8 Best Beach Vacations in Florida You Won’t Want to Miss

There you are, sitting in front of the computer Googling “the best beach vacations in Florida.”

You’re trying to figure out where to go for your next vacation, but deciding which beach to go to is overwhelming because they all sound the same.

All tourism sites scream, “we have warm, sandy beaches!”

To help, we’ve put together a list of the best Florida beach vacation destinations that include the highlights for each place.

In each section, you’ll find an overview of the destination, the best beaches to visit, awesome things to do, and where to stay.

Planning your beach vacation shouldn’t be difficult. It should be fun!
So, get ready to count down our favorite Florida beaches.

Ready to discover the best Florida beach vacations?

Let’s go!

Best Beach Vacations in Florida

Table of Contents [Show]

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1: Miami Beach

Miami Beach
Dreamstime/Daniel Korzeniewski

Miami flaunts stunning beaches and an aesthetic that has become iconic. When you think of Florida, you likely think of neon lights, brightly colored buildings, and street art.

While all of that does exist in Miami (more specifically South Beach), it is also known for its beautiful beaches, restaurants, and nightlife. And that's the reason it tops the chart of best beach vacations in Florida.

Although Miami also has some other beaches that are a little quieter for when you grow tired of the constant party happening at South Beach.

There is a ton of amazing things to do in Miami. While you might be going to the beach, make sure you take some time to see some of the other awesome Miami attractions.

Best Beaches in Miami

South Pointe Park Pier – This beach features a large park with picnic areas and a wonderful fishing pier.

Surfside – This beach is a lot more quiet than South Beach, offering you the opportunity to lay out and soak up some sun. Additionally, there’s plenty of live music around, so if you’re into that, you’ll love this beach.

Sunny Isles Beach – This beach is similar to South Beach, but much less well-known. It offers luxury hotels and restaurants.

85th Street Beach – This beach is even quieter than the other mentioned on this list. With little around, you’ll love spending the day lounging around this beach.

South Beach – We’ve already talked about South Beach a bit, and while it’s not quiet or out of the way, you definitely won’t want to miss it. The scene is crowded but beautiful and bright–iconic Miami.

Best Things to Do in Miami

Look at the Street Art – Street art is a big part of Miami’s culture. So, you can walk around and discover some pretty amazing works of art for FREE! Wanna know where the best pieces are? Find out here.

Explore Little Havana – Get a taste of Cuba by checking out this great neighborhood. Make sure you grab a bite to eat and a coffee, too!

Visit the Everglades National Park – Spend some time exploring this awesome National Park. You’ll get to see Florida’s native plants and animals. Watch out for the Alligators! Learn more about visiting this park here.

Where to Stay

The Ritz-Carlton South Beach - The Ritz-Carlton South Beach is a Miami landmark and one of the most luxurious hotels in the city. The hotel is just steps away from the white sand beaches and the azure waters of South Beach. It offers a world-class experience with its impeccable service, upscale amenities, and prime location. From the moment you step into the grand lobby, you'll feel like royalty. The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy a truly luxurious vacation. Check availability here.

Check out other hotels in Miami here.

Address: Miami Beach, FL

2: Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach
Dreamstime/Kevin Ruck

Panama City Beach is a popular spring break destination. While there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a good party at one of the many bars, Panama City Beach is also a great spot for a laid-back beach vacation in Florida.

If you’re planning on going over spring break, you should know that city ordinances are in place to help keep people safe. This means that bars close earlier than normal. So, if you want to stay out late, you might want to consider not visiting over Spring Break.

Since Panama City Beach is on the gulf coast (in the Florida Panhandle), the water is beautiful and blue.

Best Beaches in Panama City

Panama City Beach – Of course this made the list! It’s a large beach with plenty of public access points. If you’re having trouble finding one, try making your way through one of the restaurants.

St. Andrews State Park – This park has a beach, so don’t you worry! This is the perfect spot for you if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle. Since it’s a state park, there are no high-rises lining the beach, leaving you with a stunning view no matter where you are.

Best Things to Do in Panama City Beach

Go fishing – Where there’s water, there’s fishing. You can charter a boat for half a day or a whole day fishing.

Try your hand at a water sport – Scuba Diving and Paddle Boarding are available in Panama City Beach. Beginner? No problem! Classes and tours perfect for novices are offered.

Conservation Park – If you’re looking for something to do outside that doesn’t involve water, you’ll enjoy this park. It has walking, biking, and pet-friendly trails. Learn more here.

Shipwreck Island Waterpark – A waterpark located on a beautiful island and offers a variety of exciting rides, slides, and attractions. Learn more here.

Where to Stay

SpringHill Suites Panama City Beach Beachfront - The SpringHill Suites Panama City Beach Beachfront hotel is the perfect place to stay for a relaxing beach vacation in Florida. The hotel is located right on the beach so that you can enjoy the beautiful views and the sound of the waves. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the staff is friendly and helpful. There are many great amenities at the hotel, including a swimming pool, a fitness center, and a restaurant. Check availability here.

Check out other hotels in Panama City Beach here.

Address: Panama City Beach, FL

3: Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach
Dreamstime/Iheartcountryphoto

Clearwater is one of the best Florida beach vacations for clear reasons. You'll love how various beach towns rolled up into one fantastic place.

There is blue water, white sand beaches, restaurants that look out over the water, a boardwalk, a little amusement park, a beautiful bay on the other side, and so much more.

This destination doesn’t have a bunch of different beaches like some of the others. So, when you go to Clearwater, just find the beach and sit there.

Some hotels will give you access to a chair and umbrella, but all you really need is a towel and some sunscreen. Although, if you really want a chair and umbrella, you can rent them.

Best Things to Do in Clearwater

Clearwater Marine Aquarium – Learning about Marine life is a fun way to spend the afternoon, especially when you’re in a beach town. This aquarium is supposed to be home to a famous dolphin (you know, the one who inspired Dolphin Tale). Learn more about the aquarium here.

Rent a Jet Ski – These things are fun and fast. If you’re looking to spice up your day at the beach, consider renting one of these!

Tour Murielle Winery – Um, FREE wine tasting, anyone? Enough said. Learn more here.

Watersports – If you’re interested in trying any watersport, you can definitely try it in Clearwater! Learn more about the different watersports you can try below.

Where to Stay in Clearwater

One of the best hotels in Clearwater is Residence Inn by Marriot. The hotel is nice, clean, and has excellent views. It also has a kitchen, which is nice for beach vacations in Florida with family.

If you’re interested, you can check out prices on Booking.com here.

There are plenty of other awesome hotels in Clearwater, which you can check out here.

(You’ll want to focus on the hotels that are on the little key that is right off the coast. This will eliminate your drive.)

Address: Clearwater Beach, FL

4: Jacksonville Beach

Jacksonville Beach
Dreamstime/Robwilson39

Jacksonville Beach is located in North East Florida, just a bit north of St. Augustine Beach.

While this beach definitely draws tourists, it’s nothing like some of the other beaches on this list.

If you’re looking for a laid-back destination for a beach vacation that still has all of the amenities (restaurants, hotels, etc.) that you want, Jacksonville Beach is perfect for you.

It gets busy there, but often you’ll find a lot of locals. Sure, there are some tourists but not a crazy number.

Best Beaches in Jacksonville

Jacksonville Beach – Of course, there’s Jacksonville Beach, which is a great beach. It can get pretty busy in the summer, but if you go in the morning, you’ll get a spot before most people even show up. This beach also has a pier, shopping, and a nice boardwalk you can enjoy.

Neptune Beach – This beach is just north of Jacksonville Beach. While there are some restaurants around, the beach itself is lined with houses instead of businesses and hotels, which makes this beach a bit more laid back than Jacksonville Beach.

Atlantic Beach – This beach is just north of Neptune Beach. It’s a nice beach, with a ton of awesome restaurants around. (Definitely try Poe’s Tavern while you’re there.) However, like Neptune Beach, these restaurants are a short walk from the beach, as the beach is lined with houses.

Best Things To Do in Jacksonville

Explore the local arts scene: Jacksonville is home to several art galleries, as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville. There's also a lively performing arts scene, with several theater companies putting on regular productions.Enjoy the outdoors: With its miles of sandy beaches, scenic parks and hiking trails, there's no shortage of ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Jacksonville. And if you're looking for a little adventure, you can always go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding on one of the area's many waterways.

Where to Stay

Hampton Inn Oceanfront Jacksonville Beach - If you're looking for a breathtaking oceanfront experience, look no further than the Hampton Inn Oceanfront Jacksonville Beach. This hotel offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean from every room, as well as a variety of amenities to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable. Check availability here.

Check out other hotels in Jacksonville Beach here.

Address: Jacksonville Beach, FL

5: Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach
Dreamstime/Calvin L. Leake

Daytona is one of the famous beach vacation destinations in Florida. While you may not have heard of some other beaches on this list (e.g., Jacksonville Beach), you will certainly have heard of this one.

While it may not have the same reputation as Miami, it’s certainly a lively place.

This beach is well-developed, meaning plenty of restaurants, shops, and hotels line it.

Best Beaches in Daytona

Daytona Beach – This beach, as you could guess, takes up the majority of Daytona’s beachfront. With some beaches to the north and south, this will likely be the beach you spend your time at during your visit. This beach boasts white sand. Plus, there are certain sections where you can drive onto the beach.

Sun Splash Park – This beach is close to Daytona Beach and is a bit more laid back. Instead of finding drunken college students, you’re more likely to find children. While both beaches are family-friendly, this one appears to be more quiet, even when it’s busy.

Best Things to Do in Daytona

Tour the Daytona International Speedway – Whether you’re a NASCAR fan or not, it’s a huge part of Daytona’s culture. We highly recommend taking the tour. Learn more about the tour here.

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse – This lighthouse, like most, has a unique history. You’ll learn a lot about this special lighthouse with a great museum to explore. Plus, a climb to the top will offer you a stunning view.

Halifax Historical Museum – If you’re anything like me, you love learning about a location’s history. A destination’s history is one of the things that sets it apart from other similar places. Taking a walk through the Halifax Historical Museum will allow you to learn the history of Daytona, enriching your experience. Learn more here.

Where to Stay

Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach - The Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach is a hotel like no other. Situated on the beach, the hotel offers stunning views of the ocean and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the sun and surf. With its own private beach club and an on-site casino, the Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach is the perfect place to stay for a fun-filled beach vacation in Florida. The hotel is within walking distance of the beach, shops, and restaurants. Check availability here.

Check out other hotels in Daytona Beach here.

Address: Daytona Beach, FL

Also Read: 30 Best Beaches in the USA

6: Sarasota

Sarasota
Dreamstime/Alkan2011

There are many reasons why Sarasota is one of the best beach vacations in Florida. The beaches here are beautiful, and there are many activities to do both in and out of the water.

The city has a lively downtown area with great restaurants, shops, and plenty of activities for families and kids.

However, Sarasota is a bit different from some of the other beach destinations on this list because if you stay in Sarasota, it’s a short drive to get to the beaches.

This is because the beaches are actually on Keys, which are right of the coast of Sarasota. While you can stay on one of the Keys, you’ll find the prices are much more affordable in Sarasota.

Best Beaches in Sarasota

Siesta Beach – This beach is incredibly popular. Once you arrive and see the massive number of parking spaces available, you’ll be floored! But, it’s popular for a reason. The beach is super wide, meaning you have to walk quite a ways to get to the water, which is nice because it gives people the opportunity to spread out a bit. The sand there is fine, white powder. It’s the kind of sand you read about in books but rarely ever find.

Turtle Beach – This beach is great for watching sunsets as it’s not quite as popular as Siesta Beach. There are still people there, but not nearly as many. It is a much more romantic spot for watching the sunset. However, the sand on this beach is not nearly as fine as that on Siesta Beach. So, if you have sensitive feet, you should wear water shoes.

Longboat Key – The area is famous for its fine dining, boutique shopping, top-rated golf courses, and beautiful beaches.

Venice Beach – This is a relatively quiet beach that has still retained much of its natural shoreline, meaning there aren’t a ton of high-rises lining the beach.

Best Things to Do in Sarasota

Bike Around Downtown Sarasota – Explore Sarasota by biking around. While you’re exploring, make sure you check out Bayfront Park. There, you can ogle at some big boats and enjoy a stunning view of the bay.

Tour The Ringling – This house was owned by one of the Ringling brothers (yes, of the Ringling Circus). This grandiose house was built with luxury in mind. It’s huge: 44,000 square feet. Plus, it houses some incredibly famous pieces of art. Additionally, the bayfront gardens are beautiful. The entire house is well worth a visit. Learn more about it here.

Visit the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens – If you love beauty and nature, you’ll adore these gardens. They’re the perfect place to spend a peaceful afternoon. Learn more here.

Where to Stay

Lido Beach Resort - The Lido Beach Resort overlooks the white sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It features an outdoor pool, spa services, and a fitness center. Guest rooms include free Wi-Fi, cable TV, and coffee makers. The hotel is minutes from downtown Sarasota, St. Armands Circle, and the Ringling Museum of Art. Check availability here.

Check out other hotels in Sarasota here.

Address: Sarasota, FL

7: Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island
Dreamstime/Daniel Logan

Sanibel Island is located near Ft. Myers, on the gulf coast of Florida.Sanibel is one of the serene and best beach vacations in Florida that lacks the absurd development you often find on beaches.

While there are plenty of hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores on the Island, you’ll find that there is still enough nature preserved to leave you feeling like you’re in the middle of nowhere.

Sanibel is busiest during the winter, so definitely go in the summer if you’re looking to save some money and don’t feel like waiting long for a table at a restaurant.

Best Beaches in Sanibel

Now, keep in mind that much of the beach on Sanibel is private, so if you stay at a hotel on the beach, you may have access to a private beach! However, if you don’t, here are some great public beaches.

Bowman’s Beach – This beach offers free parking, which is a nice feature. Plus, it’s not nearly as busy as the other public beaches on the Island.

Lighthouse Beach Park – You need to pay for parking when you visit this beach. And while it’s a bit more crowded than Bowman’s Beach, you get a beautiful view of a city skyline across the bay. There’s even a fishing pier if that’s your thing.

Gulfside City Park Beach – This beach is located between the other two. While I didn’t visit it, it’s another public beach you might want to check out. It has grills and picnic tables so you can make an entire day out of it.

Best Things to Do in Sanibel

Go Shelling – Sanibel is the best beach destination in Florida to find shells. If you love crafting, make sure you grab some beautiful shells and make yourself a unique souvenir.

Watch the Sunset – The sunsets on Sanibel are stunning. National Geographic marked them as a bucket list worthy. They’re easy to miss while you're out to dinner, so make sure you carve out the time to go to the beach and watch the sunset.

J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge – This is an affordable activity that can take up the better part of the day. An educational center offers information on the wildlife you can expect to see in the refuge. There are plenty of places to stop, enjoy the view, and admire the wildlife. You can walk, bike, or drive. Just make sure you bring water and wear sunscreen!

Visit the Shell Museum – If you love shells, you’ll adore this museum. You probably don’t realize how much you don’t know about shells. Learn more about the shell museum here.

Where to Stay

Sundial Beach Resort & Spa - The Sundial Beach Resort & Spa is a beachfront condo resort that features one and two bedroom condos, each with a private balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Guests can enjoy a variety of activities at the resort, including tennis, swimming, and kayaking. The Sundial Beach Resort & Spa is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the beautiful Florida coastline. Check availability here.

Check out other hotels in Sanibel here.

Address: Sanibel Island, FL

8: St. Augustine Beach

St. Augustine Beach
Dreamstime/Meinzahn

St. Augustine Beach is a beautiful and relatively quiet town. While there are plenty of houses, it lacks the multitude of high-rises that commonly line Florida beaches.

There’s no doubt that St. Augustine Beach is one of the best beach destinations in Florida. The white sand and crystal clear water make it a perfect place to relax and enjoy the incredible views.

Plus, there’s plenty to do in the area, from exploring the historic city of St. Augustine to enjoying the many restaurants and shops.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an action-packed vacation, St. Augustine Beach is sure to please.

Best Beaches in St. Augustine

Vilano Beach – This beach is quiet and lined with houses instead of the usual condos and hotels. Instead of being directly on the ocean, it’s actually located at an inlet. While it may sound like the water will be calmer, it’s actually a bit rough and a great spot for surfing.

Anastasia State Park – There is a small entrance fee, but if you’re looking for a quiet getaway, you’ll love the beaches there. Tucked away from civilization, the beaches at Anastasia State Park look as though they have hardly been touched by people. Learn more here.

Mickler’s Landing – This beach is a little further south than the others, so it might be a short drive from wherever you end up staying; however, if you enjoy looking for shells and/or shark teeth, you’ll definitely want to spend some time there.

Crescent Beach – Again, this beach is mostly a residential beach, meaning it’s void of high-rises, giving it a great small town vibe. Although, if you don’t feel like packing a lunch, a short walk or drive will take you to a restaurant.

Best Things to Do in St. Augustine Beach

St. Augustine – Since you’re so close, you should definitely take some time to explore the US’s oldest continually inhabited settlement. There are tons of awesome things to do in St. Augustine (only of few of which will end up on this list). However, even if you choose to just walk around St. Augustine, you’ll enjoy yourself.

Climb a Lighthouse – St. Augustine has a lighthouse that you can climb and a museum that you can explore. Feeling adventurous? The lighthouse also offers a ghost tour at night because, like most places in St. Augustine, it’s reportedly haunted.

Take a Ghost Tour – As we mentioned before, most places in St. Augustine are reportedly haunted, so there are plenty of ghost tours to take. Some of the walking ghost tours are not only fun but also informative.

Alligator Farm – This is an expensive Zoo, but if you’ve never seen Alligators before, you’ll enjoy yourself. They have some incredibly rare Alligators and some Crocodiles, as well. Make sure you check the scheduled shows so you can watch caretakers feed the Alligators! Learn more here.

Where to Stay

Casa Monica Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection - Casa Monica Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection is a historic hotel in the heart of downtown St. Augustine, Florida. The hotel opened its doors in 1888 and was originally known as the Hotel Alcazar.

The resort features Mediterranean-inspired architecture and décor. The property includes a spa, fitness center, outdoor pool and several restaurants and bars. The Casa Monica is located just steps from popular attractions like the Castillo de San Marcos and the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. Check availability here.

Check out other hotels in St. Augustine here.

Address: St. Augustine Beach, FL

Wrapping up - The best beach vacations in Florida

The best beach vacations in Florida are those that offer a variety of activities for the whole family to enjoy. 

With so many great options, it’s hard to go wrong. But, you need to pick a beach that suits your style the most.

If you’re interested in a quiet getaway, we recommend these beaches:

  • Sanibel Island (during the Summer).
  • St. Augustine Beach (Anastasia State Park is typically on the quieter side).
  • Jacksonville Beach (this destination isn’t as quiet as Sanibel, but it definitely attracts fewer tourists on the whole than many of the other beaches on this list).

If you’re looking for a party, the following beaches will make you happy:

  • Miami Beach
  • Daytona Beach
  • Clearwater Beach
  • Sarasota (while these beaches are busy, there aren’t a ton of bars around)
  • Panama City Beach (don’t bother going during spring break)

Without a doubt, each of these beaches is different from the other, and while we recommend you visit all of them, that may not be feasible.

Right now, our favorite Florida beach vacation destination is Clearwater Beach, and second favorite is Sanibel.

We hope all of the information in this post has helped you make a decision.

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