Florida’s Best Beaches

If there’s one thing Florida is known for, it’s the amazing beaches, spread across more than 1,300 miles of coastline: from north of Jacksonville all the way south to Key West, wrapping around the Gulf of Mexico and up through the Panhandle. All the sunset action takes place in the west, while the Atlantic coast beaches are where you’ll find the best scuba diving and surfing. If one place can claim to have a beach for every taste, it’s Florida.

1130 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139, USA
For a taste of the good life, head to South Beach, known for its Art Deco hotels lining Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, glittering nightlife, and see-and-be-seen vibe. The long stretch of beach, starting with the pier at the top of historic Washington Avenue, is a great place to take in the Miami of postcards and enjoy the sunset over the cityscape. This is where you’ll find some of Miami’s best shopping, top-tier nightlife, and award-winning restaurants, not to mention great people-watching and luxury-car spotting.
Anna Maria Island, Florida, USA
This barrier island accessed by a bridge just west of Bradenton and about an hour south of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast is a sleepy hideaway with gorgeous powder-fine beaches and no chain stores or hotels in sight. Beach cruisers and golf carts are the favored mode of transport around town, where you’ll find a few restaurants, boutiques, and shops renting Surrey bikes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. And you can choose between beaches on the Gulf of Mexico side or on the smaller sliver of sand on the island’s bay side. There are two fishing piers on Anna Maria where you can cast out a line and scout for dolphins, and no high-rises at all on the island. Come sunset, everyone makes their way to the Sandbar Restaurant and the surrounding beach to salute the end of another wonderful day and watch for the elusive green flash.
Vilano Beach, FL 32084, USA
North Florida’s beaches hardly get the attention of those farther south or on the Gulf of Mexico. But there’s a lot to love about this laid-back surf community just north of St. Augustine’s busy historic district. The beach’s steep drop-off makes little waves jack up nicely, so Vilano is a favorite with surfers—especially on the incoming tide, when the waves are best. And Porpoise Point, on the southern end of the beach, is a great place to cast a line into the surf and fish. Facilities at the beach include parking, showers, pavilions that can be rented for gatherings, and picnic areas.
Clearwater Beach, Clearwater, FL, USA
About a 30-minute drive west of downtown Tampa, this popular beach on the Gulf of Mexico is built up with mid-range and luxury hotels, shops, and restaurants. But all that matters when you’re down on the shore is the sugar-fine sand and beautiful, crystal clear water for swimming. The Clearwater pier has really come into its own in recent years, drawing crowds by the hundreds for nightly sunset celebrations that attract buskers and vendors selling crafts. Visit the marina to book fishing trips or dolphin-spotting tours, or head out on a pirate ship into the bay for another way to enjoy the sunset.
1100 Seabreeze Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316, USA
It’s hard to beat a tranquil day on the beach, especially in the winter months when much of the country suffers from frigid weather. Fort Lauderdale Beach, long considered a rowdy spring break destination, has recently shed that reputation to become a trendy, upscale escape. With its sugar-white sands and calm, clear waters, the six-kilometer (four-mile) stretch of public beach is the perfect spot for a relaxing morning or afternoon. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent. When you’re done with swimming and sunbathing, you can stroll the palm-lined promenade, usually bursting with activity, and pop across the street to visit restaurants, shops, and high-end hotels.
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