17 of the Best Beach Towns in Florida

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With 1,200 miles of coastline stretching from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic side, Florida is dotted with laid-back towns or sunny havens where you can have a cold drink with your feet buried in the sand. The diversity of its shores – from quaint to party-focused places – draw all kinds of visitors. If you love the beachy Florida lifestyle, then you may already know that Florida has something to offer to everyone. And this list is proof of the beauty you can find throughout this state and along its amazing coasts!

With so much coastline, it’s tough to narrow down our favorite beach towns in Florida. We’ve been fortunate enough to visit so many over the years! Each town is a little different in its vibe and what it has to offer visitors. But after a lot of thought, this is our list of the 17 top beach towns in Florida that we absolutely love, whether we are there just for the day, a weekend getaway or on an extended vacation!

1. Islamorada, Florida Keys

Of course, one of our absolute favorite beach towns includes one from the Florida Keys! A village of six islands located just an hour and a half minutes south of Miami, Islamorada is a paradise to explore by land and by sea. It’s known as a top destination for fishing and there are actually guided tours you can go on if you wish to catch some fish. Or you can just order fresh seafood at any of its great restaurants.

All four islands of Islamorada are dotted with tranquil spots where you can relax under the sun’s golden rays. Visitors can enjoy a cocktail by the beach, go on a sunset cruise, or spend the day shopping at one of the many art galleries and boutiques. Be sure to stop by the Florida Keys Brewing Company for a fun afternoon out in their beer garden – which feels more like a relaxing beach! Certain days they have music and food available, making for an enjoyable afternoon. 

 

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Another must-visit hot spot in Islamorada is Robbies, an iconic waterfront restaurant where you can sit outside and admire some of the best views in the Keys. You can also stroll around and do some shopping at some of the unique stalls selling eclectic and local merchandise. Or you can book a kayak tour or even rent some jet skis. Lastly, the most famous thing to do at Robbie’s is the feed the tarpon out off the dock! It’s a memorable experience for sure!

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2. Venice, Florida

This charming town just south of Sarasota is actually one of the first “master-planned” communities to be created. Visit historic downtown Venice to enjoy the classic Italian-styled architecture, since the town is modeled after Venice, Italy. Wandering downtown you can enjoy the palm tree-lined streets, local boutique shops and restaurants, many of which offer al fresco dining. What we enjoy most about Venice is that it’s super laid-back and doesn’t really feel like a tourist destination. Plus, there are just so many beaches here as well as great boating opportunities!

Venice Beach is just steps from downtown, but within just a few minutes you can be at many other beaches including Caspersen, Brohard, Manasota and Nokomis. Don’t miss visiting the North Jetty to watch the boats and catch a glimpse of dolphins or manatees. Or you can head out to the Venice Fishing Pier for spectacular sunset views and enjoy the famous Sharky’s on the Pier restaurant.

Venice is also known as the “shark tooth capital of the world” because of the fossilized teeth that you can find all over the beaches. And we must admit, spending the day on the beach with a sand sifter to pick through different shells and finding these old shark teeth is actually a pretty fun and relaxing activity!

fossilized shark tooth in hand found on venice beach florida

3. Siesta Key, Sarasota

Voted the best beach in the USA, Siesta Key is an incredibly popular island / beach town in Florida for very good reason. Beach-lovers flock to Siesta Key for its miles of beaches with soft white sand and crystal clear blue waters. While this is a fairly large barrier island off the coast of Sarasota, the main area of Siesta Key Village is centrally situated on the island. This is where you’ll find the weekly farmer’s market as well as many local shops and restaurants. Definitely stop by Meany’s donuts for some warm and freshly made treats!

All across Siesta Key you will find various accommodations from resorts, B&Bs and many vacation rentals that are perfect for a family vacation or extended stay. You can regularly find activities out on Siesta Key’s beaches, including Zumba and dance classes as well as drum circles and sound baths! Don’t be shy about getting involved to join in on the fun too!

sunset over siesta key in sarasota florida

4. Key West

Located closer to Cuba than to Miami, Key West is the southernmost point in the United States. It’s a unique confluence of history, cultural diversity, climate, natural beauty, and architecture. Take a walk through the city to discover the homes of Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost, and Elizabeth Bishop– a few of the inspiring people who found solace and inspiration here.

Locals and visitors participate in sightseeing, fishing, watersports, scuba diving, golf, and shopping by day, then take part in the sunset celebration held each evening at Mallory Square. You can see the tightrope walkers and jugglers perform before the sun settles into the Gulf of Mexico.

Key West is a personal favorite for us, we never tire of visiting! There’s always so much to do in this funky town. There’s so much history and outdoor activities, as well as nightly entertainment and restaurants to enjoy. In fact, we had our destination wedding in Key West! It’s a spectacular town that’s perfect for a fun and lively weekend out or just a relaxing or romantic getaway.

Have you ever attended a “sunset celebration” in Florida? It’s the thing to do! There’s something about kicking back and…

Posted by That Florida Life on Thursday, February 25, 2021

5. Clearwater Beach

Nestled on Florida’s west coast near Tampa stands the lively Clearwater Beach with its white sand beaches that stretch for 2.5 miles. If you come here, pack your swimwear, sunglasses, and flip-flops, because a trip here is all about fun in the sun.

Visitors from all over the world flock to Clearwater for the crystal-clear (and warm) water. Main attractions include lots of waterfront activities, great beach bars, fresh and delicious seafood, and an exciting year-round calendar of events. As the day comes to an end, head straight to Pier 60 for the nightly sunset celebration.

* READ MORE: Health Benefits of Living in Florida

6. Dunedin, Florida

Dubbed Edinburgh of the South because of its name that comes from the Scottish Gaelic Dùn Èideann (meaning Edinburgh), Dunedin is one of the state’s oldest towns. This charming city is located in Pinellas County and is said to offer some of the best dining in Tampa Bay.

The city boasts a lovely downtown with local purveyors and a variety of historical attractions. Its historic roots can be enjoyed through the cultural groups and events that take place throughout the year. Just off the coast of Dunedin are two must-see spots — Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island and, both renowned for their untouched beauty.

dunedin florida wharf at sunset with amazing reds and blues and boats in the water off the docks

Personally, we fell in love with Dunedin the first time we ever drove through it! In fact, we were on our way to Clearwater Beach and just passing through on an alternate route on the highway and the moment we entered the town I said “oh my gosh, what town is this? It’s adorable!”

So of course, we pulled right over and decided to wander around town to explore. There really are some fantastic restaurants here, including breweries, pubs, as well as a great marina / boardwalk right near the downtown area. There’s also Edgewater Park downtown and even a kayak launch to enjoy the bay. There are also a lot of events and festivals in Dunedin throughout the year!

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7. Navarre Beach

A compact beach community east of Pensacola, Florida out on the barrier island, Navarre Beach prides itself as one of the most relaxing places in Florida. It is part of the famous “Emerald Coast” and is known for being uncrowded and unspoiled. The unhurried natural beauty of the town reflects in its powdery white beaches and clear blue water.

Here you’ll find solitude and simplicity. The town’s pristine beaches are named as one of the best in the state, and that’s what brings thousands of visitors here year after year. So take the time to relax under the sun and enjoy a picnic in the park. Bring your bike and peddle along the paths from one end of the beach area to another, and if you have time definitely take a drive just west of the Navarre Beach area through the Gulf Island National Seashore. This narrow patch of barrier island is where you will be surrounded by natural white sand dunes on both sides between the Gulf and the Santa Rosa Sound. It’s a stunning drive with many beautiful beaches to stop off and enjoy. 

navarre beach sign says "florida's best kept secret" and we agree its a top beach town in florida

8. Tarpon Springs, Florida

Situated between the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Tarpon, Tarpon Springs offers visitors a taste of Greece in all ways possible. The city has the highest percentage of Greek Americans, which makes it the ideal place to taste some staple dishes of the delicious traditional Greek cuisine.

Tarpon Springs is also known for its sponge diving industry, cultural diversity, museums, performing arts, shopping, and dining experiences. There’s also plenty of outdoor activities to partake in — boating, kayaking, fishing, and shell hunting are just some of the things you can occupy your time with.

Be sure to head down to the Sponge Docks area along the water for a stroll to enjoy all the unique shops and restaurants. You’ll find an abundance of natural sponges that are harvested from the sea, hence the name of the area. Also, if you have your dog with you be sure to stop by the Tarpon Springs Dog park which is just a few blocks from the Sponge Docks. It’s a lovely park where the dogs can plan and even cool off with some water features!

tarpon springs sponge industry historic sign in tarpon springs florida beach town

9. Destin and Fort Walton Beach

Located along the Florida Panhandle in the heart of the Emerald Coast, Destin and Fort Walton Beach are separated by a white beach on an undeveloped part of Okaloosa Island. Sand doesn’t get much whiter than it is in this area – a real treat for the eye, as anyone who’s been here can tell you.

Destin was named the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” by virtue of its waters that hold fish like mackerel, sailfish, grouper, cobia, and wahoo. The Destin Bridge crosses to Fort Walton Beach, an older beach community that houses family-friendly resorts, parks, museums, and aquariums.

Fort Walton Beach has a great vibe to it. It’s relaxed and a little funky with some cool shops and restaurants. It honestly looks like an enjoyable town to live as well as visit. On the other hand, Destin seems to be a bit more touristy with a lot more timeshares and hotels along the stretch of beach. Still, we find both towns to be absolutely enjoyable for a visit!

view of destin beach with clear blue water and white sand best florida beach town

10. Pass-A-Grille (South of St. Petersburg)

The laid-back beach town of Pass-A-Grille is situated at the south end of St. Pete Beach in Pinellas County. Local legend states that its name comes from the French Passe Aux Grilleurs, meaning “the passageway of the grillers,” in honor of the fisherman who first settled here.

In 1989, most of the Pass-A-Grille became a U.S. Historic District, with over 90 interesting old houses, shops, and restaurants in the District. The grand centerpiece is the magnificent Don CeSar Hotel built in 1928. It’s one of the most beautiful of Florida’s historic hotels.

Pass-a-Grille is one of the smallest, yet most adorable little “beach towns” that we’ve seen. It’s literally just a small enclave just a few blocks in width on a barrier island with water surrounding it almost entirely. It’s a lovely place for a visit, or if you are lucky, rent one of the adorable beach cottages for a weekend for a truly relaxing experience!

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11. Cocoa Beach, Florida

An hour’s drive east of Orlando on Florida’s famous Space Coast, Cocoa Beach is a quintessential beach town. This is really the closest beach to Orlando and one that I use to visit frequently when I lived in Orlando. Discover pristine shores, witness sea turtles, beautiful sunrises, and enjoy the breezy weather.

Cocoa Beach’s small and consistent waves are ideal for learning how to surf. The Cocoa Beach boardwalk is another top attraction, brimming with boutiques, shops, and restaurants. Visitors can also visit area attractions like the Kennedy Space Center and the numerous museums and historic sites.

stop sign in cocoa beach florida with stickers for famous ron jon surf shop

12. Bonita Springs, Florida

Located in Lee County and part of the Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Bonita Springs is a welcoming beach community with plenty of things to do for the active traveler. Its warm, tropical climate makes it a year-round outdoor destination with options of boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, swimming, biking, and golfing.

Those that enjoy going on adventures can explore the Everglades Wonder Gardens, home to rescued reptiles and other exotic animals, as well as bizarre plant life. Thanks to its secluded shoreline and shallow waters, Bonita Springs is also a good place for pet owners. It even has an off-leash beach that’s rightly named Dog Beach Park over near Lover’s Key State Park (just south of Fort Myers Beach). 

What we love about Bonita Springs is that it’s a relaxed town that is super close to so many incredible beaches. You can quickly drive up to Fort Myers Beach or even over to Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Or just relax in and around town and out at the super chill beaches of Bonita Springs.

13. Captiva Island

Immediately north of Sanibel Island and just west of Fort Myers you’ll find Captiva Island. The heart of local life on the island is Captiva Village. Here you’ll find art galleries, a small library, a chapel, boutiques, restaurants, inns, and quaint homes.

This small community is all about the outdoors – biking, birding, sailing, and all sorts of water activities. There are also several small businesses that over a range of activities, including trips to Useppa Island and Cabbage Key. For those that are just looking to relax, having a drink while watching spectacular Gulf sunsets is all you really need.

Captiva feels like a whole different world far away from everything. It’s amazing to feel like you are on a far off, quiet tropical island yet it’s so close to the mainland. Captiva is a perfect place for a weekend getaway!

up close look at boat in marina at captiva island port

14. Bradenton Beach

Located at the southernmost point of Anna Maria Island off the Gulf Coast, Bradenton Beach is a small town with a big-city personality. The city offers the perfect backdrop to a family or romantic getaway. The beach is a big draw for visitors visiting this area, but there’s still plenty of other things to do here.

Bradenton Beach offers small art galleries, quaint little shops with handmade clothing, local ice cream parlors, casual dining, and more. If you want to explore more of the area, there are bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards you can rent. 

Bradenton Beach is another beach town that the moment we drove through just exploring, we had to pull over and get out to wander around. We found some really fun shops here as well as some great restaurants. If you have time, the Daiquiri Deck restaurant is located in the heart of the village area and up on the 3rd floor roof-top of a building — giving you some of the most incredible panoramic views of the ocean! Especially spectacular at sunset!

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15. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea

For a small but picturesque beach to visit while in Greater Fort Lauderdale, choose Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. The beach is the heart of things to do and see in the town, which was named Florida’s Beach Diving Capital because the first reef of a three-tiered natural coral reef system is just 100 yards from the beach. The proximity ensures scuba divers and snorkelers can swim out to the reef straight from the shore.

16. Grayton Beach

One of South Walton’s original beach neighborhoods, Grayton Beach goes by the funky motto “Nice Dogs, Strange People.” It is popular for being a creative haven for musicians and artists of all kinds, chefs, and anyone who wants to escape the conventional.

The Grayton Beach State Park, which surrounds the neighborhood, provides an idyllic setting for sunbathing, swimming, and surf fishing. Part of what makes Grayton Beach unique is beach-launching, where you hop on a fishing charter boat launched directly from the beach.

purple and blue sunset at grayton state park beach in florida

17. Fernandina Beach

Fernandina Beach is found on Amelia Island at Florida’s northeast border and is renowned for great golf. The island has been a beloved beach destination for generations, and its upscale resorts and world-class spas paired with historic sites and lively festivals still keep visitors coming year after year.

One of the most popular things to do here is to attend the annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival. The first edition was held in 1964 and it seems people love shrimp so, it became a tradition to indulge in seafood every year in May. If you come during this time, you can also see (and purchase) an array of art items, collectibles, antiques as well as live music. Plus, you wouldn’t want to miss out on the Miss Shrimp Festival pageant.

Which Beach Town in Florida is Your Favorite?

With so many amazing beach towns in Florida to explore, it will take you a while to visit all of them. Each of these towns have their own unique vibe and style to them. But what you will find at all of them is iconic Florida beaches and lovely weather! Every one of these beach towns are perfect for a short getaway or weeklong vacation. Or if you are lucky, maybe you even get to live in one of these towns year-round. 

Do you have another beach town in Florida that you love?

Feel free to share with us! We’re always on the lookout for new beach towns to add to our list to visit!

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Paulette Mackuliak

    Great article. You did very well.

    1. Elizabeth

      Thank you thank you – so glad that you enjoyed it! We know that you love living in this amazing beach town here in Venice too!

      Take care!
      – Liz

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