Florida Travel Blog

Travel destinations, beaches, attractions and fun things to do in Florida. 

Documented by RESIDENTS of Florida.

24 Florida Gulf Coast Beaches: Sun, Sand, and Serenity

Welcome to paradise! If you’re dreaming of sparkling white sand, clear turquoise waters, and an escape from the everyday hustle and bustle, look no further than the Florida Gulf Coast beaches.

With its stunning coastline stretching over 1,350 miles, Florida boasts some of the most picturesque beaches in the world. The Florida Gulf Coast beaches provide all you could ask for in beautiful beaches.

Whether you’re seeking a relaxing retreat, a fun-filled family vacation, or an adventure in water sports, the Gulf Coast has it all.

From the powdery sands of Siesta Key Beach, consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the United States, to the remote and untouched beauty of Caladesi Island State Park, there is a stretch of sand to suit every traveler’s taste.

Get ready to soak up the sun, immerse yourself in nature, and let the stress of everyday life melt away. From the clear waters of Pensacola Beach to the tranquil shores of Marco Island, the Florida Gulf Coast beaches offer a little slice of paradise for everyone.

So grab your sunscreen, pack your flip-flops, and prepare to discover sun, sand, and serenity on Florida Gulf Coast beaches. Your dream beach getaway awaits! Just choose your paradise.

Florida gulf coast beaches Siesta Key Beach
Siesta Key Beach is a highly-rated Florida Gulf Coast beach that families love.

Top Beaches on the Florida Gulf Coast

When it comes to the top beaches on the Florida Gulf Coast, there are plenty to choose from. We start with the most popular Florida Gulf Coast beaches and then move on to lesser-known Gulf Coast beaches in Florida.

Siesta Key Beach

One of the most popular is Siesta Key Beach, located just south of Sarasota. Consistently ranked as one of the top beaches in the country. With its powdery white sand that feels like walking on silk, Siesta Key Beach is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. 

The beach offers a range of amenities, including picnic areas, volleyball courts, and even a playground for the little ones. Whether you’re looking to relax on the sand, take a dip in the crystal-clear waters, or enjoy a game of beach volleyball, Siesta Key Beach has it all.

Things To Do Near Sarasota

Hotels Near Siesta Key Beach

Clearwater Beach

Another highly ranked beach on the Florida Gulf Coast is Clearwater Beach. Known for its stunning sunsets and lively atmosphere, Clearwater Beach offers something for the whole family. 

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Take a stroll along the famous Pier 60, where you can catch street performers, browse local shops, and enjoy live music. For those looking for adventure, try your hand at jet skiing, parasailing, or taking a dolphin-watching cruise. 

With its wide sandy shores and warm Gulf waters, Clearwater Beach is the perfect place to unwind and create lasting memories. 

Authors Note: We live here and truly enjoy watching people come to our beach year-round. Our slight prejudice leads us to believe this beach is the best family beach in Florida on the Gulf Coast.

Things To Do Near Clearwater Beach

Hotels in Clearwater Beach

Florida Gulf Coast Beaches Pensacola Beach
Pensacola Beach is really a cool beach despite the bad weather when this photo was taken.

Pensacola Beach

You won’t find any clearer waters or a better beach than Pensacola Beach and its next-door neighbor Navarre Beach. Both are located on the same barrier island and share the same sterling clean waters and miles of sand. 

These beaches are in the far western reaches of the Florida Panhandle and some 650 miles from Marco Island we explore below. There are plenty of attractions and things to do in the area along with the Gulf Islands Seashore National Park that separates Pensacola Beach from Navarre Beach. The Park has its own spectacular beach.

Things To Do in Pensacola

Hotels Near Pensacola Beach

The Florida Gulf Coast Beaches of Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island, located off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico, boasts some of the most picturesque beaches in the state. Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect:

  • Anna Maria Beach

 This is the main beach on the island, offering soft white sands and clear turquoise waters. It’s a perfect spot for swimming, sunbathing, or simply strolling along the shore. The beach is relatively quiet and less crowded compared to some of the more touristy spots in Florida.

  • Bradenton Beach
Gulf coast beaches in Florida anna maria island
All the beaches of Anna Maria Island look like this one at Bradenton Beach.

Situated on the southern end of the island, Bradenton Beach is known for its charming Old Florida feel. It has a long stretch of sandy shoreline, dotted with picnic areas and shaded spots under Australian pine trees. Visitors can also enjoy water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding here.

  • Coquina Beach

This beach is famous for its stunning sunsets and excellent amenities. It features picnic areas, playgrounds, and ample parking, making it a popular choice for families. The beach is also equipped with showers and restrooms for convenience.

  • Bean Point Beach

Tucked away at the northern tip of the island, Bean Point Beach offers a more secluded and tranquil experience. It’s a great spot for shell hunting and birdwatching, with panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay.

  • Holmes Beach

Located in the center of the island, Holmes Beach is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. It offers a wide expanse of sand perfect for sunbathing and building sandcastles. The beach is also home to some beachfront cafes and shops where you can grab a bite to eat or pick up souvenirs.

Overall, Anna Maria Island’s beaches are characterized by their natural beauty, laid-back atmosphere, and stunning sunsets, making them ideal for a relaxing getaway or a fun-filled day by the sea.

Things To Do in Anna Maria Island

Places to Stay in Anna Maria Island

gulf coast beaches of Florida st pete beach
St. Pete Beach with the historic Don CeSar Hotel in the background.

St. Pete Beach

St. Pete Beach, located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is renowned for its wide white sand beaches and vibrant atmosphere. The main beach area, aptly named St. Pete Beach, features miles of soft sand lapped by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. 

Visitors can relax under the shade of umbrellas, take leisurely strolls along the shore, or engage in activities like beach volleyball and paddleboarding. Aside from its natural beauty, St. Pete Beach boasts a bustling waterfront scene with a variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.

 Sunset celebrations are a highlight, with crowds gathering at waterfront venues to witness the spectacular colors painting the sky as the sun dips below the horizon. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or excitement, St. Pete Beach offers a quintessential Florida beach experience that keeps visitors coming back year after year.

Things To Do in St. Pete Beach

Places To Stay in St. Pete Beach

The Beaches of Route 30A Florida – A Florida Scenic Highway on the Gulf Coast

The Beaches of Route 30A Florida, located along this designated Florida Scenic Highway, offer a charming and laid-back coastal experience along the Gulf of Mexico. This stretch of road runs for about 28 miles through several picturesque beach communities along the Emerald Coast The beaches of Route 30A Florida include:

  • Seaside
  • Rosemary Beach
  • WaterColor
  • Grayton Beach
  • Alys Beach
Beaches on the Gulf Coast of Florida Rosemary Beach
This is Rosemary Beach but it could be any of the beaches on Route 30A Florida.

Each of these beach towns has its own unique character and appeal, making the journey along Route 30A Florida a delightful exploration of Florida’s coastal beauty.

The beaches along Route 30A Florida are renowned for their pure white sands, clear turquoise waters, and scenic dune landscapes. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities, from swimming and sunbathing to kayaking and paddleboarding. 

Many of the beach communities along 30A also offer charming town centers filled with boutique shops, art galleries, and gourmet restaurants, perfect for leisurely strolls and casual dining. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, outdoor adventure, or cultural immersion, the Beaches of Route 30A Florida offer a quintessential Gulf Coast experience that captures the essence of coastal Florida living.

Things To Do Along Route 30A Florida

Places To Stay on Route 30A Florida

Fort Myers Beach

One of the popular beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast, we include Fort Myers Beach despite the devastation that occurred during Hurricane Ian in 2022. The beach was literally wiped out of 80% of its structures. 

The beach is inching its way back and we are confident the restoration will return this beach to its glorious past as one of the top destinations of Florida Gulf Coast beaches. On our last visit in April 2024, reconstruction was well on its way, but it has a long way to go.

Florida gulf coast beaches Sanibel beach
Sanibel has many boardwalks that lead to the beach.

Sanibel and Captiva Beaches

Much of the same applies to these beaches as Fort Myers Beach. They were hit hard by Ian, but have recovered nicely.

The beaches of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, located off the southwestern coast of Florida, are renowned for their natural beauty, seclusion, and abundance of seashells. Sanibel Island, in particular, is famous for its shell-covered shores, earning it the nickname “Shell Island.” 

The gently sloping beaches and warm Gulf waters provide the perfect conditions for shelling enthusiasts to search for unique treasures washed ashore by the tides. Visitors can spend hours combing the sands for prized specimens, ranging from delicate sand dollars to colorful conch shells.

Captiva Island, located just north of Sanibel, offers equally stunning beaches with a more secluded and intimate atmosphere. Here, visitors can enjoy soft sands, swaying palm trees, and breathtaking sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. 

Captiva’s beaches are also popular for water sports such as swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking, with opportunities to encounter local marine life such as dolphins and manatees. Whether you’re seeking solitude and relaxation or adventure on the water, the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva Islands provide an idyllic escape into Florida’s coastal paradise.

Things To Do on Sanibel and Captiva Islands

Places To Stay on Sanibel and Captiva Islands

Marco Island Beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast

Marco Island, located in southwest Florida 25 miles south of Naples, is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the state. The island boasts over four miles of pristine, white sandy shores along the Gulf of Mexico, offering visitors a tranquil and picturesque coastal escape.

South Marco Beach is one of the island’s main public beaches, featuring wide expanses of soft sand and calm waters, perfect for swimming and sunbathing. Residents and visitors alike enjoy its convenient amenities, including restrooms, showers, picnic areas, and parking facilities. 

Nearby, Tigertail Beach offers a more secluded atmosphere, with a tidal lagoon popular for birdwatching and paddleboarding.

For those seeking a natural retreat, the beaches of Marco Island provide opportunities for shelling, where you can find an abundance of shells and marine life along the shoreline.

Additionally, the island’s western exposure makes it an ideal spot to catch breathtaking sunsets over the Gulf waters.

Whether you’re looking for relaxation, adventure, or simply to soak up the natural beauty of Florida’s coast, Marco Island’s beaches offer something for everyone.

Things To Do in Marco Island

Hotels in Marco Island

Beaches on the Gulf Coast of Florida St. George Island
On some days you can look for miles both ways and not see anyone on the beach at St. George Island.

More Secluded Florida Gulf Coast Beaches

For those seeking a more secluded beach experience, we have some of our favorite Gulf Coast beaches in Florida. These are beaches that are generally less crowded and are sometimes more difficult to access.

St. George Island Beach

If there is a candidate for the best beach in Florida among our secluded beaches of Florida, St. George Island Beach is it!

The beach at St. George Island, nestled along Florida’s Forgotten Coast in the Gulf of Mexico just off the coast of Apalachicola. It is an island paradise renowned for its unspoiled beauty and tranquil ambiance.

Stretching for miles along the island’s coastline, the soft, powdery sands invite visitors to unwind and soak up the sunshine. The emerald-green waters provide a refreshing respite for swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding, while gentle waves beckon beachcombers to stroll along the shore in search of colorful seashells.

With its laid-back atmosphere, breathtaking vistas, and abundant natural splendor, the beach at St. George Island offers a serene retreat for those seeking solace amidst the splendor of Florida’s coastal wilderness.

This is a budget-friendly beach in Florida. A carload of people can access St. George Island State Park for less than $8.

Things To Do Near St. George Island

Places to Stay on St. George Island or Nearby

Caladesi Island Beach

Caladesi Island State Park is a hidden gem. Accessible only by ferry or private boat, Caladesi Island offers unspoiled beauty and a sense of tranquility. Take a nature walk along the island’s trails and explore the lush mangrove forests and pristine beaches.

With its crystal-clear waters and abundant wildlife, Caladesi Island is a nature lover’s paradise. You can access the ferry to Caladesi from Honeymoon Island State Park which has its own sparkling beaches.

Both are near the small town of Dunedin, one of our favorite small towns in Florida.

Things To Do Near Caladesi Island

Places To Stay Near Caladesi Island

best beaches in Florida Cayo Costa
One of the best beaches in Florida, Cayo Costa is secluded on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Cayo Costa Island Beach

Cayo Costa Island Beach, located off the southwestern coast of Florida near Captiva Island, offers an enchanting escape into unspoiled natural beauty. Accessible only by private boat or ferry, this remote barrier island is a haven for nature lovers and beach enthusiasts seeking a secluded retreat.

With nine miles of remote shoreline, Cayo Costa’s beaches are characterized by their powdery white sands, clear turquoise waters, and stunning vistas of the Gulf of Mexico. The island’s undeveloped landscape and lack of crowds provide a peaceful setting for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing.

Visitors can also explore the island’s lush maritime forests, mangrove swamps, and scenic hiking trails, making Cayo Costa an idyllic destination for outdoor adventures and eco-tourism.

Whether you’re seeking solitude, natural beauty, or simply a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life, Cayo Costa Island Beach offers a slice of paradise waiting to be discovered. You can access Cayo Costa from the ferry at Pine Island Florida.

Things To Do Near Cayo Costa Island

Places to Stay Near Cayo Costa Island

Activities and Attractions on the Florida Gulf Coast

Shells on Florida Gulf Coast beaches
Shells are a must sought after commodity on Florida Gulf Coast beaches. Sanibel, Cayo Costa and Fort Myers Beach are great Florida Gulf Coast beaches to find shells.

Beyond the beautiful beaches, the Florida Gulf Coast offers a wide range of activities and attractions to keep you entertained during your visit. If you’re a fan of water sports, you’re in luck. From paddleboarding and kayaking to snorkeling and fishing, there are endless opportunities to get out on the water and enjoy the Gulf Coast’s natural beauty.

If you’re looking for some family-friendly fun, head to Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay. This world-class theme park offers thrilling roller coasters, up-close animal encounters, and live entertainment.

For a more educational experience, visit the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, which houses the largest collection of the surrealist artist’s work outside of Spain.

For a taste of the local culture, be sure to explore the vibrant cities along the Gulf Coast. Visit downtown St. Petersburg’s art galleries and trendy boutiques, or take a stroll along the historic Riverwalk in Tampa.

In Sarasota, you can catch a performance at the renowned Sarasota Opera or visit the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, which showcases a collection of European masterpieces.

In the Panhandle of Florida, there is the Naval Aviation Museum we consider to be one of the best in the world. Don’t forget the many springs of northwest Florida that are spectacular.

Overall, no matter which one of the Florida Gulf Coast Beaches you visit, there are attractions and things to do and see throughout the state.

Author’s Note: Technically, the Florida Keys are in the Gulf of Mexico despite the area being called Florida Bay. We have chosen not to include the beaches in the Florida Keys which we have covered in other posts.

Florida Gulf Coast Beaches piers
There are many piers that extend into the Gulf along the shores of Florida. This one is at the National Seashore near Pensacola Beach.

Best Times to Visit the Florida Gulf Coast

When planning your trip to the Florida Gulf Coast, it’s important to consider the best times to visit. The region enjoys a mild climate year-round, but the weather can vary depending on the season.

The peak tourist season runs from December to April when the weather is mild and the beaches are bustling. If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting in the shoulder seasons, such as May or October, when the weather is still pleasant but the crowds are smaller.

It’s also worth noting that hurricane season runs from June to November, with the highest likelihood of storms occurring in August and September.

While the chances of experiencing a hurricane are relatively low, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast and have a backup plan in case of inclement weather.

Tips for Planning a Trip to the Florida Gulf Coast

To make the most of your trip to the Florida Gulf Coast, here are a few tips to keep in mind. First, be sure to pack sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the strong Florida sun.

It’s also a good idea to bring insect repellent, especially if you plan on exploring nature parks or spending time outdoors in the evening. Our beach packing list is here.

When it comes to accommodations, the Gulf Coast offers a range of options to suit every budget. From luxury beachfront resorts to cozy vacation rentals, there is something for everyone. Consider staying in a beachfront property for easy access to the sand and stunning ocean views.

If you’re planning on exploring multiple beaches along the Gulf Coast, renting a car is highly recommended. This will allow you to easily navigate the area and visit different destinations at your own pace.

Alternatively, public transportation options are available in larger cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Beach Safety and Etiquette on the Florida Gulf Coast

Gulf Coast of Florida Beach Flags
Know these lifs saving beach flags on the Gulf Coast.

When visiting the Florida Gulf Coast beaches, it’s important to prioritize safety and practice good beach etiquette. Always swim in designated areas and adhere to any posted warnings or flags.

If you’re not a strong swimmer, consider wearing a life jacket or staying in shallow waters.

To protect the fragile ecosystems, avoid walking on dunes or sea grass and dispose of any trash in designated bins. It’s also important to respect wildlife and refrain from feeding or approaching any animals you may encounter.

Lastly, be mindful of other beachgoers and keep noise levels to a minimum. Remember that everyone is there to enjoy the serenity and beauty of the Gulf Coast, so be considerate of others and clean up after yourself.

Beachfront Accommodations on the Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gulf Coast beaches accommodations
There are many hotels and resorts right on the beaches of the Gulf Coast.

When it comes to beachfront accommodations on the Florida Gulf Coast, the options are endless. From luxury resorts to cozy beach cottages, there is something for every budget and preference.

If you’re looking for a high-end experience, consider staying at one of the many luxury resorts that line the Gulf Coast. These resorts offer world-class amenities, including pools, spas, and beachfront dining.

Wake up to breathtaking views of the ocean and indulge in the ultimate relaxation. Our recommendations for the Gulf Coast are here.

For a more intimate experience, opt for a beachfront vacation rental. Many properties offer direct access to the beach, allowing you to step out of your door and onto the sand. With fully equipped kitchens and spacious living areas, vacation rentals provide a home away from home.

Exploring the Local Cuisine and Dining Options on the Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gulf Coast Beaches Emerald Coast
Many Emerald Coast Beaches have plenty of hotels and eating establishments along the beach.

No trip to Florida Gulf Coast beaches is complete without indulging in the local cuisine. From fresh seafood to tropical fruits, the Gulf Coast offers a diverse and delicious dining scene.

Be sure to try the famous Florida stone crab, which is harvested from the Gulf Coast waters. These sweet and succulent crab claws are typically served chilled with a tangy mustard sauce. For a taste of Southern hospitality, head to a local seafood shack and feast on peel-and-eat shrimp, fried oysters, and hush puppies.

If you’re in the mood for something more upscale, the Gulf Coast is home to a number of award-winning restaurants. From farm-to-table establishments to innovative fusion cuisine, there is no shortage of culinary delights to satisfy your taste buds.

Final Thoughts About the Beauty and Tranquility of Florida Gulf Coast Beaches

There you have it. More than 24 Florida Gulf Coast beaches offer a little slice of paradise for every traveler. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or simply a break from the ordinary, the Gulf Coast of Florida has it all. From the top beaches like Siesta Key and Clearwater Beach to the hidden gems like Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island, there is a beach to suit every taste and preference.

Explore the local attractions, indulge in the delicious cuisine, and indulge yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds you. So grab your sunscreen, pack your flip-flops, and get ready to experience the sun, sand, and serenity of the Florida Gulf Coast. Your dream beach getaway awaits!

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