13 Underrated Beaches on the Gulf Coast of Florida
Charity De Souza is a Florida native and travel enthusiast. Traveling to over 50 countries abroad and residing in 6, she has a passion for exploring new cultures. While Central Florida is where she calls home, her favorite travel memories include skydiving in Switzerland and watching the sunset in Morocco.
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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.
Why Come Here: It’s a quiet stretch of sand with a chance to spot local wildlife.
An overlooked beach town in Florida, Mexico Beach is 20 miles east of Panama City and is 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, and pelicans, in addition to loggerhead turtles.
Why Come Here: An uncrowded coastline with classic Florida landscapes.
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.
Why Come Here: A picture-perfect Panhandle beach with crystal clear waters.
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.
Why Come Here: Off-the-beaten-path beach destination with a charming setting.
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.
Why Come Here: A picturesque Florida getaway perfect for a romantic retreat.
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.
Why Come Here: A tranquil beach with annual seafood festivals and stunning Gulf of Mexico views.
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.
Why Come Here: Photogenic white sand beaches and family-friendly attractions nearby.
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.
Why Come Here: A prime location for beach hopping and family adventures.
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.
Why Come Here: Fishing, eco-tours, and shelling opportunities at this beautiful beach getaway.
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.
Why Come Here: Small-town charm and a chance to discover shark’s teeth.
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.
Why Come Here: An underrated Panhandle beach made famous by a movie.
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.
Why Come Here: A serene setting with emerald waters at this stunning barrier island.
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.
Why Come Here: An ideal spot to bask in Florida’s sunshine and stroll an uncrowded shoreline.
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 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.