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Florida’s winter temperatures are nowhere near its northern counterparts, instead the cooler weather means you can enjoy the miles of picturesque beaches for longer periods of time. This winter, skip the bustling big cities and head to one of Florida’s lesser-known gems, where charming beach side neighborhoods are fringed with beautiful state parks, moss-draped streets and quaint cottages that provide the perfect home base to spend your days biking, bird-watching, and beach combing. Boasting quiet stretches of sandy shoreline, take a trip to one of these overlooked Florida beaches that are perfect for winter.
Sitting west of Panama City Beach on the Emerald Coast, Santa Rosa Beach features turquoise waters along its 26-mile shoreline. Take a stroll down this picturesque beach, enjoy fresh seafood delicacies at Stinky’s Fish Camp and browse the area’s quaint artist shops in pastel-hued cottages. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike the nearby 15,000-acre national forest, kayak the Dune Lakes or have a picnic on Topsail Hill Preserve State Park’s secluded beach.
An area often overlooked by nearby Tampa and Clearwater, Dunedin is a beautiful waterfront community located along the Gulf Coast. There are plenty of antique shops and art galleries to explore, while some of Florida’s most pristine landscapes are right at your front door. Fall off the grid at nearby Caladesi State Park, where you can admire mollusk shells and sand dollars along the shore and walk or paddle through scenic trails that wind through tropical mangrove forests.
Picture a landscape of pastel-colored houses and white picket fences and you’ll find Seaside, a family-friendly destination with picture-perfect beaches and brightly-painted cottages. This tranquil beach community has everything to take you back in time, from vintage record stores and historic bookstores to local markets and boutiques. Soak up the sunshine along the white-sand beaches and enjoy the quiet sound of the surf under the shade of a canopy of magnolias, hickories, and oaks.
A great winter escape, Anna Maria Island is a hidden gem in Florida. With quiet residential streets and a lack of chain stores and hotels, this barrier island is best explored on a beach cruiser or a kayak. Its postcard-worthy landscapes of white-sand beaches and turquoise waters can be appreciated at any time of year, while the incredible sunset views are best captured as you indulge in fresh seafood at a waterfront restaurant.
A small beach community at the southern tip of St. Pete Beach, Pass-a-Grille Beach offers the perfect vacation away from the tourist crowds. This area is a local favorite, where miles of undeveloped shoreline and a laid-back ambiance attracts visitors looking to get away from it all. Take a stroll on the beach or read your favorite book under an umbrella, then browse the area’s local outdoor markets, boutiques and ice cream shops.
Far from the tourist path, Amelia Island and nearby Fernandina Beach offer a quiet landscape of quaint bed and breakfast accommodations and picturesque streets that highlight its small-town charm. An excellent choice for a winter getaway, the guided horseback tours along the golden-hued sands offer a unique way to experience the coastline. Spend your days fishing, boating and soaking up the stunning scenery, or hunt for seashells and sharks teeth along the white-sand beaches.
A city made famous for its picturesque inlet, Jupiter is an alluring winter destination where you’ll find plenty of things to do and natural landscapes to explore. Juno Beach offers a beautiful shoreline, and your four-legged friends can even get in on the fun at Juno Beach Park. Take a photo of the unique limestone shelf at Blowing Rocks Preserve, paddle through John D. MacArthur Beach State Park or head to Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge to go shelling along its shore.
One of Florida’s smallest towns and most underrated beaches, Mexico Beach is located 20 miles east of Panama City on Florida’s “Forgotten Coast”. Boasting a preserved natural beauty and small-town charm, you can spend your afternoon shelling for unique treasures and watching pods of dolphins at sunset. You won’t find high rises or traffic lights here. Instead, you can spot bald eagles, osprey, pelicans and loggerhead turtles enjoying their natural habitat.
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.
A charming South Walton town, Grayton Beach is artsy and full of character. Boasting emerald green waters along its shore, side streets paved with crushed oyster shells, and Hemingway-style wooden homes, this quaint area with a motto of “Nice Dogs, Strange People” offers 400 acres of unspoiled beach views. Lined with colorful cottages, art galleries and boutiques, head outside to kayak on the rare coastal dune lakes or explore one of the scenic hiking trails.
Nestled on the shores of St. Joseph Bay, Port St. Joe is a “Small Town with a Big Heart”, where you’ll discover a place to enjoy its natural beauty and locals that offer genuine Southern hospitality. Browse through antique shops in the Historic Downtown Shopping District, or take a trip to nearby St. Joseph Peninsula State Park to enjoy 9.5 miles of snow-white sand shoreline that serves as a backdrop for hiking, fishing and birdwatching.