12 Best Florida Beaches – Choose Your Beach in Florida
There must be a dozen sites that annually claim “The Top Ten Beaches in Florida” or “Best Beaches in Florida”. They go on to rank them one through ten or pick one or two. More than likely, some incentive or advertiser influenced the selection(s). In our Best Florida Beaches, the listings are based on your preferences – not ours or an advertiser’s influence.
Florida Travel Blog’s list of the Best Beaches in Florida has no sponsors influencing our findings. We do use our personal opinions and list our “Pros” and “Cons” for you to evaluate. We know that a Con to us may be Pro to you.
Trying to rank the best beaches in Florida is subjective. It may be your craving for a towel in the sand may change daily. One day you may want to be totally alone and unbothered by fellow sun-seekers. The next day you may want a pitcher of margaritas while watching some playful beach antics nearby.
You may want the best Florida beaches for families. Our views and minds can alternate with our moods. We try to give you the details to choose your own best Florida beaches and some are the most popular beaches in Florida.
So here we go in no particular order are the 12 Best Florida Beaches we have found so far.
List of the 12 Best Beaches in Florida for Families and Most Popular Too
Anna Maria Island Beach – Here is an area of Florida that hasn’t been bitten by the high-rise condo bug. Quaint colorful cottages and small hotels are along this long Gulf side beach just a few miles south of Tampa and Clearwater and just a few miles north of Sarasota.
Pros – not full of high-rises, sand is good, older crowd, quaint shops around.
Cons – not a lot of services, traffic and parking can be difficult, not as large as some.
Bahia Honda State Park Beach – Florida has some great park facilities. Bahia Honda and the beaches here are a family’s dream. Swimming, snorkeling and camping. One of the best beaches in Florida for families.
This gem is in the Keys on the road to Key West, but don’t pass it up! You can easily get to the Duval Street craziness from here.
Pros – relatively safe water depth, lots of saltwater wildlife around, family-friendly, a short ride to Key West for a day trip.
Cons – busy during spring season, sand not as clean and white, on busy Rt. 1 through Keys
Clearwater Beach – Yes, Clearwater Beach can get crowded, but you can walk a few hundred feet north and get out of the crowds. This may be the whitest, brightest sand you will find in Florida. Lot’s to do on this island from all forms of watersports to the nearby famous Clearwater Marine Aquarium! Always in the best Florida beaches discussion. Another great Florida beach for families.
We live here and love it. Plenty of annual festivals, events and sports.
Pros – beautiful sand, very large tourist area, plenty of attractions, easy to find, many hotels within a short walk, plenty of good restaurants, sunset celebration on Pier 60 nightly – one the top three beaches in Florida.
Cons – can get busy in season, parking not easy sometimes, traffic can be heavy.
Cocoa Beach – This is a very commercial beach, but how can you skip a beach that has the Florida Surfing Museum and Cape Canaveral nearby. Yes, you can rent a surfboard and visit the largest and first Ron Jon Surf Shop in the world. Great place to try your hand at surfing the Atlantic Ocean!
Pros – lots to do, close to other attractions, food on the beach, large pier, good surfing community.
Cons – typical grey sand of east coast Florida, very busy weekends, traffic-heavy.
Marco Island Beach – On the north side of the island is a wide strip of beach fronting many upscale hotels and condominiums. This is included in our Best Florida Beaches listing for people who want luxury. This is a great stretch of beach, but it has little public access and it is relatively small (but wide).
Marco Island is a great base to wander east for a day to visit the attractions in southeast Florida or the Everglades.
Pros – relatively private beach, very wide beach, numerous restaurants, exclusive access, good fishing in the area
Cons – expensive area, access from just hotels and condos, sand is ok (not bright white), not a lot of attractions on the island, but many a short distance away on the Tamiami Trail.
Panama City Beach – There is a chance you saw this beach while daydreaming of your college spring break. Panama City Beach is great for spring breakers, but the average tourist should try a different time of year if they are beyond the late-night party days.
Kids will love the area and the relatively calm Gulf waters. Every major hotel is here and the beach is miles long for an afternoon walk. Very commercial strip along the beach. Good Florida beach for kids with the exception of spring break season fro February 15 to April 30.
Pros – very long beach, nice sand, relatively calm gulf waters, kid-friendly after spring break, plenty of major hotels and restaurants
Cons – not a place for young families during spring break, traffic and parking can be difficult, walking for access
Sanibel – Captiva – These are islands in a chain of four that all have great beaches. However, Sanibel and Captiva are the only ones that are accessible by car (one of our criteria for best Florida beaches).
These two islands are different but are linked by the same access road from Ft. Myers. The traffic can be a nightmare on weekends, but weekdays will offer a great shelling experience on Sanibel and that relaxing surf on Captiva.
It should be noted that these islands are probably the most popular Florida beaches traveled in the state.
Pros – shelling, not many hi-rises, good restaurants and resorts, in the top three beaches in Florida, many attractions in nearby Ft. Myers.
Cons – traffic in season, the narrow island makes driving difficult.
St, George Island Beach – If you want to just drop out of society for a day or two, St. George Island Beach is the choice. The panhandle of Florida makes a great getaway. Most days you will only have the seabirds competing for a spot in the sand. If camping is your thing, the campground is remote and quiet. It is nestled on an oasis in the middle of sand dunes.
The picturesque setting will leave you relaxed and closer to nature than most beach experiences. One of our favorites if you want calm relaxation on one of the best beaches in Florida.
Pros – remote, great bird watching, good fishing, nice sand, plenty of outdoor area, good camping.
Cons – not a lot of commercial activity, must travel for other attractions.
St. Pete Beach – If lush white sand is what you want, add St. Pete Beach to your list of must-visit beaches. For five miles you can walk along the eastern Gulf waters and visit some well-known places like the historic Don CeSar Hotel and Spinners Restaurant for one of the best views in the county.
Great destination Florida beach for a family! St. Pete Beach has one of the largest resort complexes in the state called the Tradewinds Resort.
Pros – plenty of things to do, hotels and restaurants on the beach, sand is great, kid-friendly activities.
Siesta Key Beach – At one time, Siesta Key Beach was ranked at the top of the list of the best beaches in Florida for families. There is a lot of justification for that ranking. One reason for the high ranking is the beach is huge – wide and long. Sand is white and powdery.
Another factor that makes Siesta Key Beach one of the most popular beaches in Florida is the massive parking lot that can hold hundreds of cars.
Pros – even though the beach can get crowded, the beach is wide enough to find a spot of sand for your family. Services are plentiful.
Cons – the beach is on an island and traffic can be difficult near Sarasota. Can be a lot of walking from car to beach.
Best Florida Beaches – Special Considerations
The beaches below should be on our list above except for one thing – they cannot be accessed by car. We think some people would consider this a bonus. Others would be disappointed if we didn’t point out the limited access.
Caladesi Island State Park – The beach is on an island just north of Clearwater Beach.
Caladesi has made some lists for the best beaches in Florida. However, one downfall (or benefit, depending on your perspective) is that Caladesi can only be reached by ferry from Honeymoon Island or by private boat.
Hiking trails and a remote beach make it a fun visit without thousands of competing travelers.
Caladesi is a great side trip if you visit Clearwater Beach.
Pros – remote, on the island with nature trails, a fun ferry ride to get there, can get away from the crowd, picture-taking opportunities abound.
Cons – not car accessible, only small concession area on the beach, no camping, sand better on nearby Clearwater Beach.
Cayo Costa Island – We have written about Sanibel and Captiva above. Perhaps an equally good beach is Cayo Costa Island. On the west side of the island is a long rustic beach well known to wildlife photographers. This is part of the Florida State Park system. Very limited services on the island, but 9 miles of beautiful beaches. There is ferry service from Pine Island and occasionally from the Sanibel-Captive area.
Pros – truly remote, great seabird watching, good sand, clear gulf water.
Cons – not easy to travel to, few services on the island, not a place to be in bad weather.
What are your favorite beaches in Florida?
So where are those hidden gems we have missed? Send us a message about your best Florida beach. We haven’t visited every beach in Florida but we are always looking for THE Best Florida Beaches.
All 12 of the best Florida beaches are easily found on the map below.