9 Florida Beach Getaways That are Better Than Miami

It’s no secret that Florida is one of the nation’s favorite beach vacation destinations, but where should you go beyond the ritzy and well-publicized beach life in Miami? If you’re looking for a beach with soft sand, some new fishing spots and maybe some fun activities to enjoy when you aren’t in your bathing suit, look no further than these nine Florida beaches: 

Stork perched on rocks [Sanibel Island, Florida]

Sanibel Island | Often cited as one of the top 10 beaches in the world, Sanibel Island is a leisurely and unpretentious beach destination perfect for families. The northern half of the island is protected from development by the J.N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge and Bird Sanctuary and you’ll find residents tooling around on bicycles, often instead of cars. 

Sanibel Island’s sea shell beaches are one of its most famous attractions. Join in the hunt for shells of all shapes, sizes and colors. If the lure of gentle ocean water and a good book isn’t enough to keep you entertained for the long-term, you can watch pelicans smash open their dinners, play tennis, get in a round of golf, or go for a hike through the wildlife sanctuary. 

Clearwater Beach [Florida]

Clearwater Beach | Gulf Coast warmth, sugar white sands and welcoming Southern hospitality will keep you returning to Clearwater Beach again and again. Start out your day on the beach with a stand-up paddle board lesson, best enjoyed while the ocean is still calm. Sea-kayakers and other adventurers will find boat rentals easy to come by. 

You might also enjoy one of Clearwater Beach’s deep-sea fishing charters or maybe a dolphin sight-seeing tour. Be sure to take the ferry over to Caladesi Island where the pristine beach is accessible only by boat.

Seashells at sunset on Siesta Key [Sarasota, Florida]

Siesta Key | Beach-goers flock from nearby Sarasota to the family-friendly Siesta Key where the quartz sand has been blasted to a fine, sugary powder by a millennia of waves. You can parasail up and down the beach, rent a jet ski and blast towards freedom, or take out a kayak for a quiet paddle. Visit the beach at sunset for a quiet rest in a hammock, or a stroll up and down the white sands. With pink and purple light, the sinking orb of the sun and the dramatic Florida clouds, there’s hardly a more romantic sight. 

INSIDER TIP: Because of its beauty and its reputation among families for being the best beach in Florida, Siesta Key can get a bit crowded. Seek solace on Turtle Beach just up the road. Sea Turtles nest in the rough gray sand here from May to October, so you’ll want to be careful to avoid disturbing them.  

Fort Lauderdale Beach Promenade [Fort Lauderdale, Florida]

Serenethos | Shutterstock
Fort Lauderdale | For a South Florida beach experience stripped of most of its pretention, vacationers in the know head to Fort Lauderdale. While you’re visiting the city, you’ll probably spend much of your time near the beach. Pleasure yachts from all over the world dock here and fine dining options have followed them. 

Spend your days lounging on the beach and then get dressed up for cocktails and nights spent enjoying Florida seafood. If you want the beer, tequila and frat-house vibe of spring break, you may run into that here to, but with each passing year it’s becoming harder and harder to find. If you can’t get enough of the warm water, hop on the nearest cruise ship. Fort Lauderdale is one of the biggest cruise ports in the world.

Sunset cruise [Destin, Florida]

Destin | Destin is deep-sea fishing country and calls itself “the luckiest town in the world” due to the sheer volume of catches anglers can make here. If you take out a deep-sea charter, chances are you’ll be coming back with more than just fish.

Bring your camera for pictures of frolicking dolphins, unforgettable warm weather and maybe some shots of fish swimming in the clear water. Back on shore, you should be sure to visit the Destin Harbor Boardwalk where you’ll find restaurants, sport rentals and lovely palm-fringed sunsets. 

Front Beach Road [Panama City Beach, Florida]

Panama City Beach | Panama City Beach goes nuts for spring break, so plan your visit around the annual influx of hard partiers. This town has cheap hotels, plenty of beachy arcade entertainment and the cool beaches you’ve heard about. Swimming fishing and diving are a lot of fun here and artificial and natural reefs make looking for fish and sea-life fun. For a peaceful detour, try visiting St. Andrews State Park. You may spot gators, foxes, snakes and sea-birds and the scene is a bit more relaxed. 

Pensacola Beach [Florida]

Pensacola Beach | Pensacola Beach stretches out grandly along Santa Rosa Island two bridges away from Pensacola proper. This magnificent beach has white, wave-blasted sand and the enormously long Pensacola Beach Pier. 

With the festive Portofino Boardwalk lining the beach, you’ll find plenty of open-air restaurants, shops, bars and sport rentals. Stick around for the free outdoor concerts that happen four nights a week during the summer. Nearby Gulf Islands National Seashore is a great place for snorkeling, biking and long kayak rides.  

Boardwalk to beach [St. Pete, Florida]

St. Pete’s Beach | Waving green palms, white sands and deep blue waters are pretty much all you need for a fantastic vacation in the sun and sand at St. Pete’s Beach. This beach community averages 361 days of sunshine per year and has the longest undeveloped stretch of public beach in Pinellas County. Get your exercise in with long walks on the beach. Explore the area with day trips to nearby Fort de Soto Park and don’t forget to swim in the pristine ocean waters. 

Summertime [Lido Beach, Florida]

Lido Beach | Another beach gem found just off the coast of Sarasota, Lido Key is a hotspot for sunset cruises, dolphin watching, sailing and deep-sea fishing. If you are looking for the perfect place to enjoy an upscale vacation with sun, sand and eco-tourism at the fore, Lido Beach is a great place to base your vacation. Upscale, St. Armands Circle has chic boutiques, fine dining and interesting shops. 

Want a quiet Florida beach getaway? Discover 7 Tiny Florida Beaches No One Knows About


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Carmen Fifield

The delight of finding an unknown park, a captivating history museum or a fantastic desert means exploration is never far from Carmen Fifield’s mind. Carmen’s favorite travel memories include biking to historic sites on the island of Guernsey, huffing and puffing up the stairs to the Great Wall of China and eating the most delicious crab cake ever in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Carmen’s Favorite Travel Tip: Say goodbye to airplane food and tuck some fruit and your favorite sandwich into your carry-on.