23 Best Beach Towns in Florida: From Laid-Back to Fun-Filled

This article has links to products and services we love, which we may make commission from.

With its 1,350 miles of coastline, it’s no surprise that the Sunshine State boasts an array of charming beach towns that cater to every type of traveler. 

Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly atmosphere, old-town vibes, or a tranquil escape, you’ll find something that suits your interest here.

To help you plan, this guide will take you through some of the best beach towns in Florida, revealing the highlights and attractions that make each one an ideal destination.

You may also like our Florida bucket list so you can plan all your awesome adventures!

The Best Florida Beach Towns

The following list ranges from small towns in Florida near the beach to popular coastal destinations.

We start in northeastern FL and follow the coastline south before looping back up along the western shoreline all the way up to the Panhandle.

If you’re looking for seasonal guides to Florida, check out our recommendations for activities for fall and winter.

Fernandina Beach

Located on Amelia Island in the northeastern portion of the state is Fernandina Beach, one of the small coastal towns in Florida that is characterized by natural beauty and a long history.

The beaches here are framed by sand dunes that protect the habitat and they happen to have some of the best shelling opportunities in the region.

Hit Main Beach Park (32 N Fletcher Ave) for a day of sunshine, refreshing swims, and sand volleyball, and Fort Clinch State Park (2601 Atlantic Ave) to dive into the history of the 19th-century fort before setting up on the shore.

The town’s historic district is complete with Victorian architecture and quaint shops, and there are plenty of waterfront dining options to take your pick from, such as Brett’s Waterway Café and Sliders Seaside Grill.

Fernandina Beach’s inviting coastal ambiance and storied past truly make it a great beach town destination.

Amelia Island near Fernandina Beach, Florida

New Smyrna Beach

If you’re looking for the best surf towns in Florida, you’ll be in complete paradise in New Smyrna Beach.

This beloved beach town is known for its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful beaches you can drive right onto with your car or beach buggy.

New Smyrna Beach is a good place to relax and practice catching some waves!

Grab your surfboard or rent one if needed and paddle out for some of the best waves the state has to offer.

After a fun-filled time at the beach, hit Flagler Ave to hunt for souvenirs in the eclectic shops, grab a bite to eat at any of the local cafes such as Café Verde (301b Flagler Ave) or the Mermaid Café (113 Flagler Ave), and finish the day off with ice cream from Treats on the Beach.

Aerial view of Ponce Inlet and New Smyrna Beach from Ponce de Leon Inlet in Florida

Cocoa Beach

You have the choice between exploring quiet beach towns in Florida as well as small towns that still have plenty of activities available for families.

Cocoa Beach can be considered the latter, because this beloved beach town has no shortage of fun while still keeping the small beach town feel with its many locally owned shops and eateries.

This place is great for anyone looking to try their hand at surfing, or if you’re looking for even bigger thrills you can book a parasailing excursion.

You can also enjoy the sunset in a unique way with a guided kayak tour.

Coconuts on the Beach (2 Minutemen Causeway) is a laid-back spot to grab lunch or drinks, and the nearby Kennedy Space Center (Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island) makes for a fun outing if you have space to fill in your itinerary!

You can also read our guide to things to do in Cocoa Beach.

Cocoa Beach view Florida

Melbourne

If you want to enjoy a beach getaway not too far from Orlando but also want something a bit more mellow than Cocoa Beach, then Melbourne might just be the spot for you.

There are miles of beautiful beaches here where you can partake in sunbathing, surfing, swimming, and beachcombing.

Spessard Holland South Beach Park (2525 S Hwy A1A) and Hightower Beach Park (815 Florida A1A) are lovely places to set up for a full day at the beach, and if you’re lucky, you could even catch the perfect view of a rocket launch from nearby Cape Canaveral!

Melbourne has a historic downtown lined with art galleries, boutiques, and diverse dining options.

The Roots Restaurant Tavern is a great breakfast joint and Frigate’s Waterfront Bar & Grill serves up tasty seafood with immaculate water views.

Melbourne stands out among the rest with its variety of beaches to choose from, pleasant downtown area, and quiet surroundings while still being close to more popular areas.

Sunrise over the Eau Gallie Causeway in Melbourne Florida

Sebastian

There’s stunning nature in a lot of places you go to in Florida, and it’s no different when you visit Sebastian, a town that’s surrounded by tons of unspoiled habitats.

This Florida beach town is where you’ll find the 971-acre Sebastian Inlet State Park (9700 S Hwy A1A), a place to enjoy all your favorite beach activities as well as fishing, hiking, camping, birding, kayaking, and even mountain biking.

The town’s riverfront district also boasts fishing piers, marinas, and waterfront dining options like the Crab Stop of Sebastian (1550 Indian River Dr) and Sebastian Saltwater Marina Restaurant (1732 Indian River Dr).

Outdoor adventures and natural beauty abound in Sebastian, serving as a wonderful place to have your next undisturbed retreat.

Vero Beach

Vero Beach is a lovely destination where boating, fishing, golfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and of course, beachgoing awaits.

Favorite beaches in Vero Beach include Humiston Beach Park (3000 Ocean Dr), South Beach Park (1704 Ocean Dr), and Sexton Plaza Beach (1050 Beachland Blvd), which is within walking distance to tasty restaurants like Mulligan’s Beach House.

The Vero Beach Museum of Art (3001 Riverside Park Dr) and the McKee Botanical Gardens are other must-visits while staying in this quaint town.

If you’re an early bird, be sure to hit any of the numerous public beaches here for beaming sunrises that will take your breath away!

Vero Beach Pier, Vero Beach, Florida.

Jensen Beach

Jensen Beach is a delightful beach town known for its unspoiled shoreline, location on the Indian River, and relaxed atmosphere.

The town’s uncrowded beaches like Jensen Beach Park (4191 NE Ocean Blvd), Normandy Beach (8550 S Ocean Dr), and Herman’s Bay Beach (7880 S Ocean Dr) offer an escape for sunbathers, surfers, and shell collectors.

Check out Indian Riverside Park for the walking paths and scenic parks and the Then & Now Gallery (3551 Northwest Federal Highway) for antiques and unique souvenirs.

Jensen Beach is bursting with natural beauty and a peaceful atmosphere, leaving no question as to why it’s known as Florida’s Treasure Coast.

Jupiter

Miles of quiet beaches, upscale houses and coastal resorts, phenomenal dining options, and world-renowned golfing opportunities await you in Jupiter, FL.

If you’re looking for golf cart-friendly beach towns in Florida, this is the place to be as a good number of golf courses are present in the community.

The Abacoa Golf Club (105 Barbados Dr) and The Bears Club (250 Bears Club Dr) are some of the well-known places for the sport in Jupiter.

And when it comes to East Coast Florida beach towns, this town is a true slice of paradise that provides pretty much everything you could ever need for a relaxing getaway.

There’s nothing like taking a drive with the windows down along the beach down the palm tree-lined A1A, and there are plenty of beach access points on this route with free street parking.

Carlin Park (400 Florida A1A) and DuBois Park (19075 Dubois Rd) are both excellent beaches, especially for families, since they both have restroom facilities, lifeguards, playgrounds, and picnic areas.

Jupiter is considered one of the top beach towns in the state for a reason, so don’t be surprised when you fall in love with it in no time at all!

For more activities in Jupiter, FL, read this guide.

Pathway lined with palm trees in Dubois Park, Jupiter, Florida.

Islamorada

The Florida Keys are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and popular areas of the state, and each has special aspects about them.

Islamorada encompasses 6 of the keys and is a tropical paradise that serves as an ideal beach town getaway.

Islamorada is the definition of a laid-back coastal town, with crystalline waters that are brimming with marine life, making it a snorkeler’s dream come true.

It’s easy to ride a bike or walk around the various parts of the island, and some of the best beaches here include Anne’s Beach (73000 Overseas Hwy), Library Beach Park (84 Johnston Rd), and Founders Park (87000 Overseas Hwy).

The town’s relaxed atmosphere extends to its waterfront restaurants, which serve up fresh seafood and breathtaking views of sunsets over the water.

The top beach towns in Florida effortlessly switch you onto island time, which is exactly what will happen when you spend any duration in gorgeous Islamorada.

Marco Island

It can be difficult to choose a beach town destination when there are so many that bring their own special qualities to the table.

Marco Island truly is a tropical paradise though, and it has a number of world-class beaches to take your pick from.

You can’t go wrong with visits to Keewaydin Island, Tigertail Beach (430 Hernando Dr), and South Beach (671 CR 951), all of which boast powdery sand and calm, turquoise water.

On the days you aren’t at the beach, consider taking an enchanting kayak ride through the mangrove tunnels.

With dreamy beaches and a close-knit community, Marco Island is a beach town destination for those seeking the ultimate laid-back vacation.

Funny Burrowing owl Athene cunicularia tilts its head outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida

Fort Myers Beach

If you’re searching for walkable beach towns in Florida, Fort Myers is a great option.

The downtown area and beachfront are easily accessible by foot, with sidewalks and crosswalks making it safe and convenient to explore.

Visit Times Square — not to be confused with New York’s Times Square —  it’s the heart of the action in Fort Myers Beach, with numerous restaurants, bars, and shops. 

It’s a great place to enjoy live music, street performers, and a lively atmosphere.

Fort Myers Beach offers miles of beautiful, soft, white sand.

You can swim, sunbathe, or collect seashells along the shoreline.

Check out this list of things to do in Fort Myers Beach to plan your activities.

Aerial view of Fort Myers Beach in Florida

Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is a coastal paradise distinguished by its unspoiled Gulf beaches and exceptional shelling opportunities.

Known as the “shell capital of the world,” this island is unique due to its east-west orientation, which allows the currents to scoop up shells that have ventured as far as the Caribbean.

Bowman’s Beach (1700 Bowman’s Beach Rd) and Lighthouse Beach Park (110 Periwinkle Way) are a couple of the most beloved beaches on Sanibel, both of which have pristine sand and water.

For a romantic outing, book a sunset cruise out of Sanibel Island for views unlike anything else and the opportunity to see pods of dolphins!

Sanibel Island is the definition of a beautiful, quaint beach town, making it a top destination for anyone looking for the utmost serenity.

Scenic view of lighthouse at Sanibel Island from the waters

Captiva Island

Captiva and Sanibel Islands were a single island once upon a time, but a hurricane split them into the respective islands we know and love today. 

The islands are separated by Blind Pass Beach on the Sanibel side.

Each island has its own special aspects, with Captiva being recognized for its very untouched natural surroundings and vibe that is just a bit more laid-back and quieter than Sanibel.

One of the main beaches on Captiva is Turner Beach (17200 Captiva Dr), which is especially great for shelling and fishing.  

Captiva’s eco-friendly focus is evident in its nature preserves like the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which provides fantastic opportunities for kayaking and birdwatching.

This place’s serene vibes and laid-back atmosphere make it one of the gems among the low-key beach towns in Florida where you can truly relax and unwind.

Gasparilla Island

One of the most special aspects of small beach towns in Florida is the chance to feel fully immersed in the magic of Old Florida.

This is exactly what you’ll discover at Gasparilla Island, an enchanting beach town in Southwest Florida that has so much natural beauty and historic charm.

The gorgeous beaches of Gasparilla Island State Park (880 Belcher Rd) are perfect for families and enjoying days filled with shelling, basking in the sun, and snorkeling in crystal-clear water.

Pay a visit to the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, which was built in 1890, and if you like to fish, this region is renowned for its abundance of tarpon.

The island’s location in the Gulf means you’ll be met with glorious sunsets every evening, too!

Gasparilla Island has endless coastal beauty and wide stretches of beach to relax and play on, making it a wonderful destination for anyone needing a beach town retreat.

Port Boca Grande Lighthouse on Gasparilla Island, Florida

Siesta Key

Once you step foot on Siesta Beach (948 Beach Rd), you’ll quickly understand why it has been named the #1 beach in America — twice!

With plenty of entertainment options, Siesta Key makes it one of the most fun beach towns in Florida.

Siesta Key Village, right near the main beach, has great seafood restaurants, bars, shops, and a farmer’s market every Sunday where you can pick up fresh produce and locally made goods.

The wide stretch of remarkably soft sand at Siesta Beach is perfect for sunbathing, building sandcastles, swimming, playing beach volleyball, or simply enjoying the views of the Gulf.

And what’s good to know is that Siesta Beach is patrolled by lifeguards, which is reassuring especially if you plan to bring kids with you.

Siesta Key is also one of the destinations featured in our Florida road trip guide.

Siesta Key Beach sign leading to sandy path in Florida

Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island might just be exactly what it means to be a charming beach town in Florida.

This small barrier island in the Gulf is lined by the softest sand and bright blue water as far as the eye can see.

The island has that Old Florida feel to it, with pastel-hued cottages, boutique shops, and fantastic waterfront dining options like Sandbar Seafood and Spirits.

Bean Point Beach (793 N Shore Dr) is an unbelievably beautiful spot that stays a lot quieter than some of the other beaches on the island; this is also a perfect vantage point to see where the Gulf of Mexico meets Tampa Bay.   

It’s super easy to get around Anna Maria via bicycle or golf cart, and those who love all things nature will be blown away by the abundant bird species that call the island home, such as great blue herons, snowy egrets, and white ibises.

Anna Maria Island’s untouched beauty and small-town charm make it an idyllic destination.

Get more ideas in our guide to things to do in Anna Maria Island.

Anna Maria Island Beach with trees on the side.

Dunedin

Looking for some of the best old Florida towns near the coast?

While there are tons of amazing beach towns throughout the state, not all of them are doused in history as intriguing as Dunedin.

Recognized for being one of the most historic beach towns in Florida, Dunedin is one-of-a-kind and brimming with character due to its Scottish roots that date back to 1850.

Dunedin Beach is lovely for sunbathing and swimming, while nearby Honeymoon Island State Park (1 Causeway Blvd) offers shorelines, nature trails, and extraordinary bird-watching opportunities.

The town’s downtown region exudes charm with its numerous local shops, craft breweries, and live music establishments.

With its friendly community and scenic beauty, Dunedin is a perfect blend of nature and entertainment, making it a cherished beach town destination.

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs has a fascinating Greek heritage that goes back to the early 1900s when sponge diving was a booming industry; in fact, this is known as the Sponge Capital of the World.

Visitors can take sponge diving tours and check out the Sponge Docks to learn even more about the local sponge industry that made Tarpon Springs what it is today.

If you’re looking for affordable beach towns in Florida, Tarpon Springs features attractions such as museums and parks that can be accessed at no charge.

Museums like the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art ( 600 E Klosterman Rd) can be accessed for free.

The stunning Gulf beaches, including Sunset Beach and Fred Howard Park (1700 Sunset Dr) are also free to access and offer excellent swimming and kayaking opportunities since the water is so calm.

Authentic Greek restaurants and shops line the waterfront, which you won’t come across in most FL beach towns!

With a blend of cultural heritage, waterfront beauty, and fun outdoor activities, Tarpon Springs offers a unique beach town experience.

Tourists fishing from a boat in Tarpon Springs Florida

Cedar Key

When it comes to small fishing towns in Florida, anglers will fall head over heels for Cedar Key, which is situated on the sunny Gulf Coast.

Common fish species you can expect to catch during a boat day include redfish, cobia, spotted seatrout, and Spanish mackerel.

Aside from its amazing fishing opportunities, Cedar Key happens to be the 2nd oldest town in the state, so it’s steeped in a ton of history that you can explore by visiting places like the Island Hotel.

Be sure to swing by Tony’s Seafood (597 2nd St) for supremely fresh cuisine that you can’t find just anywhere.

Kayaking and birdwatching are other very popular activities here, and if you want to head to the beach, check out Cedar Key Public Beach (192 2nd St).

Cedar Key’s unhurried pace, top-notch fishing, rich history, and breathtaking scenery create a perfect recipe for a remarkable beach town getaway.

Rosemary Beach

The best beach towns in Florida are the ones where it feels like you’ve entered your own little world and going to the beach and walking or biking the pleasant streets are the day-to-day norm.

You’ll find exactly that in Rosemary Beach, which is located up in the panhandle and has soft sand beaches, calm water to swim in, and the most endearing town you’ll love exploring.

Rosemary Beach is the primary beach here, but there’s also Inlet Beach and Santa Rosa Beach, all of which are very quiet and perfect places to watch a radiant sunset.

The close-knit community of Rosemary Beach stands out as an extraordinary beach town that will capture your heart.

Dunes of Rosemary Beach

Seaside

Located in the Panhandle, the sand at Seaside Beach is as soft and white as can be and the water is beyond inviting.  

The pastel-colored cottages that line the shore are reminiscent of simpler times and set the perfect scene for a small-town getaway.

If you’re looking for the best waterfront communities in Florida that are pedestrian-friendly, this is one of them.

Biking and walking paths connect the community, making exploring easy for those wanting to see as much of the town as possible.

With a name like Seaside, it’s no wonder this is such a timeless beach town with a unique, inviting character that you won’t be able to get enough of.

Destin

Florida Panhandle beach towns are in a league of their own, and it’s no different for picturesque Destin.

This gem on the Emerald Coast is renowned for its stunning beaches and delightful coastal atmosphere.

There are also nearby state parks to explore, including Henderson Beach (17000 Emerald Coast Pkwy) and Grayton Beach (357 Main Park Rd), which are perfect for beach days as well as hiking, fishing, biking, and wildlife observation.

You may also take a dolphin watching cruise to experience the views of this place from the water and a chance to see dolphins swimming in their natural habitat.

Aerial view of Destin, Florida city skyline

Navarre Beach

Just east of bustling Pensacola is Navarre Beach, a hidden gem that’s recognized for its unbelievably clear water, outdoor recreation, and slow pace of living.

This region is known as the Emerald Coast, rightfully so, because the water here practically beckons visitors to jump in and swim the days away.

Navarre Main Beach and Opal Beach are two spots you should consider visiting while in the area, and if you want to try out some fishing, the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier is the longest of its kind in the entire state!

Navarre is a beach community through-and-through, and easily one of the most relaxed beach destinations in the Panhandle!

Waves on Navarre Beach with white sand and turquoise water, Florida

Final Thoughts

Feel free to use this guide to map out your getaway to any and all of Florida’s beach towns!

And be sure to drop us a line in the comments to let us know your experience in each of these destinations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *