The Best Beaches in Florida
Florida beaches are iconic- the blue waters, waves, palm trees, white sand and tropical drinks make Florida beaches some of the best in the United States, if not the world.
Florida has two coasts to choose from when it comes to beaches- the west (Gulf of Mexico) or the east (the Atlantic). Which coast has the best beaches has more to do with the city and activities you are interested in than the place.
Don’t know where to start? We’ve rounded up the best beaches in Florida for your next vacation from both the East and West Coast.
Florida Beaches- East or West Coast
So, which side of Florida has better beaches? As I mentioned earlier, this is more about personal preference than fact. The gulf coast of florida is more what I call “relaxing” beaches. The water is calmer and clearer than on the East Coast.
On the other side, the Atlantic coast is known for its wilder waters and large waves. If you’re interested in water sports, this coast may be more to your liking. Popular Atlantic beaches are also attached to larger, busier cities and may be a better choice if you are looking for some action.
Our list of favorites includes both options from the East and the West coast of Florida so you'll have plenty of opportunity to decide which is right for you!
Florida Beaches Gulf Coast
Siesta Key Beach
Siesta Key is one of three barrier islands in Sarasota County, but by far the best! It has won a number of awards including Best Beach in America and 11th in the world from Trip Advisor’s Travelers Choice Awards.
The special thing about Siesta Key is it’s powdery, white sand. Have you ever stepped in a pile of baking flour? Well, that’s what taking a stroll across this gorgeous beach feels like. Unlike other beaches, this sand is made from 99 percent quartz instead of shells- talk about sunbathing in luxury!
Indulge in incredible views of crystal clear, blue waters while you lay out under the Florida sun. Make sure to catch the sunset at the end of the day, they are some of the most beautiful you will ever see.
Siesta Key beach offers ample parking, recreational areas, a concessions stand, as well as water sports. It is also in close proximity (you can go on foot!) to artsy local shops, delicious seafood restaurants and a variety of bars where you can get your fix of tropical drinks.
Another Florida beach on the west coast is the lovely Clearwater Beach. A wide beach, soft sand, and relaxing atmosphere describes a visit to this gulf coast retreat. A Trip Advisor winner for best beach in the nation (2018), Clearwater is sure to delight you. I love the trip to Clearwater because its surrounded by waterways and beautiful views of them. It's as if you are immersed in water before you even get there.
For those of you who love to bike, Clearwater beach has readily available bike rentals. This can be convenient because parking is often hard to find. It is also a great beach for water sports like parasailing, paddle boarding and cruises. One of the main attractions is Pier 60, a large concrete pier that goes out into the gulf, makes the area extremely pedestrian friendly. The pier is lined with a variety of great restaurants, shops, as well as other novelties.
One of Clearwater beach's best qualities is how well it is maintained. The sand is freshly raked every morning and there is barely any trash to be found. For such a popular beach, this is quite a feat!
St. George Island Beach
St. George Island, Florida
A Florida beach in the panhandle, St. George Island beach is perfect for peace and tranquility. It is one of the last inhabited barrier islands and is protected by low-density zoning and strict building codes. This means that you won’t have the usual hustle and bustle that comes with a city adjacent beach. In fact, the tallest structure on the island is a historic lighthouse!
St. George Island is the perfect place to observe nature with miles of open beach and marshes. It is home to white ghost crabs, white skimmers, pelicans and sea turtles.
This quiet Florida beach is ideal for a family vacation or a relaxing getaway for yourself and a loved one. The island offers undisturbed fun like sandcastle making, kayaking, swimming, and biking. Best of all, St. George Island Beach is pet friendly, so you can bring your dog along with you! Therefore, you can indulge in a full family vacation. Many shops and accommodations welcome furry friends, so you don’t need to worry about leaving part of the family behind!
For an idyllic visit to St. George Island, consider renting a little beach cottage. It is the perfect place from which to watch the sunset over the water.
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Florida Beaches Atlantic Coast
Miami Beach, Florida
There are many Florida beaches in Miami, but if you’re interested in nightlife, culinary hot spots, celebrity sightings and great shopping, South Beach is for you. Located on the southern end of Miami Beach, South Beach offers you a great view of the Atlantic and all things hip and spicy. A very popular beach, it is not for those who are looking for a quiet and relaxing lay-out.
Excitement abounds as this beach is a short walk away from the pedestrian district of Lincoln Road. Lincoln Road is an outdoor mall of sorts that features some of the best fashion, restaurants, cocktails, gelato, galleries, and nightlife. It is also well-known for its architecture which was designed by Morris Lapidus. South beach’s close proximity to Lincoln Road is ideal for taking breaks from soaking up the sun to eat, drink and people watch.
South Beach is the beach to visit to be in the middle of all the action. It offers the best of both worlds, a cosmopolitan city adjacent to a tropical paradise. The buildings and lifeguard have an art deco vibe giving the area an injection of color and fun (not that its needed it!). Overall, it is a top choice for exciting Florida beaches.
Another East Coast Florida beach, Jacksonville beach is perfect for those who like to surf. Located on Florida’s “First Coast” just north of St. Augustine, this beach has been known to have some of the best waves in the region. Plus, it's a dolphin hotspot! You’re likely to spy one or two of these friendly sea mammals while staring out into the surf (one of my favorite features).
Jacksonville beach is great for those of us who like long walks or bike rides as it is very flat with hard and compact sand. It also features a large fishing pier where you can overlook the water, watch dolphins, or grab a fresh catch for the day! Don’t worry about bringing your own bait, the fishing pier provides a bait and tackle shop where you can get everything you need for the best fishing experience.
For more advanced surfers, the area near the pier is a good place to catch some killer Atlantic waves. If you’re interested in learning, there are many surf classes available where you learn to catch waves like a pro.
As far as dining options go, there are a variety of restaurants and shops within walking distance where you can get everything from biscuits to craft beers and some of the best shrimp you’ll ever have!
The Best Destination For Your Next Vacation
Florida beaches are open during COVID-19, thankfully. So, whether you choose the East or West Coast of Florida, you are bound to have a wonderful experience in paradise. Don't forget to bring a large umbrella, hat, sunglass, and sunscreen though- the Florida sun is hot and bright! For some more packing tips, you can take a peek at this post Your Florida Vacation Packing Guide.
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Do you think you'd like East Coast or West Coast beaches better? Let us know in the comments below!