Florida's Best Surf Spots
Here are some great places to ride the waves in the Sunshine State.
Hawaiian, Californian and Australian surfers still scratch their heads in wonder at how Florida managed to produce Kelly Slater, the greatest surfer who ever lived, as well as a disproportionate number of athletes who earned spots on the elite world tour.
Well, most of Florida’s East Coast and some places along the Gulf offer a diversity of waves that have groomed some of the sport’s finest. Plus, the surf gets really good here in the Sunshine State, more often than you’d think, especially along the Treasure Coast.
Here's a looks at some of Florida's best surfing spots...
Florida's Atlantic Coast
Surfing sites are listed from south to north.
Sited alongside stunning, high dollar real estate, Palm Beach's Reef Road is one of the few places in the state where the surf can achieve true "big wave" status, maxing out at 15 feet. It's known by many as the best surfing in Florida. Here's a guide to surfing there.
South Hutchinson Island
South Hutchinson Island offers many great waves along undeveloped stretches of beach. The best spots are found from the Hutchinson Island Nuclear Power Plant southward. Walton Rocks, across from the power plant, provides powerful surf over a shallow reef. Mellower breaks are found to the south. These include Dollman Park Beachside, Waveland Beach, Jensen Beach and Stuart Public Beach. Hobe Sound Public Beach, on Jupiter Island, is a powerful reef/sandbar setup.
Walton Rocks likes an east or northeast swell, with west winds or light winds from the northwest. It breaks best on the second half of the incoming tide, and will hold large swells. Park facilities include restrooms, showers and picnic tables with grills. The beach is dog-friendly.
Dollman Park is a sandy beach break with lots of peaks up and down the beach. Waves are best when the wind is light or blowing from the west. Typically, the surf is shapeliest during the first half of the incoming tide though larger swells will break through the tide. Dollman Park offers bathrooms and showers.
Waveland Beach is a guarded beach and it breaks with the same conditions as Dollman Park.
Jensen Beach is also guarded. It offers numerous peaks up and down the beach that can vary from playful to powerful depending on the conditions. It’s one of the few spots that offer relatively shapely surf during choppy, windswell events. This remarkably maintained facility include an on-site concession stand, bathrooms, showers, picnic tables and grills.
Depending on the shifting sand banks, Stuart Public Beach holds larger swells and offers longer, more powerful waves than most other spots on South Hutchinson Island. This beautiful facility includes a guarded beach, volleyball/basketball courts and concession stand, plus bathrooms, showers and picnic tables.
Hobe Sound Public Beach includes a guarded beach on a long stretch of powerful sand bar and reef breaks. It breaks at any size, but works best on larger northeast swells with light winds and an incoming tide. Amenities include showers, bathrooms and picnic tables with grills.
Fort Pierce Inlet State Park
Fort Pierce Inlet State Park also offers spectacular beauty and excellent surf. Located in Fort Pierce on the south end of North Hutchinson Island, it is also one of the most consistent and shapely surf spots on Florida’s East Coast. The surf is best when the tide is about half way in or higher, and not too far out on the falling tide. It primarily receives swells from the north/northeast. Though typically very user friendly, with lots of different peaks up and down the beach, a strong north wind/current sets up dangerous conditions that could land you in the jetty rocks.
Amenities: This 340-acre park offers picnic pavilions with grills, restrooms and showers. Once you’re done with your Sebastian Inlet surfing experience, enjoy the hiking trail or go fishing from the beach or along the inlet.
Sebastian Inlet Surfing
When surfers talk about Florida's place among the worlds' best breaks, two words come to mind: "The Inlet."
Located south of Cocoa Beach, stunning, natural Sebastian Inlet State Park is the East Coast's own "Surf City." Arguably the epicenter of East Coast competitive surfing. It’s where native sons including Kelly Slater, the Hobgood twins and the Lopez brothers first learned to rip in powerful waves.
There is a definitive pecking order on the north side of the jetty at a place called "First Peak." That's where you will find the best and most competitive surfers and a descending hierarchy on the two breaks just to the north, "Second Peak" and "Third Peak." Florida, like most of the best surf spots around the world, names its surf breaks after nearby landmarks or some unique or oceanographic feature.
On the north side of the inlet, swells reflect off the jetty and are amplified. Surfers flock to this stretch of beach because the jetty makes the waves jack up taller and thicker over the shallow sandbars, creating three or four different peaks up the beach. It’s one of the best places to watch some of the best surfers on earth in high-performance action. Watch from the beach, or from the jetty looking down over the surf.
Tip: Novice and inexperienced surfers will have more fun up the beach to the north, where the waves and crowds aren’t as heavy. Given west winds and peaky conditions, those beach breaks can be some of the best, most hollow waves in the state.
Best Conditions: Sebastian Inlet surfing experts know it is a swell magnet. It catches swells virtually year-round from the southeast, east and northeast. The waves are best on lower tides, especially the start of the incoming tide. But it’s no fun when hard north/northeast winds create strong currents that can carry surfers into the jetty pilings.
Amenities: The 755-acre park offers picnic pavilions, restrooms and showers. When you’re surfed out, get refreshments at the snack bar and check out the McLarty Museum and the Sebastian Fishing Museum, which tell the histories of the kinds of bounty for which the Treasure Coast is named, and the history of its rich fishing industry.
Heading north, you'll find another great local break for surfing in Florida, "Spanish House." But as the case with Sebastian Inlet or "Chernobles" (sometimes referred to as "Third Peak"), be aware that you'll have plenty of company even on days when the surf is just fair.
Further on, you'll pass through Satellite Beach, home of the pro surfers C.J. and Damien Hobgood. Next are the world-class breaks of (heading north) "Second Light," "First Light" and "Picnic Tables."
Cocoa Beach, home to six-time World Champion Kelly Slater and Ron Jon Surf Shop, the world's most famous surf shop, has its own allure. The crowds are smaller and the waves a little mellower, which makes it the best surfing in Florida for longboarders and beginners. Turn down and off "The Streets," 13th, 14th, 16th etc., and you'll find rideable waves (There are 20 of them). The Cocoa Beach is the site of many local contests, including the Easter Surf Festival. Jetty Park to the north is good surf spot when the winter wind blows. It's also prime location for fishing and sight seeing.
New Smyrna Beach
North of Canaveral, you can surf in New Smyrna Inlet, the south side of the famous Ponce de Leon or "Ponce" Inlet. Known locally as "the wave magnet," Smyrna's waves are well suited for trick riding or "hot dogging." It's also now considered the most consistent surf.
Ponce Inlet to the north rivals Sebastian as one of the best surf spots in Florida. As with any place where the surfing is stellar, you will have company.
In nearby Daytona Beach, surfing is more strictly regulated due to the high number of visitors. The area's best break, the Main Street Pier, is a good winter destination, but check with the local surf report before heading over.
In Flagler Beach, you'll find another pier, which is the place to go after a cold front rolls through and the wind clocks around from the south, kicking up near-perfect waves that rival those of Sebastian or Ponce.
Keep heading north up A1A and you'll hit another classic Florida break at the south end of Crescent Beach, Matanzas. On the north side of the inlet, you'll find lots of surfers on longboards. The south side also breaks. High tide is best.
St. Augustine and Anastasia State Park offer several other opportunities to find the best surfing in Florida. The "Blowhole" usually generates bigger waves. Another spot, "The Middles" tends to attract crowds, and for a reason.
The Jacksonville area has a high concentration of surfers. Hanna Park, just south of the Mayport Naval Base, has camping, showers and excellent surf. "Mayport Poles," is the spot to go on a northeast swell. Two other Jax breaks of note are "Lighthouse," north of the poles, and "Officers Club," north of the lighthouse.
Florida's Gulf Coast
Florida's Gulf coast doesn't offer the surf of the state's Atlantic coast, but all winter, you'll find surfers lined up at the best breaks from St. Pete to Venice Inlet and all across the northwest.
Southwest breaks of note are Treasure Island's Sunset Beach and St. Pete's Upham Beach. Bradenton has Beach Street and the Twin Piers. Sarasota County Lido Beach and Siesta Key are worthy of note, but the mack daddy of them all is Venice Beach.
On Florida's northwest Gulf coast, you'll find surfers riding "the Bungalows" of Perdido Key, "The Wall" and "Pier" in Pensacola and "The Breakers" in Fort Walton Beach. You can't talk about northwest Florida surfing without mentioning "Concrete Pier" and "St. Andrews Jetty" near Panama City Beach.
Here's a guide to surfing Florida's Gulf Coast.
Five Great Natural Escapes Near Ocala
- 2 minute read
There's not a shortage of places to explore near Ocala. Multi-day hikes on the Florida National Scenic Trail, fantastic off-road biking and...
10 Florida Trails You Need to Experience
- 5 minute read
Want to experience the splendor of greenways and trails? Florida's your place. Outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to step off of the beaten path...
Great Hiking Trails in Florida
- 10 minute read
By Lauren Tjaden With varied terrain and tremendous ecological diversity, Florida provides hikers of every skill level a perfect backdrop for exercise...
10 Reasons to Visit the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
- 3 minute read
I enjoyed my recent visit to the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs. This park is definitely "off the beaten...