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We love Florida’s coastal towns because of their laid-back vibe, amazing weather, and easy access to both adventure and relaxation. In fact, each of the charming beach towns in the Sunshine State is a bit different in size, culture, and things to do, but what they all have in common is their close proximity to sand and surf and their natural beauty. Whether you’re looking for a lively area with lots of bars, a secluded private retreat, or something in between, these are some of Florida’s best beach towns to visit this year.
Destin is one of the Florida beach towns that is well-known for its Southern hospitality and white sandy beaches. It’s an underrated gem in North Florida and very accessible for people living or traveling through the southern part of the country. You can find some delicious cuisine here that combines the best aspects of Southern food and seafood, including restaurants like Louisiana Lagniappe that serve up impressive jambalaya and shrimp & grits dishes.
Grayton Beach is a town located in Northwest Florida with a cute and quirky motto: “Nice dogs, strange people.” Grayton Beach State Park is a great place to spend your weekend, as well as the beach itself and the small village. The town is an ideal place for free spirits and a laid-back state of mind. You’ll find historic cottages, modern beach homes, funky art, white picket fences, and many things that don’t seem to have changed since the town was founded over 100 years ago.
Sanibel Island is in the Fort Myers area of Florida and is known for its amazing seashell collecting opportunities. You can find sand dollars, coquinas, whelks, and much more on the white and sandy beaches here. This fact makes Sanibel Island an ideal choice for nature lovers who want a beach getaway vacation. The Point Ybel Lighthouse is the most photographed landmarks here. Once you’ve gotten your fill of looking for shells, Periwinkle Way is the road where most of the restaurants, shops, and galleries are located. It’s a charming downtown area that is great for finding a little souvenir to take back home.
Siesta Key is one of the most beautiful beach towns in the US. This island is quaint and quirky with places to rent watersports gear and find a cozy place to stay overnight. The sands here are beautifully white and perfect for the relaxing days of vacation. One famous restaurant here is the Siesta Key Oyster Bar, which is lively and beloved for its fresh seafood. On a hot day, there’s nothing better than getting an ice cream cone from one of Siesta Key’s local shops.
Dunedin is an adorable small town that has a wonderful location on the beach and loves its festivals. Here you can celebrate Mardi Gras, listen to jazz music, and visit the oldest microbrewery in the state, simply called the Dunedin Brewery. Bring your kayak along or rent one nearby to explore Honeymoon Island. Or you can simply sit on the beach and admire the islands from afar while enjoying a picnic and soaking up some sunshine. As the name suggests, this is a romantic place to watch the sunset. Overall, Dunedin’s charming downtown is only matched by its prevalence of wildlife and unspoiled nature.
Founded in 1910, Santa Rosa Beach is a small community located in Walton County on Florida’s stunning Emerald Coast. Once named one of Travel + Leisure’s Top 5 Favorite Towns in America, the biggest draw to this family-friendly destination is the sugar-white sandy beaches lined with sparkling turquoise waters. There is plenty to explore outside of the beach area, as visitors will also find excellent dining, boutique shopping and attractions for the entire family to enjoy. Nearby Topsail Hill Preserve State Park offers a day of hiking, biking and bird watching, while the funky Gulf Place colony is a haven for artists and creative types.
With a speed limit that never exceeds 35 mph, Anna Maria Island is a small barrier island 50 miles south of Tampa. A quaint seaside town, this 7-mile barrier island is full of cyclists and kayakers eagerly exploring the area’s natural beauty. Visitors here won’t find high-rise condos or fast food joints to clutter the island’s view of turquoise waters, making it perfect for those looking to get away from it all. Take a day trip to nearby Sarasota or simply lounge on the shoreline, as most locals are indulging in its array of outdoor activities, from hiking to parasailing.
Ideal for nature lovers, Longboat Key is perfect for vacation itineraries filled with shelling, birding, and beachside strolls. The island has its own unique flavor, a vibrant combination of secluded beaches, waterfront golf, fine dining, and luxury resorts. Nature enthusiasts can join eco-tours that explore the lagoons and mangroves and spot wildlife at Quick Point Nature Preserve. Anglers can cast a line in at Ken Thompson Park or under New Pass Bridge, while the island’s bayside and Intra-coastal Waterway offers plenty of opportunities to go wind and kite surfing, kayaking, or paddleboarding.
One of the most colorful towns in the state, Seaside was made famous by the movie “The Truman Show.” An idyllic oasis located on Florida’s Panhandle, pastel-colored houses and iconic whitewashed buildings look like they are straight out of a postcard, while its beaches are the perfect retreat away from lively beach action at nearby Panama City Beach. Play in the gentle surf of the shores or hop on a bike and explore the brick-paved pedestrian streets to discover a mix of beachside eateries, art galleries, and souvenir shops.
Many people have heard of Naples, Florida, but it continues to be one of the most underrated beach towns in Florida. Here you’ll find lots of things to do, including boutique shops and fine dining restaurants – some of the very best in Southwest Florida. But it’s not all pricey and upscale things to do here. To explore the wild side of Naples, make sure to spend some time in nearby Collier-Seminole State Park and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
Just a short drive from Tampa and St. Petersburg, Indian Rocks Beach is a beautiful town bordered by the Intracoastal Waterway on the east and the Gulf of Mexico on the west. With gorgeous white-sand beaches and a town filled with locally owned eateries, shops and quaint, family-friendly attractions, it comes as no surprise that this area is beloved by visitors of all ages. Watersports are popular daytime activities, as getting out on the water to soak in the beautiful views is the perfect place to disconnect from your daily stressors.
There are no high rises or chain stores on St. George Island, a barrier island filled with landscapes featuring sea oats and sand dunes that stretch for 28 miles along the shore. Soak up the Old Florida ambiance at this slow-paced gem, where cycling, fishing and kayaking are popular outdoor adventures that you can enjoy in winter. Take a sunset cruise to enjoy the beautiful landscapes from a distance, or relax on the soft sugary sands and spot dolphins frolicking in the water.
Pensacola Beach is located in the northwest corner of the state and really celebrates the retro vibe of what it means to be a Florida beach town. The beach here is beautifully white, and you’ll find hotels, like the Margaritaville Beach Hotel, decorated with surfboards and Jimmy Buffett lyrics. To embrace the old-fashioned vibe here, rent a vintage beach cruiser bicycle and pedal on the beachside roads. It’s fun to pull up to beach bars and do a little festive day-drinking here with fruity flavors and rum. What sets this beach town apart from the others is its Southern charm and hospitality. In fact, the beach town is located very close to the Alabama state line. It’s easy to find delicious seafood restaurants here to indulge your taste buds after getting outdoors and active at the Gulf Island National Seashore.
Pass-a-Grille is certainly a curious name for a town, but it’s a fun one to visit in the St. Pete Beach area. The beach itself is lovely, and there are some cute restaurants and shops in Pass-a-Grille that take you away from the hustle of daily life. This is an incredibly laid-back place at the southernmost tip of St. Pete Beach. To get a little adventurous with your trip to Pass-a-Grille, sign up for a guided deep-sea fishing trip to see what you catch!
Key West is the southernmost point of the U.S. and makes travelers feel like they’re a world away from their troubles and woes. Key West is an incredibly unique place to visit that’s packed with history, nightlife, and world-class restaurants. It takes a bit of time to drive down to the tip of the Keys, but you can also fly into Key West if you’re visiting from out of state. The drive is beautifully scenic though, and it’s fun to stop at some of the other keys on your way down. There are tons of things to do in Key West, but of the most fun ways to experience the historic town is to rent a scooter and explore the beachside roads and town shops with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. A leisurely bike ride also gives you a similar effect with less speed.