Best Florida Beach – Choose Yours
There must be a dozen sites that annually claim “The Top Ten Beaches in Florida” or “Best Beach 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 Beach, 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 a beach 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. Our views and minds can alternate with our moods. We try to give you the details to choose your own best Florida beach.
So here we go in alphabetical order the Best Florida Beaches we have found so far.
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 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.
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 beach discussion.
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 the pier nightly, in the top three beaches in the state
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 surf board 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 beach, large pier, good surfing community
Cons – typical grey sand of east coast, 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 Beach 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
Panama City Beach – There is a chance you saw this beach while day dreaming 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.
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 family 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 beach).
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 beach destinations traveled in the state of Florida.
Pros – shelling, not many hi-rises, good restaurants and resorts, in the top three beaches in the state, many attractions in nearby Ft. Myers
Cons – traffic in season, 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 get away. 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.
Pros – remote, great bird watching, good fishing, nice sand, plenty of outdoors 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 for a young family! St. Pete Beach has one of the largest resort complexes in the state call the Tradewinds Resort.
Pros – plenty of things to do, hotels and restaurants on beach, sand is great, kid friendly activities
Best Florida Beach – Special Considerations
The beaches below should be in 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 Sate Park – The beach is on an island just north of Clearwater Beach.
Caladesi has made some lists for 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 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 island with nature trails, fun ferry ride to get there, can get away from crowd, picture taking opportunities
Cons – not car accessible, only small concession area on 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 know 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 sea bird watching, good sand, clear gulf water
Cons – not easy to travel to, few services on island, not a place to be in bad weather
What did we miss?
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 Beach.
All of these are easily found on the map below.