Top 10 Beautiful, Award-Winning Beaches in Florida
By Lauren Tjaden
There are 825 miles' worth of beautiful beaches in Florida. In this treasure trove of sand and surf, the following 10 gems are standouts – award-winning shores that invite you to soak up everything from island-style family fun to beach-town revelry to relaxation in its purest form.
Get ready to grab your sunscreen, ditch your sandals and discover some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida.
Siesta Key Public Beach
- America’s Best Beach, 2011, Dr. Beach
- No. 2 Beach in America and No. 16 Beach in the World, 2013, TripAdvisor
- Best Sand Beach in America, 2004, Travel Channel
Take one barefoot step on the soft quartz sand or one quick dip in the calm, clear water and you’ll understand why Siesta Key Beach is one of the top 10 beaches in Florida.
Ideal for swimming, sunning and volleyball, this beach is also famous for spectacular Gulf sunsets. Nearby Siesta Key Village is brimming with unique restaurants, tropical-feeling bars and mom-and-pop shops, all accessible via the trolley and “free ride” taxis.
Caladesi Island State Park
- America’s Best Beach, 2008, Dr. Beach
Caladesi Island is minutes from Clearwater Beach by ferry or private boat, but when you arrive on this pristine island it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Kick back on quiet, beautiful beaches in Florida with white sand, swim in the turquoise waters or go on a beachcombing expedition. Kayaking, hiking and wildlife viewing round out the fun.
Grayton Beach State Park
Santa Rosa Beach
- America’s Best Beach, 1994, Dr. Beach
Grayton Beach is known for being stress-free and light on crowds. The park encompasses almost 2,000 acres, including a salt marsh, a rare coastal dune lake, towering sand dunes, and a beach praised for its ultra-soft sand. Try stand-up paddleboarding on Western Lake, play in the gentle surf, go hiking, or just enjoy the perfect recipe of white sand, emerald water and sunshine.
St. George Island State Park
St. George Island
- No. 3 of the Top 10 Beaches in America, 2014, Dr. Beach
Tucked away on Florida’s Forgotten Coast, this North Florida park boasts miles of undeveloped beaches. Like many of the top 10 beaches in Florida, it's a place that embraces outdoor activities: sunbathing, swimming, canoeing, boating, hiking, camping and nature study, as well as outstanding fishing. Remember to explore the rest of this laid-back, pet-friendly island, including its landmark lighthouse.
Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park
- No. 2 of the Top 10 Beaches in America, 2014, Dr. Beach
- Top 10 Less Traveled Beaches, 2005, Travelocity
Just a splash north of the indulgent shopping, dining and golf of Naples, you’ll find Barefoot Beach, a little sliver of paradise nestled on a barrier island. Treasure-hunt for shells on its peaceful shores, explore the nature trail, or hook into some underwater fun – the fishing is as good as it gets.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
- No. 10 of the Top 10 Beaches in America, 2014, Dr. Beach
Escape to Delnor-Wiggins Pass for a soul-soothing getaway. You can snorkel the reef, search for seashells, or just catch some rays on its pristine beach. Discover wildlife on the nature trail; afterward, replenish your energy with a picnic. Anglers will enjoy the northern area of the park, known for producing trophy catches.
Fort De Soto Park
Tierra Verde/St. Petersburg
- Best Family Beach, 2014, USA Today
- No. 4 in the Top 25 U.S. Beaches, 2013, TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards
- Best Beach for Families, 2011, Parents magazine
- No. 1 Beach in North America, 2008 and 2009, TripAdvisor
- America’s Best Beach, 2005, Dr. Beach
Your whole gang will enjoy splashing in the calm waters of Fort De Soto’s North Beach, a protected sweep of sand that’s perfect for kids. Soak up some sun, collect seashells, or rent a canoe or kayak and explore the paddling trail. Make sure to save time to explore the historic fort; it dates to the Spanish-American War. As you can see, there are so many reasons why Fort De Soto ranks consistently as one of the top 10 beaches in Florida.
Palm Beach County
- South Florida’s New “It Town,” 2014, New York Post
- Best Beach Town, 2012, Travel + Leisure
- The Most Fun Small Town in America, 2012, USA Today and Rand McNally
Imagine a charming town by the sea that also offers dining, nightlife and art worthy of any big city, and you’ll have Delray Beach about right. On the Atlantic Ocean in southeast Florida, it offers watersports galore, including sailing, jet skiing and stand-up paddleboarding. After a day on the beach (and maybe a nap), celebrate by dining al fresco and sipping refreshing cocktails.
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
Cape San Blas
- America’s Best Beach, 2002, Dr. Beach
You won’t need shoes on the abundant sugar-sand beaches of St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, a natural escape that’s made for reconnecting with nature. Try to spot deer, bobcat and fox as well as shore birds and sea turtles. Cap your fun with a beach horseback ride or scalloping outside the park on scenic Cape San Blas.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
- No. 7 of the Top 10 Beaches in America, 2014, Dr. Beach
Sunbathe and swim on protected shores, which are especially ideal for children. Recharge at the Lighthouse Café or Boater’s Grill, or reserve a pavilion to grill out. The park’s historic lighthouse marked the southern end of the Underground Railroad. Take a guided tour and climb the 109 steps to the watch room, where stunning views of the beach, Miami skyline and Biscayne Bay await.
Photos by Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA