Looking for the Best Beach Towns in Florida?
With its year-round sunshine, crystal-clear blue waters, and dynamic culture, it’s no wonder that Florida is a coveted vacation destination. While the notion of vacationing in the Sunshine State is certainly exciting, you may be wondering how to choose a vacation spot among the hundreds of miles of beaches that make up Florida’s coast.
This list rounds up 16 of the state’s most popular and well-loved beach towns, which are dotted along Florida’s coast from the Panhandle all the way down to the Keys.
Each town is unique and offers plenty of opportunities that suit various interests, ages, and activity levels. From quaint, charming, “Old Florida” towns that offer romance and leisure, to bustling, colorful, and lively cities that boast vibrant nightlife, you’re sure to find a spot that fulfills your ideal vacation checklist.
The 16 Best Beach Towns in Florida To Visit!
1. St. Augustine
St. Augustine, nestled along the northeast coast of Florida, is brimming with rich history, beautiful architecture, and fantastic cuisine. Established in 1565, St. Augustine is famously known as the “Nation’s Oldest City.” Those who visit this charming Florida city are immediately immersed in a colonial world, with intricate Spanish architecture, cobblestone streets, and charming bed and breakfast inns.
Take a stroll through the Historic Downtown, where you can learn about St. Augustine’s rich heritage, admire buildings dating back to the 1700s, and peruse quaint shops and eateries. The true focal point, however, of St. Augustine’s history is the Castillo de San Marcos.
The Spanish built this giant stone masonry fort, the oldest in the Continental U.S., to protect and defend their settlement against British forces. If you’re ready for some fuel after several walking tours around the city, stop by the highly rated Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille for Louisiana-style eats in a lively atmosphere. One of the best restaurants in St Augustine.
If you save room for dessert, indulge in some mouth-watering sweets from Cousteau’s Waffle and Milkshake Bar. Cozy up in a historic bed and breakfast after a long day of sightseeing and good eats! One of the best beach towns in Florida for sure.
Sarasota offers perhaps one of the more eclectic varieties of sights in Florida, from pristine beaches to world-class circus performances. This Gulf Coast city holds the quirky nickname of “Circus City,” as it was once the winter headquarters of the Ringling Brothers Circus.
Today, one of Sarasota’s most popular attractions is the Ringling Museum of Art. This 66-acre estate was home to John and Mable Ringling, who made their fortune from the Ringling Circus, and features an art museum with exhibitions from around the world, a circus museum that commemorates the glittering grandeur of the Ringling Circus, beautiful gardens, and more.
If you’re ready to relax on the beach after a day of sightseeing, you’re sure to find a sandy spot, and plenty of sunshine, on the miles of beaches that Sarasota offers. The city has an average temperature of 72.6 degrees, making it an ideal beach vacation spot year-round!
End the perfect beach day on a tasty note by visiting one of Sarasota’s highly-rated eateries. The city is home to more Zagat-rated restaurants than any other city in Florida, so there is quality food waiting at every corner!
3. Key West
For those who love to venture south, Key West is the place to go! Famously known as America’s southernmost point, Key West lies only 90 miles north of Cuba.
The city is beloved by tourists and locals alike for its thriving nightlife, colorful architecture, and adventurous watersports. Take a stroll down Duval Street, the main drag of downtown, and you’ll find plenty of open-air bars, coffee shops, world-renowned restaurants, and even free-roaming chickens! On a particularly warm day, there’s also plenty to do on the water.
Hop on a catamaran snorkeling tour and explore Key West’s incredibly diverse coral reefs, where you’ll find plenty of unique sea creatures. If you want to cool off in the evening with a cold drink and some live music, check out Hog’s Breath Saloon or the Green Parrot Bar, which are both popular among Key West locals.
You can even live like Ernest Hemingway for a night at Sloppy Joe’s, a lively bar where the famous novelist used to frequent. For a thrilling night-time attraction, hop on a Key West guided ghost tour to experience the historical side of the beach town with a few scares along the way. One of the best beach towns in Florida for sure.
If you’re driving north from Key West, be sure to stop in Islamorada. This small village encompasses six of the Florida Keys, and is best known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World.”
Saltwater fly fishing and backcountry sport fishing originated in Islamorada, and anglers have flocked to the village for over 100 years to pursue their trade. But if you prefer to feed the fish rather than catch them, look no further than the famous Robbie’s Marina.
The marina is teeming with tarpon, which can grow up to 180 pounds, and tourists can buy buckets of small bait fish to hand-feed their hungry aquatic friends. Robbie’s also has a restaurant where you can grab some yummy fish tacos, lobster, and other seafood favorites!
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, the marina offers jet ski rentals, snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, sunset cruises, and more. Another popular tourist attraction in Islamorada is the Theater of the Sea. There, you can swim with dolphins and sea lions, ride on a bottomless boat, lounge on the beach, or watch a parrot show!
Miami is one of America’s go-to vacation spots, and for good reason. Miami, or “Magic City,” is known for its wild party scene, designer fashion, expensive cars, and, of course, miles of beaches. But the city isn’t just a destination for spring breakers.
People of all ages can enjoy the sights and activities that Miami has to offer, including its renowned cuisine, colorful architecture, and thriving art scene. The city is home to the world’s largest collection of Art Deco architecture, which are mainly located downtown in the Art Deco district.
There, you can admire hundreds of buildings that represent the Art Deco style, which feature pastel and tropical colors, geometric shapes, and neon lighting. For a true cultural immersion, head over to Little Havana. A center for Miami’s Cuban community, Little Havana offers authentic Cuban food, late-night salsa clubs, cigars, and coffee.
Stop by Cafe Versailles, an iconic Cuban cafe and restaurant, for a creamy midday espresso shot and a delicious empanada. If you want to partake in Miami’s nightlife, stroll down Ocean Drive, a vibrant strip lined with bars, clubs, restaurants, and designer shops.
6. Boca Raton
Boca Raton, or “Boca,” as the locals lovingly call it, is an affluent city on Florida’s southeastern coast. Visitors flock to the city to explore its upscale shops, wildlife centers, museums, golf courses, and eateries. Those in need of some retail therapy will find their relief at the Town Center at Boca Raton, a luxury shopping mall with about 200 high-end shops and specialty stores.
If you’re looking for another way to beat the Florida heat, head over to the Boca Raton Museum of Art to admire over 4,500 African, Pre-Columbian, European, and American works. After spending some time in the air conditioning, you can reacquaint yourself with nature at the famous Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.
The center, located in Red Reef Park, gives visitors a close-up look at the diverse wildlife and marine life of Florida. Visitors can hike various nature trails, learn about native fish, stingrays, and other marine life, or even observe the behaviors of the protected sea turtles that nest in South Florida.
In Destin, the sand sparkles- literally. You may notice when you hit the beach in this Florida Panhandle city that the sand is strikingly white, brilliantly sparkly, and super soft.
This is because it’s actually made of up tiny pieces of quartz crystal that have washed down the Appalachian Mountains over hundreds of years. Some visitors even say the sand squeaks as you walk, which is attributed to the round shape of quartz grains rubbing against each other. Apart from its unique beaches, Destin also offers a variety of water activities, fishing, golf courses, and authentic seafood restaurants.
If you’re looking to cool down in Destin’s emerald green waters, head on over to Crab Island. Visitors can explore this shallow sandbar by boat, where you can grab a drink at the floating bar, take a ride down a huge blow-up slide, or just hang with friends. Crab Island is an ever-popular tourist attraction, and the unique gathering place was even featured on HGTV and Good Morning America.
8. Sanibel Island
If you’re looking for a secluded, relaxing beach vacation without the crowds and noise that usually accompany beach towns, Sanibel Island is the place for you! This Gulf Coast barrier island places a strong emphasis on preserving the quality and solitude of their community.
Buildings are not permitted to be taller than the island’s tallest tree, which is about three stories, and they have various rules in place to keep their beaches clean and pristine. Sanibel Island is also unique in that it has a curved shape that wraps around the coastline, which is due to its east-west orientation.
Because of its shape, the island scoops up an abundance of seashells from the Gulf and deposits them on the shores of the beach. The island has so many shells that visitors can’t resist participating in the “Sanibel Stoop,” which refers to the action of bending at the waist to collect seashells.
Once you’ve collected all the seashells you can carry, head on over to another popular tourist destination: The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge takes up one-third of the entire island, and is home to over 245 species of birds. Other than bird watching, you can hike nature trails, bike, canoe, stand-up paddle board, and more!
Naples is another Gulf Coast town in southwest Florida that is known for its elegance and sophistication. The town is a center for high-end shopping and world-class dining, making it a paradise for those who enjoy the finer things in life.
The most popular shopping destinations in Naples are 5th Avenue South and Third Street South, which are both located downtown. Visitors can shop familiar designer brands at these locations to pick up a cute last-minute beach outfit, some coastal home decor, or a thoughtful gift for a friend or family member.
End a long day of shopping at one of Naples’ finest restaurants, such as The French Brasserie Rustique or BALEEN. If you’re looking for more family-friendly options, Naples has you covered! Kids will love the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, which offers plenty of interactive experiences, shows, and even boat rides. Or, for a more romantic getaway, stroll down the iconic Naples Pier to catch a gorgeous, fiery Florida sunset.
If you’re headed down to Florida to escape the winter blues, St. Petersburg is the place to go! This Gulf Coast town, which is part of the Tampa Bay area, is known as “Sunshine City” for its never-ending warm and pleasant weather. St. Petersburg holds the record for “most consecutive days of sunshine,” with 768 days of warm rays!
Because of its sunny weather, outdoor recreation is a must in St. Petersburg. The city is a center for golfing, boating, and fishing, and is home to some of the nation’s most highly ranked beaches. If being on the water isn’t your thing, the city offers vibrant parks and a 26-acre pier where you can bike, walk, eat, or enjoy some live music.
Although it’s known for its weather, St. Petersburg’s thriving arts scene deserves some recognition as well. Among cities of similar size, St. Pete is ranked in the top for its literary arts, film, music, museums, and galleries.
One particular arts attraction, located in the Waterfront Museum District, is the world-famous Dali Museum. The museum showcases the works of legendary artist Salvador Dali, and also features gardens and a cafe with authentic Spanish eats.
11. Anna Maria Island
Secluded, quaint Anna Maria Island is a seven-mile-long Gulf Coast community that preserves an “Old Florida” charm. Unlike other vacation destinations that cater to a fast-paced lifestyle, Anna Maria caters to those who enjoy the simpler things in life.
This largely residential community features low-rise wooden houses, a 35 miles-per-hour speed limit, pristine beaches, and friendly locals. While you won’t find high-rise condos, fast food, or big box stores in Anna Maria, you can dine at local joints or browse independent businesses, galleries, or boutiques that feature hand-crafted treasures.
Visitors can ride a free trolley to several shopping areas, including Pine Avenue, Gulf Drive, or Cortez Village. If you’re in the mood for a faster-paced adventure, the island does offer typical water activities like kayaking, sailing, and scuba diving.
- See more: best restaurants in Anna Maria Island
12. Port St. Lucie
Sports fans, nature lovers, and beachgoers will find their dream vacation at Port St. Lucie. This Atlantic coast city in southern Florida is known for its connection to both golf and baseball.
The area is home to the award-winning PGA village, which offers four championship golf courses and even golf lessons that visitors can book with PGA pros. Port St. Lucie also houses the spring training field for the New York Mets, and baseball fanatics can visit the stadium from February to March to watch a game.
The city is also famed for its nature preserves, which offer a first-hand look into Florida’s flora and fauna. At Savannas Preserve State Park, an especially popular attraction, visitors can hike or bike over 17 miles of trails, pack a family picnic to enjoy on the grass, or even ride on horseback! If you’d like to further immerse yourself in the city’s nature oasis, visit the Botanical Gardens to smell the roses (literally), walk through a home for beautiful butterflies, or admire colorful orchids.
13. Amelia Island
Charming, historical Amelia Island, which is nestled along Florida’s northeast coast, offers the perfect tranquil getaway with an “Old Florida” feel. As a high-ranked Sunshine State destination, Amelia Island offers miles of beaches, luxury accommodations, upscale shopping, historic spots, and plenty of water and beach adventures.
The island’s main tourist destination is Fernandina Beach, located in the downtown historic district. This 50-block stretch was once home to pirates, shrimpers, and bootleggers, but today it preserves a Victorian charm complete with eclectic shops, beautiful architecture, and local cafes. This Victorian charm is also preserved in Amelia Island accommodations.
Visitors have a variety of luxury and antique inns to choose from, such as The Addison, which capture an antebellum feel. Once you’re ready to hit the beach, you can do so either by foot or horseback! Book a horseback ride through Kelly Seahorse Ranch, one of the few beach-riding opportunities in the country, to explore the golden sands and clear waters of Amelia Island.
Matlacha is perhaps the most Instagrammable place on the southwest coast of Florida. This funky fishing village, with just one road that divides the town in two, is known for its quirky array of colors that cover just about every surface.
The village got a major face-lift when, in the 1990s, commercial fishing took a turn for the worse. In order to ease their troubles and brighten their lives, residents grabbed their paint brushes and covered the town in sunny pastels and bright, tropical colors. In Matlacha, a pink palm tree, neon green mailbox, or bright yellow house never looks out of place. Matlacha’s funky feel also contributes to its thriving arts scene.
Visitors can truly immerse themselves in Matlacha’s colorful atmosphere by testing their creative side at Wild Child Art Gallery. There, you can learn various art forms, including painting, sculpting, jewelry-making, and more. If you prefer more outdoor activities, the village also offers plentiful fishing opportunities. Anglers can visit “The World’s Fishingest Bridge,” named for its easy catches, to try their luck.
15. Rosemary Beach
The cozy cottages, cobblestone streets, and moonlit dining experiences in Rosemary Beach offer honeymooners and couples the perfect romantic getaway. Named one of “America’s Most Romantic Small Towns” by CNN, this Gulf Coast beach community offers fine dining experiences, plenty of outdoor excursions, and miles of sugar-white sand beaches.
Most Rosemary Beach visitors find that one of the best, and most unique, aspects of the town is its New Urbanism layout. New Urbanism is a school of thought that places emphasis on geographical and travel convenience, meaning that the area’s restaurants, shops, town center, and other necessities are in close proximity to each other.
Most restaurants, beaches, and attractions in Rosemary Beach are accessible by foot or bike, which provides a quaint, small-town feel that visitors adore. While Rosemary Beach is known for its appeal to honeymooners and couples alike, there are also many family-friendly attractions waiting to be uncovered. Families can explore one of Florida’s unique cold springs, which remain a comfortable 70 degrees year-round, where you can kayak, snorkel, stand-up paddleboard, and more!
Pass-A-Grille’s curious name is just as intriguing at its charming downtown and scenic walkways. This picturesque Gulf Coast town, only a short twenty-minute drive from downtown St. Petersburg, has iconic sunsets, plenty of shelling opportunities, and pristine beaches. At night, visitors flock to the Paradise Grill, the only building that sits right on the beach, to view one of Pass-A-Grille’s legendary, fiery sunsets.
A lucky visitor will be asked to ring the bell at sunset, which offers lots of family fun! Kids will also love a stay at the Don CeSar Hotel, a flamingo-pink hotel that proves very Instagrammable. When you’re ready to hit the town, don’t worry about wearing your walking shoes!
Pass-A-Grille is home to the “World’s Smallest Main Street,” but this means you can spend less time walking from store to store and more time browsing the shops. There, you’ll find an array of quirky, fun, beach-themed treasures, and plenty of t-shirts, that you can take home to remember your trip.
Our list is finally complete! Which Florida beach town will you choose? Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway with luxurious accommodations or a quirky, lively vacation with plenty of booze, Florida has it all! Once you pick a spot, pack your bags (don’t forget some beach towels and sunscreen!) and head off for an amazing beach vacation in the Sunshine State.