Some of the links in this post have been sponsored by Skyscanner.
Want to know what the best Florida beach for you is? What beaches do you think of when you think of Florida? Miami is the first one for just about everyone, but what you think of next might betray your age.
If you think Fort Lauderdale, you were probably a college kid in the 70s or early 80s, when spring breakers headed there by the thousands, but before the city passed laws trying to cut down on the mayhem spring breakers brought to the city.
If you think Daytona, you might be a child of the 80s or 90s. The restrictions in Fort Lauderdale pushed the crowds north to Daytona, where the invading hordes grew even bigger. Spring break was so big in Daytona that MTV moved their entire broadcast operation there for several years in a row.
If you think Panama City Beach, you are younger still. The current “home” for spring breakers in Florida welcomes even more people than either Daytona or Fort Lauderdale ever did. While those cities have embraced a more family friendly vibe, Panama City now welcomes more than 500,000 college students every year for spring break festivities.
But we are beyond that kind of spring break, aren’t we, readers? And frankly, I don’t care how old you are. I’m going to tell you about some Florida beaches that offer more than just cheap hotel rooms and lax ID-checkers so we can all go have some grown-up fun in Florida!
There’s a beach for just about every type of person in Florida. Even if you’re an “anywhere but a beach” type person, I think I might even have one for you.
If you love searching for treasures on the beach…
The beaches of Fort Meyers and Sanibel offer some of the best shelling you can find anywhere in the world. Bring your water shoes, because those shells are hard on the feet, but bring a bag for collecting some of the loveliest specimens you can find in the US.
The island of Sanibel offers laid back luxury, but you can also find less expensive places to rent if you plan far in advance. You can often find Fort Myers hotel deals if Sanibel is booked.
If you love having a beach to yourself…
Florida’s panhandle is home to white powder beaches and gentle green/blue surf, but Navarre Beach and Gulf Islands National Seashore may be the most extreme examples. And because the beaches are protected as a National Seashore, the only thing missing is something you won’t miss: hordes of people.
The barrier island offers miles of unspoiled beaches, a quiet but busy fishing pier, and a marine park and sea turtle conservation center. If you like a natural setting, this is the Florida beach for you.
If you are all about the surfing…
The Atlantic Coast beaches are where you’ll find the surf… most of the time. For the most consistent surf, head to New Smyrna Beach, where rock ledges off the coast create reliable surf breaks at the Ponce Inlet.
Where there’s surf, there are surfers, and New Smyrna Beach is full of them, giving the town a classic surf city vibe. If you’re new to the sport, head to one of the local surf shops – which are frequented more by actual surfers than by tourists looking for t-shirts – for lessons and board rentals.
If you prefer to watch, you might enjoy Gnarly Surf Bar & Grill which is all about surfing. They show surfing videos from around the world on their video screens, and display surfboards on the ceiling.They pay homage to surf locales around the world with their global menu, too.
If you like to mix a little culture with your beach time…
Imagine strolling along the beach in the morning, and taking in world-class collections of art in the afternoon, and going to the symphony in the evening. Yes, you can do that in Miami, but over on the Gulf Coast, there’s a beach with gentler waves calling your name. Just across the bay from Tampa, St. Pete Beach is home to some of the nicest beaches in the country. But for culture vultures, the city of St. Petersburg a short drive inland offers the Dali Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Mahaffey Theater, home of the Florida Orchestra. And for foodies, the 20,000 square foot Locale Market offers regional produce.
The legendary Don CeSar beachfront hotel is a classic of old Florida style that has recently been renovated.
If you just really love Miami…
I mean, Miami is still pretty nice. There are some great places to stay in Miami, too. But if you want to find the best Florida beach for you, dig a little deeper to find the perfect match.