Florida's Top Beaches
Bahia Honda State Park
Though the Florida Keys aren't renowned for beautiful sandy beaches, this is an exception. The 524-acre park has three superb beaches over 2.5 miles of sandy coastline at the crossroads of the Atlantic and the gulf, idyllic for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and fishing. Atlantic-facing Sandspur beach flaunts long stretches of powdery sands.
Bowman's Beach, Sanibel Island
On Sanibel's secluded northwest end, this beach doubles as a shell hunter's paradise and a beach wanderer's great escape. For the former, the likelihood of leaving with a bag full of gorgeous shells is high. For the latter, the chance of serene, inspiring vistas is guaranteed.
Caladesi Island State Park
Accessible only by ferry from Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area, this park offers pure white beaches, beautiful sunsets, and excellent bird-watching.
At what is arguably the state's best beach for families, kids and parents alike love the white stands and shallow, clear, warm waters by day, followed by sunset celebrations nightly, complete with musicians and artists.
Fort de Soto Beach
Another winner of "America's Best Beach," the 1,136-acre park lies at the mouth of Tampa Bay, spread over five islands and housing 7 miles of beach, two fishing piers, and a 4-mile hiking/skating trail. The beaches are super packed on weekends but splendidly quiet on weekdays.
Fort Lauderdale Beach
The former spring break capital now plays host to a reinvented, more upscale beachfront; however, the downy sands and crystalline waters from the days of Where the Boys Are haven't changed. The beach "scene" is found between Las Olas and Sunrise boulevards.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Florida's best bet for diving and snorkeling, this state park adjacent to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 78 square miles of ecological treasures, the majority of which are found underwater. Although the beaches here do attract families, the real draw is experiencing the underwater world of the 600 varieties of fish that call this park home.
Panama City Beach
It may be Spring Break Capital of the World come March and April, but the rest of the year this 17-mile expanse of snowy-white sand and sparking emerald-green water attracts families from all across the Southeast to enjoy some awesome fun in the sun. Pier Park offers great shopping and watering holes on the streets opposite the beachfront hotels.
Siesta Key Beach
Crowned "America's Best Beach" in 2012, this one boasts the finest quartz sands in the world. The sand is so fine and powdery it appears like piles of flour and squeaks under your feet when you walk on it. The 40-acre beach park of this island is exceptionally wide and long, providing ample space for families, romantics, and Sunday's Drum Circle celebration.
The legend of beautiful people is very much a reality on the sands parallel to deco-drenched Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th street, and upscale Collins Avenue from 15th to 23rd street. Expect diesel bodies, plastic surgery, hunky gay guys, pretentious partygoers, and random families coming to see what the fuss is all about.
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