Soft white sandy beaches, azure waters, stellar seafood, and sunny skies make Florida a year-round travel destination. The Sunshine State’s 1,350 miles of coastline offers swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, beachcombing, and shelling. It’s also home to numerous charming beach towns. Whether you’re looking to plan a vacation, or just want to forget about winter for a while, here are 16 Florida beach towns our readers loved this year.
1. Pompano Beach
Located just north of Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach is on South Florida’s Atlantic coast. Miami, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach are all within an hour’s drive, making this laid-back, unpretentious beachside town a great stop on a scenic Florida road trip.
Pompano is an excellent place for snorkelers to explore — a magnificent coral reef lies a quarter-mile off the coast. If you happen to be there during the holiday season, try to catch the boat parade!
2. Deerfield Beach
Just north of Pompano Beach on Florida’s east coast, Deerfield Beach is a more affordable alternative to some of its nearby neighbors like Miami, Boca, and West Palm. However, this low-key beach town has all of the amenities of those bigger beach cities, including restaurants, bars, and ice cream shops downtown. Take a walk on the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier and check out the boardwalk.
If you are looking to escape from cold, crowds, and corporate consumerism, consider Pass-a-Grille. You won’t find any fast-food or shopping chains here, just good old-fashioned small-town America, with a beach! You can find this slice of authentic Florida at the southern end of St. Pete Beach, which has some of the best beaches in the country.
4. St. Augustine
Known as the oldest city in the U.S., the oceanside community of St. Augustine sits about an hour south of Jacksonville. Anytime is a good time to visit this historic city, but it’s especially magical during the holidays when downtown gets decked out with millions of twinkling lights for the annual Nights of Lights festival.
5. Singer Island
Speaking of Florida’s east coast, opulent, elegant, and luxurious Singer Island is home to gorgeous beaches, upscale resorts and spas, and superb dining options. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Florida Intracoastal Waterway to the west, This South Florida island offers a multitude of water activities, including kayaking, boating, world-class deep-sea fishing, crystal clear snorkeling, and scuba diving.
6. Sanibel Island
About 25 miles south of Fort Myers lies the quaint beach town of Sanibel Island and its little sister, Captiva Island. Expansive and quiet, Sanibel beaches are known for their soft white sands and ample opportunities for shelling. Our writers agree that this weekend getaway has some of the best beaches in Florida.
You won’t find any hotel highrises in this charming, laid-back beach town. Locals and visitors alike traverse the island by bike. Fishing and kayaking are also big here. J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge offers both, and is also home to hundreds of animals, from crocodiles and manatees to dozens of bird species.
7. Siesta Key
Our readers named Siesta Key the best beach in the U.S. in this year’s Best of Travel Awards. Our writers agree, naming it one of the best beaches in Florida. Situated on the west coast of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico, this barrier island is just minutes from Sarasota. Although only 8 miles long, this gorgeous island getaway offers pristine beaches, plentiful outdoor attractions, great dining options, and fun for the entire family.
8. Anna Maria Island
With stunning white-sand beaches, Old-Florida buildings, and a fast-growing culinary scene, Anna Maria Island is another Florida beach town that is beloved by both our readers and our writers. This tropical paradise is popular with retirees and snowbirds. The quaint island is only 7 miles long and comprises three cities: Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach, the last of which connects to Bradenton on mainland Florida.
9. St. George Island
A barrier island in the panhandle, St. George Island is part of “The Forgotten Coast” — the part of the Gulf Coast so-named for its stretch of unspoiled, pristine beaches. What you won’t find: high-rises and strip malls. What you will find: an uncrowded, white-sand beach. St. George Island State Park made Dr. Beach’s 2021 list of best beaches in the U.S. Swim, canoe, kayak, boat, and fish in its crystal-clear waters. The beach is also ideal for beachcombing and shelling.
Gorgeous pristine beaches, a developing foodie scene, progressive eco-tourism efforts, and a walkable community are just a few of the reasons our readers love Surfside. At only a half a square mile, this quaint Florida beach town is small compared to neighboring Miami and Bal Harbour. But its eight city blocks are packed with an array of amenities, exciting things to do, places to eat, and more.
Islamorada, a village made up of six of the Florida Keys, is located halfway between Miami and Key West (and makes for a fun pit stop if you’re road-tripping between the two!). This family-friendly destination is home to watersports, sportfishing, historic sites, succulent seafood, and of course, key lime pie. Stroll around and see the sights, go kayaking in the Whale Harbor Channel, swim with dolphins, and more!
12. Mexico Beach
East of Panama City past Tyndall Air Force Base lies an ideal spot for a quiet beach getaway. Rejuvenated Mexico Beach is in the process of rebuilding after being flattened by Hurricane Michael in 2018. On the east side of town is a long public beach park where the emerald seas of the Gulf of Mexico embrace the shoreline.
13. Delray Beach
Situated on Florida’s southeast coast, Delray Beach is a treasure trove of art galleries and pub art installments in addition to its impeccable white sandy beaches. Just south of West Palm Beach between Boyton Beach and Boca Raton, this upscale beach community makes for a lovely day trip or weekend getaway, without the hefty price tag or crowds. Downtown Delray Beach — where you’ll find most of the action — is walkable and there is plenty of parking.
14. Vero Beach
An incredible vacation destination located on Florida’s “Treasure Coast,” Vero Beach lies halfway between Melbourne and Palm Beach. This laid-back Florida beach town offers abundant outdoor attractions, citrus galore, beautiful beaches, a thriving local arts scene, a wide array of local eats, luxury accommodations, and more.
15. Boca Grande
The Old Florida town of Boca Grande sits within a 7-mile-long strip of land known as Gasparilla Island. Known for hospitality and charm, it is full of natural beauty. Visitors come here for world-class sport fishing, the historic downtown, and dazzling white-sand beaches.
16. Cedar Key
A quaint, quiet little island town, Cedar Key has a population of less than 800, mostly made up of retirees and fishermen. Just a short drive from Gainesville and within a few hours of Tampa Bay and Orlando, it may be Florida’s premier weekend getaway destination.
Part of Florida’s “Nature Coast,” this island offers plenty of outdoor activities, namely fishing. From the shallow marshes on the backside of the island to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, there is an abundance of good fishing spots.