Find your slice of paradise.

By Evie Carrick
April 29, 2020
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Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

You can splurge on plane tickets to Bermuda or Cancun, but the reality is that you can find some of the world’s most beautiful beaches right here in the U.S. Thanks to Florida’s 8,436 miles of coastline, beaches with soft sand and crystal clear water are just a short flight (or even drive) away.

But with all that shoreline, finding the state’s best beaches requires some research. We’ve curated some of our favorite Florida hot spots, from sprawling family-friendly stretches to tiny islands with intimate beach nooks, so you can make digging your toes into sugar-white sand a reality.

1. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, Key West

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If you’re searching for sunny days and temperate waters, it doesn’t get much warmer than the beaches of Key West, the state’s southernmost point. Here, you can pass your days at Smathers or Higgs Beach, but for calm waters and wide stretches of sand, it’s hard to beat Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Spend the afternoon swimming and snorkeling before taking a break to check out the park’s pre-Civil War fortress. If you can’t sit still, you’ll find nature trails and water-sport rentals (hello, glass-bottom boat!) nearby.

2. Miramar Beach, South Walton

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If you find yourself on the Florida Panhandle, you won’t want to miss a day (or days) spent enjoying Miramar Beach. Pull up a lounge chair and drape your hand into the fine, white sand or join a game of beach volleyball. If you tire of life on the beach, Miramar’s South Walton neighborhood is full of scenic beach roads and antique shopping waiting to be discovered.

3. Cocoa Beach, Brevard County

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Long called the surf capital of the East Coast, Cocoa Beach has produced several big-name surfers, including Kelly Slater, an 11-time world surf champion. But whether or not you’ve got the know-how, you can expect a good time at Cocoa Beach. With a local, laid-back feel and plenty of surf schools, you’ll be up on your board in no time. Not a surfer? Hole up at one of the beach’s chill waterfront bars or watch surfers from the fishing pier.

4. South Beach Park, Vero Beach

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The city of Vero Beach has a little something for everyone hidden on its pristine shores — literally. As part of Florida’s Treasure Coast, the area draws treasure hunters who come to try their luck at finding the riches lost when early 18th-century Spanish ships were sunk in a hurricane. Search along the scenic South Beach Park before joining in on a game of pick-up volleyball. If you need to get out of the sun, hop in the car and drive north to the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.

5. Juno Beach Park, Juno Beach

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If you’re looking to set up for a slow oceanside afternoon, this is the place to go. Grab a bag of picnic supplies and spend the morning swimming and soaking up the sun on Juno’s pristine shores. Then, grab a shady picnic table and dive in. You’ll find the Loggerhead Marinelife Center a 15-minute walk down the beach, and a 10- to 15-minute car ride will take you to the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.

6. Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel Island

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Seashell collectors have long known about this stunning island southwest of Fort Myers. Here, seashells from the Gulf of Mexico wash ashore, attracting collectors from all over the world. Spend the cool mornings curating your perfect stash of shells on Bowman’s Beach before laying down a towel and doing some people-watching under the warm sun.

7. Delray Beach, Palm Beach County

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Delray Beach is the perfect place to alternate between napping, swimming in the ocean, and entertaining people-watching. With a wide sandy sprawl that’s lined with grass and palm trees, you’ll have plenty of space to relax. When you need a break from the sun, window shop on Atlantic Avenue or take in the murals and public art in the Pineapple Grove Arts District.

8. Lummus Park Beach, Miami Beach

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If you’re searching for next-level people-watching, look no further. A truly urban beach, this spot regularly sees toned locals playing volleyball or getting bronzed under the ever-shining sun. And thanks to an ‘80s redesign, you can choose between sitting in the sand or posting up in the park’s shaded grassy area. When you start feeling antsy, walk along the promenade that separates the grass from the beach and keep an eye out for movie stars or film crews.

9. Lowdermilk Park, Naples

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Naples is known for its pearly white sand — a feature you’ll find plenty of at Lowdermilk Park. You can focus your attention on nature — particularly, the beach’s rolling waves and sandy shores — or walk along Millionaire's Row in the Old Naples area and pick out your dream house.

10. Siesta Beach, Siesta Key

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You don’t have to fly to the Caribbean to experience white-sand beaches. On Siesta Key — a short drive from downtown Sarasota — you’ll find yourself looking out over the glittering Gulf of Mexico with a cocktail in hand. Talk about relaxation. Spend the day walking the beach and looking for shells or rent a kayak and venture out into the blue, tranquil waters.

11. South Beach, Miami Beach

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In the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, you’ll find trendy beachgoers, rollerbladers, and a smattering of young, beautiful (and perfectly tanned) locals. Check out the area’s historic Art Deco architecture, walk along the South Pointe Pier, or swing by Joe’s Stone Crab for a meal you won’t soon forget.

12. Clearwater Beach, Clearwater

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With a name that conjures up images of perfectly transparent water lapping up on silky beaches, Clearwater Beach could be a recipe for disaster. But as any Florida beach fanatic knows, this stretch of sand doesn’t disappoint. With it’s truly clear waters and white-sand shores, visitors come from Tampa (and all of Florida) to enjoy the calm Gulf waters or partake in one of the area’s many activities, from parasailing to fishing.