Florida's Beaches & Islands
From bustling Daytona Beach to charming Siesta Key, these 10 Sunshine State destinations have at least one thing in common: They're the best Florida beaches for families.
By Lauren Tjaden
Fabulous family-friendly beach getaways share some qualities. Their beaches are gradually sloping, so your little ones can wade in and out of the water easily, and their waters are shallow. In addition, they feature ample restrooms and showers, as well as attentive lifeguards. They offer plenty to do, for everyone from tiny tots to teens to mom and dad -- and affordable accommodations are a must!
These 10 Florida beaches offer all of this and more: read on to see which of the best family beaches in Florida sound like your family’s perfect cup of sunshine.
1. Fort Walton Beach
Floridians are finally beginning to discover what our northern neighbors have known for years: Florida's Panhandle holds some of the finest beaches in the world and some of the best family beaches in Florida. In Fort Walton Beach, a boardwalk complex at the pier and jaunty structures at other beach accesses have brought new life to this quintessentially Southern beach town. Nightclubs, restaurants, volleyball and concessions keep things lively at the boardwalk day and night. Families will especially like Angler's Beachside Grill, where kids can play on a private, roped-off playground as parents watch from above. Next to the pier, at the Gulfarium, visitors can delight in watching dolphins leap and sea lions play during spectacular shows.
2. Panama City Beach
3. Amelia Island
4. Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach’s unique ocean park atmosphere is exciting – and it’s perfect for families. The bustling city makes everything easy. Throw your gear in the car and drive out to snag your perfect beach spot. Or, opt for the car-free beach. And that’s just the tip of the sandbar. As Daytona Beach CVB spokeswoman Tangela Boyd explains, “Our beach and recreational vendors are located right on the beach. They offer everything from snacks to sunscreen and experiences that include bicycle, scooter, boogie board and ATV rentals, and even surfing lessons.” Attractions away from the beach include Daytona Lagoon waterpark, the Marine Science Center, Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station, and Daytona International Speedway.
5. Cocoa Beach
Sited just an hour east of Orlando, Cocoa Beach’s abundant, affordable ocean front accommodations and activities like surfing its gentle waves make it a favorite with families. The entire family will love exploring the historic, famed Cocoa Beach Pier, sprawling 800 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. The Pier’s brimming with restaurants, bars, gift shops and live musical entertainment, and it promises beach rentals, fresh water showers, regulation beach volleyball courts, and lifeguards.
Ron Jon's is likewise sure to please, with bragging rights as the world's largest surf shop and an attraction in its own right.
And don’t miss a trip to nearby Kennedy Space Center, where you can tour launch-pad areas, meet an astronaut, see giant rockets, train in spaceflight simulators and – if you time it right – even view a rocket launch.
6. Clearwater Beach
Snuggled against the Gulf on Florida's central west coast, lively Clearwater Beach greets you with offers of parasailing, rides on a ‘pirate’ ship, and a long pier stretching into the Gulf. Its luscious sugar-sand and clear, shallow waters will soothe your soul and rejuvenate your relationships. Nightly sunset celebrations on Pier 60, countless watersports options and family-friendly resorts promise to keep your whole team entertained, making it one of the best family beaches in Florida. While you’re in the area, make sure to splash over to Clearwater Marine Aquarium to meet rehabilitated marine animals.
7. Anna Maria Island
Only 20 minutes from Bradenton, you’ll find a seven-mile strip of stunning, white-sand beaches sandwiching Anna Maria Island between the emerald-hued Gulf of Mexico and the peninsula. This barrier island boasts a family-friendly, old-Florida vibe that invites you to feast on grouper sandwiches in an open-air café on the beach; kayak with dolphins; and splash in the crystalline, calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Its awards are numerous, including being heralded as the "#3 Prettiest City in the Country" by Forbes and one of the "Top 10 Island Beaches for Perfect Sand" by Condé Nast Traveler. Activities including kicking back on the beach; renting bikes; exploring or fishing from the City Pier; and discovering the shops and eateries of Bradenton Beach. And you can ditch the car keys: the free Anna Maria Island trolley loops the island.
8. Siesta Key
9. Delray Beach
Voted Most Fun Small Town in America by Rand McNally and USA Today, Delray Beach is a charming village with big-city sophistication. Pedestrian-friendly Atlantic Avenue stretches through the center of town from I-95 to the ocean, chockfull of restaurants, watering holes, shops, and art galleries. It even has a pinball museum, complete with shiny, playable machines—a favorite with teens. If you get tired of walking, Freebee gives free rides around downtown.
Activities include visiting Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens; and watersports like sailing, snorkeling, paddleboarding and kiteboarding. Just south of town, you’ll find the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, delivering a butterfly garden, sea turtle walks, outdoor aquariums, and scavenger hunts.
10. Hollywood Beach
Nestled between Miami and Fort Lauderdale on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, this Trip Advisor Traveler’s Choice Winner offers a unique oceanfront promenade named the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk. Reaching almost two and a half miles along the generous beach and lined with countless eateries, cafes and shops, the brick-pavered walkway delivers a playground for joggers, bicyclists, rollerbladers. Family dining is worry-free, as parents relax with a seaside feast as their little ones entertain themselves in the sand mere steps away. Two Broadwalk parks welcome kids to play paddleball at the historic Garfield Street courts—or, cool off in the whimsical dolphin play fountain. A trolley means getting around is easy; and watersports, and even a beach theater ensure boredom is not an option.