The state of Florida contains so many wonderful beaches. It’s impossible to list them all, so it’s best to describe the beaches of Florida by location. Some allow pets and some allow nude sunbathers. Others let cars travel up and down the sand, and some are perfect for finding a rare seashell. From the panhandle to the east and gulf coasts, and along the Florida Keys, every beach is beautiful. People all over the world know this, and tourists flock to the Sunshine State year round to enjoy the tropical climate. There is not necessarily a tourist season in Florida, there are tourists year round.
When planning a vacation, it may be helpful to know what to expect at each of the area beaches. I have not personally spent a lot of time in any location except the New Smyrna Beach area on the east coast. I’ll talk about the east last, as I am most familiar with it. Most beaches are very sandy, but some can be made up mostly of little seashells. Sanibel Island is like that.
Some beaches are actually rocky, like the one on Jupiter Island on the east coast.
I have stayed in a condo in the town of Destin in the north, far to the west. The panhandle is the northern strip of land that borders the southern United States and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s an area known for it’s white, sandy beaches, and the sand there is truly white. It does get colder there than in other areas of the state, as it’s farthest north. That area tends to get some very bad storms as well. Because it’s on the gulf, in general, it’s a busy and expensive location.
The Gulf coast has some popular and beautiful beach destinations. St. Petersburg, or St. Pete, is a well known location as is Sanibel Island. The entire gulf coast is loaded with lovely beaches, but be aware that it’s a coveted vacation spot. The water tends to be calmer than on the east, which is nice for small children. If you plan to vacation on the Gulf of Mexico, be ready to deal with crowds. In winter the snowbirds (are they still called that?) move in to stay until they head back north in Spring. Rich northerners, who own two homes, are part time Florida residents and add to the winter crowds. In summer, kids are out of school and families head to Florida in droves.
The Florida Keys are gorgeous and the water is the prettiest you’ll find in the state. As the keys extend out into tropical waters, beaches in the keys will have warm ocean water most of the time. As you can see on this post of the Top 10 Beaches in the Florida Keys, some beaches do not have lifeguards, some are for dogs, and one is for nudists.
On the central east coast is the lovely New Smyrna Beach. To the north is Daytona Beach and to the south is Bethune Beach. New Smyrna and Daytona allow cars to drive onto the beach. I wrote more about How to Survive a Florida Beach Vacation at Wizzley.
The New Smyrna area is pretty and has a quaint main street. If you visit the beach at the right time (early in the morning) you will have a more empty beach to enjoy. Go during the week when school is in session and it may be less crowded as well.
Park farther away from the beach entrance ramps to find a spot all to yourself. Be aware that driving stops for the evening and the ramps are closed. If your hotel is on a drive-on beach, there will be only walkers in the evening.
No matter how good of a swimmer you are, it’s safest to swim when there is a lifeguard on duty. They will warn swimmers of approaching storms and be able to post the tides and any problems. The beaches are changing all the time and weather plays a big part. Rip currents can be deadly and they are something you may not notice until you are in one. It would be handy to have a lifeguard ready to pull you in from one of those. Some beaches post lifeguards at regular times during the summer months, and other beaches never have one. Swim at your own risk.