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One of Florida’s main draws (and an obvious extension of the warm weather) are of course the many beaches—there’s no question about it. But if you’re booking a trip down to the Sunshine State, it’s good to plan ahead and narrow down your beach day options to the absolute best of the best. Depending on what part of the state you plan on visiting, you might be able to spend time on some of the best stretches of sand in the United States.
Below, we’ve picked beaches from both the state’s east side, along the Atlantic, and beaches that stretch the turquoise waters of the warm Gulf Coast. Whether you’re in search of the best snorkeling, a beach close to high-end resorts, or just some of the prettiest sand down south, there’s a beach on our list for every kind of beach bum.
Our top picks, below.
Just across the Rickenbacker Causeway from buzzing Miami, Key Biscayne is known around the state for being one of the most pristine and stunning slivers of land in Florida, offering some of the most picturesque beaches. Between the closeby barrier reef and the two parks on either side of the key (Bill Baggs Cape Florida Park and Crandon Park), there is plenty to see and do in this special destination—and certainly no shortage of breathtaking beaches.
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Known as one of the best beaches in Key West, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is rich with color and life. Go snorkeling in the turquoise waters to spot parrot fish and lobster, or post up on the beach to enjoy the warm breeze and eat some fresh seafood at The Cayo Hueso Café. The 54 acres of this beautiful state park offer plenty, between water activities, catching rays on the beach, biking trail, woodland walks, and picnic tables and grills that make a beach cookout totally doable. And just a few blocks away, visitors can check into Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort for a luxury stay while they soak up the sun.
Named Number one beach in the U.S. by TripAdvisor two years in a row now, Clearwater Beach pretty much has it all. Located on Florida’s west coast, you’ll find a beautiful palm-lined beach and clear blue waters, perfect for all kinds of beachgoers. White sand beaches? Check. Great restaurants? Check. Both a bustling pier and a more secluded residential end? Check, check.
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, North Palm Beach
Nature preservation is the name of the game on this special stretch of sand. Whether you choose to sunbathe, swim, snorkel, or fish at this beautiful state park beach—known as one of Florida’s environmental treasures—you’ll never forget the experience. Beachgoers can expect two straight miles of beach along the bright blue Atlantic waters in North Palm Beach.
This beautiful island near Fort Myers, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, may often be associated with its island neighbor of Sanibel, but it deserves just as much recognition. Between the golfing, luxury resorts, and pristine beaches, you might have a hard time leaving this little Gulf Coast paradise. Don’t forget to spend time hunting for shells along the shoreline (there are over 250 kinds in existence on the two islands). Pro tip: head to Captiva Beach for one of the best sunsets in Florida.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513, Dry Tortugas National Park is, hands down, one of the most special parks on the East Coast. Home to unique birds, nesting sea turtles, tropical fish, a beautiful coral reef, this island is full of life and opportunities to see some of the Sunshine State’s stunning natural wonders. Between camping, long days on secluded beaches, some of Florida’s best snorkeling, tours of the famed Fort Jefferson, and much more, you’ll find plenty to do in this gorgeous national park.
Keewaydin Island is ideal for those looking for a good day of beaching and boating; located off the Gulf Coast of Florida, right near Naples, this little island is a popular local haunt for those who live on or visit the slightly larger resort destination, Marco Island. One of Florida’s primary barrier islands, beachgoers will be pleased to find bountiful stretches of sparkling white sand, crystal-clear waters, and some wonderful opportunities for spotting wildlife, as the island is part of Rookery Bay Reserve. This also means that there are no roads, cars, or bridges on-island, so you must arrive by boat (either a rental or boat shuttle from Marco Island).
Gasparilla Island State Park
Come to mile-long stretch of pristine beach at this gorgeous state park for the white sand and the blue-green Gulf waters, and stay for the shell-hunting and opportunities to spot manatee, dolphins, and maybe even a sea turtle. Part of the Gulf Coast barrier islands, Gasparilla Island State Park is just a stone’s throw away from the Boca Grande Pass, a world-famous fishing destination, and the historic Port Boca Grande Lighthouse.