Florida is known for its amusement parks, good weather, and sunshine. But up and down the Sunshine State’s 8,436 miles of coastline are some of the best beach towns in the country. From surfing and diving to relaxing or golfing, these quaint, quiet towns have something for everyone.
Grab your flip-flops and sunscreen as we take a tour of the 16 best beach towns we know you love.
1. Rosemary Beach
Located on Florida’s panhandle, Rosemary Beach has something for everyone: It has golf courses, small-town charm, and of course, beaches. The area is great for your entire family with activities for the kids, biking and walking trails, state parks, and shallow beaches for you to wade pretty far out into the Gulf of Mexico.
If you’re a foodie, there are so many options, from seafood to fine dining to cute coffee spots. Another perk that makes the area so quaint is the fact there are no high-rise buildings. In fact, to keep the area quiet, buildings over 50 feet or four stories tall are not allowed. Instead, you’ll see cottages and carriage houses.
2. Port St. Joe
If you’re looking for a small-town feel, then put Port St. Joe on your list. But just because it’s small doesn’t mean there’s a lack of things to do. On the coast of the Big Bend area of the state, you’ll of course get to enjoy the white sand beaches, but there is plenty to do inland.
At T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park and St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve, you can catch a glimpse of a bald eagle, spend an afternoon in a kayak, or take a horseback ride through nature. There are also local favorites like homemade donuts and it wouldn’t be a trip to the coast without a stop at a raw bar.
A quick drive north of Tampa Bay puts you in Dunedin, the perfect little getaway from the big city. The cute downtown area has some fantastic restaurants from fine dining to excellent Mexican. Enjoy cocktails on one of many downtown patios, grab a beer at the Dunedin Brewery, or plan your trip around a baseball game. The Toronto Blue Jays call this area home during MLB Spring Training.
Dunedin is close to two of the most beautiful beaches in the state: Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island, both with sugar sand beaches and crystal blue water. History buffs will love the town’s Scottish heritage and the annual Highland games held each April.
One of the most popular spots for a vacation in Florida is Clearwater. In fact, Clearwater Beach has been voted the number one beach several times. It’s easy to see why. The sand is bright and super soft and the water is crystal clear. The area has everything from luxury resorts to beach bars so, depending on your mood, you can get a taste of something different each day.
The city also has a great cultural scene, with Coachman Park right on the water featuring art festivals, car shows, and the very popular Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Other local favorites include the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, famously featured in the movie Dolphin Tale, and Pier 60, which stretches out into the gulf with restaurants and spaces for fishing.
5. Longboat Key
Divided between Sarasota and Manatee Counties, the 12 miles of white sand beaches on Longboat Key feature fine dining, luxury resorts, shopping, and a championship golf course. The nearly 6,000 residents are mainly retirees who enjoy a laid-back, yet elegant lifestyle. It’s known for its upscale dining with restaurants right on the beach featuring menus of fresh seafood with some southern flare. Charter a fishing boat or hop in a parasail to get breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico and barrier islands.
6. Marco Island
Just south of Naples, Marco Island is a barrier island right off the coast of Florida. With luxury resorts, beaches for miles, marinas, and golf courses, Marco Island has something for every kind of Sunshine State vacation. Rent a boat and head out to Keewaydin Island to link up with other boaters, explore Rookery Bay and its diverse habitat, or enjoy a spectacular sunset on South Marco Beach. With its luxury resorts, there is plenty of fine dining, but if you’re looking for a beach vibe, you can also enjoy a cocktail under a straw cabana.
Halfway between Miami and Key West, Islamorada is the sport-fishing capital of the world. While known for fishing, the area is also a favorite place to enjoy a laid-back vacation, sample some seafood, or dive into the water. The History of Diving Museum explores contributions to the sport but also focuses on the state’s protection of sea life.
A few unique activities include Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, where you can search for fossils, and Indian Key Historic State Park to look for shipwrecks, which you can only get to by boat. Favorite dishes at local restaurants include tarpon, conch fritters, and of course, key lime pie.
Located on Florida’s Gold Coast, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal Waterway. You can explore the entire town since it’s only 1.6 miles around the perimeter. Known as Florida’s beach diving capital, there is a living coral reef just 100 yards offshore, making it one of the top shore diving spots in the world. If fishing, snorkeling, or diving isn’t your thing, head inland and explore the quaint town with a museum, art galleries, and shopping. Don’t miss a chance to try some of the local restaurants where the casual atmosphere welcomes flip-flops and shorts.
9. Delray Beach
Another popular spot on Florida’s Gold Coast is Delray Beach. Just north of Fort Lauderdale, this coastal town is a fun place to hang out with a vibrant downtown filled with restaurants, bars, and boutique shopping along Atlantic Avenue. There is also a 2-mile stretch of beach so the whole family can enjoy the sand.
In this Village by the Sea, there is a great cultural scene with a Saturday Green Market, live music in the open-air pavilion at Old School Square, and First Friday Art Walks. If you’re looking to make your trip very accommodating, Delray is an all-inclusive resort town with beachfront and waterfront stays.
The seaside town of Jupiter, Florida, is an upscale area with a relaxed atmosphere. It’s known for water activities since it’s along the Loxahatchee River, the Intercoastal Waterway, and the Atlantic Ocean. For you baseball lovers, Jupiter is the destination to catch MLB Spring Training. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins both play at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.
If you visit between May and October, you can take a tour of sea turtle nesting spots along the beaches. If you hit the links, there is one of the best public golf courses in southern Florida, Abacoa Golf Club. Dining is definitely unique. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods each have restaurants in town.
11. Hutchinson Island
Florida’s Treasure Coast is filled with some well-kept secrets and one of them is Hutchinson Island. This 23-mile-long barrier island has plenty of quiet, gorgeous beaches to enjoy; they are the main attraction in this town. A few include Stuart Beach, Bathtub Beach, and Blind Creek Beach. Local artisans take over the downtown on Sundays for the Market on Main, where you can score some handmade items or local foods. There are plenty of good restaurants, but locals say to visit the fish markets and cook your own, fresh-off-the-boat seafood.
Located on Florida’s East Coast, Sebastian is the place to go for nature lovers. Nestled along Indian River Lagoon, it’s the perfect place to kayak, paddleboard, and sightsee. It’s also home to Pelican Island, America’s first national wildlife refuge, so it has unspoiled beauty, world-class bass fishing, and deep-sea fishing. Birding is especially popular with the refuge, home to dozens of protected birds.
Sebastian is also popular for mom-and-pop restaurants, championship golf courses, and skydiving. If festivals are something you love to experience, this town has a few, including the annual Clambake in November and the Sebastian Fine Arts & Music Festival in January.
Just south of Cape Canaveral on Florida’s Space Coast, Melbourne has beaches, fishing, golf, snorkeling, art, and history. Known as the Harbor City, there is plenty to do downtown including exploring the Eau Gallie Arts District, with museums, galleries, and murals.
Melbourne’s beaches are a destination for surfers, whether it’s the pros or those just learning. Take a surf lesson and relax in the sand. Andretti Thrill Park is a tourist favorite. The amusement park has something for all ages including a mini golf course, a ropes course, a climbing wall, laser tag, arcade games, several rides, and five different go-kart tracks.
14. Cocoa Beach
Known as the surfing capital of Florida, Cocoa Beach is the quintessential Florida beach town. Located just an hour east of Orlando, this area is the place to go for a laid-back vacation. Cocoa Beach is home to surfing great Kelly Slater. See his life-size sculpture outside of the original Ron Jon Surf Shop where you can find everything you need to hit the waves.
The Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier stretches 800 feet out into the Atlantic giving you a great view of surfers as you grab a drink or a meal at the restaurants. You can also grab a souvenir at one of the shops. But if surfing isn’t your thing, you can also do some deep-sea fishing, take an eco-tour, or visit museums and historic sites.
15. Ponte Vedra
This seaside community of Ponte Vedra is known for golf. Home to TPC Sawgrass, the PGA Tour headquarters and host of The Players Championship, this course is one of the most challenging in the world. But Ponte Vedra is also known for its luxury. As a wealthy suburb of Jacksonville, expect gorgeous coastal resorts and fine dining. Shopping is also a favorite pastime with everything from luxury items to antiques and unique local crafts. The beaches are known for their 40-foot sand dunes, which are some of the tallest in Florida.
16. Amelia Island
There are 13 miles of beach on Amelia Island, Florida. Sprawling along the Atlantic Coast, this northeast town is a popular vacation spot for its stunning beaches and rich history. Learn all about it at the Amelia Island Museum of History. You can take a tour of the museum, which is a jail, and of the downtown area.
There is plenty to do for nature lovers including bike rides, deep-sea fishing, and of course, golfing. Grab a bite to eat at the casual restaurants filled with southern charm. Definitely plan a trip to the Amelia Island Lighthouse, the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in Florida.
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