Florida Travel Blog

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

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Best Florida Beach – 12 Choices for You to Pick

Best Florida Beach Depends on You!

There must be a dozen sitesbest Florida beach 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 Beach, the listings are based on your preferences – not ours or an advertiser’s influence.

Florida Travel Blog’s list of the Best Florida Beach 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.

Some of the most popular questions about beaches in Florida are:

  • What is the Best Florida Beach for families?
  • What is the Best Beach for swimming?
  • What is the best beach in Florida for snorkeling?
  • What is the best beach in Florida for couples?
  • What is the best beach in Florida for young adults?

As you can see, there is a wide range of motives. What may be best for one person or family, may not suit the next.

 Our views and minds can alternate with our moods. We try to give you the details to choose your own best Florida beach and some are the most popular beaches in Florida and others are more remote or attractive for other reasons.

So here we go in no particular order are the 12 Best Florida Beaches we have found so far.

List of the 12 Best Florida Beaches

So how did we pick the best Florida beaches? Very simply, we are residents of Florida for the last 40 years.

We travel Florida close to 100 days a year. We have seen dozens of the popular best Florida beaches. These are our choices for the 12 best Florida beaches. You choose the best Florida beach for you!

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. Very colorful little community.

things you need when flying

Cons – not a lot of services, traffic and parking can be difficult, not as large as some. No particular kid things to do.

Places to stay in Anna Maria Island.

Things To Do in Annamaria Island

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 hidden gem is in the Florida Keys on the road to Key West, but don’t pass it up! You can easily get to the Duval Street craziness from here. Our family’s favorite beach near Key West.

Pros – relatively safe water depth, lots of saltwater wildlife around, family-friendly, a short ride to Key West for a day trip. Great camping facilities. Best Florida beach for families.

Cons – busy during spring season, sand not as clean and white, on busy Rt. 1 through Keys. 

Things To Do in the Florida 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 everyone’s best Florida beach 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.Good Florida beach for families.

Cons – can get busy in season, parking not easy sometimes, traffic can be heavy.

Places to stay on Clearwater Beach.

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 Florida. 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. Good freeway system for travel. Best Florida beach for young adults.

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 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). If you are looking for an upscale resort, Marco Island has several. In fact, the JW Marriot Resort has a big floor of the hotel dedicated to games the kids will love. 

Marco Island is a great base to wander east for a day to visit the attractions in southeast Florida or the Everglades. Best beach for snorkeling nearby.

Pros – relatively private beaches behind the resorts, very wide beach, numerous restaurants, exclusive access, good fishing in the area. Good Florida beach for couples.

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.

Places to stay on Marco Island.

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 from February 15 to April 30.

Places to stay in Panama City 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 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 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 popular Florida beaches traveled in the state. 

Places to stay on Sanibel Island.

Pros – shelling, not many hi-rises, good restaurants and resorts, in the top three beaches in Florida, many attractions in nearby Ft. Myers. Best Florida beach for swimming.

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. Less crowded than most. Our favorite Florida beach with no crowds.

Cons – not a lot of commercial activity, must travel for other attractions. No dedicated attractions for kids. 

Places to stay on St. George Island.

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. Best Florida beach for young adults.

Places to stay on St. Pete Beach.

Pros – plenty of things to do, hotels and restaurants on the beach, sand is great, kid-friendly activities.

Cons – very busy beach, traffic can get congested in season.

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. Nearby there is a quaint area full of restaurants and shops.

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.

Places to stay at Siesta Key.

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. One of the biggest beaches you will find.

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 beach anna maria island
Not many high-rise condominiums on Anna Maria Island Beach. Just plenty of sand.
Bahia Honda Beach
Bahai Honda beach is in the Keys. Great wildlife and shallow water for families.
Activities on Clearwater Beach
Plenty of activities on Clearwater Beach including pro volleyball.
Clearwater Beach Pier 60
Sunset is a big deal on Clearwater Beach. Pier 60 is loaded with vendors, entertainers and visitors.
Marco Island to Everglades Florida
Marco Island has exclusive access. Plenty of hotels and restaurants on the beach.
Cocoa beach
Cocoa Beach complex for food and other vendors. The Atlantic Ocean is the backdrop on Florida's east coast.
Great Beach Front Food in Panama City Beach
Plenty of food on Panama City Beach. Lots of hotels along the gulf.
Pier Park Shopping
There are numerous sho[[ing venues on Panama City beach. Fun for kids too!
Captiva Island Florida
Sanibel is know for shelling, but sunsets are just as significant.
Captiva Island Florida
Captiva is a separate island from Sanibel, but the beach is more of the same - shells and sights!
St. George Island one of 12 best Florida beaches
Miles of open beaches on St. George Island, Florida
Spinners- St. Pete Beach vs. Clearwater Beach
St. Pete Beach has Spinners Restaurant that rotates 360 degrees. As your view changes you can see 15 or 20 miles around the island. Plenty to do and just 15 miles just south of Clearwater Beach.
Caladesi Island State park
Caladesi island is just a short ferry ride from Honeymoon Island near Clearwater Beach. Makes a great day trip in Florida.
Day trip to Cayo Costa
Cayo Costa is accessible by boat only. Remote state park with clear gulf waters and native wildlife.
best florida beach cape san blas
Cape San Blas has a state park on part of the island. These beaches and dunes are in the park. More traditional beaches are near the maiin part of the peninsula.
Cape San Blas Beach 

In the Florida Panhandle on a remote peninsula. This is our vote for the best Florida beach for couples or a romantic getaway. Several beach types on Cape San Blas. Calm Gulf Coast waters. Cottages and rentals right on the beach. Very friendly local community in an old Florida location.

You can only reach Cape San Blas by car. There is no public transportation which is good if you want privacy.

Pros – There is a state park very close that has trails and wildlife. Great for the beach lover. Perfect for total relaxation.

Cons – Not easy to get to. No dedicated attractions for kids. Not a luxury resort destination.

Best Florida Beach Off the Beaten Path – Special Beaches in Florida

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.

best florida beach - caladesi
Caladesi might be our pick for the best Florida beach if getting there did not include boat traffic only.

Caladesi Island State Park 

The beach is on an island just north of Clearwater Beach.

Caladesi has made some lists of 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. Uncrowded beach that is long enough not to be on top of each other.

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. Plenty of attractions on the mainland.

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 a ferry service from Pine Island and occasionally from the Sanibel-Captive area.

This is one of those places where half the fun is getting there!

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.

best florida beach - caladesi
The mangroves around Caladesi Island are fun to kayak when you are not lounging on the beach.

Things To Make Your Florida Beach Trip Memorable

To make your beach trip truly memorable, consider a combination of planning, activities, and a little spontaneity. Here are some tips to help you create lasting memories during your beach vacation:

  • Choose the Right Beach: Research different beaches and select one that suits your preferences, whether you prefer a quiet, remote beach or a lively, bustling one.
  • Timing: Visit during a time that suits your preferences. Some people love the energy of summer crowds, while others prefer the tranquility of the off-season.
  • Plan Ahead: Plan your trip, but leave room for spontaneity. Make a list of the activities and places you want to explore, but don’t over-schedule your days.
  • Beach Essentials: Pack beach essentials like the proper sunscreen, beach towelsumbrellas or shadechairs, coolers with refreshments, and beach toys for kids.
  • Water Activities: Enjoy water-based activities such as swimming, surfing, snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking, or jet-skiing.
  • Beach Games: Bring beach games like beach volleyball, frisbee, or paddleball to keep everyone entertained.
    Best Florida beaches safety flags
    Save a life! Know these flags on most Florida beaches.
  • Sunrise and Sunset: Wake up early to catch a sunrise on the beach, and end your day with a romantic sunset. These moments can be incredibly memorable.
  • Seashell Hunting: Search for seashells and create a collection. You can even turn them into beach-themed crafts or keepsakes. 
  • Picnics: Have a beach picnic with your favorite snacks or a beachfront barbecue. Dining with the sound of waves is special.
  • Beachcombing: Explore the shoreline for interesting finds like driftwood, unique rocks, and marine life in tide pools. Our family likes to have a scavenger hunt!
  • Stargazing: Clear beach nights offer excellent opportunities for stargazing. Bring a telescope or just lay back and enjoy the night sky.
  • Bonfire: If permitted by local regulations, build a bonfire on the beach and share stories, roast marshmallows, or simply enjoy the warm glow.
  • Photography: Capture the moments. Take photos of the landscape, your loved ones, and candid shots to remember the trip.
  • Romantic Moments: If you’re on a couple’s trip, plan romantic moments like a beachside dinner or a moonlit walk.
  •  Leave No Trace: Enjoy the beach responsibly by cleaning up after yourself and respecting the environment. Leave no trace of your visit.

Remember that the most memorable moments often arise unexpectedly. Stay open to new experiences and make the most of your time at the beach by fully immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and sensations of the coastal environment.

Beaches Packing Checklist

What is your best Florida beach?

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 Beaches of Florida.

All 12 of the best Florida beaches are easily found on the Google map below.

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