Florida’s best beaches are some of the finest in the world, and it’s easy to see why. With nearly 2,000 km of coastline and 1,000 km of beaches to explore, you could spend weeks or even months beach-hopping around the Sunshine State and never see them all. 

    There’s truly a beach to suit any type of traveller in Florida. Find crowded party beaches, remote beaches for lonely strolls, soft-sand beaches just steps away from your hotel, activity-packed beaches for the family, and much more. If you’re in search of Florida’s best beaches, get your beach gear ready and read on.


    Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

    Picturesque Key West beach and Civil War landmark

    Found where the Atlantic meets the Gulf of Mexico, this protected park in Key West offers an activity-filled day out with clear water ideal for swimming and snorkelling, as well as nature trails to explore. Snorkelling gear is available for rent in the park, with reams of tropical marine life to see just a short swim offshore. 

    Stop by Fort Zachary for a guided tour to learn about its role in the Civil and Spanish-American wars. Take a lunch break at Cayo Hueso Cafe or use the park's public picnic tables and grills to prepare your own meal. Those who linger on into the evening are rewarded with spectacular sunsets. 

    Location: 601 Howard England Way, Key West, Florida 33040, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to sunset

    Phone: +1 305-292-6713


    Sanibel Island

    Pristine beaches with colourful seashells

    This barrier reef island near Fort Myers is a seashell paradise with millions of shells washing up on its shores every year. Shellers love to come here to search for beautiful specimens like conches or sand dollars to add to their collection, especially from January through March. 

    Blind Pass Beach has lovely soft white sands with some of the best shelling grounds, while those looking for a more secluded escape could head to Bowman’s Beach. Sanibel and Captiva island are reached via a 5km causeway with a $3 toll for cars. Measuring about 20 km by 5k m in size, Sanibel is ideal for exploring by bicycle. 


    South Beach

    Sizzling hot people-watching spot

    If you're in search of a lively beach with some glitz and glam, make your way to South Beach. Many people flock to “SoBe” to see and be seen, but there's also a ton of stuff to do including yachting, snorkelling, stand-up paddle boarding and kite surfing. 

    Wander off the beach to explore the vibrant Art Deco district or stop by the museums, art galleries and shops lining the streets. Enjoy sundowners at an Ocean Drive bar before whirling off to party in the clubs late into the night. Nearby 12th Street Beach is an LBGT haven while clothing-optional Haulover Beach is great for working on your full-body suntan.

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    Grayton Beach State Park, South Walton

    Where art meets nature under water

    With its powder-soft sands and 2,000 acres of wilderness, this Emerald Coast state park is a breathtakingly beautiful place to explore. Spend the day trail hiking or paddling a canoe on the dune lake. Birds and wildlife thrive here, including green sea turtles that can sometimes be seen digging nests in the sand. 

    Scuba divers will not want to miss the Underwater Museum of Art – an amazing sight that blends nature with human creativity. Sculptural works from artists around the world are installed in an underwater garden just offshore, attracting marine life and eventually transforming into a living reef.

    Location: 357 Main Park Road, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to sunset

    Phone: +1 850-267-8300


    photo by daystreamin' (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Siesta Beach

    Blinding white sands and calm waters

    Running barefoot on this beach is a joy, with its incredibly fine sands of 99% pure quartz and gentle surf rolling in from the Gulf of Mexico. Set on Siesta Key near Sarasota, it’s a fun beach for families to spend a day swimming, relaxing in the sun and sandcastle building. 

    Siesta Key Village and its boutique shops, restaurants and bars is just a short walk away, while every Sunday evening the beach comes to life with the sounds and carefree spirit of the Siesta Key Drum Circle. All are welcome to come to watch and dance on the sand. 


    photo by Csouthard (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Pensacola Beach

    Family-friendly beach with dolphin sighting

    Extending along the coast of the narrow barrier island of Santa Rosa, Pensacola Beach offers a mix of busy hotel-lined lengths of sand and tranquil stretches away from the crowds. The 450-metre-long Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier offers a great vantage point for spotting dolphins and manatees. The pier is also perfectly located for watching the sun go down in a fiery blaze over the Gulf. 

    Find a good choice of open-air bars, restaurants and shops along the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, or for a more secluded day at the beach, head to the Gulf Islands National Seashore and enjoy a peaceful stroll along its sugar-white sands.  


    photo by David Henderson (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Fort Lauderdale Beach

    No longer boozy, but still busy

    Formerly a party destination for college kids on spring break, Fort Lauderdale has transformed into a place that’s more about chic shopping than beer chugging. The spectacular string of white-sand beaches lining greater Fort Lauderdale’s coast extend for nearly 40 km. 

    Fort Lauderdale’s main beach is a thriving place with boutique shops, dining spots and a beachfront promenade to stroll and take in the lively human spectacle. Find quieter stretches of sand at Dania Beach or Hillsboro Beach, where there's a lighthouse and yacht-studded inlet. And there’s a fascinating underwater world for scuba divers and snorkellers to explore with 100km of coral reef just offshore. 


    Caladesi Island State Park

    Idyllic nature escape

    This paradise island of pristine beaches and mangrove forests is found off the coast of Clearwater, about 40km west of Tampa Bay. Hike the nature trails to search for birds and majestic trees like cabbage palms, towering slash pine trees and live oaks. Paddle a kayak through the mangroves or simply relax on the soft white sands. 

    To get to the island, catch the 20-minute car ferry at Honeymoon Island State Park, or for a more strenuous journey rent a kayak along Dunedin Causeway and paddle in. With a marina on the island, Caladesi’s also a fine spot for a boat cruise. 

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    Location: Offshore Island, Dunedin, Florida 34698, USA

    Open: Daily 8 am to sunset

    Phone: +1 727 469 5918


    Amelia Island

    Beach haven for nature and culture aficionados

    With 20 km of soft-sand beaches, Amelia Island is an exquisite destination for families and those seeking a beach escape sprinkled with history and culture. Found just off the northeast Florida coast, it’s the perfect place for early risers to catch inspiring sunrise views over the Atlantic before wandering the sands in search of seashells and fossilised shark’s teeth. 

    Enjoy a horseback riding session, hire a kayak to explore the clear coastal waters, or ride a bike down trails shaded by ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Off the beach, find museums, spas, a diverse dining scene, and town streets lined with historic Southern Victorian homes.


    Pass-A-Grille Beach

    Sunset beach with an Old Florida vibe

    Set on the southernmost end of St. Pete's Beach, Pass-A-Grille is the perfect place to enjoy an easy, breezy day in the Florida sun. Stroll the flour-soft sands, paddle a SUP board, or see colourful boats at the Merry Pier. 

    Days at Pass-A-Grille Beach wind down with a romantic flourish, with vivid sunsets lighting up the sea and sky. Discover the area’s Old Florida history and charm on a wander through the town streets including historic 8th Avenue. 

    Lana Willocks | Contributing Writer

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