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Guide to the 25 Best Beaches in South Florida

There are two locations in the contiguous United States that visitors flock to in droves for beach vacations. One is California, and the other is the “Sunshine State” of Florida.

With a massive saltwater shoreline, the state of Florida has over 500 beaches to choose from. With so many of them, where do you start? While all the Florida beaches are great, South Florida beaches come out on top every time and they are highly rated for a number of reasons.

The southeast coast is generally warmer year-round and boasts impressive waves for surfing and other water sports. The southwest coast along the Gulf of Mexico boasts immaculate white sand that is cool and soft to the touch.

Here are the 25 best beaches in South Florida.

Best Beaches in South Florida

1. Barefoot Beach (Naples)

Barefoot Beach is located on Florida’s southwest coast. The beach here features striking white sand and the Gulf of Mexico’s beautiful blue-green waters. 

This is a great beach for everyone, as the water stays comfortably warm and the waves are calm. It’s the perfect setting for paddleboarding and fishing. Beautiful plants and wildlife also make this one of the top beaches in South Florida. 

2. Blowing Rocks Preserve (Jupiter Island)

The 73-acre Blowing Rocks Preserve is considered one of the best things to do in South Florida. It is located on Jupiter Island, a barrier island between the Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean. In contrast to many other South Florida beaches, this nature preserve is popular for its rugged rock formations shaped by waves and wind. This beach contains the largest Anastasia limestone outcropping on the east coast.

Depending on the time of day and the tides, you may be able to explore small sea caves below the outcroppings. This beach is less for the sunbathers and more for the explorers.

3. Boca Grande Beach (Gasparilla Island)

Boca Grande Beach is located on Gasparilla Island, just off the west coast of Florida. It’s remote and not as busy as many of the other beaches on this list. The atmosphere here is very relaxed, so it’s a great place to visit for some true rest and relaxation. 

Fishing charters are a popular activity to take part in when visiting this part of Florida. If you’re not an angler, spend some time collecting shells on the beach instead. 

Related Content: Swimming with Manatees in Crystal River, Florida

4. Bowman’s Beach (Sanibel)

Bowman’s Beach is a charming beach located on the southern coast of Sanibel Island. Keep in mind it takes a bit of a walk to reach this South Florida paradise. 

The beach can be accessed down a path about 10 minutes from the nearest parking lot. It’s a wonderful walk featuring some of Florida’s most beautiful grasses. 

This beach is one of the best to visit for beach combing. There are some really beautiful shells along the shoreline. There’s also a fun playground for the kids to enjoy when they aren’t splashing around in the water. Fishing is popular here as well. Plan a picnic and enjoy the stunning sunset from this spectacular South Florida beach. 

5. Cape Florida State Park Beach (Key Biscayne)

Cape Florida Beach is a fun place to visit when visiting Key Biscayne. The beach is part of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, which runs along the Atlantic side of the state. This is a great beach to visit if you’re looking for warm water and stunning white sand. 

This beach offers so many outdoor adventures! You can kayak or look for shell treasures on a walk along the beach. If you want to venture away from the water, you can enjoy a guided tour of the park, visit the lighthouse, or explore on your own on a bicycle rental. It’s a quaint and lovely South Florida beach to visit. 

6. Caspersen Beach (Venice)

Caspersen Beach has one special claim to fame, it’s the shark tooth capital of the world! That’s right, it’s not uncommon for prehistoric shark teeth to be found along the water’s edge. It’s an excellent souvenir to go home with!  

Located on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, this sandy beach features some impressive dunes and limestone rocks. The water is shallow and calm, making for the perfect beach day of swimming and snorkeling. Caspersen Beach really is one of the best clear-water beaches in Florida!

Kayaking is a popular pastime here too. You can even follow trails all the way out to Manasota Key.  Aside from the beach area, there’s a boardwalk and playground to enjoy as well. 

7. Cayo Costa State Park (Captiva)

Cayo Costa State Park offers a secluded and serene beach experience in South Florida. Only accessible by boat, the daily ferry from Pine Island is the preferred method of travel. You might even spot some dolphins on the way! 

This is one of the few undisturbed Gulf Coast islands, so it’s a perfect choice for those looking to escape the buzz of the more trendy beaches. Swimming and snorkeling are top-notch here, but you can also explore the island’s trails on foot or on a bicycle. This beach is also a favorite for camping overnight near the water’s edge!   

8. Clam Pass Park (Naples)

Clam Pass Park is a family-friendly beach located on 35 acres of coastal habitat. The beach has powdery white sand and an abundance of shells to search through.

If you plan to visit Clam Pass Park, be prepared to take a moderate walk through the mangroves along a boardwalk. The beach is located about 3/4 miles (15 minutes walking distance) from the parking lot. This separation helps to preserve the area, but it also helps to keep this beach somewhat remote and removed from the busy resort area.

9. Clearwater Beach (Clearwater)

Clearwater beach Florida
Photo Credit: Stephen Sewell/Pixabay

Among its many awards and recognitions, Clearwater Beach was named the No. 1 Best Beach in the South by USA Today, and one of the Top 20 Best Beaches in Florida by Travel + Leisure.

It has been consistently recognized as one of the prettiest beaches in Florida. With its long stretch of soft, white sand juxtaposed against calm emerald waters, this beach is absolutely stunning.

Visitors come to Clearwater year-round for jet-skiing, parasailing, and stand-up paddleboarding which are great for the calmer waters of Florida’s west coast.

While visiting Clearwater, head 1 hour north to the other crystal clear waters of Crystal River. Here you will find the only place in the state where it is legal to swim with Florida manatees.

10. Cocoa Beach (Cocoa Beach)

Cocoa Beach is one of the best south Florida vacation spots, known for its beautiful beaches and world-class surfing. It is also in close proximity to two of the area’s most famous attractions, the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center.

Cocoa Beach is known as the “Surf Capital of the East Coast”, so if surfing is your thing this is the beach for you! Full-time lifeguards are on duty making this a safe and fun beach destination for families.

11. Crandon Beach (Key Biscayne)

Crandon Beach is located on Key Biscayne on the property of what was once a coconut plantation. This is one of the most family-friendly beaches on our list. The clear Atlantic waters here make for excellent kitesurfing. It’s also a wildlife lovers’ paradise, with plentiful opportunities for birding and coastal dunes playing home to nesting sea turtles. 

12. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park Beach (Naples)

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park Beach is a clean and immaculately kept beach with soft, powdery, white sand. Located on a barrier island off the coast of Naples, this spot has an impressive beach setup. 

Sunbathe on the shore or hit the water for endless adventures. The snorkeling here is incredible! The limestone reef here offers visitors a chance to see so many different kinds of marine life. Boating, kayaking, and many other water activities can be enjoyed here too! 

13. Fort Lauderdale Beach (Fort Lauderdale)

Fort Lauderdale Beach is a popular, well-maintained beach where there’s always something fun going on. It’s a great beach to let the kids play at because the water is very serene and calm. 

There are water sports rentals to help you enjoy the beach in the most fun and thrilling ways possible! It’s also expansive, so there’s plenty of room to spread out, empty your beach tote, and claim your stretch of the sand.  

14. Haulover Beach (Miami)

Some South Florida beaches are known for more than their waves and sand. Haulover Beach is one of the most stunning areas to visit that just so happens to be clothing-optional. Families need not fret, as this only applies to the most northern part of the beach.

Aside from the perfect waves for swimming and surfing, Haulover is equipped with some of the most convenient amenities. These include bathrooms, showers, and many picnic areas. They even have a golf course, an area for tennis, and a space specifically dedicated to kite flying. 

15. Hollywood Beach (Hollywood)

Hollywood beach - Florida Best Beach
Photo Credit: sdblack/Pixabay

Hollywood Beach is located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale on the Atlantic Ocean shore. It’s a great beach day destination for families, as the powdery white sand and warm water conditions are perfect for little swimmers. There’s a quaint boardwalk where families can wander, and grab some lunch or shop for souvenirs. 

16. Keewaydin Island (Naples)

This barrier island is located off the coast of Naples and is accessible only by boat. With nearly eight miles of untouched white sand, Keewaydin Island beach is an unspoiled natural gem.

The Hemingway Water Shuttle departs 7 times a day to transport visitors to and from the beach. Both the shuttle and Keewaydin Beach are pet-friendly.

17. Miami Beach (Miami)

Miami beach Florida
Photo Credit: Ilse Orsel/ Pixabay

Miami Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Florida. It’s always lively, packed with tourists and locals. The beach itself features beautiful sand and wonderful waters to enjoy. 

Keep in mind that this area does experience strong tides, so always be aware of the water’s status before you jump in. 

A visit here is a unique experience. It’s not uncommon to spot luxury yachts on the water, and some of the most beautiful hotels are nearby as well. 

18. Miami South Beach (Miami)

In a recent study by Journey Era, South Beach was found to be the most popular beach in the USA. This was determined by the number of hashtag mentions on Instagram. Clearly, South Beach is a top destination, particularly among younger crowds looking for a good time.

South Beach is a city beach. Sure, the sand and clear blue water are nice for swimming and surfing, but the beach here is so much more. Miami is a very colorful city, and it’s transferred that liveliness to this beach experience. 

Depending on the mood of the day, the atmosphere can get very rowdy and party-like. Consider this when deciding whether a visit to South Beach is the right fit for your traveling party. 

19. Nokomis Beach (Sarasota)

Although Nokomis Beach is free to the public, it is still considered by many to be a “hidden gem” in South Florida. Because it is located in a mostly residential area without hotels and commercial businesses, this beach remains relatively quiet.

Nokomis Beach has plenty of amenities including a kayak launch, boardwalk, playground, restrooms, and the historic Nokomis Beach Plaza.

20. Lido Key Beach (Sarasota)

Lido Key Beach is one of the most popular beaches for residents of Sarasota. There is a free 400-space parking lot which is an indicator of how many visitors frequent this beach.

The beach is stocked with facilities, so you can spend the whole day at the beach and have access to all that you might need. Additionally, there is a public swimming pool for just $4 for adults and $2 for children (over 3 years old).

21. Lighthouse Beach (Sanibel)

Lighthouse Beach Sanibel Island
Photo Credit: Candice/CS Ginger Travel

Lighthouse Beach is another honorable mention for Sanibel Island. The island is most known for its beaches brimming with plentiful shells and wildlife. Birds of all kinds, not to mention manatees and even alligators, are often spotted on Sanibel Island. 

Lighthouse Beach is a quieter and more serene option when compared to Bowman Beach, also on the island. It’s a perfect place to soak up the Florida sunshine and relax. 

22. Lovers Key State Park (Bonita Springs)

This South Florida beach is often considered a hidden gem and a favorite among locals. Lover’s Key State Park is a 2-mile stretch of beach with so much more to enjoy beyond the beach. The state park has walking trails, kayak rentals, estuaries, and more. Although portions of the beach can get crowded on the weekends, if you continue along the shore you will find a quiet section of beach with stunning driftwood.

Because the beach is within a state park, there is an $8 entrance fee per vehicle.

23. San Carlos Bay – Bunche Beach Preserve (Fort Myers)

The Bunche Beach Preserve is a natural habitat consisting of sandy beaches and Mangrove forests. It is designated a Great Florida Birding Trail site making it an excellent location for appreciating the local flora and fauna. In addition to birdwatching, this beach is popular for swimming, paddling, and fishing.

If you visit the Bunche Beach Preserve, make sure to catch the sunset. The sunset views over Sanibel Island and San Carlos Bay is magical and a popular draw to the preserve.

24. Siesta Key Beach (Sarasota)

Siesta Key Beach
Photo Credit: Candice/CS Ginger Travel

Siesta Key Beach is consistently rated one of the top 10 beaches in Florida. The sand is composed of 99% quartz making it incredibly cool and soft to the touch. The classic white sand combined with captivating blue water will make you feel as if you’ve been transported to the beachy shores of Zanzibar.

Located along an eight-mile Gulf Coast barrier island, the area is teeming with wildlife. This beach is perfect for families because it’s laid back and offers great conditions for swimming. 

25. Tigertail Beach (Marco Island)

Tigertail Beach is one of two public beaches on Marco Island and it has a little something for everyone.

On one end, you’ll find all the amenities you need for a full day at the beach including a snack bar, bathrooms, beach equipment rentals, and more.

On the other side across the lagoon, you’ll find a more natural and wild beach prime for birdwatching and beachcombing. Take a peek into the tidal pools and you may find a sand dollar or other little creatures.

Frequently Asked Questions: Beaches in South Florida

What is the most southern beach in Florida?

Fort Zachary Taylor Beach is the most southern beach in Florida, located along the southern edge of Key West. With its remote location, it offers a tranquil escape from the bustling tourism of the surrounding keys.

It is worth mentioning that the primary attraction at Zachary Taylor Beach is actually its rich history. Fort Taylor predates the Civil War and is a National Historic Monument housing the largest cache of Civil War armament in the world.

Which side of Florida has the prettiest beaches?

The Gulf Coast (West Coast) is more often revered for its beauty, with fine white sand and warm, crystal clear, blue-green water. Beaches on Florida’s East Coast are more popular for waves, sand dunes, and year-round vacationing.

What is the most beautiful beach in South Florida?

With so many worthy options, it is difficult to pick the most beautiful beach in South Florida. If we had to highlight just one, we have to go with Siesta Key off the coast of Sarasota.

According to U.S. News, Siesta Key is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with miles of white quartz sand and crystal-clear water.

Conclusion: Beaches in South Florida

The diversity of Florida’s coast attracts all kinds of travelers to its sandy shores. From the rugged and wild beauty of Blowing Rocks Preserve and the immaculate white-sanded beaches of Clearwater to the crazy party scene of Miami Beach, we have covered the 25 best beaches in South Florida.

We hope this guide will help you decide which beach is best for you on your south Florida getaway. No matter which one you end up sunbathing on, we hope you have a great time!

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