If you’re planning a Florida vacation in search of sand, sun, and fun, don’t waste time with so-so beaches that don’t hit the mark. Head straight to the 10 best beaches in Florida, ranked here in our guide!
Looking for the Best Beaches in Florida?
The best beaches in Florida are as diverse as they are beautiful. Will you head for the sugar sands of Panama City Beach or Pensacola Beach along the Emerald Coast?
Maybe a trip to the Atlantic coast side or down south in the Keys is a better fit with natural beauty and golden sands stretching out for miles.
You might be gearing up for a touristy beach trip with all the mini golf, ice cream, and parasailing your crew can stand. Or you may prefer a more secluded, laid-back trip somewhere private and natural!
Here’s a look at the 10 best beaches in Florida, which you’ll learn about in more detail in the next section:
- Caladesi Island State Park
- St. George Island State Park
- Siesta Key Beach
- Panama City Beach
- Las Olas Beach
- St. Pete Beach
- Henderson Beach State Park
- Pensacola Beach
- Calusa Beach
- New Smyrna Beach
Each one offers something a little different. Keep reading to find out which Florida beach will be the perfect spot for your next getaway!
The 10 Best Beaches in Florida
All of Florida’s beaches are nice, but these 10 take the cake as the very best spots for sunshine, warm water, sand, beach activities, and water sports.
Check out the 10 best beaches in Florida below to get an idea of where you’ll want to head for your next Florida beach vacation.
1. Caladesi Island State Park, Florida
Located in Dunedin, Clearwater, Caladesi Island State Park may be the best beach in Florida with gorgeously white sand, crystal-clear turquoise water, and a secluded location on an undisturbed barrier island just off the coast.
The state park beach on Caladesi Island is ranked #2 on Dr. Beach’s list of the best beaches in the U.S., but it really takes the top spot.
You’ll take a ferry or boat ride (likely seeing pods of dolphins swimming alongside the boat on the way) to get here – that’s how this beach stays so secluded and undisturbed.
Caladesi Island beach is a shell collector’s paradise, with conches, lettered olives, sand dollars, and more washing ashore in droves before low tide.
A snack bar and ranger station greet you upon arrival, then a boardwalk leads you to the sprawling stretches of sand and hiking trails with water sport equipment rentals for the more adventurous.
The beach here is rarely crowded and unspoiled by tourist attractions or high rise hotels. For a relaxing, remote feel, you truly can’t beat the beach at Caladesi Island State Park.
2. St. George Island State Park, Florida
Always ranked as one of the best beaches in Florida and regularly landing in nationwide lists of the best beaches, the shore at St. George Island State Park is the perfect spot for your vacation.
With expansive stretches of white sand that border on the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Apalachicola Bay with marshes and abundant wildlife on the other, you can choose your own adventure.
Nature trails wind across the 9-mile park that covers the eastern part of St. George island. It’s an excellent spot for camping, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and more.
Schedule a dolphin tour, study the thriving marshes and wildlife on the island, check out the lighthouse and museum, and stop by the range of restaurants and shops.
Celebrities like Jimmy Buffet and Angelina Jolie have vacation homes on the island, which is only accessible by ferry. That’s a testament to just how beautiful and private this area is.
3. Siesta Key Beach, Florida
Looking for a gorgeous beach that brings all the fun to you? Look no further than the relaxing shores of Siesta Key Beach. Just outside of Sarasota, this top-rated spot is easily one of the best beaches in Florida.
Siesta Key Beach sounds like the perfect place for a nap in the sunshine while you lounge in a beach chair, and it’s definitely great for those lazy beach days.
But Siesta Key Beach is also a great spot for water sports and activities! People enjoy renting jet skis, parasailing, and playing beach volleyball here. There’s plenty of playground equipment for the kids at the public pavilion.
Live music and entertainment right on the beach, like drum circles that happen every Sunday, are another awesome way to enjoy your time at Siesta Key.
Nearby, Siesta Key Village is home to tons of restaurants, bars, and shops to extend your fun off the shore. Check out Sunset Pier and Siesta Farmers Market to get a taste of what’s local!
The entire family will enjoy taking a free ride on the Siesta Key Breeze Trolley that runs every half hour from the village to Turtle Beach with stops in between.
4. Panama City Beach, Florida
Panama City Beach, or PCB, is widely regarded as one of the best beaches in Florida and is super easy to access with over 100 access points and 27 miles of sugar-white sand along the Gulf of Mexico.
Part of Florida’s beautiful Emerald Coast, Panama City Beach is on the panhandle of the state. If you’re driving to your destination, PCB is faster to reach than the beaches further south.
Panama City Beach is one of the top 3 most-visited beaches in Florida, according to Newsweek, and it’s an ideal beach destination for families. It’s affordable, gorgeous, and packed with things to do.
Try activities and sports on the beach here, from parasailing and windsurfing to snorkeling and themed day cruises.
You’ll find vast stretches of white sand where there’s always room to pop a few beach chairs or an umbrella – it never feels jam-packed with so much space.
Be sure to check out the beaches at St. Andrews State Park, which are a little more private and surrounded by nature and wildlife. Take a shuttle to Shell Island for a secluded day of fun and sun!
5. Las Olas Beach, Florida
Situated on the eastern coast of South Florida is Las Olas Beach in sunny Ft. Lauderdale. It’s one of the best beaches in Florida and a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.
With several beaches in Ft. Lauderdale to choose from, it’s easy to see why Las Olas is the very best. Golden sand, tons of amenities and full facilities, and a wide range of restaurants and shops make it a must-visit.
Since it’s on the Atlantic coast of Florida, the ocean water is nice and refreshing, even in the dead of summer. Waves crashing on the shores set the perfect scene for your relaxing days at the beach.
Las Olas Beach is in the heart of downtown Ft. Lauderdale, making it a short walk from some of the best food and shops in the city along Las Olas Boulevard. You’ll find clean changing rooms, showers, restrooms, and more for your use.
This beach can get a little wild during spring break, so if you’re looking for a low-key vacation or bringing kids, keep this schedule in mind. Otherwise, Las Olas is perfect for the entire family year-round.
6. St. Pete Beach, Florida
With over 244 miles of pristine white sand bordering the Gulf of Mexico and nearby bays, a bustling pier, and full facilities on the grounds, St. Pete Beach is one of the very best beaches in Florida and the second most-visited beach in Florida.
St. Pete’s Municipal Beach is on a barrier island just south of Clearwater and stretches for 500 feet along the shores of Treasure Island. It’s the perfect base for a fun-filled beach vacation.
You’ll find volleyball courts set up for use, clean restrooms and shower facilities on the premises, and accessible wheelchairs built to handle the soft, white sand.
There’s a snack bar for those mid-day munchies while you’re knee deep in sand and surf. Check out the nearby Treasure Island for a taste of laid-back “Old Florida!”
Come for the beach, but stay for the awesome array of activities the whole family can enjoy on and off the shore in “the sunshine city.”
Over 1,000 festivals and events take place annually here, from the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and Bluesfest to Florida’s largest Pride celebration and the Mainsail Arts Festival.
7. Henderson Beach State Park, Florida
As the #1 most popular thing to do in Destin, Florida, Henderson Beach State Park is the kind of place you can plan your entire vacation around.
The white sand beaches in the park are stunning with 30-foot high sand dunes, camping sites, and hiking trails that wind through the coastal scrub areas offshore.
Put your beach chairs and umbrella up to enjoy long, sunny days on the beach here or try water sports and beach activities to switch things up.
Green sea turtles and loggerhead turtles come ashore to lay their eggs here. Spot pods of playful dolphins chasing schools of fish offshore!
This beach is perfect for nature lovers. Clumps of sargasso seaweed are unavoidable here, which can annoy beachgoers who want a truly pristine experience.
However, the clumps of seaweed that wash onshore are home to tiny invertebrates that seagulls, pelicans, and snowy egrets dine on – it’s all part of the thriving circle of life in Henderson Beach State Park!
8. Pensacola Beach, Florida
Pensacola Beach is a family-friendly destination on the northwestern coast of Florida and always ranks as one of the best beaches in Florida.
With soft, white quartz sand contrasting with the clear, emerald water of the Gulf of Mexico, Pensacola Beach is breathtakingly beautiful.
On Pensacola Beach, you’ll have 8 miles of pristine sand where everyone has room to stretch out. The beach is a quarter mile wide in some spots, meaning even high tide won’t take away your spot!
Take a dolphin boat tour, snorkel, swim, build sand castles, or take a banana boat ride out into the surf. Rent a pontoon boat, go parasailing, or grab a snack or meal at a beachfront restaurant!
You’ll find options from mini golf to archaeological sites and state parks in town to keep everyone occupied and engaged on your trip to Pensacola Beach. One thing is sure – it will never disappoint!
9. Calusa Beach, Florida
It’s not only one of the best beaches in Florida – it’s also a natural paradise that’s still wild and free for a taste of the true Florida with lots of wildlife and native flora around.
The award-winning Calusa Beach is perfect for all-day beach days with restrooms and showers onsite. There’s a snack bar, covered pavilion, gift shop, and ocean kayak rental shop here.
Take a snorkeling tour out to the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary or just to check out the colorful fish, dolphins, and manatees around the shore.
Calusa Beach has white sand with lots of beautiful seagrass that sways in the wind and gives the shore a natural, rustic vibe.
It’s not for every beachgoer, but if you’re into the wild side of Florida, you’ll love this place.
10. New Smyrna Beach, Florida
New Smyrna Beach is located 15 miles south of Daytona on Florida’s East coast and famous for the biggest waves in the southeast – a surfer’s paradise – and the historic arrival of Ponce de Leon in 1513.
New Smyrna Beach feels like home with its laid-back vibes. The shore is 13 miles long and flat, making it enjoyable and less crowded on the shore even during the peak tourism months of the year.
With uncharacteristically white sand for the East coast that’s soft and polished from centuries of crashing waves, NSB is also special because you can drive right onto it. Talk about an easy beach day!
NSB is also famous for its diverse and lively food and bar scene, ranging from family-friendly beachfront spots to nightlife and upscale dining.
Fishing world records have been set here, from redfish to marlin. It’s a great spot for those who enjoy the wilder side of a beach vacation – fishing, surfing, diving, and more.
The excellent fishing in the area also means it’s known for great white shark sightings, so adventurous swimmers and surfers should keep an eye out while enjoying time in the water.
You can see the Ponce Inlet lighthouse nearby, check out a range of museums and galleries, and visit the nearby Smyrna Dunes Park for hiking and glimpses of natural beauty and wildlife.
Things to Consider
Feeling a little overwhelmed with all your options among the best beaches in Florida? Start narrowing your choices down by considering the following things.
Pick Your Florida Coast
Florida’s western coast faces the warmer, calmer Gulf of Mexico while the eastern coast faces the cooler Atlantic Ocean with bigger waves.
Pick the coast you’d like to visit to narrow down your choices among the best beaches in Florida.
On the Gulf side, you’ll find that the water is roughly 5 degrees warmer. This makes it an ideal choice for beach vacations during the cooler months of the year – usually December to March – when the Atlantic side may feel too chilly for a swim.
On the Atlantic side, the water is choppier with bigger waves as it’s not sheltered like the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s also much deeper than the Gulf, which lends to its chillier temperatures and different color than the Gulf.
The Gulf side has more white sand beaches that feel softer under your feet.
The Atlantic side has more golden and brown sand beaches with larger shell fragments that can be smooth, but can also be rough or inches deep and uncomfortable to walk in barefoot.
Consider Your Crew
The best beaches in Florida are always family-friendly, but some destinations are better than others when it comes to bringing along little ones or multiple generations.
The natural beaches, like Calusa Beach, Caladesi Island State Park, or St. George Island State Park, can be great for families if your kids have interest in marine life and ecology.
Otherwise, these laid-back destinations are favorites for couples and adults.
The tourist-centric beaches, like Panama City Beach, St. Pete Beach, and Las Olas Beach, are always a sure bet for families with kids and adults of all ages.
Mini golf, ice cream shops, water sports, and fun beach cruiser rentals in places like these are always a hit!
Keep Your Budget in Mind
None of the best beaches in Florida are ultra-expensive to visit – there are affordable options for accommodations at each one. Still, your budget can help you decide which beaches are best for you.
If your’e looking to splurge, there are (surprisingly) a number of all-inclusive resorts in Florida! While these types of resorts are typically only found in the Caribbean, we love that the Sunshine State has several top-rated options to choose from.
We recommend using a site like Booking.com to check out the nightly rates for your planned trip in a few different locations. This will help you get a sense of how much you might pay to visit each beach.
For example, we compared prices for hotels near Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin and Clearwater and found options from $87/night to $263/night in early June.
In Panama City Beach, we found nightly rates from $86/night to $319/night for the same period in early June. Camping in Henderson Beach State Park costs about $30/night.
There are options for every budget level at most beaches (or very nearby) in Florida!
Frequently Asked Questions
Wondering what else you need to know about the best beaches in Florida? Check out the most frequently asked questions to learn more.
What is the prettiest beach in Florida?
The Caladesi Island State Park beach is one of the prettiest beaches in Florida. It has everything: Pristine white sand, unspoiled natural surroundings, and gorgeous emerald green water lapping the shore.
This beach is secluded and natural without high rises, noise, and crowds you may find on other beaches. It's only a ferry ride from Clearwater/Dunedin to get here!
Which beach in Florida has the clearest water?
The Emerald Coast, which includes two beaches from this list (Panama City Beach and Pensacola Beach), is known for the clearest water among the many beaches in Florida.
The water has an emerald green, bluish tint that isn't cloudy or murky. In shallow spots, you can see right to the bottom! That makes it ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
Which side of Florida has the best beach?
Many people consider the Florida beaches on the western coast (Gulf of Mexico side) to be the best beaches in Florida with soft, white sand and warmer, calmer water.
On the eastern Atlantic coast, the water is a little choppier and cooler with coarser sand.
Which beach in Florida is not crowded?
Calusa Beach in Bahia Honda State Park may be the least-crowded beach in Florida on our list.
Located on the secluded Big Pine Key island in the Florida Keys, fewer people come to this beach and it has a more remote, unspoiled natural beauty.
What is the most packed beach in Florida?
South Beach in Miami is often ranked as the most-visited beach in Florida, so it makes sense to call it the most packed beach in Florida.
With only 2 miles of beaches, it quickly gets crowded during peak season as 24.2 million tourists arrive here each year.
So, Where Are the Best Beaches in Florida?
We’ve listed the 10 best beaches in Florida considering a range of factors. From Caladesi Island State Park to New Smyrna Beach, there’s a destination for every type of trip here.
The beaches that made the list are in different areas of the state and range from pristine white sand beaches and natural coves to laid-back beaches on the Atlantic coast with waves made for surfing.
As long as you consider the Florida coast you’d prefer, your family’s preferences, and your overall budget, you’ll be able to pinpoint the Florida beach that works perfectly for your upcoming trip.
Pack up the sunscreen, swimsuits, and comfy shoes for walking through town or hiking trails through the state parks. Everyone’s going to have a blast on a vacation spent at any of the best beaches in Florida!