Top 20 Best Florida Beaches
Without doubt it can be said that Florida has some of the best beaches in the world, by whatever measure that you choose to use.
The classic Florida beach combines hot sunshine, plenty of attractions and things to do, plus warm tropical seawater rolling in over white sand.
The truth is that there are many gorgeous beaches on both sides of the state, Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast, so picking out my top 20 best Florida beaches was never going to be an easy task.
I have tried, therefore, to give a spread of beaches with a range of types and locations - after all, some people prefer a vibrant atmosphere with plenty of bars, restaurants and attractions in the neighborhood, while others prefer something quieter.
Here are my selections for the top 20 best Florida beaches.
“I live in Florida, and when people ask how close to the beach I am, I say, “Twelve minutes or twelve hours. Depends on which beach you want to go to.”— Jarod Kintz
Bahia Honda State Park
The island of Bahia Honda Key is virtually uninhabited and home to some of the most incredible white sand beaches in Florida, with waters that are clean and clear.
For the more active, there is snorkeling and boating to keep you busy. Nature lovers can enjoy bird watching and the loggerhead sea turtles which nest and hatch along the beaches in summertime.
Sebastian Inlet State Park
This AtlanticCoast beach is one of the hottest surfing spots in Florida and also has opportunities skimboarding, fishing and snorkeling, amongst other things.
Fans of Mother Nature might be interested in the wildlife, which includes ospreys and sea turtles.
Smathers Beach in Key West
Smathers Beach has pretty much everything. One of the longest and most well known beaches in Key West, it was named after a former senator who served in Florida for 18 years.
You can leave your board at home, as there is no surfing here, but plenty of other exciting things to do, including tanning, parasailing, jet skiing, and snorkelling.
This a vibrant beach with plenty to do. One of the great things about the beach at Daytona is that you can drive on it, which is appropriate when you consider Daytona’s history as a Mecca for racing car fans.
Just fifteen miles from the NASA Kennedy Space Centre and just an hour's drive from Orlando, Cocoa Beach’s popularity began to grow in the 1960s with the rise of the space industry. It became famous for being the only beach in the world where you could watch a space shuttle launch.
There is plenty more to do besides watching space rockets, however, as the surfing scene is positively vibrant and there are plenty of bars and restaurants to socialize in.
This is a white sand beach in Tampa Bay on the Gulf coast side of Florida, less than twenty miles from Tampa Airport. As well as sun and sand, available activities include: jet skiing, parasailing, miniature golf, "pirate ship" cruises, and boat tours where dolphins can often be seen.
Fort Lauderdale has been called the "Venice of America" because of its extensive canal system, but the city also hosts some wonderful, classic Florida beaches of white sand, moistened by warm tropical water from the Gulf Stream.
Fort Zachary Taylor Beach
On the Atlantic coast, this beautiful beach in Key West has lots of fun things to do, including snorkeling on its rocky reefs. There are half a dozen beaches on Key West, but Fort Zachary Taylor is considered the best beach by many on the island. There is also a snack bar, showers and bathroom facilities.
As it is a state park, you do have to pay to get onto this beach, which helps to cover the costs of keeping the beach maintained. Fees are:
$6.00* per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$2.00* Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.
$4.00* Single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle.
* Plus $.50 per person Monroe County Surcharge.
A beautiful place on the west coast of Florida, not far from Fort Myers, Sanibel is actually made up of two islands: Captiva and Sanibel.
Both of these islands are great for families and romantic couples, you can cycle, play golf, go fishing, or go shelling along the beach.
An eight mile long barrier island, Siesta Key is famous for its quartz-crystal white sand and jewell green waters. The island has three wonderful beaches where you can have a picnic, play volleyball, snorkel, go fishing, or throw a Frisbee.
With 2 miles (3.2 km) of public beach that can be easily accessed from Florida State Road A1A, and all the nightlife, dining, and shopping nearby in Downtown Delray Beach, this popular location is another place to spend time.
As well as surfing and sunning, there is the Delray Wreck,a favorite site for those who love snorkeling and scuba diving.
Situated on the Gulf Coast, the Naples Beach consists of 10 miles (16 km) of pristine white sand. There are restrooms and showers available.
Voted the best beach in america by the Travel Channel in 2005, the beach is also notable for its cleanliness.
An internationally famous tourist hotspot and the first section of Miami Beach to be developed, South Beach boasts a vibrant nightlife, fine dining, and Art Deco area, as well as a popular beach area.
Most of the sands are public and you will be impressed by the variety of languages and accents you will hear.
Two miles of white, sandy beach give you a laid back place to chill out and forget the stresses of everyday life.
Nearby is Jacksonville, with its big-city energy and resources. You can also visit Hannah Park, popular with surfers, beachcombers, campers and bicyclists.
From the Kennedys to the Pulitzers to the Trumps, Palm Beach has long been a favorite hangout for America's social elite.
When not on the beautiful beach, you can travel around the city in a Palm Tram. There is plenty to do here, including the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum and the vibrant nightlife on Clematis Street.
Just north of Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast, Captiva Island is a magical place, which got its name, according to legend, from the pirate José Gaspar (Gasparilla) who held his women prisoners on the island for ransom.
Popular with the rich and famous, the The Wall Street Journal chose Sanibel and Captiva Islands in 2010 as one of the 10 Best Places for Second Homes.
A popular Emerald Coast destination for tourists and visitors, there is no shortage of things to do in Destin, Florida.
Sometimes called: "The World's Luckiest Fishing Village", the city is estimated to attract more than 80 percent of the Emerald Coast's 4.5 million annual visitors to the area.
The cool clear emerald green waters and warm sun are certain to relax even the most stressed.
St. Augustine Beach
One of the less well known facts about St. Augustine, FL is that as well as being a historic city with lots of attractions, bars, and places to eat, the city also has some excellent beaches nearby.
The beach is large with lots of sand and waves. There are numerous access points to the beach, but no place to get chairs or umbrellas so you will need to bring your own.
As well as being a popular tourist destination, it is also a favorite location for couples to marry.
Another beautiful Gulf Coast beach that is certainly worth a visit, Pensacola is up in the panhandle region of the Sunshine State.
The beach is long, roomy, and clean. If you find yourself in need or food or drink, there are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby.
Lido Beach, Sarasota
Located close to Siesta Key Beach, Lido Key Beach is another beautiful stretch of sun, sand, dunes, and sea that will melt away all the tensions and stresses of visitors.
Sarasota is situated on the Gulf Coast side of the state, south of the Tampa Bay Area and north of Fort Myers.
© 2012 Paul Goodman