If you’re craving a warm-weather getaway to Florida, you might be feeling overwhelmed when it comes to picking out the best locale in the state for your preferred beach vacation. There are so many different beaches in the state, but each one offers a different experience. Luckily, that means there’s something for every type of travel agenda.
Do you want to party with cocktails in hand, or would you rather kick back at a beach resort, surrounded by family for a quiet afternoon? Whether you’re looking for nonstop events or a relaxing dip in crystal clear water, this list has every type of beach you could want. Below, see the best Florida beaches you need to visit if you’re planning a trip to the Sunshine State.
Seaside happens to have served as the backdrop of The Truman Show, but there’s also so much more to this idyllic resort town, which is home to dreamy white sand beaches you won’t ever want to leave. Grab your paddleboard, hop in a golf cart and head to 30A, the main drag where you can find Seaside’s private beach. Cabana Man is on hand to set up beach chairs (simply reserve them in advance), or indulge in a rental cabana if you’re visiting with a larger group.
Guests can place food orders from the plethora of Airstreams lining 30A, which offer everything from BBQ to Greek cuisine. Take a walk on the soft sand, and don’t be surprised if it squeaks, as it’s actually made of quartz crystal. Once you’re done playing around in the water and lounging in the sun, ditch the white stretches of sand for the famous Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant and Bar, where you can grab a cocktail and watch the picturesque sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
Beachgoers in pursuit of a quiet time can enjoy an afternoon in Palm Beach. If you’re staying at an oceanfront resort or luxury hotel, you’ll have automatic access to the some of the most beautiful beaches, but the town also offers two stunning public beaches for visitors and locals, as well. Guests can find street-front parking downtown and visit one of the Palm Beach County town’s many buzz-worthy restaurants or bars, and stop at one of the many chic boutiques.
Grayton Beach State Park
This Panhandle beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast is a truly unique option; if you have a permit, you can drive your truck directly onto the white sand (expect to hear lots of country music coming from the surrounding trucks’ speakers). This family-friendly South Walton spot also allows dogs as long as you have the correct permit, so your fluffy friends can keep you company.
You can hike on one of the nature trails at this spectacular state park, and afterwards, grab a cocktail at one of the nearby Santa Rosa Beach bars, like Chiringo (try the frozen and dangerous Billy Ocean, made with fresh mango and ginger). This Florida State Park is right in between Panama City Beach and Destin, but offers a far more low-key beach town feel than both of those rather rowdy spring break destinations.
This Miami Beach hotspot, on the East Coast of Florida, just might be one of the most famous neighborhoods in the Sunshine State, and for good reason—South Beach has so much personality, and it’s worth a special long weekend that you’ll never forget. If you’re planning a trip here, you can stay at one of the hotels right on the Atlantic Ocean, many of which offer cabanas and beach service, or simply pull up and people watch. FYI, you’re sure to see plenty of European men vacationing in teeny tiny Speedos and gorgeous models in full glam. While it’s not always the most family-friendly destination, it’s surely one of the best beaches if you’re looking for a party getaway.
Fort Lauderdale’s beaches have long been popular with the spring breaker set, but the city now has far more for both tourists and locals alike. It’s well worth a trip to check out the bar scene on Las Olas, or the trendy restaurants popping up all over town.
This location isn’t quite as rowdy as Miami, but still offers numerous spots to have a good time. Fort Lauderdale beaches encompass over seven miles of sandy oceanfront, with tons of of water sports like jet skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving and deep sea fishing available. The South Florida city is also famous for its bustling, family-friendly beachfront promenade replete with shops, restaurants, cafes and live music.
Similarly to South Beach, Key West is filled with palm tree-lined beaches that are all about having the best time imaginable. The town itself is famous for its spectacular drag shows, wild nightlife and colorful, kitschy architecture, making it the ultimate escape. The scuba diving is another reason to visit, as there are beautiful coral reefs to explore, in addition to dive masters to help you out.
While the public beaches in Key West aren’t always the cleanest, if you venture to the upper Florida Keys, you’ll see screensaver-worthy pristine white sand. There are also loads of water sports to experience; you can kayak through the mangroves and look at the crystal clear waves while parasailing.
Deerfield Beach has a laid-back boardwalk and fishing pier, and is definitely worth visiting if you’re looking for a more relaxed vibe in South Florida. You can grab a bite to eat at one of the nearby restaurants (we suggest The Whale’s Rib for classic seafood dishes or Bob’s Pizza if you’re craving Italian), and don’t forget to sample a frozen cocktail at Kahuna Bar & Grill.
There’s also cabana service available at this beach, and there are always lifeguards in the area, so you won’t have to worry if you’re visiting with children. If you want a more adventurous vacation, join the surfers at Island Water Sports. If you’re interested in seeing sea turtles, head to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, which rescues and rehabilitates wildlife.
You don’t have to go all the way to the Caribbean for an island-like experience. This barrier island is popular with tourists because of its fascinating shell beaches and wildlife sightings, but if you don’t find enough seashells during your beach walk, check out the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. Outdoorsy visitors can also enjoy the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the U.S.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed beach vacation, then you should check out Naples, which is located less than an hour south of Fort Myers. This southwest Florida destination, which has long been popular with retirees, boasts Gulf of Mexico views, and if you want a day off from lounging, you can visit the famous golf courses. The historic Naples Pier, which has been around since 1888, is one of the standout spots, especially for folks who enjoy fishing, or kids who hope to spot a dolphin. The calm waters and sugar-white sand make Naples beaches particularly notable.