Beaches Menu: Surfing to Volleyball, Tennis to Mullet Toss

By: Carrie McLaren

ADD TO FAVORITES

Florida is always good for a relaxing lounge in the sun in the water and on the sand.

But what if you want even more?

The Sunshine State's 825 miles of beaches offer a diversity of activities and to suit every taste.

There's the comforting stuff you might expect -- think beach volleyball tournaments and surfing contests. And then there's the wildly unexpected -- ever been to a “mullet toss”?

A look at Perdido Key – image courtesy of PerdidoKey.com
         
Here’s a roundup of some beachy things you can see and do under the Florida sun.


NORTHWEST FLORIDA

In March gather the family for the Perdido Key Mardi Gras Celebration featuring a boat parade a Cajun cook-off live music and a fantastic fireworks display over the waterfront. The annual Interstate Mullet Toss held every April features live music food and contestants competing to see who can throw fish the farthest across the state line.  

Perdido Key – Bill Strength for VISIT FLORIDA

In Destin the two-month long World Championship Cobia Tournament attracts more than 15 000 competitors. On shore the Destin 50 Beach Ultra Marathon is a February weekend of running -- from five miles to 50 -- and benefits the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. St. Joe Beach hosts the Beach Blast Sprint Triathlon & Duathlon twice a year in late April and mid-September.

On Fort Walton Beach  Burning Up the Beaches is a May weekend fundraiser of cars cruising and parties. In the Gulf and on Choctawhatchee Bay the first-person adrenaline rushes include parasailing pontooning waterskiing sailing windsurfing kiteboarding and jet skiing. Visit emeraldcoastfl.com.

Finally the Florida Lighthouse Challenge invites energetic history buffs to visit and or climb four lighthouses in northwest Florida over two days: Cape St. George Lighthouse on St. George Island Crooked River Lighthouse in Carrabelle  St. Marks Lighthouse in St. Marks and Cape San Blas Lighthouse on Cape San Blas.

Cape San Blas Lighthouse – Colin Hackley for VISIT FLORIDA

GULF COAST

On Clearwater Beach don’t miss the nightly sunset festival at Pier 60 with arts/crafts vendors food live music and a spectacular sunset along the waterfront.  

At the TradeWinds Island Resort on St. Pete Beach guests and visitors can play a game of cornhole horseshoes or bocce ball on the beach or gather a group for volleyball. Beachgoers can also cruise the coastline in a WaveRunner or see dolphins playing on a Dolphin Watch cruise.

Fort De Soto Beach touted as one of America’s best beaches has seven miles of waterfront at Fort De Soto Park including almost three miles of white sandy beach and waterside sites for camping. The park also features has a dog beach for four-legged friends.

Relax on Anna Maria Island – Luis Santana for VISIT FLORIDA

On Anna Maria Island and the Bradenton area in addition to kayaking parasailing and Segway tours you’ll find a less conventional way of enjoying the waterfront: ride a horse on the beach. Riders can trot along the shores of Palma Sola Bay before taking their horses into the saltwater for a swim.

Born from a spontaneous event that started with a few locals banging on bongos the community drum circle at Siesta Key Beach gathers every Sunday about an hour before sunset just south of the main pavilion on Siesta Public Beach. Cyclers can rent a beach cruiser from Siesta Sports Rentals to explore the coastline.

Thought to be one of the best shelling beaches in the world Sanibel Island and Captiva islands’ Shellabration festival in March. Be sure to also visit the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum for an education on these beautiful treasures.

SOUTH FLORIDA

Greater Fort Lauderdale has 23 miles of coastline including six award-winning beaches that were certified as Blue Wave Beaches by the Clean Beaches Council of Washington D.C.

Thanks to a $25-million renovation project launched in the 1990s  Fort Lauderdale Beach has been transformed from a spring break hangout into a bustling resort of open-air shops seaside cafes decadent spas and high-end accommodations.
        
Only swaying palms and sea grass separate the sands of Hollywood from its 2.5-mile brick-paved promenade the Broadwalk which creates a car-free fun zone for all ages. The retro-cool beach is not only a popular spot for biking and rollerblading but it also has an abundance of open-air cafes an organic market and a kid-friendly park.

Explore the Broadwalk – VISIT FLORIDA

Four-legged family members can frolic off-leash at the Dog Beach of Hollywood between Pershing and Custer streets. It's near the spot where Owen Wilson Jennifer Aniston and a team of Labradors filmed the 2008 big-screen hit Marley and Me.

A natural wildlife-rich oasis Dania Beach combines scenic sea oat-lined dunes with the mangrove-lined tidal waterway of John U. Lloyd Beach State Park. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent at the park carrying visitors close to wading birds and possibly even an endangered manatee in the Whiskey Creek sanctuary.
           

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

You can’t visit Miami's beaches without stopping at Lummus Park along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach from Fifth to 14th streets. This is where the beautiful people meet for volleyball rollerblading jogging and people-watching. The park runs parallel to the ocean sandwiched between dozens of sidewalk cafes and restaurants and the sea.

The beaches of Miami – Patrick Farrell for VISIT FLORIDA

In the northern part of the county there’s Haulover Beach Park a 1.4-mile beach that even has a designated “clothing optional” area. Tucked between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean it has shaded picnic facilities sand dunes and concession stands. It’s a great spot for surfing.

The park at the southernmost tip of Key Biscayne is the home of a historic lighthouse built in 1825 -- the oldest-standing structure in Miami-Dade County. Bikes hydrobikes and kayaks can be rented while anglers throw their lines from the seawall along Biscayne Bay.

Also away from South Beach are Homestead Bayfront Park in the south and Oleta River State Park in the north which both offer sandy beaches on Biscayne Bay. Oleta is popular for kayaking and even has sleepover cabins.

Explore Fort Jefferson in the Florida Keys – Jesse Swanson for VISIT FLORIDA

THE FLORIDA KEYS

Experts rank the Fort Jefferson beaches at the Dry Tortugas National Park the “best thing to do in Key West.” The day-long snorkel trip is 90 miles away by ferry and includes breakfast lunch and a tour of the historic fort.

Back on the mainland  Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is the locals’ favorite. The 87-acre state park has a pre-Civil War fort and gorgeous sunsets. With its mix of sand and coral rock the beach is rockier than most so bring your sand shoes. Lots of shade and picnic tables make it a good spot for lunch.

Smathers Beach is where you’ll find most of the bikini-wearing volleyball-playing flocks that come to enjoy tanning and beach sport rentals like parasailing and jet skiing. This half-mile stretch along the island’s southern shore has ample parking volleyball nets and food trucks.

About 35 miles north of Key West is Bahia Honda State Park a public beach that the Travel Channel rated one of the 10 best beaches in the country. This park is known for its near-shore snorkeling and extensive campgrounds. Part of the Great Florida Birding Trail it is home to wonderful opportunities for bird-watching.

Explore Bahia Honda State Park – Bob Krist for Florida Keys News Bureau

EAST COAST

Daytona Beach feels like a playground with parasailing banana boat rides available and scooters and bicycles available for rent -- right from the sand. Cars are allowed on some stretches of beaches although with limits of 10 mph this isn’t Daytona International Speedway.

Cocoa Beach - Farther south the Ron Jon Easter Surfing Festival includes competitions for men women and children as young as six. The April event draws hundreds of thousands yet both parking and admission are free.

Hit the waves in Cocoa Beach – Mitzi Gordon for VISIT FLORIDA

Horseback riding on the beach is a bit of a rarity in Florida but you can saddle up in St. Lucie County’s Hutchinson Island where the parks department offers horseback tours of the beach on Sundays.
 

NORTHEAST FLORIDA

In Jacksonville Beach Blues performers and barbecue combine to make Springing the Blues at the Sea Walk Pavilion a nationally recognized music festival in April. The Great Atlantic Festival is the only oceanfront seafood festival in the Southeast. In February Jacksonville Beach hosts the 26.2 with Donna Marathon benefitting breast cancer research with a portion of the marathon taking place on the beach itself.

Explore the waters of Northeast Florida – Ryan Ketterman for Visit Jacksonville

At St. Augustine Beach Pier Pavilion weekly evening concerts are provided on Wednesdays through September. A local restaurant also offers a meal at the event for under $10.

In historic Fernandina Beach  don’t miss the Great Southern Tailgate Cookoff  sancitioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Association. It lures professional teams as well as amateurs who cook up their best barbecue at the Main Beach on Amelia Island




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