Top 8 Best Beaches in Florida

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Some of the best beaches for soaking up some serious fun and sun are in Florida. Here is our list of the 8 best beaches in Florida.

When the days get long and the sun gets hot, water is the only thing (besides air conditioning) that helps keep you cool. And, for the best water-infused rest and relaxation, hit the beach! Some of the best beaches for soaking up some serious fun and sun are in Florida. Except for Alaska, no other state has as much coastline. In fact, Florida has more than 800 miles of beaches. And, no other state has as many award-winning beaches. Plus, in Florida, you have two entirely different bodies of water from which to choose. If you want calm water and awesome sunsets, go for the Gulf side. If you’re looking to catch some waves, hit the Atlantic coast. Here’s my list of the 8 best beaches in Florida.

Best Beaches in Florida—South Florida

It’s easiest to talk about the best beaches in Florida if you divide the state into sections. We’ve separated the state into South Florida, Central Florida, and the Panhandle. This way, you can visit multiple beaches in a single trip or decide to visit a different location on each beach vacation.

There are several beaches in South Florida that make my list of the best beaches in Florida. Here are my three favorite beaches in South Florida.

Delray Beach

Delray Beach is one of my all-time favorite Florida beach spots. Known for its laid-back, coastal vibe and terrific arts scene, Delray is the place to go if you want to do it all on your beach vacation.

Delray Beach, Florida. Photo by SJ Morgensen

Exploring Delray Beach

Here you can shop in downtown Delray in the morning, and hit the beach in the afternoon. Local shops are clustered in the walkable area downtown, which is very near the beach.

In the evening, meander around the Pineapple Grove Arts District to see artwork from well-known artists, then hit one of the many restaurants nearby. After dinner, it’s time for more fun on the Avenue. With open-air bars and restaurants lining the street, it’s hard not to have a good time in Delray Beach.

Exploring Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach

The main street of Delray Beach, Atlantic Avenue, is the place to be. Atlantic Ave offers everything from upscale art galleries to great happy-hour bars, local boutiques, and souvenir shops. After the beach, Atlantic Ave is the main place to hang out. My family and I love the variety of establishments to choose from. Some of our favorites are Park Tavern, Vic and Angelo’s, and The Office.

Park Tavern is one of our favorite Delray Beach eateries. Photo by felixmizioznikov via iStock by Getty Images

Ice cream is also very popular in Delray Beach. My favorite ice cream shop has got to be Sloan’s ice cream parlor. The shop itself is so unique and colorful. This sugar junkie couldn’t get enough of the chocolate fudge brownie.

Where to Stay in Delray Beach

My family and I always stay at Hyatt Place Delray Beach, because it’s a nice hotel near all the action of Atlantic Avenue and the Pineapple Grove Arts District. Last time we were there we didn’t bother to rent a car because the area is very walkable.

Getting Around Delray Beach

The city of Delray Beach has a free, on-demand ride service called FreeBee that we used a lot. The service is very similar to other rideshare companies, except that the ride locations are limited to the downtown area. Simply download the FreeBee app and request your ride; we never had an issue getting a lift quickly. And since it’s free, just tip your driver.

Delray Beach in South Florida. Photo by lunamarina via DepositPhotos.com

Boca Raton—South Beach Park

Just down the road from Delray Beach, you’ll find the city of Boca Raton. Boca Raton has a very different vibe than Delray Beach. Delray is all about, well, the beach! Boca Raton is all about the upscale glitz and wealth of south Florida. But that’s not to say that there aren’t good beaches in Boca Raton, because there are.

Florida sunset in Boca Raton. Photo by SJ Morgensen

South Beach is my favorite beach in Boca. It’s not super crowded so you’ll have plenty of room. Plus there are good public bathrooms right at the park along with outdoor showers. In the evening, head over to Mizner Park where you can have drinks and appetizers at the friendly and casual Dubliner Irish Pub. Another nearby spot with a great happy hour is Flanigan’s. We stop into Flanigan’s several times while in town to enjoy the food and drink specials, which they offer most days of the week. For an upscale celebration, we like Louie Bossi’s.

Hollywood Beach

Just south of Ft. Lauderdale, discover the happening town of Hollywood. Hollywood has it all—beaches, nightlife, great shopping, and awesome restaurants.

Hollywood Beach, FL. Photo by felixmizioznikov via iStock by Getty Images

There is something for everyone in Hollywood. If you ever tire of lounging on the sunny beach, check out the lively Hollywood Beach Boardwalk.  The Boardwalk is a 2.5-mile-long walkway where you’ll see people from all walks of life making their way down the boardwalk. Some are on rollerblades, some jogging, and some, like us, bicycle around the boardwalk and take in the sights.

Beach boardwalk promenade in Hollywood Beach, FL. Photo by ablokhin via iStock by Getty Images

Bicycle rentals are readily available and most are affordable. Plus there are lots of reasonable beachside restaurants around the boardwalk. So, you don’t have to spend a ton to enjoy an afternoon at the beach.

Best Beaches in Florida—Central Florida

There are three more of the best beaches in Florida in the central part of the state. Here are my favorite Central Florida beaches.

Cocoa Beach

Only an hour from Orlando, Cocoa Beach is a must-visit if you’re in the area. Here, the beach is the top draw. In fact, Cocoa Beach is known as the surfing capital of the United States. When my family and I visited, we watched plenty of surfers doing their thing out in the Atlantic and had a blast watching them catch the waves.

Cocoa Beach pier in Cape Canaveral, FL near Orlando. Photo by LUNAMARINA via iStock by Getty Images

We also had a great time checking out the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier. At the pier, we enjoyed getting a drink at the Pelican’s Bar and Grill overlooking the water.

Westgate Resorts Cocoa Beach Pier in Cocoa Beach, FL. Photo by Nikodash via iStock by Getty Images

Make sure you save time to visit Ron Jon surf shop. It’s the biggest shop of its kind in the entire country, and even if you don’t surf, you won’t want to miss it!

Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach. Photo by SJ Morgensen

Another great side trip near Cocoa Beach is the historic Cocoa Village. The quaint downtown area offers great local shopping. My favorite souvenir came from the Carolyn Seilers & Friends – An Artists Co-Op, a downtown shop where local artists sell their handmade art.

Satellite Beach—Pelican Beach

Pelican Beach is a small, quaint beach in the town of Satellite Beach in Central Florida. Just down the road from Cocoa Beach, this beach is less crowded. So, if you’re looking to get away from it all without a lot of company nearby, check out Pelican Beach.

My family and I spent some time here on our recent visit and liked the quiet and clean green space adjacent to the beach. With bathrooms on site and picnic tables, this is a great beach for packing a lunch and relaxing by the waves.

Clearwater Beach

Consistently named one of the best beaches in Florida, Clearwater Beach never disappoints. The crystal blue waters and fine, white sand are what will draw you in. The small-town atmosphere is a bonus.

If you want to stay right near the water, there are lots of beachfront properties to choose from. We like the Holiday Inn & Suites Clearwater Beach for its proximity to the beach, great prices, and heated pool. Another great option is the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa, which is also an oceanfront property.

Spend a beach vacation at Clearwater Beach, FL. Photo by Spanishalex via iStock by Getty Images

Best Beaches in Florida—The Florida Panhandle

The Florida panhandle offers a different take on Florida beaches. Often more quiet than other parts of the state, these beautiful white-sand beaches are a great escape. Here are my final two recommendations for the best beaches in Florida.

Franklin County, FL, offers 250 miles of coast on the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Destin

You won’t believe the beauty you’ll discover at Henderson Beach State Park. Noted as the most popular beach in Destin, it’s not hard to see why. The views are breathtaking, the water is usually crystal clear, and the sugar-white sand is known worldwide.

Wild grasses on Henderson Beach State Park in Destin. Photo by DuyDo via iStock by Getty Images

While at the beach in Destin, lounge on your beach chair or throw your fishing line in the water. Take time to walk the almost mile-long trail at the beach to check out the area’s ecosystem. For seafood lovers, make sure you check out Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House for the fresh catch.

Panama City Beach

Only an hour and a half south of Destin, Panama City Beach is another favorite spot to enjoy the beach in the Florida Panhandle. And if you’re driving from Destin, your drive will take you through some of the most scenic spots in the country along the road known as Scenic Highway 30A. No longer known as a college spring break hot spot, Panama City has redesigned its image and is known as one of the best family fun areas on the Florida gulf coast.

For a fun beach experience, go to St. Andrews State Park. You’ll enjoy swimming or surfing, and you can take a boat ride to Shell Island for more beachy fun, including the popular dolphin tours.

Panama City Beach looking west from St. Andrews State Park. Photo by Terry Kelly via iStock by Getty Images

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Taking a Beach Vacation in Florida

Florida offers so many activities to enjoy and is home to some of the best beaches in the country. Wherever you decide to go in Florida, you can bet there is a perfect beach for you and your crew to discover nearby. Enjoy one of these best beaches in Florida—just don’t forget the sunscreen!

Check out Wander for more great ideas on what to see and do when you visit Florida. We also have other great ideas for the best beach vacations, wherever your travels might take you.

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Top 8 Best Beaches in Florida

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