the water is calm and clear. If that isn’t the recipe for a perfect Florida beach, what is?
It’s no secret the 8-mile-long island known as Siesta Key is among the Sunshine State’s finest. But few wander down to the small stretch known as Crescent Beach, where you can climb over a seawall to Point of Rocks, a collection of boulders that give way to serene tidal pools. Visit on Sunday evenings for the weekly drum circle that gathers on the beach.
Blind Pass Beach
While the current is sometimes too swift for swimming at Blind Pass Beach, located on the Lee Island Coast — on both the Sanibel and Captiva sides of Blind Pass Bridge between the islands — this is the place for shelling. If you’re on the hunt for the region’s elusive junonia, you could find one here, along with conch, whelk, murex, tulip, olive and coquina shells.
There are parking spots on both sides of the bridge, but the restrooms and shower are on the Captiva side. You’ll see locals fishing here and most are willing to offer tips to visitors casting a line, too.
If you go in the morning, go early and then walk across the street to enjoy some Key lime French toast at the Sunset Grill. Or, arrive as evening falls to see one of the most spectacular sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.
Naples Municipal Beach
There is something special about the Naples area. Travelers visit to enjoy those white-sand beaches with emerald-green water lapping at the shore.
If you’re looking for luxury accommodations, such as The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort Naples, or Inn at Pelican Bay, you’ll find them here. But if you gravitate toward beach cottages and bungalows, there are plenty to choose from here as well.
Naples is home to nature reserves, trendy shopping thoroughfares and incredible restaurants. If you’re looking to spend a day out in the sunshine, head to Naples Municipal Beach and Fishing Pier. If you’re lucky, you’ll see dolphins swimming right off the shoreline.
Upscale travelers love this luxurious island just south of Naples. It’s the only developed island along Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands and offers easy access to the well-preserved natural habitat with direct entry to the Gulf of Mexico and neighboring estuaries.
A fishing town also known for its high-end resorts, Marco Island offers a taste of the good life with laid-back vibes. Bookmark strolls at Tigertail Beach and South Marco Beach along the way.
For those who are traveling on a budget, there are affordable hotels or motels, as well as camping offered at Collier Seminole State Park. Go shelling, enjoy an abundance of fresh seafood, peruse art and shop for beachy trinkets galore.
Lovers Key State Park
Part of the charm of this beauty is that it’s hidden away on a barrier island between Naples and Fort Myers. It’s a haven for wildlife, including bald eagles and bottlenose dolphins.
Hop in a kayak to explore the island’s canals and you’ll likely spot manatees, turtles and plenty of shorebirds. Truth be told, Lovers Key is more often near-empty than not, overshadowed by the glitzier options in the nearby beach towns, but it’s hands-down one of the most romantic beaches as a result, more than earning its moniker.
- Key travel tips you need to know — whether you’re a beginner or expert traveler
- The best travel credit cards
- Where to go in 2024: The 16 best places to travel
- 6 real-life strategies you can use when your flight is canceled or delayed
- 8 of the best credit cards for general travel purchases
- 13 must-have items the TPG team can’t travel without