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Best Beach Towns in Florida: 7 Unmissable Coastal Hotspots

Key West beach
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America’s southeasternmost state is known for its Latin-American culture, upscale housing developments, a diverse nightlife, and miles of dreamy coastline. With the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, it’s no surprise that you can find some of the country’s best beach towns in Florida and we’re here to explore them.

Florida’s climate is warm and tempered and you’re never too far from the ocean. This makes it the perfect destination for a beach getaway whether it’s the tropical Keys or theme parks of Disney World that you’re after. Beach towns come in all shapes and sizes in Florida with laid-back vibes and endless adventure all on offer. There is a piece of paradise waiting for everyone in the sunshine state and it’s all here in this guide.  

From the Georgia border to South Beach, Florida is so much more than Miami and these coastal hotspots deserve a visit. Let’s get into it.   

Key West

Florida beach town sign
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The most iconic beach town in the Florida Keys, Key West is an island city and the southernmost point in the whole country. Just 90 miles north of Cuba, you can almost see the Latin-American country from the Florida shores. The pastel-hued houses, cruise-ship tourism, and fascinating underwater life have all helped put Key West on the map and the beach city is now a thriving spring break destination and relaxing island hotspot. 

Key West is brimming with heritage, culture, and incredibly unique scenery. World-class restaurants, Queen Anne-style architecture, bustling bars, and eclectic museums line the streets of the historic town center. Check out Duval Street for the best food and nightlife. 

You can drive all the way to Key West via the Overseas Highway, a 113-mile bridge road that connects the Keys to mainland Florida. This scenic trip is worth the long travel time, but you can also fly into the international airport on the island. 

The best time to visit is between March and May when winter crowds have dissipated and hotel rates are more reasonable, but the temperatures still remain in the 70s and 80s during these months. A destination for diving trips, sun-soaking, scooter touring, and beachside strolls, Key West is an undoubted Florida highlight.

Fort Myers

Fort Myers beach
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A gateway to Southwest Florida, Fort Myers is famed for its beaches, fishing, shopping, and as one of the homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. The City of Palms is a commercial hub and desirable place to live, work, and play on Florida’s Gulf Coast, but it is also great if you want to learn about two of the country’s most prolific inventors.

Fort Myers is located on the west coast of Florida’s peninsula with plenty of family-friendly attractions. Life is centered around the sea, so it’s no surprise you’ll find great local restaurants and world-class cuisine making the most of the fresh seafood produce. A tour of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford’s winter estates is a must if you’re visiting the town. Both homes-come-museums are set within botanical gardens and house a collection of inventions and artifacts from both American icons.

Fort Myers has been named the fastest-growing American city and the relaxed atmosphere and reasonable cost of living to draw a diverse crowd of college students, young families, and retirees. Don’t forget to explore Centennial park, smack-bang in the middle of downtown, and all the city’s action. Long, sandy beaches with incredible marine life also fringe Estero Island, which is around a 30-minute drive from downtown Fort Myers.

Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island
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Sanibel is a city located on Sanibel Island in southwest Florida. Known for the sea of colorful shells and conches that wash up on its shores from the Gulf of Mexico, it is a souvenir and nature lovers’ paradise.

Located in the Fort Myers area, Sanibel benefits from spectacular sunsets, bird-watching opportunities, and fascinating marine life. The Lighthouse Beach where you’ll find Point Ybel Lighthouse is one of the top attractions. The towering landmark was built in the 19th-century and the winding boardwalk through the Sanibel marshes offers great ocean views. 

Check out the Causeway Beaches for the best water sports in the area and Periwinkle Way for restaurants, trinket shops, cafés, and galleries. You can even identify any of the shells you’ve collected from the sugary white sands at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in downtown Sanibel. The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge also covers around half of the island and no trip would be complete without touring the trails and observing the wildlife

Islamorada 

Florida beach and palms
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Encompassing six of the Florida Keys, Islamorada, meaning “purple island” in Spanish, is known for its coral reefs, marine life, nature trails, and palm-lined beaches. Islamorada is located just 15 minutes from the local airport but easily accessible by boat or the Seven Mile Bridge. The archipelago is the sport-fishing capital of the globe and one of the best places for exploring America’s underwater worlds. 

Islamorada is also one of the best places to visit if you’re taking a road trip from Miami to Key West. You’ll find culture, art, eateries, and great shopping in the compact downtown and beer lovers shouldn’t miss out on touring the Islamorada Beer Company Brewery for a taste of their ales. 

Be sure to check out the History of Diving Museum too, which houses a 16th-century treasure chest, and the Windley Key Fossil Reef State Park for spectacular quarry views. There’s also the Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park with its own tropical forest and the Indian Key Historic State Park is its own tiny island in the archipelago boasting ruins from the 1800s.

But of course, you can’t miss out on the beaches. Surrounded by the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, the views of the ocean are always mesmerizing. Whether it is a couples retreat, family getaway, or upscale vacation you’re after, Islamorada can provide.

Fernandina Beach

Islamorada
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Located on Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach is a small city on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. First inhabited by the Timucuan Indian People and now one of the principal municipalities of Greater Jacksonville, Fernandina Beach is full of heritage and nature

The expansive Atlantic beaches are an undoubted pull factor to Florida’s northernmost city, but it has a lot more to offer. Restaurants and bars line the colorful and historic town streets. Fernandina Beach was also allegedly once a hiding place for pirate treasure and is home to Florida’s oldest saloon overflowing with ghost stories. 

Red-hued sunsets fall over the island, and warm, relaxed locals help set the tone. The city is quaint, charming, and unassuming, but the annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival injects life into the beach town in May. Don’t miss all the boutique shops, golf courses, and entertainment options if you’re heading this way. 

Key Biscayne 

Florida beach town Miami view
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One of the best, hidden beach towns in Florida, just over the Rickenbacker Causeway from Miami, Key Biscayne is a sandy beach oasis with nature reserves, seafood restaurants, and ocean views aplenty. The area was once dominated by a coconut plantation owned by the Matheson family in the 1940s, but the land has since been donated to create Crandon Park, a protected area for all to enjoy. 

The south side of Key Biscayne is also now home to Bill Baggs Cape State Park where you’ll find the oldest lighthouse in the country built in 1825. Free tours operate at 10 am and 1 pm if you want to learn all about the history of the area and scale the impressive landmark for sweeping views of Key Biscayne. 

Crandon Park beach itself is one of the best in South Florida, boasting two miles of white sands which are far less crowded than nearby Miami Beach. There’s also a 13-mile heritage bike trail through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Nature Center that runs adjacent to Crandon Park. 

Be sure to check out Stiltsville if you’re in the area too. This community was built in the 1930s entirely on wooden stilts in the Biscayne Channel. You’ll also find a fossilized mangrove reef here, one of only two in the world dating back 6,000 years.  

Seaside

Florida post office
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Appropriately named, Seaside is one of the best beach towns in Florida for postcard-perfect settings and true provincial homestays. The small settlement is located in South Walton off Highway 30A. Colorful houses with white picket fences adorn the beachfront and the town is a vision of the American dream – so much so, that Seaside was chosen as the filming location for The Truman Show.

“You never meet a stranger while in Seaside” is a motto that echoes around the town with the warm and welcoming locals and compact center creating a picture of urban living. Spend days browsing the unique boutiques, climbing the lighthouse, strolling along the shore and watching the sun go down over the Gulf Coast. And don’t miss out on the delicious local food that is served up all over town.   

Striking pavilions mark the access points to the sun-bleached sands and you can even find surfers enjoying the gentle waves. Just west of Seaside is Grayton Beach State Park where you’ll find hours of nature trails and a coastal dune lake.   

What is the nicest beach town in Florida?

Florida is packed with fantastic beach towns that all deserve a visit, whether you’re passing through or looking for somewhere to spend a few laidback nights while you’re on your vacation. Our highlights include Key West for bustling energy that’s true to the Florida Keys, Islamodora for culture, arts, and fishing, Fernandina Beach for the sunsets, and Key Biscayne for undisturbed beauty. 

When is the best time to visit Florida?

The best time to visit Florida is between February and May when you can enjoy pleasant weather without the blistering heat of the summer months. November through to January is the coldest time in the sunshine state, but you can still expect highs in the late seventies and lows of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so make the most of out-of-season deals if you’re not after scorching heat. The cities on the Atlantic Coast have the best weather year-round with maritime climates and expansive beaches, but the Florida Keys are alluringly tropical. 

Is Florida safe?

Florida is generally a safe place to live and visit, but it is surprisingly home to some of the country’s most dangerous cities. Violent crime, petty theft, domestic incidents, and high poverty rates in Florida City, Belle Glade, Tampa, Miami, and Orlando have tainted Florida’s safety ratings, not to mention the formidable wildlife that inhabit the mangroves and swamps and the threat of extreme weather. Still, the state is large and diverse. When it comes to the best beach towns in Florida, you’ll find some of the friendliest and safest communities in the country, and safety shouldn’t be a concern.