Living in Florida has a lot of perks-- and that includes relatively easy access to lots of different beaches on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. With so many beaches to choose from- U.S. News has ranked Florida beaches and given the top 15. Two of the top 15 are great for families- especially young kids!
From sandcastles to boogie boarding- there’s lots of ways to ensure kids have fun
in the sun- without getting bored. These beaches are also in fairly close proximity to other fun attractions and excursions as well. The two top beaches for kids are Amelia Island and Clearwater Beach. Here’s a little bit more about the family fun you can have at both.
Not too far from Jacksonville- Amelia Island features 13 miles of beaches- including Amelia
Island State Park. At this state park- you can ride horses on the beach! There’s also Main Beach Park- which features everything from picnic areas, a playground, outdoor skate parks, and more. If you need a break from the sand- there’s an array of golf courses to choose from- as well as shops and restaurants. There’s lots of fun things for kids to do as well. You can take your kids on a kayak trip through Amelia Island Kayak Excursions. There’s also water sports- as well as cruises and charters you can take with your kids to explore other parts of the area.
This beach south of Tampa often takes the top spot for best beach in the state- and it’s not
hard to see why. Clearwater Beach's gentle water and white sand attract relaxation seekers in droves. Following a few hours of swimming or lounging, beachgoers can play volleyball or go rollerblading or biking on the adjacent Beach Walk promenade. Then, visitors can make their way to Pier 60 to watch a breathtaking sunset and participate in evening crafts and entertainment. Because the 1,080-foot pier is adorned with various lights, anglers often come here at night to fish. There’s also plenty of dining options and shops to explore- whether you want a water view or a different view while enjoying a meal.
There’s tons of fun things for kids to do in and around Clearwater Beach. There’s pretty close
proximity to Tampa- which has all kinds of fun things to do- like multiple sports teams, an aquarium-and it’s not too far from Busch Gardens and Zoo Tampa. Clearwater Aquarium has Winter the Dolphin- whose story was featured in the movie Dolphin Tale.
If you want to make a day trip- you’re not too far from Orlando- and that means time at
Disney World or Universal. You can reasonably do these two theme parks in just a day’s time with the right planning. If you want to travel even further- you can visit Kennedy Space Center or Daytona Speedway. These are just some of the many things you and your family can do- and still be able to have a nice beach vacation in addition. All it takes is a little finesse to make it work and still give you ample time in the sand and surf.
The other top beaches in Florida include:
13. Key West
Key West may be a bit of a drive or leg of travel for many to experience- but as far as the
beach goes- this one is a great choice. The island has great restaurants, shops, and nightlife- in addition to the sand and surf. Popular spots like Smathers Beach can get crowded at times, so consider visiting a quieter stretch of sand like Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach Park for a bit more tranquility. If you're traveling with kids, venture to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park to snorkel, picnic and explore the park's Civil War-era fort. There’s plenty to do- and plenty of relaxation to experience.
12. Dry Tortugas National Park
This area of small islands about 70 miles west of Key West is a bit of a hidden gem-
because it’s only accessible by seaplane or boat. That said, it’s still worth your time for the
beaches. Spanning 64,000 acres, the park's crown jewel is its massive 19th-century fortress, Fort Jefferson. However, the rest of Dry Tortugas National Park is best experienced by getting in the water. Snorkelers and small children will enjoy the calm waters of the North, South and East beaches on Garden Key, while Loggerhead Key features easily accessible coral reefs just a few feet offshore. This is a secret little place that you can visit- and still experience a lot of unique things it has to offer.
11. Panama City Beach
This beach is more than just a popular spring break destination for college kids. 27 miles of
shoreline overlooking the Gulf of Mexico can appeal to a wide age range of visitors and travelers alike. Camp Helen State Park is a prime spot for fishing thanks to its large coastal dune lake, while St. Andrews State Park appeals to visitors keen on snorkeling, swimming, surfing and looking for wildlife. The latter is also where vacationers can catch the Shell Island Shuttle – which operates during the spring, summer and fall months – to Shell Island, a 700-acre barrier island that's known for its large population of bottlenose dolphins. Overall- this is a relatively affordable spot for families, Spring Breakers, and everyone in between.
10 . Islamorada
As you travel from the mainland of Florida through the Florida Keys- you’ll find Islamorada.
This spot made up of six islands is best known for sport fishing and fly-fishing. But beachgoers will be happy here, too; spots worth checking out include Anne's Beach (a calm, quiet stretch ideal for small children and dogs, or those looking to picnic or kayak) and Holiday Isle Beach (which sits alongside bars, hotels and other amenities).
9. St. George Island
Located about 75 miles southwest of the state capital- this spot is great for people just
looking to relax and recharge. With zero high-rise buildings and sand so fine it squeaks beneath your feet, this beach town is one of the few inhabited barrier islands found off of Florida's Gulf Coast that remains relatively untouched. Head to Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park to swim, kayak, fish and camp – and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like dolphins, turtles, pelicans and crabs. Or, spend time at St. George Island Public Beach, a pet-friendly option with bathrooms, a playground and picnic benches. You’ll be so at peace- you’ll forget about real life for only a moment.
8. Fort Walton Beach
This beach along the Gulf Coast has a lot of desirable features. You can sit by the beach,
deep sea fish, golf, and even find attractions for kids like aquariums and parks. Stretches of sand worth exploring include the beaches of Okaloosa Island, which feature a fishing pier, a boardwalk and stunning sunsets. John C. Beasley Park, also located on Okaloosa Island, offers clean white sand, restrooms and designated picnic areas.
7. Santa Rosa Beach
Santa Rosa Beach is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in the Sunshine State.
White sand and emerald waters give way to shopping boutiques, restaurants, and local art galleries. It’s a great spot if you’re looking for a prime shoreline- without the crowds at nearby Destin or Panama City Beach. Favorite spots include Santa Rosa Beach, Grayton Beach State Park and Blue Mountain Beach, where vacationers can swim, sunbathe, explore sand dunes, bodysurf and more.
6. Marco Island
A popular spot in Southwest Florida south of Naples- this spot is accessible via two bridges
by car. This destination has a mix of high end resorts- and untouched habitats. Boating is a favorite activity here. Seafood is the popular cuisine- and there’s plenty of it to go around at restaurants throughout the island. Tigertail Beach Park attracts vacationers looking to take long walks, search for seashells or rent kayaks, while South Marco Beach – situated alongside resorts and condos – offers plenty of space for sunbathing and swimming.
5. Siesta Key
This spot near Sarasota is popular for families and young people alike- including couples.
Often considered one of the best beaches in the nation, Siesta Beach features 8 miles of white quartz sand and turquoise water, plus dining, shopping and nighttime entertainment. Crescent Beach, another top-notch option, is ideal for travelers seeking soft white sand, beautiful scenery and a quieter atmosphere. Meanwhile, Turtle Beach is a great spot for long walks, easy parking and shell collecting. There’s also a good amount of rentals to allow for a fun vacation- whether it’s a condo or hotel- that have decent beach access. Plenty of quaint shops and restaurants also make this a charm of a town.
4. St. Petersburg
The Sunshine City in the Sunshine State has it all. Visitors can find great beaches-- while also
experiencing city life. The city holds the world record for having the most consecutive days of
sunshine, making it an ideal place to lounge on picturesque white sands. Active travelers shouldn't miss St. Pete Beach's shores: The area's Pass-a-Grille Beach is a prime spot for activities like windsurfing, parasailing and kiteboarding. There's also Shell Key Preserve, which offers ample opportunities to spot shorebirds while sunbathing. There’s plenty of restaurants and shops to explore- and lots of activities to do with family and friends.
Known to many for its lavish homes, high class dining and resorts- this spot in Southwest
Florida also has some great beach options. While the luxury amenities can make it expensive- the beaches are a free getaway for anyone. At Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, vacationers can snorkel, spot wildlife, go shelling and more. Meanwhile, Naples Municipal Beach beckons to beachgoers who want to gaze at stunning sunsets and enjoy top-notch fishing from its pier. If you do have the money- there’s plenty of golf courses, upscale shopping, and other activities to take you off the sand and into the city.
2. Sanibel Island
This spot in Southwest Florida is known for quiet and calm shores. Shelling is a popular
activity here. There is not a lot of partying at this beach-- which makes it a popular spot for families. For the best seashells, head to Bowman's Beach or Blind Pass Beach. Also, save time for a visit to Lighthouse Beach Park, where you can cast a line off of the beach's pier and snap pictures of its 19th-century lighthouse. There’s plenty of restaurants and shops on the island for you to enjoy as well.
Destin is a popular vacation spot for a reason. Families flock to this area for white sand
beaches, Gulf waters, and lots of sunshine. This Florida mainstay is one of the state's most affordable beach towns, though temperatures, visitor volume and room rates are at their highest in summer. Travelers will find popular stretches of sand like June White Decker Park and Crystal Beach by the town's resorts and vacation rentals, but for a more laid-back atmosphere, sunbathe on Henderson Beach State Park's Appalachian quartz sands. Beachgoers may even spot dolphins, sea turtles and other critters during their visits. You won’t see as much partying here like you would on Panama City or in Miami Beach- but this is a relatively popular Spring Break destination- so keep that in mind when planning your vacation.
Florida has popular beach spots all over the state. Whether it’s the Gulf or the Atlantic-- you’ll
find something anywhere. Sun, surf, and sand are a given at any beach- no matter where you go. So put on that sunblock- pack up that suitcase or car- and come on down-- the beach is calling.