It seems fitting that the Sunshine State would be a magnet for sun worshipers from around the world.
But it’s more than just a place for naturists to gather, says Ralph Collinson, president of the American Association for Nude Recreation, Florida Region. It’s the place.
A New Jersey couple relaxes on this clothing-optional portion of Haulover Beach. - Patrick Farrell for VISIT FLORIDA
“Pasco County is actually known as the nudist capital of the world,” he says.
Pasco, the semi-rural west coast patch just north of Tampa and St. Petersburg, boasts some two dozen nudist resorts and clubs within 90 minutes of Orlando or Tampa, some also surrounded by clothing-optional housing communities.
Cynthia Sirianni soaks up the sun and sea on a clothing-optional portion of Haulover Beach. - Patrick Farrell for VISIT FLORIDA
But Pasco is hardly alone in offering a range of naturist-friendly attractions and activities. Resorts across the state offer no-clothes swimming pools; lakes for paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing; tennis, horseback riding, hiking; and pétanque, a French-Canadian variation of bocce ball.
And, naturally, there’s the main attraction for those who relish the feel of the sun's rays on their bare skin – Florida's nearly year-round sunshine and inviting weather.
Plus, there are four more-or-less public nude beaches in the state. Only one has the official blessing of the county it’s in; the others have what might be thought of as the grin and “bare” it tolerance of the authorities.
Beach ambassador Richard Mason takes a picture of the sunrise at Haulover Beach. - Patrick Farrell for VISIT FLORIDA
Here are some that come recommended.
Haulover may very well be the pearl of Florida’s naturist beaches. It's certainly the best-known and oldest officially recognized public one. It sits on a welcoming wide strip of sand north of Bal Harbour, centrally located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and is ranked regularly among the Top 10 nude beaches in the world. It’s family friendly, with plenty of parking, restrooms within convenient walking distance, and the Atlantic Ocean, of course, lapping gently at its shore.
That’s all on purpose. That’s why the driving force behind its establishment, Shirley Mason, picked it.
“This is a place where you can go and feel like you’re part of a community,” Mason says. “I chose a place where I could go and feel safe with my daughter.”
Haulover is also very popular with gay naturists from around the globe, says Seth Paronick, a member of the board of governors of the B.E.A.C.H.E.S. Foundation Institute. His advice: "Come, stay at a clothing-optional guesthouse in Fort Lauderdale. Enjoy Haulover by day and the gay nightlife in Fort Lauderdale."
You can learn more about Haulover, and the do’s and don’ts at the nude section of the beach, here: http://www.hauloverbeach.org/
BLIND CREEK BEACH
Blind Creek has what might be considered the next best thing in legal standing. While not exactly “official,” this stretch of Hutchinson Island, in Fort Pierce, has long been the Treasure Coast’s recognized gathering place for nudists. They even post signs advising visitors that they “May Encounter Nude Sun Bathers,” and the sheriff’s deputies tend to let suitless sunners and skinny-dippers be. Following in the footsteps of Haulover, naturists have been seeking more formal recognition from county officials, but that’s still a work in progress.
Unlike Haulover, though, Blind Creek is a primitive beach. That means people have to bring what they need, including drinking water, food, and shade, if they want to get out of the sun for a while. There are no restrooms or lifeguards, either. But, says Nelson Jones of the Friends of Blind Creek Beach, that’s part of the attraction.
“It’s kind of untouched,” Jones says. “It doesn’t have a lot of city environment around it.”
For directions and more info: http://www.blindcreekbeach.net/
PLAYALINDA AND APOLLO BEACHES
The Canaveral National Seashore lays claim to two nude beaches. That could be because this pristine federal park is not only relatively remote, but also breathtakingly beautiful. This is Florida the way it was when the first explorers sighted them in Columbus’s day: dunes covered with a mantle of sea oats and seagrape, beach sunflowers and berries. It remains the longest undeveloped stretch of oceanfront on Florida’s east coast.
On top of that, it has the advantage of accepting nudity in the designated areas – at least at the federal level. Apollo Beach, at the northern end of the park, sits in Volusia County, and has a designated clothing-optional section. Playalinda, accessible via Titusville at the southern end of the park, straddles the Volusia and Brevard County line. Nudity is prohibited in Brevard, so sunbathers need to make sure they go north into Volusia before baring all.
Directions and info: http://www.nps.gov/cana/planyourvisit/directions.htm
Like naturists themselves, the resorts catering to nudists come in all shapes and sizes, and appeal to a wide variety of tastes. There’s the rustic allure of the Suwanee Valley Resort in White Springs and Hidden Lake in the panhandle, and the luxury attraction of Caliente Tampa. There are gay and lesbian resorts such as the Sawmill Camping Resort, family-friendly Lake Como in Lutz, family-run venues such as Cypress Cove, outside Kissimmee.