Spring break season is heating up and that means time to spotlight our favorite beaches in the Sunshine State.
Produced by our USA Today Network team living in coastal communities throughout the state, the annual list features gorgeous stretches of powdery white sand from the Panhandle to South Florida, with destinations hugging both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
You’ll find beaches lined with hotels, restaurants and bars as well as ones without hardly a high-rise building in sight. Several of these are among the most popular beaches in the country while others are more personal favorites that aren’t quite as famous but equally fabulous.
Presented in alphabetical order, here are our picks for the 10 best beaches from across Florida.
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Just south of Amelia Island on A1A, you’ll find one of the most dramatic beaches in Florida. You can’t swim there, the parking lot is kind of small and you’ll have to walk for a few minutes to reach the beach access, but be sure to bring your camera. The beach is littered with bleached-out, long-dead trees that have fallen from the eroding shoreline. Think of them as full-tree driftwood. The beach, which borders Nassau Sound in Big Talbot Island State Park, is a favorite of photographers and tree-climbing kids. — Tom Szaroleta, The Florida Times-Union
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Speed, sand and sun are the calling cards of Daytona Beach, the signature destination along Volusia County’s Atlantic coastline. Touted as the “World’s Most Famous Beach,” Daytona beckons sunbathers with its 23 miles of hard-packed, white-sand beaches that can be enjoyed by foot, bike, and even car from sunrise to sunset from Nov. 1 through April 30, and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from May 1 through Oct. 31. There’s also the eateries and game-rooms of the famed Daytona Beach Boardwalk and concerts at the historic oceanfront Daytona Bandshell, within view of the balconies of landmark beachfront restaurants such as Sloppy Joe’s. New additions to the beachside offerings include the newly opened Beaches Entertainment Eatery, only blocks from the main beach entrance on International Speedway Boulevard. — Jim Abbott, The Daytona Beach News-Journal
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Park along A1A and step onto Delray Beach, spanning 1½ miles of South Florida coastline. One of the only downtowns in the U.S. located right on the ocean, Delray Beach offers the best of both worlds — beautiful beaches paired with the sprawling Atlantic Avenue, which boasts a seemingly endless amount of bars, restaurants and shops. The beach itself hosts over 3.2 million visitors every year, but it rarely feels overcrowded. Delray Municipal Beach is very accessible, just a few miles east of Interstate 95 at the east end of Atlantic Avenue. — Staff Report, Palm Beach Post
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Not all beaches are the same, and Naples Beach offers some unique features. Unlike hard-sand beaches in other parts of Florida, Naples Beach is soft and the narrowness of it creates a secluded spot to view the Gulf and Naples Pier while enjoying fun in the sun. Afterward, head to Old Naples Pub, 255 13th Ave. S., not far from the Pier and tucked away off Third Street South. The fish is fresh, and so are the jar of pickles on each table, and you’ll enjoy anything you order. — Dave Osborn, Naples Daily News/Fort Myers News-Press
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A slice of paradise in the Panhandle, Pensacola Beach is world renowned for its sugar-white sand and emerald green waters, placing No. 11 this year on Tripadvisor’s list of Top 25 beaches in the U.S. It’s home to the historic Fort Pickens military fort and campground and the newly revamped Laguna’s Adventure Park activity venue. Fresh seafood caught straight from the Gulf of Mexico highlights the menus of the sports bars, fine dining restaurants and everything in between. Plus, the beach is rich with nightlife, as some of Northwest Florida’s most popular bars — like Shaggy’s and Bamboo Willie’s — line Via De Luna Drive and Pensacola Beach Boulevard. — Staff Report, Pensacola News Journal
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There’s something about being out there in the water on an island, beyond the mainland, that makes Sanibel Beach a top spot. Besides shelling (annually ranked among best spots in the U.S.), the beach’s Gulf breezes make you feel more like you’re truly away from it all. And after the beach, stop by one of the tasty Sanibel restaurants such as 400 Rabbits or Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille. — Dave Osborn, Naples Daily News/Fort Myers News-Press
Sebastian Inlet State Park
This undeveloped state park with a manmade cut connects Florida’s Space Coast to its Treasure Coast, as well as the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian River Lagoon. It stretches more than three miles of barrier island and spans 1,000 acres. Surfers travel from across the world to catch waves at places dubbed “First Peak” or “Monster Hole,” and fishermen cast lines from two jetties that extend into the ocean. The park also is great for beachcombing, swimming and snorkeling, especially at the protected Cove area on the north side of the inlet. It includes camping, two museums and a restaurant. — Laurie K. Blandford, TCPalm/Treasure Coast
Named the best beach in the U.S. twice by Stephen “Dr. Beach” Leatherman and leading Tripadvisor’s list in 2020 while placing No. 2 this year, Siesta Beach’s fame comes from its powdery sand made almost exclusively of pure quartz, which remains cool on your feet even on a scorching summer afternoon. Located on the north end of Siesta Key in Sarasota County, it’s regularly seen on the MTV reality show “Siesta Key” along with nearby bar the Crescent Club, established in 1949. Located even closer, less than a mile away from the main Siesta Beach parking lot, visitors will find Siesta Key Village, a vibrant mix of restaurants, bars and shops including the Beach Club, which opened in 1947 and has also been seen on the MTV show. — Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
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You know you’ve arrived at Miami’s popular South Beach — nicknamed SoBe — when you hear music blaring from every direction and see colorful, art-deco lifeguard stands. An always-bustling atmosphere paired with white sand beaches has secured its reputation as one of Florida’s most popular spring break and vacation destinations. If you’re hungry, South Beach offers an interesting mix of casual beach fare to fine dining. South Beach comes alive in the evening at an array of impossibly trendy bars, clubs, hotels, sidewalk cafes and restaurants located along the iconic Ocean Drive. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a celebrity. — Staff Report
St. Pete Beach
The big winner on Tripadvisor’s annual Travelers’ Choice Awards for beaches in 2021 and ranking No. 22 in the U.S. this year, St. Pete Beach in the Pinellas County part of the Tampa Bay region has been rightfully lauded as “a great walking beach with white quartz sand, clear calm water, and seashells by the truckload. The most perfect place to watch the sun set over the ocean.” Home to the Don Cesar, aka The Legendary Pink Palace, built in 1928, St. Pete Beach places visitors within steps of numerous resorts, restaurants and beach bars such as Jimmy B’s at The Beachcomber, which is also among our favorites in Florida. Considering visiting the area? Pinellas County landed a total of three on Tripadvisor’s latest list of 25 best beaches with Treasure Island, which is just a few miles from St. Pete Beach, at No. 19, and Clearwater Beach, about 20 miles to the north, at No. 24. — Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
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Wade Tatangelo is the Herald-Tribune’s dining and entertainment editor overseeing the weekly Ticket publication. He’s also author of the Best Things to Eat and Top Things to Do columns and co-leader of USA Today Network’s Uniquely Florida team creating statewide content. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. He may also be reached by email at [email protected] Support local journalism by subscribing.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: 10 best beaches in Florida: Miami, Tampa Bay, Sarasota, Daytona Beach