The 16 Best Beach Towns in Florida (Because You Need a Vacation)

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Call us biased, but we think the Sunshine State is home to the prettiest, white-sandy-beach escapes in the country. So next time you’re looking to get away, don’t sleep on the best beach towns in Florida. Because you deserve—nay, need—a vacay. Time to use that personal day, maybe? And after a day of exploring the town, treat yourself by sprawling out in one of these gorgeous vacation home suggestions. So, grab a suitcase, load up on the sunscreen (SPF 30, minimum), pack your favorite swimsuit and a must-read summer tome. From Sanibel Island to Key West and Sarasota, these are some of the best beach towns in Florida for the ultimate summer getaway.   

The Absolute Best Beaches in Florida, from the Keys to the Panhandle

best beach towns in florida sanibel island
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1. Sanibel Island

Known for its abundance of seashells, Sanibel is one of the most picture-perfect beach towns in Florida—with miles of beaches lined with pastel-colored shells waiting to be collected. Situated off Florida’s peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico, this spot is a great choice for a romantic getaway, with popular activities like snorkeling, sunset boating and adorable bed-and-breakfast accommodations.

best beach towns in florida naples
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2. Naples

From spacious beaches to chef-driven dining to some of the most gorgeous sunsets we’ve ever seen, forget what anyone told you about Naples being just another Florida retirement town. Check out Clam Pass Park and walk through a gorgeous mangrove estuary preserve (about half a mile) until you reach the beach. (There’s also a trolley that winds by every few minutes if you’re feeling lazy.) Oh, and don’t forget to visit the Naples Pier, which offers striking views of the Gulf of Mexico. If the weather is a bit rainy, spend a few hours inside at the Baker Art Museum until it clears.

best beach towns in florida captiva island
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3. Captiva Island

Approximately 15 miles of virtually untouched beaches? Check. Quaint, tropical environmental? Double check. Wildlife preserves? Yep, Captiva has that, too. Less than a 20-minute drive from Sanibel, beautiful Captiva Island offers a similar atmosphere: seashells galore, stunning sunsets and lots of water activities, from cruising and boating to watersports and even private fishing excursions.

best beach towns in florida amelia island
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4. Amelia Island

Minutes from the Florida-Georgia line, Amelia Island is one of the northernmost beach towns in the Sunshine State. If you’re into golfing, make sure to bring your clubs to this beach town because Amelia Island offers almost as many golf courses as it does miles of beaches—eight and 13 respectively. If you’d rather stay by the beach, head to Fernandina Beach for date night and explore the sparkling shoreline.

best beach towns in florida: sunny isles beach with chairs and umbrellas
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5. Sunny Isles

Just under two miles long, Sunny Isles is one of our favorite beach towns in South Florida for one simple reason: It’s home to Acqualina Resort & Spa, which was named one of the best waterfront hotels in the country four years in a row. If you’re in the market to splurge, this is the place to do it—whether you make it a weekend escape with a room at the hotel or just visit for a spa day. Otherwise, one block north of Sunny Isles, escape towering skyscrapers for empty shoreline. Bring a chair, cooler and an umbrella to Haulover Beach Park, which is one of the only areas in Miami-Dade County with a stretch of public sand and not a building in sight.

best beach towns in florida key largo
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6. Key Largo

Fishing, riding jet skis, sailing, swimming: Key Largo is the place you’ll want to spend every waking minute on the water. Add in photo-worthy sunsets, two state parks and next-level seafood restaurants—this spot has everything you need for a Florida-style beachy getaway.

best beach towns in florida: bal harbour near miami beach
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7. Bal Harbour

Don’t let its size fool you: Though Bal Harbour is barely a mile long, this neighborhood is jam-packed with some of the best restaurants, shops and hotels in the entire state. Head to the ritzy Bal Harbour Shops and spend the afternoon window-shopping at brands like Chanel, Miu Miu, Balenciaga and Prada. Then grab a bite at chef Makoto Okuwa’s Asian hotspot Makoto, and top it off by crossing the street and watching the sunset. Or in the spirit of luxury, book an early-evening spa treatment at the Exhale spa at the Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour.

best beach towns in florida jacksonville
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8. Jacksonville

At 875 square miles, Jacksonville is one of the biggest cities in the continental U.S. It’s also home to some of the largest beaches in the Sunshine State, with 22 miles of stunning shoreline. Booming with local art, restaurants and green spaces, this beach town offers the best of sand and city, where you can start your day soaking up the sun and ocean and end it with rooftop cocktails along a backdrop of skyscrapers.

best beach towns in florida st pete
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9. St. Pete

If you’re looking for a beach town with variety, St. Pete is just the ticket. Feeling adventurous? Enjoy your choice of watersports at St. Pete Beach. Looking to relax? Stick to dry land and set up shop with an umbrella and floppy hat. Rather skip the beach and roam city streets or art museums? Check out the Dali Museum or the Sunken Gardens. And the best part is that the beach and city are only a 15-minute drive from each other—so you really can do it all.

best beach towns in florida key west
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10. Key West

Brightly colored beach houses, fresh seafood, the Ernest Hemingway Home and the buzzy nightlife of Duval Street—we love everything about Key West. Pro tip: Right before you hit the Seven Mile Bridge on your trip home, make a stop at Bahia Honda. Covering more than 500 acres and with a view of an abandoned historic bridge, this detour is perfect for snorkeling, kayaking and boating before you visit this beach town or head home.

best beach towns in florida surfside
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11. Surfside

Luxury continues minutes from Bal Harbour in the neighboring beach town of Surfside. In fact, this is the place where one of the first-ever upscale hotels opened in South Florida, attracting celebrities and socialites like Frank Sinatra, Winston Churchill and Elizabeth Taylor. The property was recently brought back to life as the Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club, complete with a lavish spa and celebrity chef Thomas Keller’s Surf Club Restaurant. Otherwise, most of Surfside can be enjoyed on foot. Roam Harding Avenue, a charming downtown strip with local eateries, shops and bars, or cross the street and hang out on one of the many public beaches.

best beach towns in florida: sarasota at sunset
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12. Sarasota

If you dream of a beach getaway without the traffic jams and costs, venture to Sarasota. South of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the city even has its own app to help you explore the 20 beaches and activity guides. Speaking of Tampa, you’re only a driving distance away, which means you can enjoy the relaxing nature of Sarasota before spending your evening in the city.

best beach towns in florida: hutchinson island
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13. Hutchinson Island

Straddling St. Lucie and Indian River Counties, Hutchinson Island offers your choice of quiet beaches, nature preserves and fresh seafood spots. The island is also home to Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa, ranked among the top 15 resorts in Florida by Condé Nast Traveler.

best beach towns in florida: siesta key
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14. Siesta Key

Want to pretend you’re on the cast of MTV’s Siesta Key for a weekend? Book a trip to this eight-mile beach town, replete with nightlife hangouts, lively restaurants and no shortage of beaches. And yes, the beaches here are what dreams are made of. Nothing like a 24-hour livestream to inspire some vacay withdrawals.

best beach towns in florida palm beach
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15. Palm Beach

Unlike the non-stop bustle of South Beach, West Palm offers a mix of laid-back beach vibes with upscale activities, accommodations and restaurants. If you stay at The Ben, you can rent a free city bike and peddle 10 minutes to the beach. Speaking of, some of our favorite stretches of sand are Peanut Island and John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.

best beach towns in florida anna maria island
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16. Anna Maria Island

If you’re yearning for a Florida getaway with the high-rises, restaurant chains and general bustle of a larger beach city, head to Anna Maria Island. It’s still doing things the old-fashioned way, not a modern condo or fast-food chain in site. Spend an afternoon at the Anna Maria Historical Museum, sunbathe on the blindingly white sanded Bean Point Beach and feast on seafood from Rod and Reel Pier. (It’s something of an institution.) You can cap off the day’s adventures by watching the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico.

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