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Explore 31 Small Beach Towns in Florida You Will Love

Discover the Best Small Florida Beach Towns

Welcome to our blog post featuring 31 small beach towns in Florida! Whether you’re a Florida local looking for hidden gems or a traveler seeking a relaxing coastal getaway, we’ve got you covered.

We know these best beach towns in Florida and have visited all of them! After 40 years of travel in Florida, we think we can judge what small beach towns in Florida should be on our list.

From quaint fishing villages to charming seaside communities, these small beach towns offer a laid-back atmosphere, stunning natural beauty, and a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

So grab your flip-flops, sunscreen, and sense of adventure as we take you on a virtual tour of these charming coastal destinations. Let’s dive in and explore the best small beach towns in Florida!

31 best small beach towns in Florida Cape San Blas Beach
Beaches like this one are in the panhandle of Florida. This one is at Cape San Blas.

Why Are Small Beach Towns So Attractive to Visitors, Tourists and Residents of Florida

Small beach towns in Florida, like many coastal areas around the world, are attractive to visitors, residents, and potential residents for a variety of reasons.

Here are some of the key factors that contribute to their appeal:

    1. Natural Beauty: Florida’s best small beach towns often offer breathtaking coastal scenery with pristine white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush vegetation. The beauty of the natural environment is a major draw for those seeking a peaceful and scenic setting.
    2. Relaxation and Recreation: Beach towns in Florida provide a laid-back, relaxed atmosphere, making them ideal for unwinding and enjoying recreational activities such as swimming, sunbathing, water sports, and fishing. The warm climate of Florida is especially appealing for those who want to enjoy these activities year-round.
    3. Community and Lifestyle: Small beach towns tend to have a close-knit and welcoming community. Residents and visitors are often attracted to the sense of camaraderie and a slower pace of life. These towns may offer unique cultural events, festivals, and local traditions that create a strong sense of place.
    4. Outdoor Activities: Florida beach towns offer a wide range of outdoor activities beyond the beach, including hiking, biking, kayaking, and wildlife observation. The natural environment provides opportunities for adventure and exploration.
    5. Waterfront Living: Many people are drawn to the idea of living near the water, which can provide easy access to boating, fishing, and water views. Waterfront properties are often highly sought after.
    6. Real Estate Investment: The potential for real estate appreciation is another factor that attracts residents and investors. Coastal properties in Florida can offer long-term value, and some people see them as a smart investment.
      best small beach towns in Florida - Seaside Beach
      When you get to the beaches near Seaside, they are very immaculate and orderly like the very distinct homes and condominiums here.
    7. Climate: Florida’s mild climate is a significant draw for both residents and tourists. The warm temperatures and abundant sunshine make it an appealing destination for those seeking an escape from colder climates.
    8. Tourism: Small beach towns in Florida often rely on tourism as a major source of income, which can create a vibrant local economy. Visitors bring revenue to local businesses, which can help support community infrastructure and services.
    9. Retirement Destination: Florida has long been a popular destination for retirees, thanks to its favorable tax policies, healthcare facilities, and senior-friendly activities. Many small Florida beach towns cater to an older population looking to enjoy their retirement years.
    10. Cultural and Culinary Scene: Florida beach towns often have unique local cuisines and a thriving arts and culture scene. Visitors and residents can enjoy fresh seafood, local art galleries, and music events that reflect the local flavor.
    11. Low Crime Rates: Many small beach towns in Florida have lower crime rates compared to larger urban areas, which can make them feel safer and more secure.
    12. Proximity to Major Cities: While these towns offer a serene atmosphere, they are often within a reasonable distance of larger cities, providing residents with access to amenities, healthcare, and cultural events.

In summary, the appeal of small beach towns in Florida lies in their natural beauty, recreational opportunities, community spirit, and the desirable lifestyle they offer. These towns provide a tranquil and scenic escape, making them attractive to both visitors and those looking for a new place to call home.

best small beach towns in Florida Anna Maria Island City Pier
While it may seem like a small amenity, Anna Maria Island’s City Pier is a popular gathering spot for locals and visitors. This is on the bay side of the island.

Our Best 31 Small Beach Towns in Florida You Will Love

Each of these hand-picked small beach towns is along Florida’s Coast. There are no two alike. Each has different qualities. Many are very small and none are over 26,000 residents. Are there others we missed? Yes, but all of these we have visited and can suggest them as one of the best beach towns in Florida.

Here are our best small beach towns in Florida:

    1. Anna Maria Island
    1. Seaside
    1. Sanibel Island
    •  Serene and natural. Population under 7000. After being hit by Hurricane Ian in 2022, the island community is coming back strong. Always known for great shelling. Things To Do on Sanibel Island
    1. Captiva Island
    • Exclusive and secluded. Population under 400. Actually, another island next to Sanibel with the rebuilding going on. Just cross a bridge to visit each other.
    1. Fernandina Beach
    • Historic and charming. Population under 14,000. This is a must-visit town on a fabulous tourist island in northeast Florida. A lot of historical structures here and some beautiful resorts. Attractions in Fernandina Beach
    1. St. Augustine Beach
    • Rich in history and has beautiful beaches. Population under 7000. Just south of St. Augustine. Small-town feel as compared to tourist-laden St. Augustine.
    1. Vero Beach
    • Relaxing and upscale. Population under 17,000. East coast popular town with some great restaurants near the middle of the Atlantic coast of Florida.
    1. New Smyrna Beach
    • Surfing and family-friendly. Population under 31,000. Just south of Daytona Beach. A neat coastal town that is a favorite of bikers. Great beach here also.
    1. Santa Rosa Beach
    • Immaculate and uncrowded beach. Population under 15,000. In the panhandle west of Destin Florida.
    1. Gulfport
      31 best small beach towns in Florida
      Sometimes you can tell the character of a community by their signs like this one in Gulfport.
    • Artsy and vibrant. Population under 13,000. A small eclectic community between St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg Beach.
    1. Cedar Key
    • Tranquil and rustic Population under 1000. If you like fishing and and history, they combine here for a waterfront popular place.
    1. Indian Rocks Beach
    • Relaxed and family-oriented. Population under 5000. This fun community is literally 5 miles down the Gulf from our location at Florida Travel Blog. Great restaurants and beaches in this beach town.
    1. Flagler Beach
    • Laid-back and scenic. Population under 5000. In the northeast coast of Florida known as an active outdoor community.
    1. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea
    • Lively and beach-centric. Population under 7000. Huge ocean pier and and friendly neighborhood.
    1. Mexico Beach
    • Tranquil and unspoiled. Population Under 1500. Most of us became familiar with Mexico Beach when Hurricane Michael all but destroyed the town in 2018. We visited Mexico Beach in January 2024 and can assure you the rebuilding is in full force. Lots of new buildings along the Gulf Coast beaches.
    1. Holmes Beach
    • Quiet and family-friendly. Population under 4000. Located just south of Anna Maria Island with a very large popular beach.
    1. Cape San Blas
      Best small beach towns in Florida - Robbys Islamorada
      On the island of Islamorada there is a place called Robby’s that is an attraction and collection of stores. You can hand feed fish to big tarpon.
    • Secluded and pristine. Population under 9000. One of the best remote beaches in the country. The town is on a peninsula extending out into the Gulf almost like an island. Highly recommended for total relaxation.
    1. Crystal River
    • Nature-rich and adventurous fishing town. Population under 4000. This is also known as the Manatee Capital of the World. This is our go to place for fishing, golfing and visiting manatees. One of our favorite Florida beach towns.
    1. Islamorada
    • Relaxing and tropical in the Florida Keys. Population under 8000. This is our favorite island in the Keys. We love Key West, but if you are going to relax and enjoy the Keys, Islamorada is the place to visit or live. Try one of their many beach restaurants.
    1. Key Biscayne
    • Upscale and picturesque. Population under 15,000. This island off Miami’s shoreline one of the most upscale locations and popular places in Florida.
    1. Pensacola Beach
    • Vibrant and lively. Population under 3000. Directly across the bay from Pensacola. More laid back and a beautiful beach in the Gulf.
    1. Carrabelle
    • Historic fishing village. Population under 3000. Quaint town is known for fishing and one of our favorite dive bars in Florida called Harry’s.
    1. Port St. Joe
    • Beaches uncrowded and a getaway in the panhandle. Under 4000 population.
    1. Surfside
    • Clean and immaculate family-oriented beaches. Population under 6000.  Upscale town north of Miami Beach on the same island.
    1. Cedar Grove
    • Serene beach town surrounded by natural beauty and outdoor activities near Panama City, Florida. Under 4000 residents.
    1. Madeira Beach
    1. Tarpon Springs
      tarpon springs statue in list of the best small beach towns in Florida
      Tarpon Springs is a growing small beach town in Florida with a big Greek influence.
    • On the Anclote River with the beaches nearby. Population under 26,000. This is one of the coolest Greek communities in the state of Florida. Tons of things to do and an active home market.
    1. Marco Island
    • Population under 16,000. One of the most upscale islands in Florida. This is our go-to place to get away to a place with exceptional restaurants and a location that lets you visit Naples or the Everglades for a day trip from Marco Island.
    1. Cocoa Beach
    • A coastal town with a surfing background. Population under 12,000. In a mid-coast location along Florida’s east coast. Exceptional location for watersports. The first Ron Jon Surf Shop in Florida was opened here in 1963.
    1. Rosemary Beach
    • Upscale colorful community. Population under 1000. Another beach along the strip of 28 miles of the most beautiful beaches in Florida.
    1. Boca Grande
    • Upscale island with quaint community. Population under 2000. Island living on a well-known community on Charlotte Harbor just north of Sanibel and Captiva islands.

We have visited all of these communities over many years. One thing we can suggest is they all have some form of waterfront activity. There all have different levels of access to different amenities that you need to consider for your circumstances. For trips, excursions and activities in these Florida beach towns, check the resources at Viator.

best small beach towns in Florida - Madeira Beach and Johns Pass
Madeira Beach is home to one of the Tampa Bay area’s biggest attractions – John’s Pass. This collection of stores and restaurants is on one of the Gulf’s busiest inlets.
Check Hotel Prices

What To Consider When Looking for a Small Beach Town in Florida

When looking for a small beach town in Florida to visit, reside in, or potentially relocate to, there are several important qualities and factors to consider. Your ideal beach town will depend on your personal preferences and priorities, but here are some key qualities to look for:

  • Proximity to the Beach: Naturally, the beach is the primary attraction, so choose a town with easy access to a beautiful, well-maintained beach.
  • Safety and Security: Check the safety statistics of the area and ensure you feel comfortable and secure in the Florida beach town you choose.
  • Climate and Weather: Consider the climate, as Florida can have hot and humid summers. Make sure you’re comfortable with the year-round weather.
  • Community and Lifestyle: Research the local community and lifestyle. Some beach towns are known for being family-friendly, while others may cater to retirees or a younger, more vibrant crowd.
  • Amenities and Services: Ensure the beach town in Florida you choose has the amenities and services you need, such as grocery stores, medical facilities, and schools if you have children. 
  • Recreation and Activities: Look for a town that offers a variety of recreational activities beyond the beach, such as parks, sports, and cultural events. 
  • Cost of Living: Florida, in general, is known for its affordability, but costs can vary from town to town. Consider the cost of living, housing, and property taxes. We can assure you the cost of living in Key West is double the cost of living in some Florida beach towns.
  • Real Estate Market: Study the local real estate market, including property values, trends, and investment potential, especially if you’re looking to purchase a home. 
  • Schools and Education: If you have children or plan to in the future, investigate the quality of local schools. 
  • Healthcare Facilities: Access to quality healthcare facilities is crucial. Ensure there are hospitals and medical services nearby. 
  • Transportation: Evaluate
    Florida beach towns - Clearwater beach
    Some small beach towns in Florida have excellent local transportation like Clearwater Beach and their Jolley Trolley.
    the town’s accessibility and transportation options. Consider the proximity to major highways, airports, and public transportation. 
  • Cultural and Dining Scene: Explore the town’s cultural offerings, such as museums, theaters, and restaurants. A vibrant cultural scene can enhance your quality of life. 
  • Economic Opportunities: If you plan to work in the area, consider the local job market and economic opportunities. 
  • Tourism vs. Year-Round Living: Some towns are heavily reliant on tourism, which can influence the town’s atmosphere. Decide whether you prefer a more touristy or a quieter, year-round community. 
  • Natural Environment: Assess the town’s natural environment, including the presence of wildlife, conservation areas, and the overall ecosystem.
  • Zoning and Development: Investigate the town’s zoning regulations and development plans to ensure they align with your vision for the future. 
  • Infrastructure and Services: Check the quality of roads, utilities, and public services like waste management and water supply.Infrastructure in small beach towns in Florida can vary greatly.
  • Resilience to Natural Disasters: Coastal areas and river basins in Florida can be susceptible to hurricanes and flooding. Investigate the town’s resilience measures and preparedness for such events.
  • Local Regulations and Taxes: Familiarize yourself with local regulations and tax policies, which can significantly impact your cost of living.
  • Personal Preferences: Ultimately, your personal preferences and priorities will play a significant role in your decision. Do you prefer a bustling beach town with a lively nightlife or a quieter, more secluded spot for relaxation?

It’s essential to conduct thorough research, visit the area in person if possible, and speak with locals to get a better sense of what a small beach town in Florida has to offer and whether it aligns with your lifestyle and goals.

things you need when flying

All of the recommended evaluation points will not apply to all people. Use the issues most important to you to create a list.

Marco Island Beach in front of condos
You can see the beach in front of the upscale condominiums on Marco Island. You will find some of the clearest and cleanest water here.

Beaches and Water Quality in Florida Beach Towns

One thing that should be evaluated above all others is the quality of the water and the beach. Nothing can ruin a property valuation any quicker than water or beach pollution, not to mention the health of the people on the beach.

When evaluating the quality of a beach and its water quality, several factors should be considered to ensure a safe and enjoyable beach experience. Here are the key factors to look for:

  • Water Clarity and Color**: Clear, turquoise water is generally a good sign of water quality. Murky or brownish water may indicate pollution or sediment runoff.
  • Water Temperature**: Check the water temperature, which can affect your comfort while swimming or engaging in water sports.
  • Water Smell**: The water should not have a foul or unpleasant odor. Foul smells can indicate pollution or the presence of harmful bacteria.
  • Water Texture**: The water should feel smooth and clean. If it feels slimy, oily, or has an unusual texture, it may be a sign of pollution.
  • Visibility**: You should be able to see your feet when standing in waist-deep water. Poor visibility can be a sign of water pollution.
  • Algal Blooms**: Algal blooms can indicate poor water quality. Look for signs of excessive algae, especially if it forms large, unsightly mats on the water’s surface.
  • Waterborne Hazards**: Be aware of potential waterborne hazards, such as jellyfish, sharks, or dangerous currents. Local authorities often post warnings about such hazards.
  • Water Testing Results**: Local health or environmental agencies typically conduct water quality tests and post results online or at the beach. Check for recent water quality reports and advisories.
  • Beach Maintenance**: A well-maintained beach with clean sand and regularly emptied trash cans can indicate a town’s commitment to beach quality.
  • Public Health Advisories**: Pay attention to public health advisories and beach closures. These are typically issued if there are health concerns related to water quality.
  • Wildlife Activity**: Observe wildlife activity. Healthy beaches often have birds, fish, and other wildlife present, which can be a sign of a balanced ecosystem.
  • Local Regulations**: Familiarize yourself with local regulations regarding water quality, such as restrictions on pollution sources and sewage discharge.
  • Waste Disposal Facilities**: Ensure the presence of proper waste disposal facilities, such as restrooms and trash receptacles, to prevent pollution.
  • Nearby Industry and Development**: Consider the presence of industrial or urban development in the area. Pollution from nearby sources can affect water quality.
  • Local Efforts for Conservation**: Research local conservation efforts and initiatives. A strong commitment to environmental conservation often correlates with better water quality.
  • Reviews and Local Knowledge**: Reading reviews from other beachgoers and talking to locals can provide valuable insights into the quality of a beach and its water.
  • Water Quality Alerts**: Sign up for water quality alerts or notifications from local authorities or environmental organizations. These alerts can keep you informed about any water quality issues.
  • Historical Data**: Investigate historical data on water quality in the area to identify trends and potential issues.

Remember that water quality can change due to various factors, including weather conditions, tides, and human activities. It’s essential to stay informed, exercise caution when swimming, and follow any posted guidelines or advisories from local authorities to ensure a safe and enjoyable beach experience.

Boca Grande Tarpon Fishing
Some communities like Boca Grande have habits like fishing for tarpon steeped in decades of traditions.

Culture and Community Differences Between Florida Beach Towns

As we have stated, Florida is the size of several combined states. It is also made up of cultures that may date back hundreds of years and cultures that come from other countries.

Florida is made up of people from all walks of life and from many nationalities. That being the case, the small beach towns in Florida reflect their inhabitants to a great degree.

You will see a lot of Spanish culture in northeast Florida while the northwest seems more of the old southern hospitality style. Miami area is faster-paced and generally more upscale, while the Florida Keys are heavily reliant on tourism.

The small west coast towns tend to be more fishermen and older residents while the Florida Keys are very relaxed with significant Cuban influences.

Our point here is that community and culture should be part of your decision if you plan a long-term stay in the area. We think Florida is the best state in the union and haven’t found a bad place in the small beach towns in Florida list.

Final Thoughts About Small Beach Towns in Florida

Everyone loves a beach and a community nearby.

Residents considering a move, tourists looking for something different, people considering moving to Florida all can use or list of small beach towns in Florida to make their visitation decision.

There is no single website or other data instrument that can tell you everything about any destination. We recommend you determine what is important to you and narrow those factors. Then make your visit(s).

That advice applies to vacations, travel and relocating. Send us your comments.

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