From boardwalks and commercialized areas to miles of remote mangrove mazes, it's true that not all beaches in Florida are the same. With almost the entire state surrounded by coastline, how do you find the best? Look no further, I've rounded up a list of the 10 best beaches in Florida to visit before you die. The interactive map can be found at the bottom of the page.
Oh - and one more thing before you head out on your beach endeavors, be sure to go prepared. Here's my suggested list of beach essentials you won't want to forget!
1. Clearwater Beach
Listed in the top ten beaches around the world, Clearwater is one of America's most popular seaside vacation destinations. Although you can find all kinds of beach within this town, there are definitely some clear favorites for visitors and residents alike. An ideal destination for families with small children (there's even a play area), it's also popular with seniors due to its usually-calm swimming conditions.
Clearwater Beach has seen major growth over the past couple of years, including hotels, bars and restaurants. It's also home to Pier 60, which makes for a great location to spend an afternoon. Clearwater Beach is also one of the only beaches in Florida that "never closes" which means you can swim there at night - though, not sure you'd want to.
2. Siesta Key
Siesta Beach in Sarasota has been ranked as one of the top 10 beaches in America, and for good reason! Noted for its powdery-white sand and crystal clear water, this picturesque beach will surely be a vacation you won't forget. While it's definitely a popular spot from spring through fall, it remains relatively quiet during winter months when most visitors have headed back north to escape the cold weather.
Though known for its pristine environment, Siesta Beach is far from devoid of amenities. If you want to grab food or drinks, there are many options located both on the beach and across the island.
3. Venice Beach
With its unique and tropical Hawaiian-shoreline vibe, Venice's beaches are quite unlike anywhere else in Florida. This stretch of Gulf coastline is filled with shops, bars and restaurants – many of which are locally owned – and hosts a variety of events throughout the year.
Venice Beach's main attraction is the boardwalk that runs alongside it. Here you'll find shops selling souvenirs, handmade crafts and other interesting finds. Be sure to rent a sand sifter because Venice (and the surrounding beaches) are some of the best in the state to findprehistoric shark teeth at!
4. Fort De Soto
It goes without saying that everyone has their own ideas about what makes a perfect beach experience. Some people prefer action, while others like it to be more casual. Some people want lots of amenities, while some are content with just enjoying the sun and sand. Fort De Soto Park has something for everyone!
Named one of the top five beaches in America, this unique park provides visitors with a variety of different activities depending on what they're looking for. If you're into history or archeology, be sure to visit the various historical sites located on land. If you'd rather enjoy an activity that's connected to water, there are kayaking and paddleboat rentals, as well as fishing charters available! Regardless of your preference, you can't go wrong at the dog-friendly Fort De Soto Park.
5. Boca Grande
Boca Grande has long been a refuge for those looking to escape the stresses of modern life. It's no wonder – this quaint town offers visitors an up close and personal look at nature and wildlife, all while catering to your every need. My favorite part about this beach isn't the blue water - it's the massive intact seashells that litter the shoreline.
Situated on Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande is only about three miles wide and five miles long, it's the definition of small-town America! Visitors enjoy spending time walking along the beaches as well as exploring local shops and restaurants, including a cafe which overlooks the Gulf of Mexico.
6. Navarre Beach
Navarre Beach is mostly known for white sand beaches decorated with emerald green water, but did you know that it's also home to the largest concentration of shorebirds in Florida? If you're looking for some good ol' family fun, be sure to stop by Navarre Beach Marine Park where you can snorkel with sea turtles and sharks.
7. Blowing Rocks Preserve
Blowing Rocks Preserve is one of the most unique natural attractions in Florida. This state park is located in Jupiter, about 30 miles north of Palm Beach . From November to May, visitors have the chance to watch large waves crash into rocks near shore creating a fascinating spectacle that scientists call "blowhole."
The preserve itself has several trails leading through different ecosystems that are home to hundreds of plant and animal species including gopher tortoises, sea turtles and snakes. There's also plenty of picnic areas available for those looking to enjoy their lunch surrounded by nature!
8. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
This state park is located on Key Largo , which is known as "the spear fishing capital of the world."
Visitors can enjoy diving and snorkeling in some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the entire country, as well as exploring offshore shipwrecks. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one of only three underwater parks in the United States, which means you'll have a chance to see an abundance of marine life! There are several different tours offered at this park including glass bottom boat tours.
9. Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island is home to beautiful beaches surrounded by pink-hughed sand dunes thanks to tiny bits of crushed red eroded shells. If you're looking for a family adventure, you'll find several different activities at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge which include birding and shelling.
One of the best ways to explore this island is by bicycle. There are over 16 miles of trails that provide some truly incredible views of the surrounding area including spectacular sunsets!
10. St Andrews State Park, Panama City Beach
While it may not be one of the most popular vacation spots on this list, St. Andrews State Park gives visitors an up close look at wildlife without having to go very far. It's just east of Panama City Beach on St. Andrews Bay between St. Andrews and Dog Island, both part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
St. Andrew's State Park is known for its incredible bird life including snowy white egrets, brown pelicans and roseate spoonbills. You'll also find several trails that take you through different ecosystems like salt marshes and mangroves.