A list of Gulf Beaches in Florida
There is nothing quite like the beauty of the gulf beaches of Florida. The pristine white sand stretches for miles. You’ll find some of the best beaches in the world on Florida’s gulf coast, and they offer many activities and adventures during your Florida vacation.
From swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking to gathering seashells and soaking up the sun, there is something for everyone along the Gulf Coast of Florida!
Before we get the list of the best gulf beaches in Florida, let’s talk about how you will get around during your vacation. First, unless you drive yourself, you’ll need a rental car! If you decide to rent a car during your Florida vacation, I recommend renting a car from Discount USA Car Rental.
Discount USA Car Rental offers the lowest rates through all the major companies, and you don’t pay anything you pick up your car.
What is the Best Beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida?
Honestly, I love so many of the beaches on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I can’t really name the best beach on the Gulf Coast. What I can say is that you will need to visit a few to determine which one is your favorite.
The gulf beach you love the most may offer the best swimming options. Or you may be looking for a beach close to your accommodations or the best restaurant in the area.
There are so many different things that make a beach on the Gulf Coast in Florida the best. The good news is there are quite a few beaches on the Gulf Coast to choose from!
You may even decide to drive to the Gulf Coast from the Atlantic Coast or Central Florida during your vacation. Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale Beach, St. Augustine Beach, Amelia Island, Palm Beach, Delray Beach, and Crescent Beach are all wonderful. Still, the gulf coast beaches offer slightly warmer water, especially at certain times of the year!
Plus, it is usually just a short drive from the east coast to the west coast in this state. Check out The 25 Best East Florida Beaches for more.
I can’t possibly share all the gulf beaches in Florida with you today. But I will be sharing the top gulf beaches in the sunshine state. This will give you an idea of which white sand beaches you want to visit during your Florida vacation.
Gulf Beaches in Florida
Here is a list of the best gulf beaches in Florida, primarily listed by location from north to south. Orange Beach is another honorable mention because it has many similarities to the beaches listed below. However, it’s actually in Alabama, so I did not include it on the official list of gulf beaches in Florida.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore surrounds Pensacola Beach. Part of this sandy beach is also located on Santa Rosa Island. This is a barrier island in the Gulf.
This is one of the most popular beaches in Florida for surfing, swimming, and kayaking. The views from the Pensacola Fishing Pier, as well as the Observation Post, are incredible.
Navarre Beach is one of the northernmost beaches on the Gulf Coast of Florida. There are miles of shoreline to walk along at this public beach.
The longest fishing pier in the Gulf can be found at this Florida beach. It is 1,545 feet long. This is our favorite beach in northern Florida and somewhat of a “hidden gem,” although it seems to get busier every year.
Check out The 20 best things to do in Navarre with kids if you plan to visit the Navarre Beach area.
Fort Walton Beach
One of the best gulf beaches in Florida is Fort Walton Beach. This beach is on the Emerald Coast. There are 24 miles of shoreline along the sparkling gulf water.
This is one of the white-sand beaches is a great place for family-friendly activities. When you tire of the sand and water, head to the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park.
The local restaurants offer lots of delicious seafood on their menus.
Destin Beach can be found near Pensacola Beach on Florida’s Emerald Coast. However, it is usually busier than Pensacola Beach. And it is definitely considered to be touristy since it is a beach resort area.
It is one of the best surfing beaches in the gulf. So, if the family wants to surf in turquoise waters, it should still be on your list.
If you’re planning a Destin vacation, we’ve got lots of helpful info for you!
- A Guide to Crab Island in Destin, Florida
- The best restaurants in Destin
- 32 things to do in Destin Florida
Henderson Beach State Park
This state park is in Destin, Florida. The beach may be the highlight of this park. And honestly, who could resist the calm waters and white sand?
While you could spend hours on this sand beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast, there are other things to do here.
Start by walking along the nature trails in the nearby nature preserve. Grab a few selfies with the 30-foot sand dunes. Enjoy lunch at the picnic tables. Simply embrace the beauty of this area on the gulf shores.
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach is one of the best gulf coast beaches, especially for spring break. You can access this popular spot from nearly 100 entry points.
Spend the day playing beach volleyball on the volleyball courts. Go swimming in the Gulf. Or watch the kids have fun while you read a book.
St. George Island
There are many beaches between Panama City and Tampa, but most of them are pretty isolated, and most people never see them! However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t some of the best gulf beaches in Florida.
St. George Island is a barrier island that is 28 miles long. It is an excellent place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.
Nature lovers will enjoy outdoor activities. You can choose from paddleboarding, cycling, and kayaking.
Of course, you can also sit on the soft white sands and relax for the day. But, of course, the kids can always spend the day in the water!
Honeymoon Island State Park Beaches
There are three popular beaches inside Honeymoon Island State Park. Those beaches are North Beach, Main Beach, and Dog Beach. They are the only beaches where swimming is recommended on the island.
Oh, and yes, Dog Beach is for dogs. This is a great place to visit if you want to bring your furry family members. Would you like us to make a blog post about more dog-friendly things to do in Florida? If so, let me know in the comments!
The downside to visiting these beaches is there is a fee to enter the park. The good thing is there is so much more to do in the park than spend time on the sand.
This beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast is close to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. You can easily visit both in a single day when you are on vacation in Tampa Bay. If we are anywhere close to Tampa, we’ll be heading to Clearwater Beach at least once!
Clearwater Beach can get crowded as the day goes on. I recommend arriving early and choosing a spot near South Beach or Pier 60.
There are plenty of amenities at this beach. This makes it perfect for families. Plus, they offer sunset cinemas a couple of times each month. Once you’ve spent time at the beach, check out 30 Things to do in Clearwater with Kids for more ideas.
Clearwater Beach is considered one of the best beaches in the United States. In addition, it often makes “top beaches in the world” lists along with Siesta Key Beach, which I’ll mention below.
St. Pete Beach
One of the best Florida beaches is St. Pete Beach. The sugar-white sands will feel wonderful under your feet. This is an excellent beach for those days when the family wants to participate in water sports.
The best things to do at this beach include kayaking, riding in a speed boat, and parasailing. Windsurfing is popular here too.
The Don Ceaser pink hotel is near this Gulf Coast beach. If you’re flying out of St. Pete airport, this is a great place to spend time before your flight.
I also recommend checking out the nearby Seaside Seabird Sanctuary if your family loves birds. The sanctuary is located on Indian Shores Beach, which is another incredible gulf coast beach.
Anna Maria Beach
Anna Maria Beach is located on the northern side of Anna Maria Island. This tranquil beach goes all the way around the tip of the island.
The beach’s natural beauty ensures perfect views at sunrise or sunset.
Bradenton Beach is another beach on Anna Maria Island. This beach is known for its white sand, crystal-clear water, and nearby family-owned businesses.
Siesta Key Beach
Many of the best Florida Gulf Coast beaches can be found on barrier islands. Siesta Key Beach is one of those beaches on the island of Siesta Key.
This beach has volleyball courts, tennis courts, and a shaded playground. Add in the picnic areas, and it is simple to have a great time there.
This is an old photo (obviously) but it is one of my favorites! The best part about this beach is the shallow water. Little ones can easily swim in that water near the shore.
And don’t worry. The water does get deeper for all those water sports you want to do! Siesta Key beach is consistently listed as one of the best beaches in Florida and even in the world!
One of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast is Venice Beach. This is the perfect beach for water sports.
The most popular thing to do on Venice Beach is walk up and down the shoreline. As you walk, look for the sharks’ teeth that regularly wash up on the sand.
When you finish finding the shark teeth, head into the historic downtown. Boutiques and restaurants will be waiting for you at the end of a long day in this downtown area.
Make sure to check out the 26 Best Places to Eat in Venice Florida after a long day of shelling!
Boca Grande Beach
Boca Grande Beach is one of our favorites because we used to live nearby! Boca Grande Pass is located in Lee County, on Gasparilla Island, and is part of a state park. It’s also one of the best place to find sharks teeth in Florida.
Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers isn’t just a beach town; spending time on the beach is a must. The warm waters of the Gulf will lure you in as soon as you arrive. We have a brand new blog post with 30 things to do in Fort Myers, FL, so check it out!
You can wander around Times Square to eat and find a few souvenirs when you are not swimming. You may decide to go on a parasailing adventure. Those allow you to see the beach from a different perspective.
If your family loves nature, head to the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium. You can see all types of wildlife there. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, owls, and hawks.
There is a parking lot near Times Square at Fort Myers Beach. Unfortunately, it fills up quickly, so arrive early if you want to claim a spot.
Sanibel Island and Captiva Island Beaches
The beaches of Sanibel Island and Captiva Island go hand in hand. These islands are both great places to swim in the Gulf of Mexico.
You won’t find the crowds at these gulf coast beaches, especially since there are a few beaches on each island.
Bowman’s Beach and Captiva Beach are the two beaches I recommend starting at when visiting these islands.
Check out The best things to do in Sanibel and Captiva for more things to do beyond the beach. Remember that the area is still recovering from the hurricane in 2022, so some activities may be temporarily unavailable. If you do choose to visit, be kind and leave everything better than you found it!
Marco Island Beaches
There are three beaches on this barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. Tigertail Beach, South Beach, and Sand Dollar Island are considered to be the best beaches in the world.
Tigertail Beach is the best beach for paddleboarding and kayaking. All three beaches are perfect for searching for seashells, especially if you are looking for a rare Junonia shell.
We also have a post about The 20 Best Shelling Beaches in Florida.
There is a barrier island between Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. That island is Little Hickory Island, and it is where Bonita Beach can be found.
The beach community on this island is welcoming. You can access the beach from multiple spots. This is perfect for when you are more than ready for a swim in the emerald waters.
Naples Beach is one of the best places to see dolphins from the shoreline. This beach is also one of the best for watching the sunset.
Although, I recommend heading out onto the 1,000-foot-long pier to watch the setting sun. You can fish from the pier too.
This is a bonus because it’s not really one of the gulf beaches in Florida, but I had to add it to the list anyway.
This is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Florida Keys. If you decide to vacation in South Florida, you will be thrilled with the miles of beaches you can choose from.
Smathers Beach is a great spot for snorkeling. If you time your visit right, you may even spot a few sea turtles. In addition, manatees, stingrays, and tarpons can often be seen in the water here.
This is also a perfect place for parasailing, kayaking, and playing beach volleyball. Unfortunately, the waves aren’t that big, so surfing isn’t a possibility.
It is important to note that this beach, and other beaches in the Florida Keys, are in the Florida Straits. That body of water is actually in between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Yet, they are close enough to the Gulf that I decided to add this beach to the list!
Gulf Beaches in Florida
Here are some of the best gulf beaches in Florida. Did I miss your favorite? If so, let me know in the comments. This is certainly not an all-inclusive list of all of the gulf beaches in Florida, but it does cover some of the most popular, along with a few hidden gems.
More of the best things to do on the gulf coast of Florida.
If you enjoyed this list of the gulf beaches of Florida, you might also enjoy some of our other content with things to do on the gulf coast of Florida.
- The 20 best beaches in Tampa
- How to visit Dry Tortugas National Park
- 30 Things to Do in Miami for Kids
- The 10 best places to see sea turtles in Florida
- The best Cape Coral Florida Beaches
- The Ultimate List of Florida Lighthouses
- The best strawberry farms in Florida
- SpringHill Suites by Marriott Navarre Beach Review
- 16 things to do in Crystal River with kids
We also have plenty of posts about Orlando, theme parks, Key West, etc. If it’s about Florida, you can find it here! If you have any special requests for blog posts, let us know in the comments.
About Florida Travel With Kids
Florida Travel with Kids was started by a family who loves to travel the state of Florida with kids! This site will help you explore the fun state of Florida and all of the kid-friendly activities you’ll find here.
Make sure to sign up for our weekly email, where you’ll get first access to new blog posts, tips and tricks, and all the best Florida news in one place.
Did you enjoy this post? I would love it if you pinned it for later! Or, make sure to share it with your friends on social media if they are looking for things to do in Florida with kids.