The 10 Best Beach Cities in Florida to Visit Right Now
We love beach towns because of their laid-back atmosphere, amazing weather and easy access to adventure and recreation. Beach towns can come in all shapes and sizes, and Florida has the perfect taste of them. With so much coastline and distributed population, this is a state that has perfected the beach town experience. Each town is slightly different in size, culture and interests. But what they all have in common is their proximity to the sand and surf, and their natural beauty that makes us feel like paradise.
So, next time you visit Florida, be sure to visit a couple of charming beach towns to see how they compare. If you’re looking for a touristy crowd with lots of bars, secluded retreats or anything in between, these are some of the best beach towns in Florida to visit this year.
A colorful sunset over the Florida Keys in Key West
Key West (Hotel Prices and Photos)
Key West is the southernmost point of the United States and makes travelers feel like they are away from their troubles and troubles. Key West is an incredibly unique place to visit, filled with history, nightlife and world-class restaurants. The drive to the tip of the keys takes a little time, but you can also fly into Key West if you’re coming from outside the state. Nevertheless, the road is very scenic and you will want to stop at some of the other keys on your way down. There are plenty of activities in Key West, but the most interesting way to experience the historic town is to rent a scooter and explore the coastal roads and town stores with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. A leisurely bike ride also gives you a similar effect with less speed. Some recommended accommodations in Key West include The Eden House, Orchid Key Inn and Almond Tree Inn.
Beachgoers enjoy a sunny winter day on Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island (Hotel prices and photos)
Sanibel Island is located in the Fort Myers area of Florida and is known for its amazing seashell collecting opportunities. Here you will find sand dollars, seashells, strollers and more on the white and sandy beaches. This fact makes Sanibel Island an ideal choice for nature lovers who want a beach vacation. Point Ibel Lighthouse is the most photographed landmark here. Once you get the hang of finding the shells, Periwinkle Way is the road where most of the restaurants, stores and galleries are located. It’s a charming downtown where you can find a little souvenir to take home with you. Visitors to Sanibel Island like to stay at the Sundial Beach Resort Spa Hotel, Island House and Waterside Inn on the beach.
Grayton Beach (Hotel Prices and Photos)
Grayton Beach is a town located in northwest Florida with a cute and quirky motto: “Good Dogs, Weird People. Grayton Beach State Park is a great place to spend a weekend, as well as the beach itself and a small village. The town is the perfect place for a free spirit and a peaceful state of mind. You’ll find historic cottages, modern beach houses, unusual artwork, white picket fences and much that doesn’t seem to have changed since the town was founded over 100 years ago. When you visit, consider staying at Hibiscus Coffee & Guesthouse, a lovely B&B that is cozy and close to downtown.
Gulf of Mexico by Destin
Destin (Hotel Prices and Photos)
Destin is one of Florida’s beach towns known for its southern hospitality and white-sand beaches. It’s an underrated gem in North Florida and very affordable for people living or traveling in the South. Here you can find delicious cuisine that combines the best aspects of Southern cuisine and seafood, including restaurants like Louisiana Lanyappe, which serves impressive dishes of jambalaya, shrimp and grits. When you visit Destin, you can choose from a variety of accommodations, including the Residence Inn Sandestin on Grand Boulevard, Courtyard Sandestin on Grand Boulevard and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott.
Seagulls flock to the waterfront in Siesta Key
Siesta Key (hotel rates and photos)
Siesta Key is one of the most beautiful beach towns in the United States. This island is quaint and quirky with places to rent water sports equipment and find a cozy place to sleep. The sands here are beautifully white and perfect for a relaxing vacation. One famous restaurant here is Siesta Key Oyster Bar, which is very popular for its fresh seafood. On a hot day, there’s nothing better than getting a cold ice cream cone at one of the local Siesta Key stores. The Tropical Breeze Resort Hotel, Capri at Siesta, and Siesta Beach Resort & Suites are all recommended places to stay when traveling to Siesta Key, Florida.
Pelican and Horizon at Honeymoon Park, Dunedin
Dunedin (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Dunedin is a charming little town that has a great beachfront location and loves its festivals. Here you can celebrate Mardi Gras, listen to jazz music and visit the oldest mini-brewery in the state, simply called Dunedin Brewery. Bring your own kayak or rent one nearby to explore Honeymoon Island. Or you can just sit on the beach and admire the islands from afar while enjoying a picnic and enjoying the sun. As the name implies, it’s a romantic place to watch the sunset. Overall, Danidin’s charming downtown is matched only by the prevalence of wildlife and unspoiled nature. Consider staying at a B&B, such as the Meranova Guest Inn, when you visit Dunedin. The Palm Court Motel, Best Western Plus Yacht Harbour Inn and Holiday Inn Express Clearwater North / Dunedin are all recommended places for your trip to Dunedin.
Fifth Avenue South in downtown Naples
Naples (hotel rates and photos)
Many people have heard of Naples, Florida, but it is still one of the most underrated beach towns in Florida. You’ll find plenty of entertainment here, including boutiques and gourmet restaurants — some of the best in Southwest Florida. But it’s not all expensive and upscale things to do here. To explore the wild side of Naples, be sure to spend some time in nearby Collier-Seminole State Park and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. When visiting Naples, there are many hotel and resort options to choose from. For example, visitors rave about their experiences at the Bay of Naples, the Inn on Fifth, the Inn at Pelican Bay and Bellacera.
Pass-a-Grille (Rates and photos at the hotel)
Pass-a-Grille is certainly a curious name for the city, but it is interesting to visit around St. Peter’s Beach. The beach itself is beautiful, and Pass-a-Grille has some nice restaurants and stores that take your mind off the daily grind. It’s an incredibly peaceful spot at the southernmost tip of St. Peter’s Beach. For a little adventure on your trip to Pass-a-Grille, sign up for a deep-sea fishing excursion and see what you catch! The hotels closest to Pass-a-Grille are the Coconut Inn, Havana Inn and Sabal Palms Inn.
Warm Waters Provocation by the Sea
Seaside (Hotel prices and photos)
Seaside is a classic Florida beach town with rustic charm and traditional pastel architecture. It’s a great place to take your bike and explore on two wheels. What we love about Seaside is that there are no vehicles on its streets that are quiet and safe for biking. A little trivia about this Panhandle beach town: Seaside was the filming location for the movie The Truman Show. To stay close to Seaside, you can stay at the 30A Suites in Santa Rosa Beach or hotels in Destin, such as the Commodores Retreat.
Looking at the coast at Pensacola Beach
Pensacola Beach (Hotel Prices and Photos)
Pensacola Beach is located in the northwest corner of the state and truly celebrates the retro atmosphere of what it means to be a Florida beach town. The beach here is beautifully white, and you’ll find hotels like the Margaritaville Beach Hotel decorated with surfboards and Jimmy Buffett lyrics. To enjoy the old-fashioned atmosphere, rent a vintage bicycle cruiser and pedal on the coastal roads. It’s nice to walk up to the beach bars and have a little holiday drink here with fruit flavors and rum. What sets this beach town apart is its southern charm and hospitality. In fact, the beach town is located very close to the Alabama state border. It’s easy to find delicious seafood restaurants to indulge in after an outdoor walk and activity on Gulf Island National Seashore. Hotels near this area include the SpringHill Suites Pensacola Beach and the Holiday Inn Express Pensacola Beach.
Pensacola’s pristine beaches.
Pensacola’s sugar-white sand looks like snow to many, and visitors from colder climates like to pose near the sand dunes in winter to show people what winter looks like in Pensacola.
The beach provides a relaxing backdrop for sunbathers, shell collectors, frolicking children or contented hikers. Some enjoy surfing in the Gulf of Mexico, while others prefer Pensacola’s tranquil inland beaches, which provide the perfect setting for children to stroll.
Pensacola’s beach atmosphere ranges from lively crowds of lifeguards to deserted beaches surrounded by thin sea grass. Regardless of the season, beachgoers can relax on the sunny, tranquil shores of Pensacola’s award-winning emerald green coastline.
Clear water and inviting sand beckon thousands of visitors a year to Pensacola Beach, which has long been Pensacola’s signature.
In the old days, ferries took tourists across the bay to the bustling beach. Today, long scenic bridges take beachgoers to their destination.
Pensacola Beach is almost eight miles from the 40-mile barrier island of Santa Rosa. It is surrounded by the Santa Rosa Strait and the Gulf of Mexico to the north and south, and is flanked on both sides by the federally protected Gulf Islands National Seashore. Much of the barrier island is protected from development, preserved by a determination to preserve the natural environment for future generations.
Nevertheless, Pensacola Beach, more than any other beach in the area, offers plenty of shopping, restaurants, beach bars, lodging and entertainment, all with minimal travel, traffic and cost. The calendar is filled with special events, including Mardi Gras celebrations, triathlons, wine tastings, a summer music series, boat races and the ever-popular annual Blue Angel Air Show in July, featuring a team of highly professional Navy pilots.
Beaches include Casino Beach, the core of Pensacola Beach, where many gather for swimming and entertainment; Quietwater Beach near downtown commercial; and many crowded areas where only a few gather to relax.
Seaside Islands National Seashore
The Gulf Islands National Seashore takes notes along the coast on barrier islands from the Mississippi to Florida Creek, giving Pensacola 16 miles of emerald waters and attractive prospects without commercial development. Managed by the National Park Service, the Bay Islands include several beaches, picnic areas, campgrounds, historic districts and a variety of wildlife along Santa Rosa Island and parts of Perdido Key Island.
The Naval Live Oaks area on Santa Rosa Sound, just off Highway 98 in Breeze Bay, offers more than 1,000 acres of forest and a waterfront ideal for walking and strolling. The protected area is a haven for plant species, small animals and birds. Nature trails and picnic areas provide the perfect setting to explore the live oaks, which were used to build warships in the early days because of their unusual strength and natural curved shape. Seashore headquarters are here, along with a display of Indian artifacts and an orientation show about the coast.
Fort Pickens, on the west side of the island, offers pristine, unspoiled beaches and a bit of history for divers, boaters, tourists and beach lovers. The fort on the west side of the island was one of three built in the 1820s to protect Pensacola Bay.It was held by Union troops during the Civil War and later served as a prison for Apache leader Geronimo and other Apaches.
One of the newest additions to the park is the newly renovated Opal Beach, named for the 1995 hurricane that damaged part of the coast. Located halfway between Pensacola and Navarre beaches, the park offers ample parking, picnic areas and bathrooms.
For more information, call Gulf Islands National Seashore at (850) 934-2600.
Perdido Key means “Lost Island” in Spanish and offers a refreshing retreat with its bays, estuaries, wetlands and abundant marine life and wildlife. The Key, 30 minutes west of Pensacola, combines unhurried life with award-winning beaches and plenty of hotels and quaint stores.
Located about 15 miles west of Pensacola, Perdido Key was first discovered by the Spanish in 1693, and its beauty has been continually discovered by tourists throughout the year. Maryland geologist Dr. Steven Leatherman ranked it among the top 20 beaches in America in 2000. Leatherman considers factors such as cleanliness, appearance and weather in his selection. Boating World magazine named it one of the top 100 “fantasy islands” for boaters to travel, fish, relax, unwind, explore and entertain.
Perdido Key is accessible by boat or bridge. It is surrounded on one side by the Gulf of Mexico and on the other by the calm Olde River. A variety of water settings make it ideal for family water sports, including fishing, skiing, snorkeling, surfing and swimming.
While upscale development has modernized parts of the key, more than half of the island is preserved from growth by federal and state parks. For more information, call the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce at (850) 492-5422.
Big Lagoon State Park.
Occupying 712 acres west of Pensacola, Big Lagoon State Park overlooks Big Lagoon and the Intracoastal Waterway. Visitors enjoy camping, swimming, boating, fishing, crabbing, walking nature trails and mullet cast netting. Guided hikes, campfire programs and recreational education are available, and the 40-foot tower offers exceptional views of the surrounding forests, wetlands and beaches. Call (850) 492-1595 for more information.