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Affectionately known as the “Forgotten Coast,” Florida’s alluring Panhandle is littered with pristine undeveloped beaches, quiet barrier islands, small fishing towns, and quaint beach-side cities. The white powdery sand and emerald waters make the perfect backdrop for a day of swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, or diving and their close proximity to each other makes it possible to easily explore them all. For a truly off-the-radar beach vacation away from the masses, head to one of these gorgeous beaches on the Gulf Coast of northwest Florida.
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With 27 miles of stunning white quartz sandy beaches, Panama City Beach is more than its past reputation of college-age students on Spring Break. Surfers, divers, and nature lovers will be able to appreciate the vast amount of opportunities to explore. Hire diving gear to explore the “Wreck Diving Capital of the South,” take a boat out to gawk at the frolicking dolphin pods, or hop on a sunset boat tour for a relaxing view of the area. For a more secluded getaway, take a water shuttle to Shell Island, relax on nearby Mexico Beach, or witness wildlife in their natural habitat in St. Andrews State Park.
A beloved gem, St. George Island State Park has some of the finest powdery white beaches you’ll find in Florida. This quiet barrier island retreat has miles of undeveloped beaches and an endless amount of activities, such as swimming, sunbathing, canoeing, hiking, and fishing. Sit back and appreciate the beautiful sand dunes, take a stroll through one of the scenic walks, or venture over to the even more remote Dog Island.
Artsy and full of character, Grayton Beach is a funky area with Hemingway-style wooden homes situated in side streets paved with crushed oyster shells. Consistently ranking among the most beautiful beaches the US, you simply can’t beat its famous one-mile shoreline of clear emerald green waters. Hit the nature trail, kayak through the nearby Western Lake, or bike through the 4 miles of pine flatwoods.
Named one of Travel + Leisure’s Top 5 Favorite Towns in America, Santa Rosa Beach draws beachgoers from around the world. It’s pristine sugary white sand and turquoise waters are a perfect oasis for nature lovers. Visit nearby Topsail Hill Preserve State Park for sunbathing, biking, hiking and spotting wildlife or relax on the 3.2 miles of secluded white sandy beaches.
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is 9.5 miles of beach covered in snow-white sand, consistently referred to as one of the best beaches in the US. Its untouched natural beauty makes it a perfect spot to fish or swim next to the grass flats in St. Joseph Bay. Camp overnight for a true Florida experience and observe the diverse wildlife up close or visit nearby Cape San Blas beach, named the best beach in America by Dr. Beach in 2002, for uninterrupted postcard-perfect views.
Situated on a tiny strip of land on Florida’s far northwest, Perdido Key State Park is a piece of paradise. With rolling, white-sand dunes and warm Gulf waters, it is hard to not appreciate the breathtaking oceanfront views as you soak in the gentle salty breeze. For more action, cross the bridge to Big Lagoon State Park where you will find fantastic camping and hiking opportunities.
With a nickname like “Florida’s Playground,” Navarre Beach has a lot to live up to. Explore the Canoe Capital of Florida and soak in the beauty of the Gulf Islands National Seashore for a peek into its rich history. This compact beach community has 12 miles of luxurious shoreline that is ideal for those looking for complete solitude. Relaxation is king here, and you will be hard pressed to find anything more enjoyable than swimming in the jewel-toned waters, biking the scenic path, or kicking back on the magnificent white sandy beach.
A location made famous by the movie The Truman Show, the pastel-colored houses and white picket fences allow Seaside to maintain its quaint and charming vibe. Picture perfect, you won’t find cars on the brick-paved pedestrian streets, making Seaside a fantastic family getaway from hustle and bustle of nearby Panama City Beach. For even more solitude venture out to nearby Seagrove Beach, a small mile and a half beach that screams tranquility. Here you’ll find a unique and untouched canopy view of magnolias, hickories, sand pines, and oaks.
A hotspot for fun beach activities, Fort Walton Beach is a lively beach town full of attractions, parks, museums, and aquariums. Here you are spoiled for choice, so fill up your itinerary with activities or lay back and enjoy the calm emerald waters and cool powdery sands at the beach, it’s up to you.
Pensacola Beach is the epicenter of the Florida Gulf Coast, famous for both its emerald-green waters and sugar-white sands. Consistently ranking as one of the top beaches in Florida, this area boasts endless opportunities for beachgoers. Stroll along the entertaining Pensacola Beach Pier, snorkel and explore diverse underwater aquatic life, and stay to watch the sunset and monthly stargazing gatherings.
Destin is known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” popular for an array of fishing opportunities and consistency hungry underwater population. With emerald-hued waters, sugar white sands, and fresh seafood, there is a reason why Destin has become an increasingly popular vacation destination. Nature lovers will appreciate nearby Henderson State Park for its 6,000 feet of natural shoreline and warm crystal clear waters and the untouched Miramar Beach for peace and quiet. Comparatively, for a livelier beach experience, take a boat out to Crab Island, a popular underwater sandbar where locals like to mingle and party.