Florida’s best beach towns are spread throughout this delightful tropical state, so no matter where you’re going, you’ll surely be near one. This southeastern destination is a hub for water sports, azure waters, and soft sandy beaches, which both tourists flock to from around the world and people come to live.
The busiest season in Florida is March through August, spanning over spring and summer breaks. However, the fall and winter are equally appealing as the weather is still warm and the water is swimmable. The end of June through the end of November is considered hurricane season, which might bring some heavy rains.
All kinds of accommodations are available in Florida beach towns. Resorts, budget hotels, vacation rentals, and campgrounds are throughout the state and great options for shaping your next vacation to The Sunshine State.
In no particular order, here are some of the most treasured beach towns in Florida to live and visit:
Key West, FL
Home to the Earth’s third-largest coral reef, Key West is known as Florida’s “conch republic” and is often considered one of the state’s best key islands. As the state’s southernmost point, this small, four-mile-long island is only 90 miles from Cuba and is famous for its sunsets, watersports, and dazzling nightlife.
Before the start of the 20th century, Key West was Florida’s largest city, but it has about 24,495 residents as of 2020. Over the decades, this island has attracted many big names to live on the island including many literary authors and songwriters like Ernest Hemmingway, Judy Blume, and Jimmy Buffet.
The charming Old Town buildings, pubs on Duval Street, and abundance of natural beauty on the island are some of the travelers’ favorite features. After soaking in the Caribbean vibe by strolling through town, learn about the city’s rich maritime and political history at one of the museums.
A trip to Key West wouldn’t be complete without some time at the beach. Snorkel, fish, or catch a sunset at one of these beaches: Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, Smathers Beach, Rest Beach, and Higgs Memorial Beach Park.
Locals refer to this beach town on the Gulf Coast as “the world’s luckiest fishing village,” but beautiful Destin is known for so much more. What was once a casual coastal oasis on the state’s Panhandle has developed into a popular tourist spot thanks to its emerald waters and soft white sand.
Destin was officially put on the map in the mid-19th century when it was settled by Leonard Destin, a fishing captain from New England. During the 1970s, people discovered this was a great spot to build condos, and the area has grown substantially since then, with a 2020 population of about 14,482.
The town has become a favorite summer vacation spot for tourists with lots to do, including sunset cruises, shopping, eating exquisite seafood, and walking the boardwalk. Golf, hitting the nightlight scene, and booking a spa treatment are popular ways to unwind in this peninsula town.
A trip to Destin wouldn’t be complete without spending time at the beach, where fishing, snorkeling, boating, swimming, and jet skiing are just a few of visitors’ favorite pastimes. A few of the most popular beaches are Crab Island, Henderson Beach State Park, Okaloosa Island, and James Lee Beach.
Ormond Beach, FL
Central Florida’s Ormond Beach is on the state’s Atlantic Ocean side and lies just north of the world-famous racing hub and NASCAR headquarters, Daytona Beach. The town is a coastal gem with that small-town feel but offers fantastic luxury resort options and opportunities for water sports.
Centuries ago, Timucuan Indians settled this region along the shore before Quakers, Spaniards, and New Englanders took turns ruling it. By the Civil War time, Florida saw a spike in tourism by visitors from northern states coming to take refuge from the cold.
By the early 20th century, motorsports on the sand began to take off between the Ormond and Daytona Beaches. Today, Ormond Beach had a population of about 43,285 (in 2020), but many people flock through to spend vacations near quieter beaches.
Kayaking, surfing, jet skiing, swimming, fishing, and boating are just a few of the activities people enjoy doing in Ormond Beach. Some of the city’s best beaches include Ormond Beach, Andy Romano Beachfront Park, Tom Renick Park, and Al Weeks Sr. North Shore Park.
Siesta Key, FL
Located just south of Sarasota, Siesta Key faces the Gulf of Mexico, a paradise of teal waters and white powdery sands. This town is home to the 2020 TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards for the #1 beach in the USA and #11 in the world, Siesta Beach.
Before the 1950s, the island was known as “Sarasota Key” and “Little Sarasota Key” until it landed the name that it has now. In the early 20th century, the only way to access the island was by boat until the first bridge to the mainland was built in 1917 and the second one in the 1920s.
Even though it’s relatively tiny, Siesta Key features a few dreamy resorts, several restaurants, and numerous spots by the water to enjoy an ocean escape. Casey Key Road travels south of the key and provides visitors with parks, more sea views, and other beaches to check out.
At the time of the 2020 US census, 5,587 people called the island home. The beaches in Siesta Key are Siesta Beach, Turtle Beach, and Crescent Beach. Paddleboarding, kayaking, and riding beach bikes are trendy on the key.
Pensacola is the Florida Panhandle’s most western city and has many things to see and do for solos, families, friends, and couples. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, shopping venues, restaurants, live entertainment, historical attractions, and pristine beaches, of course, “P-Cola” has it all.
Before becoming a part of the USA under former President Andrew Jackson, Pensacola underwent several changes under the Native Americans, French, British, and Spanish. Another nickname for the city is “The Cradle of Naval Aviation” because, in 1914, the first Naval Air Station was established there by the U.S. Navy.
With a population of 52,918 (in 2020), this beach town has found a way to create a great culture and array of festivals and events and preserve its rich history through museums. When traveling through Pensacola, don’t forget to check out their seasonal events and music performances that occur year-round.
The best beaches in the city include Pensacola Beach (Casino Beach), Opal Beach, Naval Live Oak Nature Preserve, and Quietwater Beach.
Situated just south of Tampa along the Gulf of Mexico, Sarasota is a thriving beach town with famous amenities like white beaches, resorts, performing arts venues, sports facilities, and golf courses. The city has a population of about 57,787 (in 2020), making up more than 25,000 households.
Appearing on a map made of sheepskin from the 18th century, the area known as Sarasota was labeled as “Zarazote” by the Spanish. It wasn’t until 1902 that the city officially gained the name it has today.
Several museums and cultural venues showcase how Sarasota developed into what it is today. Another way to experience the city is to arrange a trip over time to one of the annual festivals, like the Sarasota Film Festival, Sarasota Chalk Festival, or Ringling International Arts Festival.
The top beaches in the Sarasota region include Siesta Key Beach, Venice Beach, Caspersen Beach, and Lido Beach. This area of Florida is home to powdery white sands, an abundance of sea life, and pristine clear waters.
Fernandina Beach, FL
Fernandina Beach on the northeast side of Florida’s beautiful Amelia Island is a destination that reminds visitors to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle once in a while. There is much to see and do on the city’s 13 miles of sandy beaches, historic downtown filled with quaint shops, and delicious local eateries and watering holes.
With a population of 12,622 people (in 2020), Fernandina Beach has a nice balance of community and natural areas. The Spanish settled the town in the early 1800s and named it after King Ferdinand VII of Spain.
French and English explorers also influenced the region during the 16th and 17th centuries, but long before that, it was inhabited by Native Americans who called it “Napoyca.” The story of the island’s journey to the present day can be discovered in the Amelia Island Museum of History, which has docent-led tours.
Amelia Island State Park is a popular attraction, and it’s the only state park that allows horseback riding on the beach. Other nearby beaches that visitors love include Summer Beach, Fernandina Beach, American Beach, Fort Clinch State Park, East Beach Access, and Burney Park.
Tourists looking for a luxurious environment should not pass up a chance to visit Naples, a town famous for its fluffy sanded beaches, expensive neighborhoods, and lots of shopping. It also refers to itself as the “Golf capital of the world,” so you can be assured that after a day at the beach, there are plenty of options for hitting the greens.
Naples was first established in 1886 by Kentucky businessman Walter N. Halderman and former K.Y. senator John Stuart Williams. Just a couple of years later, the city had a population of 80 people and continued to expand over the decades with the addition of a hotel that brought in tourism.
These days, Naples is an attractive city for retirees and families, totaling around 21,750 residents (in 2020). Golfers love going to Naples as it has more golf holes than any other Floridian city, but also lots of shopping, dining, and attractions.
Ocean sightseeing tours are popular in town and are fantastic ways to witness some of the natural sealife like dolphins and manatees. A trip to a beach is necessary when in the city. The best ones include Naples Beaches, Clam Pass Park/Beach, Lely Barefoot Beach, Vanderbilt Beach, and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Recreation Area.
St. Augustine, FL
St. Augustine is the United State’s oldest continuously inhabited city and was founded by Spanish explorers in September 1565. With such a rich history and culture, the town boasts many things to do, including bus tours, museums, and airboat rides.
Decades before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, St. Augustine was founded by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a Spanish soldier who was sent to the region to remove the French occupation. During the centuries before Florida became a state, St. Augustine went through two Spanish Colonial and one British Colonial period.
The city has one of the only downtown areas in the USA directly reflecting structural and street patterns resembling Spanish origin. In 2020, the town had a population of 15,065.
There are 42 miles of gorgeous beaches in St. Augustine. Visitors and locals enjoy relaxing on the water with boats, diving, beachcombing, bird watching, parasailing, and more. A few of the most popular beaches are Ponte Vedra Beach, Anastasia State Park, Vilano Beach, St. Augustine Beach, Crescent Beach, and Butler Beach.
Vero Beach, FL
Located on Florida’s Treasure Coast and facing the Atlantic Ocean, Vero Beach is a small seaside city with lots of wildlife and beaches. Visitors to town also get an excellent selection of places to eat fresh seafood, golf, and shop in local malls and the historic downtown area.
Vero Beach was founded in 1870 by Captain Allen W. Estes, and by 1925 it officially acquired the name “Vero Beach.” The region holds many secrets and historical gems, including a Neolithic skull discovered in 1915.
Also, during the 1700s, a Spanish treasure fleet crashed along the area’s shores during a hurricane, and coins from that incident are still occasionally found today. Golf, tennis, shopping, and restaurants are another big part of the city’s identity and attract many tourists annually. During the 2020 US census, there were 17,163 people recorded living in the town.
Fishing, water sports, and strolls down the quiet beaches are part of what make Vero Beach a fantastic Florida destination. There are resorts by the water, charter boat tours to look for wildlife, and plenty of open space to enjoy the ocean breeze.
The top beaches include South Park Beach, Ambersand Beach, Sebastian Inlet State Park, Wabasso Beach Park, and Treasure Shores. Tracking Station Beach is great for catching a sunrise, and Round Island Park is one of the best places to spot manatees.
Panama City Beach, FL
Boasting 27 miles of beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, Panama City Beach is a jaw-dropping town that can provide whatever style of coastal vacation you want. From waterfront resorts to camping, festivals, dining, and shopping, PCB has got it all.
The sugary sands of northwest Florida have made this city an increasingly popular place to vacation and retire; however, people have flocked to this part of the coast for centuries. Panama City Beach was defined in 1970, but during the 2000s, a spurt in construction put the area on the map.
Nationally recognized for its beaches, this town of roughly 12,747 (in 2020) has become a hot spot for spring break trips. Luxury resorts and budget-friendly accommodations near the water make it a good getaway option for many.
Soft white sands and azure waters are part of the city’s main profile; carving out time for relaxing on the beach or water play is a must-do in Panama City Beach. A few of the best beaches nearby include St. Andrews State Park, Panama City Beach, Camp Helen State Park Beach, and Shell Island.
Florida is a state with no shortage of sandy shores, but these best beach towns are the ones not to miss. Regardless of what side of The Sunshine State you decide to bury your toes in, a fantastic seaside experience awaits.