Last Updated April 26, 2022 4/26/2022

13 Underrated Beaches on the Gulf Coast of Florida

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Florida’s Gulf Coast is known for its beautiful beaches that offer postcard-perfect landscapes with swaying palm trees and emerald waters, where laid-back towns invite you to embrace the coastal lifestyle with water sports adventures, laid-back seafood restaurants, and family-friendly attractions.

Stretching from the Panhandle down to South Florida, these beaches don’t get the attention they deserve, which is perfect for those looking for a quiet vacation away from the tourist crowds. Offering the perfect setting for your next holiday in the sun, these are the most underrated beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

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Mexico Beach
Mexico Beach, Florida

Mexico Beach

Why Come Here: It’s a quiet stretch of sand with a chance to spot local wildlife.

Where to Stay: SpringHill Suites by Marriott Panama City Beach Beachfront
| Holiday Inn Express & Suites Panama City Beach – Beachfront, an IHG Hotel

An overlooked beach town in Florida, Mexico Beach is 20 miles east of Panama City and a blend of preserved natural beauty and small-town charm. Perfect for one of Florida’s famed sunny days, spend your afternoons here swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, shelling for treasures, and watching the dolphins playing at sunset. A nature lover’s paradise, here you can often spot numerous species of birds including bald eagles, osprey, pelicans, in addition to loggerhead turtles.

Miramar Beach

Miramar Beach

Why Come Here: An uncrowded coastline with classic Florida landscapes.

Where to Stay: Hilton Garden Inn Destin Miramar Beach, Fl | Hyatt Place Sandestin at Grand Blvd | Embassy Suites Destin Miramar Beach

If you’re looking for peace and quiet, head to Miramar Beach. This is where you’ll find classic beach views of coastal enclaves alongside charming seafood restaurants, scenic beach roads, and beachfront resorts. With a beautiful view of the Gulf of Mexico, adventurous water-based activities such as jet skis and parasailing are popular activities.

Santa Rosa Beach
Aerial View of Breaking Waves at Santa Rosa Beach Florida

Santa Rosa Beach

Why Come Here: A picture-perfect Panhandle beach with crystal clear waters.

Where to Stay: 30-A Inn & Suites | WaterColor Inn & Resort

Offering miles of clear blue waters set against a backdrop of blue skies, Santa Rosa Beach is one of the best Panhandle beaches in Florida and the perfect summertime escape for couples, families, or solo travelers. Located between Pensacola and Panama City, its convenient location means you’re never far from the action but can enjoy the peace and quiet away from the crowds. Luring in beachgoers from around the world, the only thing that needs to be on your itinerary here is to kick back and relax.

Grayton Beach
Grayton Beach

Grayton Beach

Why Come Here: Off-the-beaten-path beach destination with a charming setting.

Where to Stay: WaterColor Inn & Resort | The Pearl Hotel

Artsy and full of character, Grayton Beach is a funky area with Hemingway-style wooden homes situated on side streets paved with crushed oyster shells. Consistently ranking among the most beautiful beaches in the United States, 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.

Rosemary Beach
Rosemary Beach

Rosemary Beach

Why Come Here: A picturesque Florida getaway perfect for a romantic retreat.

Where to Stay: Rosemary Beach Vacation Rentals

Full of coastal charm, Rosemary Beach is a small beach community that is often referred to as one of America’s most romantic small towns. Relax along the shoreline for a day of uncrowded bliss, then plan a romantic date at Edward’s Fine Food And Wine or indulge in the creative cuisine at The Pearl’s Havana Beach Bar & Grill. The kids will delight in a chocolate treat at the Sugar Shack, while shoppers will enjoy browsing the handpicked books at The Hidden Lantern.

Madeira Beach
Madeira Beach, Florida

Madeira Beach

Why Come Here: A tranquil beach with annual seafood festivals and stunning Gulf of Mexico views.

Where to Stay: Barefoot Beach Club | Cambria Hotel St Petersburg-Madeira Beach Marina | Shoreline Island Resort

Dubbed the “Grouper Capital of the World”, Madeira Beach, or “Mad Beach” is a beautiful Gulfside getaway with white sand beaches and turquoise waters. Start your exploration at John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk to see its waterside restaurants, or time your visit for the annual John’s Pass Seafood Festival to sample some of the local delicacies.

Marco Island
Tigertail Beach on Marco Island

Marco Island

Why Come Here: Photogenic white sand beaches and family-friendly attractions nearby.

Where to Stay: Marco Island Lakeside Inn | Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa | JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort

A sun-drenched jewel nestled on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, Marco Island boasts white sand beaches, quaint seafood restaurants, and water-based activities. You’re spoiled for choice with destinations at this hidden Florida island with Barefoot Beach, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park and Naples Beach nearby, while fishing charters, dolphin watching and shelling are also popular in summer. Enjoy water slides at Sun-N-Fun Lagoon, meet otters at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary or explore interactive exhibits at Golisano Children’s Museum.

Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach

Why Come Here: A prime location for beach hopping and family adventures.

Where to Stay: Wyndham Garden Fort Walton Beach Destin | Holiday Inn Express – Fort Walton Beach Central, an IHG Hotel

A short drive from Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach is an excellent family-friendly destination on Florida’s Emerald Coast. With 24 miles of picturesque coastline, it offers plenty of activities in the summer. Take the kids to see the marine life at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park or explore hands-on exhibits at the Emerald Coast Science Center. Perfect for beach hopping, you can also visit the quiet landscapes of nearby Navarre Beach and Miramar Beach.

Longboat Key
Longboat Key

Longboat Key

Why Come Here: Fishing, eco-tours, and shelling opportunities at this beautiful beach getaway.

Where to Stay: Zota Beach Resort | Turtle Crawl Inn – Longboat Key

Longboat Key is perfect for those looking to spend their vacation shelling, birding, and taking romantic moonlit 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.

Venice
Venice Beach, Florida

Venice

Why Come Here: Small-town charm and a chance to discover shark’s teeth.

Where to Stay: Ramada by Wyndham Venice Hotel Venezia | Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Venice

A small town with a big heart, Venice is a beautiful town in Florida with pearly white beaches and a lushly landscaped historic district. Just south of Sarasota, Venice offers plenty of recreational opportunities, including swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and boating, while searching for fossilized shark’s teeth is also a favorite pastime of both locals and visitors alike. Stroll the downtown area to see Italian architecture that dates back to 1925, where a romantic ambiance is highlighted by elegant arches and red tile roofs that are home to boutiques, restaurants, and locally owned businesses.

Seaside
Seaside, Florida

Seaside

Why Come Here: An underrated Panhandle beach made famous by a movie.

Where to Stay: 30-A Inn & Suites | Courtyard by Marriott Sandestin at Grand Boulevard

Made famous by the movie “The Truman Show,” Seaside is an idyllic town on Florida’s Panhandle. Boasting pastel-colored houses and white picket fences, this quaint area is the perfect escape for families, as beachgoers of all ages can play in the gentle surf of the shores and soak in the sunshine under a canopy of magnolias, hickories and pines. A pedestrian-friendly area, you can take a walk along the brick-paved streets to find an array of local treasures.

Navarre Beach
Navarre Beach

Navarre Beach

Why Come Here: A serene setting with emerald waters at this stunning barrier island.

Where to Stay: SpringHill Suites by Marriott Navarre Beach | Hampton Inn & Suites Navarre | Best Western Navarre Waterfront

An alluring barrier island with over 12 miles of white sand coastline, Navarre Beach is where you go to find complete solitude. An underrated gem on the Gulf Islands National Seashore, this area is consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the state. While relaxation is king at Navarre, you can also go swimming in its emerald waters, fish from the coast’s longest pier, or take a cruise along the scenic bike paths.

Naples
Naples, Florida

Naples

Why Come Here: An ideal spot to bask in Florida’s sunshine and stroll an iconic pier.

Where to Stay: Naples Grande Beach Resort | Edgewater Beach Hotel

Home to white sandy beaches with gorgeous turquoise waters, Naples is a nature-lovers paradise. Situated on Florida’s Gulf Coast, here you can soak up the sunshine at Lowdermilk Beach, stroll along the iconic Naples Pier or take in the expansive landscape and wildlife views at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The kids will love the thrilling slides found at Sun-N-Fun Lagoon, while parents can find respite with a cold brew at Naples Beach Brewery.

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