It’s easy to find a slice of paradise along the Florida coastline. It’s not just for retirees and college kids, you’ll find the best family beaches in Florida.
With super soft white sand and warm ocean water, they’re the perfect place for a family vacation. Surrounded by playgrounds, activities, nature preserves, restaurants and tourist attractions, no one in the family can complain that they’re bored. Not even once.
Pack up your beach bags; don’t forget the sunscreen, beach reading, portable hammocks, and sandcastle building tools. Check out this list of the best family beaches in Florida and find the perfect beach for your crew. From resort atmosphere to rustic camping, the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf, these seventeen beaches are the best that Florida offers for families of all ages.
Clearwater Beach, Clearwater
Named the best beach in the nation in 2018 by Trip Advisor. There are several family attractions at the beach, including the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. It’s home to the Hollywood darling Winter the Dolphin who swims with a prosthetic tale and stars in the “Dolphin Tale” movies. The beach has snow white sands and clear water, and a three story inflatable water slide that the whole family will love. If you’re more into activities than sunbathing, the beach offers jet skis, kayaking, boating, and ocean fishing.
Both kids and parents will stay entertained all day long at Clearwater Beach. At night, swing by Tropicana Stadium (The Trop to locals) and catch a Tampa Bay Rays game. The beach gets raked every night, so it’s fresh for you to set up your hammock to relax for the day. Pier 60 is the location of a daily festival, Sunsets at Pier 60, with music, vendors, street performers, and family friendly activities.
Jupiter Beaches, Jupiter
The Gulf Stream hugs the coastline near Jupiter, Florida. It’s the closest it comes to the shores of the United States. Because of this, the water at these beaches remains 78 degrees year-round. There’s lots of natural shoreline at these beaches. Dunes, mangroves, and sea grape trees spot the 3.4 miles of clear blue water and soft white sand. The waters here are calm, ideal for all kinds of watersports including paddle boarding, surfing, snorkeling, and swimming.
Three waterways converge in Jupiter. The Loxahatchee River, Intracoastal Waterway, and the Atlantic Ocean all meet at this beach. Riverbend Park is one of the most popular places in Florida for kayaking and canoeing. Adventurous families can follow the river all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. After full days in the water, there are restaurants, attractions and shopping to fill the evenings. Kids will love learning about the waterways at the River Center. And then, the whole family can catch a game at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, part of Florida’s Grapefruit League.
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Delray Beach, Delray Beach
On the Southeast Coast, artsy families will want to check out Pineapple Grove Arts District on their way to the beach. Delray is close to the Cornell Art Museum with exhibits of contemporary art. If you want more culture, swing by the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. You can relax in beautiful outdoor spaces and experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
There are family friendly festivals held in Delray year round. At Christmas, see the 100-foot Christmas tree in the historic downtown. Rand McNally rated Delray Beach the Most Fun Small Town in America. And the beach ranked on the Travel Channel’s Best of the Road. There are two miles of public access beach to explore here. Plenty of rich history, dozens of attractions and museums are just steps off the historic brick sidewalks of the town. Streets are lit by historic gaslight lamps.
Siesta Key, Siesta Key
This beach is in Sarasota, Traveler’s Choice named it one of the Six Best Beaches for Families and TripAdvisor called Siesta Key the Best Beach in America in 2015. There’s no wonder why it keeps ending up on lists of America’s best, travelers frequently call it the best beach they’ve ever visited. The beach is eight miles long with easy access to some of the softest sand in existence. The sand is remarkable because it’s made from quartz from the Appalachian Mountains, instead of coral like most beaches.
It’s such perfect sand that it’s the location of the International Sand Sculpting Festival every year. Nearby is Turtle Beach Park, a popular launching place for sea kayaking. It’s the location of a boat ramp, for sea-faring families who like to get out further out into the water than just the shoreline. Sea life gathers at the southern edge of the beach at Point of Rocks. It’s calm for snorkeling and floating in the warm waters.
Fort Lauderdale Beaches, Fort Lauderdale
You can spend every day of vacation experiencing a new beach along the 23 mile coast in Fort Lauderdale. The sand is just minutes from attractions, restaurants, shopping, and family-friendly accommodations. The northernmost point is Deerfield Beach. It’s the most award-winning beach for families. It’s cove-like with the world’s first boat-less water ski park.
There’s plenty of sand for relaxing and splashing in the surf. For dinner check out open-air restaurants. Or, catch your own by fishing off the Deerfield Pier. Nature loving families should check out Hillsboro Beach. It’s the calmer section of Fort Lauderdale. During the height of nesting season in late June, Hillsboro is the best chance to spot sea turtles coming ashore to lay eggs. For a little more action, head to Hollywood Beach to stroll the two-and-a-half mile boardwalk. You’ll find shops, tourist attractions, and activities. If your family includes a four-legged member, there’s a great dog beach to visit.
The Islands of Sanibel and Captiva, Lee County
Ranked in the Top Ten by USA today for Best Florida Attractions and Best Places to Escape the Snow, these are remarkable barrier islands worth checking out. They’re oriented to the East-West instead of North-South like most barrier islands. This means they have a soft sandy beach rife with beautiful seashells.
The Weather Channel voted Sanibel Island the best shelling location in the United States. The beaches on the islands are more subdued than some other locations, prohibiting dogs and alcoholic beverages. They’re quieter beaches, as many don’t have nearby hotels or resorts. Great for families with young kids who want a more subdued beach visit. They’re great spots for shelling, bird watching, and fishing.
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Fort De Soto Park, Pinellas County
According to Parents magazine in 2011, this is the best family beach in the country. It has some of the cleanest water in the country, with a spotless record when tested for water-quality, closings and danger advisories. There’s a natural sandbar just off the coast, for shallow and wave free swimming for younger members of the family. If your family includes fur-kids, Fort De Soto allows dogs. Everyone swims safe, lifeguards are on duty and there are plenty of restroom facilities so you can hang out for the whole day.
Other features include playgrounds (a large pirate ship, visible as soon as you arrive), picnic shelters, and hiking trails. The beach itself is seven miles long, plenty of space to find a spot to set up for a day of fun in the surf and sand. The anglers in the family can check out two fishing piers, both of which have concession stands selling bait. There’s even a “paddling trail” for canoes and kayaks, that follows over two miles of mangrove spotted tidal waves. Great for nature lovers, there are white ibis and herons along the water, and colorful seashells all over the shore.
Destin and Fort Walton Beach, Emerald Coast
Southern Living named it one of America's top three family destinations. It’s named for its white beaches and clear water. It includes free-access beaches at Fort Walton, Okaloosa Island, and Henderson Beach State Park. Find hiking trails, picnic areas and even campgrounds to stay the night all along the Emerald Coast. Okaloosa Island has activities and amenities just a few steps from the beach.
The Fishing Pier Boardwalk connects several picnic pavilions for enjoying the sun and water with a packed lunch. For a break from the water, there’s shopping and restaurants along the boardwalk. Emerald Coast is also the location of several museums, cultural, heritage and science centers. All attractions are a short drive from the coast. Throughout the summer, Destin hosts weekly festivals and events, many within walking distance of the family friendly hotels in the area.
New Smyrna Beach, New Smyrna
This beach offers kid-centric activities and attractions. There are summer camps for exploring nature and the arts. They last anywhere from ½ day to 3 days. Kids will make new friends and learn through hands-on activities while parents can explore New Smyrna. As a family, visit the Marine Discovery Center and take a ride on their pontoon boat. Guides will talk about marine life, history, and the nature of New Smyrna.
For active families, the Marine Discovery Center also offers kayak tours that include both kayak instruction and a naturalist tour guide. The beaches have perfect sand for constructing sand castles and soaking up the sun. Seventeen miles of beaches offer great surf with regular wave breaks. There’s no dangerous undertow, thanks to the rock ledges miles offshore. Amateurs can learn from a surf school in safe water. Experienced surfers will have a blast some of the greatest surf in Florida.
Cocoa Beach, Cocoa Beach
Full of attractions, the Cocoa Beach pier extends over 800 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. Once called the surfing capital of the world, there are plenty of surf shops and surf schools to take both group and private lessons. If you need to get gear before your lesson, the huge Ron Jon Surf Shop is near the beach and is open 24 hours a day. After catching some waves, hike the many nature preserves near the beach.
The Cocoa Beach historic village hosts craft fairs and events all summer long and is great for tourists looking to do shopping, snacking, and sightseeing. Explore the coast by paddling; there are kayak and canoe tour groups that will take families on nature tours through the Thousand Islands. Expect to see dolphins, manatees, and native Florida birds while on the water. For families with older kids, Cocoa Beach has one of the best skate parks in the state, there’s plenty of seating and grassy areas for parents to hang out while teens blow-off steam in the halfpipe and two large bowls.
Amelia Island, Nassau County
Located off the coast of Northeast Florida. This island’s 17 miles of beach are something of an insider secret. Life here is at a slower pace, with laid-back locals and a friendly atmosphere. True insiders know about the “secret season” in October and November, when the crowds thin out, humidity drops and the days are still warm.
Through the holidays, the charming Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach hosts festivals and activities. They’re guaranteed to put the whole family in the Christmas spirit. Besides quiet beaches, kids will love exploring attractions across the island. Check out the Pinball Museum, where you can play machines from the 1950s until the present day. There’s a Maritime Museum filled with nautical history, pirates, and legends of treasure. After a morning indoors, kids will be ready to do a Blackwater Cat Adventure, where families get to drive a boat around the island learning about history and nature.
Daytona Beach, Daytona
Well-known for the race track, Daytona International Speedway, this beach has a lot to offer everyone, not just racing fans. If you are a gear head, there’s the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America to check out. Otherwise, explore 23 miles of pristine beaches found here. More than just sand, this is a beach for thrill-seeking families. Tons of activities will keep you busy all day long.
At the Speedway you can check out the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which lets mom or dad drive a NASCAR Race Car without an instructor, up to 200mph. Find an adrenaline rush for the whole family at the amusement park rides at the newly redone Daytona Beach Pier. There are also old school arcades, restaurants and shopping along the pier. Nearby is a children’s museum, and a museum of art and science with a children’s area and planetarium show worth checking out.
Panama City Beach, Panama City
Nearly 27 miles long, there are 100 public access sites to this beach. With so many miles and access points it's easy to avoid crowds and set up camp for the day with a few hammocks and umbrellas. Both Shell Island and St. Andrews State Park have miles of undeveloped beaches. They’re ideal spots for nature lovers looking for solitude with the family. Find plenty of activity in Panama City, the center of the town is the bustling Pier Park.
It’s a massive shopping center where it’s easy to lose an afternoon window shopping, eating, and strolling. There are also plenty of ways to get onto the water throughout all of Panama City Beach, with places to rent equipment for water sports. After the sun sets, there’s family-friendly attractions open late like a giant maze and puttputt golf. It’s easy to spend the night here. Beach front accommodations are often priced at a steal. Great for families who want to stay waterside without spending a fortune.
Marco Island Beach, Marco Island
Find this beach between the Everglades and Naples. This island is part of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands. They’re just off the southwest coast of Florida. Marco Island is the largest, and only developed island amongst the mangrove islets and oyster bars. Luxury resorts are surrounded by untouched parks and pristine wilderness for primitive camping. Families who recharge and bond in nature will have their pick of activities.
Try out kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and boating here. A daily narrated boat tour highlights the best features of the park. Briggs Nature Center is the location of a half mile boardwalk. It’s the ideal place to observe native Florida wildlife in its natural habitat. Check out Big Cypress National Preserve for bicycle tours, special events, and ranger-led activities. There are also plenty of beaches to chill out and soak up the sun while watching dolphins playing off the shoreline.
Longboat Key Beaches, Longboat Key
Location of several family friendly white-sand beaches. There are 11 access points, offering something for everyone in this idyllic spot that’s ideal for catching sunsets. The north park of Longboat Key is great for birdwatching and strolling in the surf. Further south families will find pavilions for picnics, restaurants and concession stands.
There are water sport rentals, and self-guided water trail tours by both kayak and canoe. A nature trail meanders through areas where visitors may glimpse local wildlife, including manatees, dolphins, and pelicans. Both Holmes and Turtle Beaches feature playgrounds for families with younger kids. The Palma Solo Causeway has a pet-friendly beach for your four-legged family member, and a boat launch and jet-ski rental.
Grayton Beach State Park, Santa Rosa
Great for day trips or RV and rustic camping by the shore. The one-mile beach has a large parking lot, pristine sand and clear waters. Despite the smaller size, it’s consistently ranked among the most beautiful places in the country.
The atmosphere differs from a resort town and their tourist heavy beaches. Beautiful dunes and hiking trails surround the beach. There are fewer crowds and fewer amenities at this Emerald Coast beach. Plus, the park waives the entrance fee during the summer months.
St. Augustine Beaches, St. Augustine
Find these pristine Atlantic Ocean facing beaches on small Anastasia Island. There are nearly 42 miles of beaches, each offering something for everyone. The city of St. Augustine is rich in history and culture, so you can balance lazy days soaking up the sun with activities, sight-seeing, and eating. Foodie families will appreciate how easy it is to eat locally, there are over 300 restaurants in St. Augustine.
Start off at the St. Johns County Ocean Pier for access to the water close to shops and activities. There are more facilities and beach amenities to found by heading south to Mickler’s Landing Beachfront Park. For nature immersion, check out Guana Tolomato Research Reserve, with its 73,000 acres of preserved wetland on the coast. Quieter beaches for relaxing and beach combing include Crescent Beach and Vilano Beach, both considered locals’ best-kept secrets.
St. George Island, Franklin County
One of the last pristine barrier islands, it’s just off North Florida’s Gulf Coast. This island regularly rates amongst the country’s best beaches, even though it’s just 28 miles long there are still wide expanses of uncrowded sand, waiting for families to set up a few hammocks and stay for the day.
The island is safe guarded against resort culture by strict zoning, so families can stay in a rental home, or in a room at one of the two lodges on the island. Considered the Forgotten Coast, there are plenty of ways to stay active on the island in between naps on the sand. Airboats take families through the marsh looking for alligators and other wildlife. It’s easy to rent jet-skis, paddleboards, and kayaks if your family prefers to stay active on vacation. The island provides some of Florida’s best attractions, without the resort crowds.
Getting away from it all to reconnect is easy at the best family beaches in Florida. Your vacation may go no further than setting up hammocks and umbrellas and spending the day in the sand and surf. Or your stay might include exploration of the history, culture, and attractions of beachside towns.
It’s all in pursuit of fun, whatever vacation means to your family. You can spend days relaxing in perfect white sand, or surfing wave breaks. Try out kayaking and paddleboarding, or getting adrenaline rushes on jet-skis and amusement park rides. While there’s no single beach perfect for every family, these seventeen are the best of what Florida offers.
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