Tips + Trends

Trade Snow for Sun and Sand on the Best Florida Beaches

Seek shells on the shores of Sanibel Island (now say that three times, fast!). (Photo: Alamy)

Whether you want a secluded cove for a romantic interlude, seashell-friendly shorelines or the best places to hang ten, let this be your guide to the best beaches in Florida. Visit the Sunshine State for an abundance of ocean waves and white sand, no matter what time of year you go.

Good Ol’ Family Fun

No question about it, families flock to Florida’s theme parks. But for something more low-key, visit Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island.

There’s an old-time seaside holiday feel to its tranquil setting and warm gulf waters, perfect for first-time splashers. Aside from swimming and sand-castle building, there’s a playground, and you can cast a few lines off the charming footbridge.

In addition, this is the place to start a family shell collection. Just be sure nobody’s home before you carry one off.

The Details: When tummies rumble, visit the nearby Bubble Room. Great food combined with toy trains and vintage playthings keep kids entertained

For the Well-Rounded Spring Breaker

Cocoa Beach in Orlando

Spring break and Florida beaches go together like Frankie and Annette. But if you’re looking for the best place to blow off classroom steam, spread your beach blanket bingo on Cocoa Beach in Orlando.

Six miles of sparkling coastline include expansive sandy stretches perfect for Frisbee tossing and volleyball games. When it comes to in-the-water fun, there’s parasailing and kitesurfing.

Cocoa Beach is also one of the best beaches in Florida for surfing. Pick up your gear at the Ron Jon Surf Shop; it’s open 24/7.

The Details: When it’s time to eat, Coconuts on the Beach serves drinks and beach fare on a huge outdoor tiki deck. They have live music, and two, count ’em two, Happy Hours: one from 4 to 7 p.m. and another from 11 p.m. – close.

Paradise for Pups

dog park near St. Petersburg.

If you want beach time with your best buddy, who just happens to have four legs, visit 3-acre Paw Playground in Fort De Soto Park near St. Petersburg. The playground includes a beautiful beach, so your pooch can run, bark and splash in the clear Gulf of Mexico waters. There are separate playground sections for large and small dogs, and even cooling stations with dog-level drinking fountains.

The Details: When you get hungry, head to Skidders; they have a bar, an extensive menu selection and dog-friendly outdoor seating.

For Amour

For romance, you can’t beat the secluded beach at Lover’s Key State Park. Stroll together along miles of pristine shoreline, snorkel among schools of brightly colored fish, and witness the playful antics of bottlenose dolphins. In addition to water sports equipment, the park’s concession stand rents out beach chairs and umbrellas, so you and your honey can create quite the cozy nest in the sand.

The Details: Enjoy a sundowner at nearby Flippers on the Bay. Order their signature Key Lime Coolada (the glass is rimmed with crushed graham crackers), and take in vivid sunset views.