The majestic Gulf Coast waters lap the shores of Florida over seven hundred miles! Welcoming millions of tourists each year, it’s not hard to find a sandy place to soak up some sun. But to make it an even easier decision, we’ve narrowed down the best Florida Gulf Coast beaches to visit.
Better yet? FloridaRentals.com offers thousands of Gulf Coast rentals for all tastes. So you’re sure to find the perfect beach house to suit your needs in one of these Gulf Coast gems. A Florida Gulf Coast beach house rental means extra space for the whole family (and beach toys?), a full kitchen for home-cooked meals, and amenities like laundry or an outdoor barbecue area.
Located along Florida’s famed Emerald Coast, Destin is one of the most popular destinations in the world for trolling, jetty fishing, and deep sea fishing. While experienced anglers can head out on their own or fish from one of the nearby piers, many visitors to this Gulf Coast city sign up for a fishing charter to improve their chances of success. You can even find kid-friendly charters that help little ones learn all about the basics of fishing so they can reel in their very first catch.
The popular Destin Harbor Boardwalk is another family-friendly activity that is worth checking out. There’s always something happening on the boardwalk, which stretches nearly a quarter of a mile along the harbor. It features stunning views of the sandy beaches and sparkling shoreline, as well as a number of fun shops and restaurants. The boardwalk is also a great place to sign up for boating activities and water sports.
With over 340 days of sunshine per year, and average temperatures that never drop below 60 during the day, this is a world-class retreat any month of the year, but especially in April.
The beach (and all that comes with it) is the main attraction. From sunbathing and surfing to snorkeling and scuba, you won’t lack for activities by the ocean. For the boating crowd, head to Crab Island, the area’s famous sandbar, to socialize. Off the shoreline, hike or bike your way through 200 miles of preserved trails.
If a relaxing beach vacation is your ultimate goal, don’t miss the chance to take in Siesta Key, one of the eight barrier islands of Sarasota. Known as one of the finest beaches in the U.S., Siesta Key features glittering turquoise waters and pristine sugary white sand consisting of 99 percent pure quartz, giving it a super-soft and cool feel underfoot. You can simply relax on the sand and splash in the surf, or you can take part in one of many beachfront activities, like beach volleyball, snorkeling, and kayaking.
While staying in a beachfront hotel provides you with some truly stunning views, it’s not a requirement for enjoying this destination’s picturesque sandy shores. Plan a budget-friendly family vacation by staying elsewhere on the island and taking advantage of the free parking at the beach. There are several nearby attractions when you need a break from sunbathing, too. Consider checking out the Ringling Museum and the Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Located just off Florida’s west coast, Marco Island is another great choice for a family-friendly gulf coast vacation. This Gulf Coast destination features gorgeous white sand beaches, crystal clear blue waters, and plenty of sunshine for a warm, relaxing getaway.
Outdoor activities are popular on Marco Island. You can rent Jet Skis, go windsurfing, try birdwatching, or collect seashells along the shoreline. Many people also sign up for fishing charters or dolphin watching tours. You can check out a number of nature preserves and state parks nearby, as well, including Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park.
At Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge you can walk through a massive forest full of plants and animals native to the Everglades. Stop by Old Marco Lodge Crab House for some of the waterfront restaurant’s famous stone crab claws. The island is a great place to stay if you want to enjoy a rural paradise, but there are still plenty of local attractions. Tigertail Beach Park is a popular spot, featuring a gorgeous lagoon that’s perfect for paddleboarding.
For shelling, you’ll want to plan a day trip to Keewaydin Island where kids will love playing and digging, and adults will love the tranquil turquoise waters. Mackle Park is community oriented and beautiful. You can walk the path around the pond, shoot some hoops, shuffleboard, bocce ball, or go inside to the game room. For boating excursions, sunset cruises, and deep sea fishing charters the Isles of Capri Marina is most likely where you’ll be leaving from. These trips out on the water are definitely worth the cost as the experience is unforgettable.
Laid back, lighthearted St. George Island is the ultimate Gulf spot. Part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, this Florida barrier island offers beachgoers a rare swath of totally undeveloped coastline perfect for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and playing around.
Nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and the Apalachicola Bay, the island has two public beaches, Massingale Park Beach and Coast Guard Station Beach, both of which have lifeguards on duty during the summer season and a bathhouse open to beachgoers. Visitors love the warm water temps and the calm waves at these beaches. The sand is soft and easy to walk on, plus the shelling opportunities are endless!
There’s also plenty for wildlife enthusiasts here. Keep your eyes peeled for splash pine flatwoods and swaying seat oats that dot the shorelines. Whether actively looking or not, it’s also likely that visitors will see nesting loggerhead sea turtles when visiting between the months of May and October. The island is home to many turtles and unique wildlife, which is part of what makes it one of the best Gulf Coast beaches for vacationers to escape to.
Though it’s known as one of the top spring break destinations for the college crowd, Panama City Beach offers plenty of family-friendly fun year-round. With 27 miles of sugar white beaches and nearly 100 public access points, this sandy length of shoreline is always busy but rarely feels crowded. There’s room to spread out as you relax on the soft sand, swim in the beautiful blue-green waters lapping at the shore, or play some beach volleyball. You can soak up the sun by day then head out to local seafood restaurants and bars with live music in the evening.
If you’re looking for a break from the bustling beaches, consider heading to nearby St. Andrews Park for the day. This area features unspoiled natural beauty and a perfect place to bike, snorkel, or kayak with fewer crowds nearby. There are also several family-friendly attractions in town, the most popular of which is Gulf World. This theme park offers fascinating educational shows featuring marine life, as well as the opportunity to swim with dolphins.