Florida may be known as the Sunshine State, but it might as well rebrand itself as the Shoreline State. With 8,436 miles of shoreline—second only to Alaska, which arguably, has less beach-friendly weather year-round—the peninsula has no shortage of beaches. But that doesn’t mean that you can plan your dream beach vacation just anywhere. Do you want something close to the city or with a private island feel? Are you planning on soaking up the sun all day or do you want a spot that offers activities, too? And if you’re bringing your kids or dog, then that changes things as well. That's why we turned to a few locals to spill the tea on the best beaches in Florida that are absolutely worth slathering up in sunscreen and planning a road trip. Consider your next beach trip planned.
The 24 Absolute Best Beaches in Florida, from the Keys to the Panhandle
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- Location: North West Palm Beach
- Why We Love It: private island feel, family friendly, water activities
- Where to Stay: Spanish Villa (from $251/night, sleeps 6); Dream Downtown Guest House (from $63/night, sleeps 4); Hyatt Place West Palm Beach Downtown (from $161/night)
West Palm Beach does not want for public green space, beaches and landmarks. One of our absolute favorites includes John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, which is considered an environmental treasure. This hidden beach spans nearly two miles with plenty of picturesque (and quiet!) stretches of sand—in fact, it’s so quiet, you’ll feel like you’re on a private island.
- Location: St. Augustine
- Why We Love It: less touristy, local feel
- Where to Stay: St. Augustine Balcony Apartment (from $208/night, sleeps 4); Romantic Island Cottage (from $131/night, sleeps 2); Renaissance St. Augustine Historic Downtown Hotel (from $303/night)
You headed to St. Augustine to soak in its history (it was founded in 1565, after all) and maybe enjoy some fudge or a ghost tour. Once you’ve taken all that in, skip St. Augustine Beach or the long drive to Jacksonville Beach and head straight to Crescent Beach instead. Parking can be a bit limited, but there aren’t as many big businesses dotting the landscape, making for a tranquil escape.
- Location: Dunedin
- Why We Love It: dog friendly, low key, hiking trails with nature center
- Where to Stay: Downtown Dunedin Cottage (from $187/night, sleeps 6); Historic Cottage (from $170/night, sleeps 6); Fenway Hotel (from $296/night)
As the birthplace of Hooters, a major hub for the Church of Scientology and oh, often being voted best beach in the U.S., Clearwater gets a ton of buzz. But if you head 20 minutes north, you’ll hit the quieter causeway of Dunedin. At the very end is Honeymoon Island, a dog-friendly state park that’s a bit more low-key but every bit as lovely. There may not be a Surf Style or Ron Jon’s, but once you take in the sunset over the Gulf, we doubt you’ll mind.
- Location: Franklin County (just off the Panhandle)
- Why We Love It: great for swimming and shelling, pet friendly, family friendly
- Where to Stay: Pelican’s Perch (from $354/night, sleeps 8); St. George Beachfront Home (from $715/night, sleeps 8); St. George Inn (from $198/night)
If you really want to avoid the crowds, head to St. George Island. The barrier island is just off the Sunshine State’s panhandle on the Gulf Coast, and its strict building codes prevent the area from overzealous developers. While this beautiful beach itself is great for swimming and shelling, if you’ve brought your labradoodle, Ruffmona Quimby, along, head to the state park—it’s pet-friendly and there are plenty of trails for you to explore together.
- Location: Santa Rosa Beach
- Why We Love It: picturesque landscape, fresh seafood, local eats
- Where to Stay: Blue Mountain Villa (from $301/night, sleeps 4); Gulf-Front Townhouse (from $550/night, sleeps 6); Hibiscus Guesthouse (from $304/night)
Sugar sand, aquamarine water and blackened shrimp tacos (ahem, Red Fish Taco), all in one place? The area of South Walton is as close to living in a postcard as you can get. Beyond the shore itself, the area is known for the Blue Lupine—a blue and purple flowering plant—that covers its dunes and for its robust food scene. Fresh seafood is a given, but the chicken and waffles at Blue Mabel Restaurant & Bar aren’t to be missed.
6. Delray Beach
- Location: Delray Beach
- Why We Love It: the best of city and beach
- Where to Stay: Downtown Delray Pool Home (from $153/night, sleeps 6); Delray Beach Cottage (from $150/night, sleeps 6); Fairfield Inn & Suites (from $129/night)
Maybe you like a little city life mixed in with your beach day. If so, get thee to Delray ASAP. Its downtown area is right on the beach, so you can ditch hauling a cooler full of soggy sandwiches all day and have a legit lunch (or happy hour), all within walking distance from your tanning spot.
- Location: The Keys
- Why We Love It: unbeatable views, water activities, close to Key West
- Where to Stay: Marathon Houseboat (from $179/night, sleeps 2); Big Pine Key Treehouse (from $367/night, sleeps 2); Parmer’s Resort (from $349/night)
Yes, you’ll pay $8 a car to get into Bahia Honda, but frankly, parking at just about any beach will cost you these days. And the views are so, so worth it. There’s a “land that time forgot” quality to the lush greenery, thanks largely to the remains of Henry Flagler’s railroad that juts out into the water—and all of the island’s greenery. It’s an excellent hidden beach to birdwatch, snorkel or while away the day before grabbing a slice of key lime pie.
8. Juno Beach
- Location: Juno Beach
- Why We Love It: next-level sunrises, spacious beaches
- Where to Stay: Coastal Soundview Apartment (from $224/night, sleeps 4); The Blue Palm (from $325/night, sleeps 6); Hampton Inn (from $175/night)
Right between Jupiter and West Palm Beach is this quiet little gem of a town. It’s located on a barrier island, giving you some buffer from the Atlantic Ocean’s waves on one side (though, surfers, you’ll want to hit up Juno Beach Park) and unparalleled sunrise views all around. (Just know that from May through October, the beach becomes the densest sea turtle nesting ground in the world.)
- Location: Pinellas County
- Why We Love It: boardwalk with local eats and shops, quiet beaches, family friendly
- Where to Stay: Johns Pass Village Condo (from $181/night, sleeps 5); Dual View Condo (from $205/night, sleeps 5); Courtyard by Marriott St. Petersburg (from $199/night)
Just west of St. Petersburg on the Gulf Coast is the oh-so-beautiful Madeira Beach. It shares the same super-fine sand and gentle, bathwater-like waters as St. Pete Beach (which was voted best beach), as well as the added draw of the John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk. The boardwalk stretches 1,100 feet, offering all kinds of places to eat and small shops to check out (we’re partial to Mad Beach Brewing). Oh, and if you’re into fresh fish, plan a visit in October, when the weather hovers between 55 and 81 degrees, and the town hosts its annual Seafood Festival.
10. Navarre Beach
- Location: Pensacola
- Why We Love It: fishing, marine science center, gorgeous beaches
- Where to Stay: Pier-front Condo (from $449/night, sleeps 6); Sabbia Bianca (from $1,600/night, sleeps 10); Holiday Inn Resort Pensacola Beach (from $311/night)
If you’re into fishing, exploring or simply working on your tan while reading a book, you’re meant to visit Navarre Beach. It features the longest pier in Florida (1,545 feet), but it’s vendor-free, so you don’t have to weave through a bunch of souvenirs to find a spot to drop a line. While there, be sure to check out the marine science station and Sea Turtle Conservation Center at Navarre Beach Marine Park.
- Location: Key Biscayne
- Why We Love It: private island feel, super-quiet beaches, close to restaurants and shops
- Where to Stay: Beachy Chic Condo (from $169/night, sleeps 3); Key Biscayne Beach Condo (from $550/night, sleeps 8); The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne (from $449/night)
No time to get down to The Keys? Don’t worry—Key Biscayne is the next best thing. Right off the shoreline of downtown Miami, Key Biscayne has got all the makings of a private island… right in your backyard. Spend a day here lying on the gorgeously soft sand at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and then grab a bite at the iconic Rusty Pelican. Then, may we suggest a trek to the end of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park? The lone lighthouse, built in 1825, is the perfect scene for a seaside sunset. Staycation? Check.
- Location: Charlotte County
- Why We Love It: only reachable by boat, super-quiet beachy escape
- Where to Stay: Lu’s Lookout (from $425/night, sleeps 6); Coconut Paradise (from $418/night, sleeps 8); Grove City Motel (from $129/night)
As one of the last bridge-less barrier islands in Florida, visitors can only reach Little Gasparilla via boat. Located between Sarasota and Ft. Meyers, the island is a 10-minute sail from land—though it feels like a whole world away. This is the place to go if you’re looking for a beachy escape without actually going that far. Sandy pathways and golf carts take the place of traditional roads and cars. Pro tip: There are no stores or restaurants on the island either (though there are waterfront dining spots nearby accessible via water taxi)—so if you’re booking a vacation rental, make sure to pack appropriately.
- Location: Lucie County
- Why We Love It: gorgeous beaches, famous spa
- Where to Stay: Stuart Oceanfront Condo (from $339/night, sleeps 4); Fort Pierce Condo (from $115/night, sleeps 4); Residence Inn Port St. Lucie (from $159/night)
Made up of two barrier islands off of the coast of Martin County, Hutchinson Island is all about too-good-to-be-true beaches, quiet nature parks and quaint restaurants and hotels. It helps that the island is home to Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa, which has won multiple readers’ choice awards in Condé Nast Traveler. Pro tip: Book a sunset horseback riding session on the sand.
14. Siesta Key Beach
- Location: 20 minutes from downtown West Palm Beach
- Why We Love It: private island feel, family friendly, water activities
- Where to Stay: Siesta Key Beach Escape (from $285/night, sleeps 5); Sarasota Duplex (from $218/night, sleeps 4); Kompose Boutique Hotel (from $94/night)
Off the coast of Sarasota, pretend you’re on the cast of MTV’s Siesta Key for a weekend by visiting this eight-mile island. With shops, restaurants, buzzy nightlife spots and beaches galore, you won’t be short on things to do here. But seriously: The beaches are next level here. Nothing like a 24-hour livestream to inspire some vacay FOMO.
15. Jupiter Beach
- Location: Jupiter
- Why We Love It: one of the most dog-friendly beaches in the state
- Where to Stay: Beach Cottage Oasis (from $235/night, sleeps 8); Luxury Coastal Cottage (from $239/night, sleeps 6); The Pointe Hotel (from $203/night)
Get this: Nearly every beach in Jupiter is open to pups, thanks to a 1989 policy adopted by the Jupiter Town Council to allow dogs on the area’s beaches. There are a few rules, though. Dogs must be well behaved and wearing proper tags and licenses, and owners are required to pick up after them.
16. Bowman’s Beach
- Location: Sanibel Island
- Why We Love It: great shelling, family friendly
- Where to Stay: Blind Pass Condo (from $492/night, sleeps 10); Bowman Beach Cottage (from $595/night, sleeps 8); Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa (from $315/night)
Bowman’s Beach is way more than just a beautiful spot to pass a few hours—it’s one of the best destinations for collecting shells in the country. Beachcombers also flock to the shores of this Sanibel Island idyll in hopes of finding other seaside souvenirs such as coins, rings and other buried treasures. And did we mention the picnic tables, calm waters and short hiking trails?
17. South Beach
- Location: Miami Beach
- Why We Love It: lively bar and restaurant scene, great for groups
- Where to Stay: Faena District Apartment (from $49/night, sleeps 4); Espanola Way Apartment (from $54/night, sleeps 3); Hotel Victor (from $229/night)
For a livelier getaway replete with glitz, glamor and unparalleled people watching, nothing compares to South Beach. Famous for a reason, this iconic stretch of sand runs from South Pointe Park to 23rd Street. After basking in the sun, go for a walk on the promenade, grab a drink at one of the many nearby bars or peep some Art Deco architecture.
18. Main Beach Park
- Location: Amelia Island
- Why We Love It: family friendly, land and water activities
- Where to Stay: Historic Downtown Home (from $396/night, sleeps 8); Fernandina Beach Condo (from $215/night, sleeps 2); Omni Amelia Island Resort (from $495/night)
With its irresistible mix of pleasant weather, sun-kissed shores and warm waters, Main Beach Park on Amelia Island really does have it all. Add to that immaculate facilities—volleyball courts, a playground, picnic areas, restrooms, outdoor showers and a skate park. It does get a bit crowded, especially during peak season, so best to go early.
- Location: Coral Gables
- Why We Love It: picturesque sunsets, rarely gets crowded
- Where to Stay: Cozy Farmhouse Paradise (from $110/night, sleeps 4); Sea Views Balcony Apartment (from $279/night, sleeps 5); Biltmore Hotel (from $309/night)
Set up shop on the main beach at Matheson Hammock or head over to the beautiful salt water pond for some much-needed serenity. In either case, bring a towel, pick your favorite spot and stay long enough to catch a glorious sunset along the backdrop of the city skyline.
- Location: Miami Beach
- Why We Love It: best of beach and city, clothing-optional area
- Where to Stay: Miami Beach Apartment (from $86/night, sleeps 3); Bay Harbor Townhouse (from $492/night, sleeps 10); Urbanica Fifth (from $144/night)
Despite views of Miami’s skyline in the distance, you’ll feel like you’re on a beachy retreat at Haulover Beach Park. Set up shop with a chair, a cooler and a stylish umbrella and then kick back and relax on the golden sand. If you’re feeling free-spirited, make your way over to the neighboring clothing-optional area. Bikini or not, it’s one of the most private beaches in town.
- Location: Fort Meyers Beach
- Why We Love It: eco-friendly beauty, quiet
- Where to Stay: Fort Meyers Beach Waterfront Condo (from $168/night, sleeps 2); Casa Bella (from $159/night, sleeps 2); Latitude 26 Boutique Resort (from $112/night)
This pristine haven will have you feeling relaxed (read: sprawling out for a nap on the beach) and somehow invigorated at the same time. You can fish, try stand-up paddle-boarding or simply walk or bike the five miles of trails. If you’re lucky, you’ll see wildlife such as gophers, tortoises, manatees and dolphins in and around the area’s backwaters.
22. Venice Beach
- Location: Sarasota
- Why We Love It: sparkling waters, charming restaurants, shark teeth collecting
- Where to Stay: Venice Escape (from $193/night, sleeps 8); Sarasota Condo (from $218/night, sleeps 4); Hyatt Regency Sarasota (from $153/night)
Named one of the “Happiest Seaside Towns in America,” Venice is an oasis like no other. Located in the heart of Sarasota County, this enchanting town features a magnificent shoreline, recreational parks and a lively beach area that’s home to spectacular boutiques and dining. Oh, and did you know Venice is also considered the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World”? Make sure to go shark teeth collecting among Venice’s picturesque shores, too.
23. Captiva Beach
- Location: Cape Coral
- Why We Love It: 15 miles of gorgeous coastline to choose from
- Where to Stay: South Seas Resort Condo (from $170/night, sleeps 4); South Seas Beach Condo (from $624/night, sleeps 6); The Westin Cape Coral Resort (from $149/night)
With beaches spanning for more than 15 miles, Captiva Island is a tropical paradise. Known for its quaint, tropical atmosphere, Captiva is home to over 250 types of shells, unique wildlife and enchanting sunsets. You can fill your days by exploring nearby wildlife preserves, booking a private fishing excursion or unwinding on white-sand beaches.
24. Daytona Beach
- Location: Daytona Beach
- Why We Love It: boardwalk with family entertainment, summer concert series, beach parking
- Where to Stay: Residence Inn Daytona Beach (from $207/night), Daytona Beach Luxury Condo (from $93/night, sleeps 6); Oceanfront Condo (from $119/night, sleeps 2)
With 23 miles of hard-packed sand, Daytona Beach is a destination that will entertain the whole family. The boardwalk is rife with entertainment, including rides and arcade games, while the Daytona Beach Bandshell hosts a summer concert series. Of course, this Florida city is also home to the Daytona International Speedway and Motorsports Hall of Fame, making the destination a great compromise between beach lovers and racing enthusiasts.