Pick the Florida Beach of Your Dreams
The winningest, sunniest top-rated beaches in Florida for the vacation of your dreams.
By Lauren Tjaden
It’s no secret: Florida boasts some of the sweetest shores on the planet, acclaimed for their silky-smooth sand, clear water and abundance of sunny days. The following destinations are top rated Florida beaches that claim a boatload of awards – just pick the one that’s right for you!
- Grayton Beach State Park,
- Santa Rosa Beach
- St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Port St. Joe
- Little Talbot Island State Park, Jacksonville
Looking for some tranquility, a little much-needed peace and quiet? One northwest Florida favorite beach is Grayton Beach State Park, Dr. Beach’s pick for best beach in the nation in 1994. For a soul-soothing getaway, surf over to another northwest Florida fave — St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in Port St. Joe, which was cited as the country’s best beach in 2002 by Dr. Beach. This affordable, nature-lover’s escape features white-sand beaches; clear, emerald-tinted waters; striking dunes; and historic inns and charming shops. The getaway also earned a spot on America’s Best and Top Ten website’s list of “Top 10 Beaches in the U.S.” In northeast Florida, visit Little Talbot Island State Park, an undeveloped barrier island boasting pristine beaches, maritime forests, dunes and salt marshes. You're sure to find the quiet you're looking for at one of these top rated Florida beaches.
For Nightlife & People-Watching
- South Beach, Miami Beach
- Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne
Try to spot a star – or pretend to be one – at Miami’s South Beach, a famed section of Miami Beach known for its trendy boutiques, decadent restaurants and exclusive nightclubs, as well as soft sand and clear Atlantic water. Miami Beach was TripAdvisor’s runner-up for the “Best Beach Vacations Anywhere” in 2010, and South Beach won three of America’s Best and Top Ten website’s top awards for beaches – “Best People-Watching,” “Best Nightlife” and “Best Singles.” It's one of the top rated beaches in Florida and one of the most well-known beaches as well. For a quieter option, paddle down to Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne, which made Dr. Beach’s “Top 10 Beaches” list in 2010.
- Clearwater Beach
- Caladesi Island State Park,
- St. Petersburg/Clearwater area
Shallow, emerald-hued water; a wide, white-sand beach; attentive lifeguards; a pier; and ample showers and restrooms are just a few of the reasons St. Pete Beach was crowned No. 1 beach in America and No. 5 in the World by TripAdvisor for 2012. This Florida beach offers nightly sunset celebrations, complete with street performers, various artists and vendors. While you’re in the neighborhood, escape to the completely natural white sand of nearby Caladesi Island State Park. It’s located just minutes away from Clearwater Beach by private boat, a three-mile hike over sand or a 30-minute drive to Dunedin’s Honeymoon Island State Park, where you can catch the ferry to Caladesi Island. No matter which way you choose to go, it’s worth it! It was ranked “America’s Top Beach” in 2008 by Dr. Beach and made America’s Best and Top Ten website’s list of “Top 10 Beaches in the U.S.” The whole gang is sure to love these family-friendly beaches.
- Amelia Island
- Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach
- Captiva Island, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel
The soft sand of Amelia Island, a relaxed destination snuggled on northeast Florida’s shoreline, is perfect for a romantic stroll. Dunes, golf courses, trees dripping with Spanish moss and a wide beach earned Amelia Island a spot on Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s list of “Top 10 North American Islands.” Captiva Island provides another heartwarming escape. America’s Best and Top Ten website counted it among the country’s most romantic beaches, noting its laid-back atmosphere, stunning sunsets and stellar shelling. The name of our next beach says it all! Lovers Key State Park, a splash south of Fort Myers Beach, features plentiful wildlife and a two-and-a-half-mile beach. Kayaking is popular in the pristine paradise, which was included in the “Top 10 Romantic Retreats” by coastalliving.com. It was also heralded by the Travel Channel on its program “Florida’s Top-10 Beaches” as the state’s most romantic beach.
- New Smyrna Beach
- Cocoa Beach
Searching for some sweet rides on some swell waves? New Smyrna Beach was cited by Surfer Magazine in 2009 as one of the “Top Ten Surf Towns in North America.” It boasts a bevy of art galleries and quirky shops and restaurants but no high rises. Beginner surfers will enjoy the gentle waves of nearby Cocoa Beach, included on TripAdvisor’s “Top Ten List of Best Beach Vacations in the U.S. and Canada.”
For the Whitest Sand
- Siesta Key, Sarasota
- Fort De Soto Park,
- St. Petersburg/Clearwater area
The quartz-white sand of Sarasota’s Siesta Key is sweet on the feet and soul. The family-friendly beach was Dr. Beach’s No. 1 pick in his “Best Beaches in America” list in 2011 and won America’s Best and Top Ten website’s award for the “Whitest Beach.” An hour north, dig your toes into the shores at Fort De Soto Park. It was Dr. Beach’s 2005 “Top 10 Beaches” winner, is third on America’s Best and Top Ten website’s list of top beaches and was named “America’s Top Beach” for two consecutive years by TripAdvisor.