Most Popular Florida Beaches
Some of the most popular beaches in Florida are on the Gulf Coast. The most popular beaches are usually located near major population centers like Clearwater, Sarasota, and Naples. They attract lots of people all year round and are hot destinations for visitors from around the world. During the day the beach is the place to be. After dark there is still plenty to do and see, from restaurants and bars to art and culture. Check out my recommendations below. I've lived on the west coast of Florida for 45 years, and I've literally written the book on Gulf Coast Beaches.
Honeymoon Island |
Caladesi Island |
| Sand Key Beaches |
Treasure Island |
St. Pete Beach
Popular Clearwater Beach - Clearwater Public Beach
Clearwater Beach always seems like a busy place. Visitors from all over the world come here to enjoy Clearwater Beach's well-deserved reputation for brilliant white sand beaches and beautiful calm clear waters. The beach is protected by lifeguards. Two restaurants sit right on the sand so you can have your grouper sandwich right on the beach. Sunset is the busiest time in the restaurants.
Pier 60 extends several hundred feet into the Gulf and provides fishing, strolling, and sightseeing opportunities 7 days per week, 24 hours per day. Artists, crafts-persons, and entertainers take over Pier 60 in the evenings and draw a large crowd.
There are numerous large and small hotels nearby, and the main roads, Gulfview and Coronado, are lined with restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, and boutiques. Clearwater Harbor is right across the street from the Public Beach and offers many sightseeing boats, fishing charters, dolphin-watching cruises, and a dinner cruise. A must-see is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium which plays a large role in the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured marine animals like dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles.
Clearwater Beach is just minutes away from the metropolitan areas of Clearwater, Tampa, and St. Petersburg, where art, culture, nightlife, and entertainment are at your fingertips.
Popular Sarasota Beaches
Siesta Public Beach
Located just west of Sarasota, Siesta Key has what I would rate as the best overall beach in Florida--Siesta Public Beach. It is convenient to the entertainment and culture of Sarasota, it is not over-commercialized, and Siesta Village, the main area of commerce, still feels like a beach town. The sand is so white and the water is so beautiful that you just have to see it to believe it. Photographs just do not capture the beauty.
The public beach attracts thousands of people on weekends and holidays, and draws a respectable crowd during the week as well.. Arrive early to get a choice parking spot, go for a long walk before it gets too hot, then settle onto your beach towel under your umbrella with a cold drink for a few hours. Be sure to get up every half-hour to have a swim in the shallow clear waters and cool off. Bring a picnic lunch. Head over to the Salty Dog for an early dinner, then come back to the beach for the sunset. What more do you want?
The island has so many beach houses, condominiums, and beachfront hotels to choose from that there is something for nearly every budget.
Lido Public Beach
Lido is another very popular beach in Sarasota. It is located just 5 minutes west of downtown Sarasota on the relatively small Lido Key, just north of Siesta Key. To get to Lido Beach, you will drive through St. Armand's Circle, an upscale shopping district with a small park in the center. Restaurants, art, and boutique shopping create this busy social center in the middle of an otherwise purely upscale residential area. The beach is a 5 minute walk from St. Armand's Circle.
The sand at Lido Beach is also brilliant white and due to it's proximity to Sarasota, draws a large crowd, both residents and visitors. The public beach has fine parking, restroom, and food facilities and is located just north of the major Lido Beach Hotels.
You can spend the whole day at Lido Beach, have lunch and dinner at fine restaurants, and do some serious shopping and sightseeing without ever needing your car.
Don't forget to visit Mote Marine Laboratory and the Pelican Man Bird Sanctuary.
Popular Ft. Myers Beach- Lynn Hall Memorial Park
No question about it. If you want to party, mix, and mingle with other party animals, and generally hang out in a Key West type atmosphere of beach bars, dive restaurants, tacky souvenir shops, tourist-oriented boutiques, and an assortment of hotels, motels, and "less modern" beach houses, Fort Myers Beach is your kind of place. Traffic is congested, so walking may be your best bet. There is also a trolley that will take you around the island. Driving around looking for a place to park is not the way to spend your day.
A walk out on the Ft. Myers Fishing Pier will give you a great view of the beach. Ft. Myers beaches tend to have a lot of coconut palms, which lends a very graceful and tropical air to a beach that used to be referred to as the "Redneck Riviera." This is not truly a Gulf Beach, but is a beach on San Carlos Bay. This is a huge open bay, but is shallow enough that it prevents surf from pounding the beaches. Also, the water isn't usually very clear here because of the tannin stained waters of the Caloosahatchee River that empty into the bay. Sanibel Island is visible on the horizon to the north.
Fort Myers beach is a fun place if you're in the mood. Parking at Lynn Hall Park is tight, and costs around $1.25 per hour. Arrive early if you want a parking spot. If you're in a nearby hotel, parking isn't a problem. The park has excellent clean and modern facilities and is literally steps away from countless restaurants and shops.
Walking up and down Ft. Myers Beach takes you in front of countless hotels, motels, a few bars, some beach cottages, and lots of small public access points where day visitors come to the beach. While Ft. Myers beach has a lot of visitors from all over the world, it has a fairly large population of residents that like to hang out on the beach. This is also where Ft. Myers goes to the beach.
Popular Naples Beach - Lowdermilk Park Public Beach
Naples is another fast-growing major metropolitan population center. There is lots of money in Naples and those with money are very visible here. Naples is a beautiful city, with lots of tropical foliage and palms.
The beaches in Naples are not all on a barrier island. In particular, Lowdermilk Park Public Beach is directly across the street from downtown Naples. Not only is it within walking distance from the downtown shopping and commerce, but it is one of the most beautiful beach parks anywhere in Florida, with a small lake, covered picnic shelters, tall palms and tropical foliage, and lots of green grass. The restroom facilities are very good, and wooden dune walkovers lead to the beach. The designated public beach itself is not large, but there are no fences on the beach, so you can walk up the beach and put your chair down wherever you like. Lowdermilk Park draws a large crowd. Parking is metered.
There is plenty to do and see in Naples when you are not on the beach. In fact, Naples is a popular vacation spot for residents of Miami and the lower east coast of Florida. Surprised?
Florida Beaches: Finding Your Paradise on the Lower Gulf Coast
After a lifetime of enjoying the beaches of Florida, and after 10 years of weekly trips to all the beaches on the lower Gulf Coast of Florida, I decided to write a book to help other people discover and enjoy the beautiful beaches that I've come to love. The response has been inspiring.
If you think a detailed and comparative look at more than 96 Florida Gulf Coast beaches is something that would interest you, click on the book cover at left to find out more about my one-of-a-kind book. Where else can you get all this information in one place, from a Florida native who has spent his whole life on the beaches?
I couldn't find this information anywhere else, that's why I wrote it. Sure, you could dig around on the internet for hundreds of hours and maybe find a third of what's in here, but why?
Copyright 2005 David McRee--Beachhunter.net--on Popular Florida Beaches