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The 20 Best Beaches in Florida

These beaches give the Caribbean a run for its money.

More than 800 beaches skirt the coast of the Sunshine State, where white sandy shores stretch from Pensacola in the Panhandle to the southernmost city of Key West. With so much prime oceanfront, it’s no wonder there are so many stunners—and a stretch of sand to fit every type of vacation.  You want to relax with the family? Florida has plenty of beaches for that. Or tan by day and party by night? It’s got those, too. You can choose whatever sun-drenched adventure you want here—from snorkeling through offshore shipwrecks in the Keys to sunbathing like supermodels on world-famous South Beach—the hardest part is deciding which one.

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South Beach

The legend of beautiful people is very much a reality on the sands parallel to deco-drenched Ocean Drive and upscale Collins Avenue, lined with luxe boutiques. Pose for pics at the iconic pastel-colored lifeguard stands or take a tour of the city’s most historic buildings.

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Fort Lauderdale Beach

The Spring Break hotspot now plays host to a reinvented, more upscale beachfront; however, the buzzy boardwalk and iconic beach bars remain. Stroll and shop along Las Olas or people watch along the beachfront promenade.

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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 beaches here do attract families, but the real draw is the underwater world.

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Delray Municipal Beach

This super-popular stretch of sand dotted with trademark royal blue umbrellas intersects trendy Atlantic Avenue in the alluring Village by the Sea; delicious nosh and cute boutiques are a short stroll from the waves.

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Surfside Beach, Miami

The mile-wide beachfront community north of Miami Beach is one of the area’s best-kept secrets. A few blocks from the ocean, Harding Avenue exudes small-town charm, but a new Four Seasons is adding a bit of sparkle. Even chefs are placing their bets on the blossoming beach town. Case in point: lauded chef Thomas Keller opened his first eatery in Miami, The Surf Club Restaurant, here.

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Bahia Honda State Park

Though the Florida Keys aren’t renowned for beautiful sand beaches (most are man-made), this is an exception—and one worth spending the day en route to Key West. Sitting 12 miles south of Marathon, the 524-acre park has three superb, white sand beaches, including the mile-long, Atlantic-facing Sandspur Beach. Fish off the old sea walls on the side of the Old Bahia Honda State Bridge—a remnant of Henry Flagler’s railway that led down to Key West—or set off on a snorkel trip to the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, a vibrant reef teeming with over 150 different types of fish.

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Haulover Beach Park

Long known for its clothing-optional stretch of sand (between lifeguard stands 12 and 16), the park, which sits north of Miami Beach, also offers plenty of family friendly attractions. Food trucks pull up to the Bill Bird Marina on Tuesday nights, and the park often hosts kite-making workshops.

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Mid-Beach

This stretch of coastline (which starts at 24th and Collins) sits just a few blocks north of South Beach’s nonstop nightlife. Miami Modern buildings sprout across the historic neighborhood, where a few famous faces like Fontainebleau have received billion-dollar revamps in recent years. Argentinean hotelier Alan Faena is breathing new life into the area, constructing condos and cultural institutions that are as fantastical as his flagship hotel, Faena.

 

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Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

If you’re looking to avoid the throngs of tourists sunbathing on South Beach, head to this park in Key Biscayne. Stroll along the shore to the beach’s landmark lighthouse—the oldest standing building in the county, originally constructed in 1825—or post up for a picnic at one of the waterfront pavilions.

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Blowing Rocks Preserve

The beauty in Hobe Sound is in the backdrop; the rocky coastline looks like it’s been transplanted from a Greek island, yet this wild strip of mangrove wetlands, turtle nesting beaches, and practically perfect dunes lies less than an hour’s drive from Palm Beach.

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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.

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Panama City Beach

The former “Spring Break Capital of the World” is home to 27 miles of sand dotted with lively beach bars like Schooners (where the party rages late into the morning hours) and Pier Park, home to over 124 stores, restaurants, and family-friendly attractions like the Grand IMAX Pier Park 16 theater and Pirate’s Quest Laser Tag.

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Siesta Key Beach

Crowned “America’s Best Beach,” Sarasota’s Siesta Key Beach boasts the finest quartz sand in the world. After a $21 million revamp, the public beach looks better than ever, sporting concessions, picnic shelters and a playground. The island’s 40-acre beach park is exceptionally wide and long, providing ample space for families, romantics, and Sunday’s Drum Circle celebration.

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Caladesi Island State Park

Accessible only by ferry from Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area, Caladesi Island State Park—one of the sole untouched islands on Florida’s Gulf Coast—offers pure white beaches, beautiful sunsets, and scenic kayaking adventures through mangrove forests.

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Clearwater Beach

At what is arguably the state’s best beach for families, kids and parents alike love Clearwater Beach’s white sand and shallow, clear warm water. In the evenings, the scene transforms into a sunset celebration complete with musicians and artists.

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Fort De Soto Beach

Another winner of “America’s Best Beach”, the 1,136-acre park is spread over five islands on the Gulf of Mexico and features 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.

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Pensacola Beach

Hugging the Gulf of Mexico along the western tip of Florida, Pensacola Beach is about as beautiful as it gets with its crystal-clear water, powdery white sand, and secluded shores. Snorkel or kayak through the Gulf Islands National Seashore—the longest protected stretch in the country—or explore some of the local history on the tip of Santa Rosa Island at Fort Pickens, originally built to protect Pensacola Harbor.

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Grayton Beach State Park, South Walton

With its twisted scrub oaks and magnolias, the 400-acre Grayton Beach State Park has more of a southern feel than the rest of the state. The area is part of South Walton, an under-the-radar collection of 16 beach communities in the Panhandle. Spend the day strolling the impressive sand dunes and swimming in what’s been ranked one of the U.S.’s most beautiful beaches thanks to the picture-perfect shade of emerald-green water.

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Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island

The “Isle of Eight Flags,” located near Jacksonville on Amelia Island, is the only spot in the U.S. that has flown flags of eight nations since it was founded in the 1500s. Take a stroll back in time through Fernandina Beach’s 50-block Historic District, dotted with Victorian-era homes-turned-bed and breakfasts, before heading to the picturesque beaches sitting just a mile from the city center.

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St. George Island

You won’t find chain stores or high-rise hotels on the 28-mile barrier island sitting off North Florida’s Gulf Coast. This is why the island’s practically untouched shores, covered in sandy coves and sweeping dunes, make for great shelling and wildlife spotting—and offer up prime views of the pristine water from cozy seaside cottages.