May 30, 2024

Olympia Travel Tips

Maniac Travel Update

15 Best Family Beaches in Florida

15 Best Family Beaches in Florida

With so many great beaches in Florida, it can be hard to pick the perfect spot for your family vacation. Do you want to be able to walk to attractions like piers, parks, and restaurants with your family after you’ve stashed away the beach toys for the day? Or do you prefer a more secluded sandy escape where the focus is on white sand, waves, and a sublime beachfront hotel? 

There’s no reason why you can’t tick all those boxes and more. Florida’s more than 800 miles of coastline overloads you with sun-splashed options, from the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico shorelines all the way south into the Florida Keys. Read on for 15 of the best family beaches in Florida.

Related: The 15 Best Resorts in Florida


Vero Beach

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The Florida Treasure Coast town of Vero Beach is ideal for a family vacation where you can stay at an oceanfront hotel, park the car for the week, and use bikes or your own two feet to get around. Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa sits steps from the sand and wraps perks like beach cruiser bikes, stand-up paddle boards, and sea kayaks into the resort fee. Step out of the front lobby and you can be at oceanfront restaurants like Waldo’s Restaurant, Mulligan’s Beach House, and The Lemon Tree in a minute or two. This stretch of Florida is called the Treasure Coast because of Spanish galleons that spilled their loot here during a hurricane in 1715. For something extra fun with the kids, rent a metal detector from Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum and head down to the sand to look for bonafide pirate booty.



Panama City Beach

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Sunset dolphin cruises in the Gulf of Mexico, tours to undeveloped Shell Island just offshore, and 27 miles of glorious white-sand beaches make Panama City Beach a perennial Florida favorite. Families with young kids appreciate that the waters are usually as calm as a lake, ideal for splashing in the shallows. St. Andrews State Park’s undeveloped stretch of sand is idyllic for playing castaway. And for a more entertainment-oriented scene, check out the stores, restaurants, and IMAX movie theater at Pier Park.



Longboat Key

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Just west of downtown Sarasota on Florida’s gorgeous Gulf Coast, Longboat Key is a primarily residential beach community home to some of the most beautiful and calm beaches in the state.  Families love checking into condominium-style properties like Sand Cay Beach Resort that make it easy to settle in and stay a while with full kitchens and gulf-front barbecue areas.  For a break from the beach, take the family on an outing to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium to spot manatees and sea turtles. 



Cocoa Beach

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Rocket launches at nearby Cape Canaveral, sea turtle walks to see nesting mothers during the summer months at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and surf lessons on the same beaches where world champion Kelly Slater grew up are just a few reasons to plan a family beach vacation to Cocoa Beach. The kids will love to meet the talking African parrot at Beach Place Guesthouses, where oceanfront apartment-style accommodations await along one of Florida’s most beautiful stretches of beachfront.



Amelia Island

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Active families find lots to love during a Florida beach vacation to one of the northernmost coastal communities in the state. Just north of Jacksonville, Amelia Island has 23 miles of dedicated cycling lanes to explore, and renting a bike is a great way to hit the remote beaches of Fort Clinch State Park and cute downtown Fernandina Beach, lined with restaurants and boutiques. Accommodations span the spectrum, from the luxe oceanfront Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island (the area’s grand dame hotel) to SpringHill Suites Amelia Island, in a great location right across from the state park.



Clam Pass Park

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Naples is known for its beautiful beaches. But families, in particular, gravitate to the picturesque and calm sands at Clam Pass Park, which you can reach via a complimentary golf cart tram ride (or stroll) along a shaded boardwalk from the parking lot. Down on the beach, hire kayaks or canoes to explore a watery trail through the mangroves, or just rent an umbrella and chairs to set up camp for the day on the sand.



Key Biscayne

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The Miami Beach fray can feel a bit frantic for some families. If you’re looking for mellower beaches and activities within easy striking distance of downtown Miami and Brickell (but a world apart), Key Biscayne, just across the causeway, is the spot. Among the great family beaches here is the long, undeveloped stretch at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, where can you traipse the 95 steps up to the top of a historic lighthouse that dates to 1825. The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami fronts a lovely beach and has an onsite Ritz Kids club. It’s worth venturing offshore into Biscayne National Park, too, for snorkeling excursions and family-friendly boat trips into Biscayne Bay. 



St. Pete Beach

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City and beach come together in the best way possible in the Tampa Bay area when you plan a beach vacation to St. Pete. Stay right on the Gulf of Mexico at The Don CeSar, where you can take advantage of the hotel’s free bikes and two gulf-front pools when you’re not building castles in the powdery white sand. Towel off to explore nearby downtown St. Pete, too, where the St. Pete Pier beckons with a bay beach, marine-themed playground, and a rooftop tiki bar restaurant with beautiful views of downtown.



Naples

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One of Florida’s most storied and upscale gulf towns, Naples happens to be a wonderful family beach destination, thanks to its walkability along posh Fifth Avenue, pretty urban parks to explore, nearby access to Everglades National Park, and sublime beaches. LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort fronts Naples’ prettiest beach and has appealing family amenities that include in-room glamping set-ups where kids can sleep in adorable canvas tents, pools overlooking the beach, and sandcastle-building toys for playtime. Nearby activities in town include the Naples Train Museum, historic Naples Pier, and Naples Zoo.



New Smyrna Beach

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Old-school Florida vibes await at this East Coast beach town a little over an hour’s drive northeast of Orlando’s theme park attractions. Easily one of the best beaches near Orlando, New Smyrna Beach caters to families with a pleasant small-town vibe and long, wide beaches that are easy to pedal a beach cruiser along thanks to the packed sand. There are plenty of hotels, condos, and vacation rentals along the beach itself. But for something different, plan a family stay along the river at Black Dolphin Inn, a charming bed-and-breakfast tucked into an oak-lined neighborhood along the Indian River.  Off-the-beach family activities include airboat tours along the St. Johns River and eco-tours from the Marine Discovery Center to spot manatees and dolphins.



St. Augustine Beach

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For a family destination with history down every street and fabulous beaches to boot, St. Augustine Beach ticks all the boxes. Founded in 1565,  downtown St. Augustine itself is America’s oldest city. Walking its streets and majestic fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, with the family feels like strolling through a living history lesson that’s never boring. When beach time comes calling, St. Augustine Beach beckons with waves that stay gentle most of the year for beginner surfers to enjoy and beautiful Ocean Hammock Park to explore, with its boardwalks crisscrossing scenic wetlands and a great onsite playground, too. 



Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

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Families who vacation in the Florida Keys are often left wondering where all the beaches are on these coral rock islands. While there aren’t many true beaches throughout the island chain, one of the best family beaches in the Florida Keys awaits at the end of US Highway 1 in Key West at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Pack a picnic and your snorkeling masks and fins to make the most of Key West’s best swimming beach, where you can always find a shady spot to lay out your towel under a tree. Nearby, the free Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center is a perfect family stop to learn more about Florida Keys habitats and native creatures.



Hutchinson Island

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One of the only places in Florida where you can go horseback riding on the beach, Hutchinson Island promises a surprising mix of family fun in Florida’s St. Lucie County along the Atlantic Coast between Vero Beach and Palm Beach. Stay right on the ocean at the Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa to maximize sun and surf. It’s worth getting in the car to drive slightly north to visit downtown Fort Pierce’s restaurants, shops, and the excellent Fort Pierce Farmers Market, held every Saturday right along the Indian River.



Destin-Fort Walton Beach

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A relaxing Northwest Florida family beach vacation practically plans itself when you venture to Destin-Fort Walton Beach in the Panhandle, where shallow, Caribbean-blue waters and sugar-fine beaches make it easy to do nothing but soak up the sun all day long. With the luxurious Henderson Beach Resort as your base of operations here, make time to head out on dolphin excursions and paddling trips.



Fort Lauderdale

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Its reputation as a spring break and yachting paradise notwithstanding, Fort Lauderdale Beach promises buckets of family fun along 24 miles of beachfront and in its scenic riverfront neighborhoods. The boutique oceanfront Pelican Grand Beach Resort fronts a 500-foot-long private beach and has a lazy river and pool kids won’t want to get out of. When you do towel off, hop aboard a Water Taxi to cruise past the mansions and yachts lining the Intracoastal Waterway and stroll Las Olas Boulevard’s ice cream shops, boutiques, and atmospheric cafes.