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Florida is home to some of the world’s best beaches, and it’s easy to understand why. From soft sand to turquoise waters, calm seas to waves that call to surfers, there is much to offer any beach lover in the Sunshine State. Florida beaches are also a favorite among families. TravelingMoms have been to many all over the state, and we’ve collected a list of the ones we think are the best Florida beaches for families.
While my family is a huge fan of Florida for its beloved theme parks, we also love to visit some of the best Florida beaches. Easy to get to on a flight, with international airports in many parts of the state, and beach-worthy weather throughout most of the year, Florida is a great spot for family getaways. After spending two relaxing weeks on a Florida beach vacation, and having visited many others over the years during visits with family, I have my favorites as do some of my fellow TravelingMoms. We found great beaches in every corner of the state.
Northwest Florida Beaches (Gulf of Mexico Side)
Panama City Beach
Located in the Panhandle of Florida, Panama City Beach is more than a destination for the spring break crowd. The 27 miles of beach are among the most family-friendly. As Floridian Hannah Rinaldi, mom of three, discovered, it is one of the most family-friendly beaches in all of Florida because there are so many things to do.
That’s because PCB (as it’s affectionately known) combines entertainment and affordability. Some of Hannah’s family’s favorite activities included a walk through Pier Park and a visit to Shipwreck Island park. And don’t miss a chance to visit Shell Island, a 700-acre nature preserve with nothing but white sand—and maybe a few turtle hatching spots.
Get More Florida Family Vacation Ideas
St. George Island
Another lovely beach nestled in Florida’s panhandle, surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and the Apalachicola Bay, is the barrier island of St. George. This beautiful spot has miles of pristine beaches, uncongested, and full of natural beauty.
TravelingMom Terri Marshall loves visiting St. George’s island with her grandkids because of its family-friendly hotels, villas, old-style cottages, and stunning vacation homes, offering plenty of accommodations for families.
Terri’s family enjoyed fishing with local marinas offering inshore and offshore fishing charters. Kayaking, paddleboarding, and biking rentals also are available to keep everyone busy on the island. If you are interested in eco-adventures, Terri recommends a boat trip to an uninhabited island where you can spot dolphins and take a snorkeling adventure.
Chances are that if you haven’t heard of Seaside as a vacation destination, you’ve probably heard about it another way. Seaside rose to fame after Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show, was filmed there in 1998. The town is also known for its New Urbanism design; it’s one of the first planned pedestrian-friendly communities in the United States.
Hannah Rinaldi says that out of all the beaches she has visited, nothing screams family-friendly more than Seaside. There are bike rental shops, neighborhood activities for kids, and family-friendly concerts located in the center of the town.
Beach lover Breeze Leonard, who spends as much time at the beach with her three girls as she can, calls Navarre Beach the best hidden gem of Florida. In fact, she says her family doesn’t want anyone to know about it because it is THAT special. What Breeze’s family knows that others don’t is that unlike other typical beach towns, there is very little to do in Navarre Beach other than spend time together as a family.
With few touristy restaurants, high-adrenaline beach activities, or flashy boutiques, it is where you want to go for a simple, relaxing family beach vacation. That means Navarre Beach is a great place to unplug and just relax with all sorts of old fashioned family fun like beach volleyball, playing frisbee on the beach, game nights, and hardcore stargazing. If you simply must do something more, head to the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center, the Panhandle Butterfly House, or the Gulf Breeze Zoo.
More Family-Friendly Beaches in Northwest Florida
Here are a few more favorite beaches in Northwest Florida you might want to check out:
Central West/Southwest Florida Beaches (Gulf of Mexico Side)
Consistently rated one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, Siesta Key was recognized for having the whitest and finest sand in the world at the Great International White Sand Beach Challenge. Imagine the sandcastles you can build!
What makes it so? Unlike most beaches, Siesta Key’s sand is made of 99% quartz. Bonus: That means it stays cooler even under the intense Florida sun.
It’s not just the sand that makes this stunning beach popular with families. The shallow water near the shore makes it ideal for young children. It’s far less worrisome to watch kids play in these tide pools, knowing they are in shallow water.
Siesta Key Beach has a pavilion where you can buy beach accessories from sunscreen to sand toys, a cafe where you can purchase food, drinks and ice cream, picnic areas and a good sized playground for the kids. Now that’s kid-friendly!
Siesta Key Beach is perfect for strolling and collecting shells. For more active pursuits you can rent a catamaran or kayak from one of the many beach concessionaires.
An abundance of rental properties, land and water activities, and family-friendly restaurants add to the charm of this stunning island and one of the best Florida beaches for families.
TravelingMom Tip: While parking here is free, it can be hard to get a spot, especially on the weekends or holidays. Arrive early or later in the afternoon (after 2pm or so) when people are beginning to leave.
If your idea of a family beach vacation includes sitting on the beach all day and walking around town, then Clearwater beach is the best beach for you. Not only is it gorgeous, with wide beaches, soft sand and beautiful Gulf Shores ideal for families, but it is also a quintessential beach experience. With family-friendly beach hotels, restaurants, and shops across the street, as well as public restrooms and lifeguards, this is the active, family experience for those who want a vibrant vacation experience.
Clearwater Beach is very pedestrian-friendly, with loads of family-friendly activities located in a hub near the Pier 60. The pier hosts sunset festivals 364 days a year and is home to the Sugar Sand Festival each spring where sand sculpture artists create elaborate sand art. Don’t be surprised if you bump into a pirate during the nightly sunset festivals at Pier 60!
Clearwater also made our list of the best beaches close to Disney World.
Winter, the Dolphin!
Clearwater is also home to Winter the dolphin, the star of Dolphin Tale. She lives with her friend Hope, star of Dolphin Tale 2, at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Check out these fun things to do in Clearwater.
Our family found pubic parking available right near Clearwater beach, or if you prefer, there is an area trolly for getting around. It is a convenient beach experience for families, adding to why it is one of the best Florida beaches for families. Clearwater Beach also has a wide variety of accommodations for just about any family vacation budget.
TravelingMom Tip: Check out these Florida resorts. We think they’re worth the splurge!
Not far from Clearwater is Treasure Island beach. If you want to enjoy the soft sand and turquoise waters of Clearwater but have a quieter experience, Treasure Island is the place to be. The area is still home to many budget-friendly beach hotels and motels, but it isn’t as crowded as Clearwater beach.
If you want to visit Treasure Island just for the day, we found several access points to Treasure Island and small parking areas right off of Gulf Boulevard, the main road. For a real seashore experience, you can enjoy one of the beachfront properties for easy and convenient access to the beach.
Plenty of beach shops and restaurants line Gulf Boulevard. Though the beach itself is quieter, you can still find plenty to do apres-beach in this area, and it is a short drive to Clearwater beach for access to the activities and restaurants there.
Anna Maria Island
About an hour south of Tampa is Anna Maria Island, home to one of the best Florida beaches for families. Anna Maria Island is quite large and includes the well-known Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach, both busier but still gorgeous beaches.
For a quieter family experience, head to the town of Anna Maria, on the northern end of the island, near Bean Point. On a calm day, the crystal clear teal water and beige sand is reminiscent of the Caribbean. Our family spent hours floating around on a noodle and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters looking for fish. It is a great way to spend the day.
On windier days, the surf produces surf-worthy waves. My three kids loved bodysurfing and jumping the waves as my husband and I watched while floating on our noodles.
On our recent visit, we spotted a variety of sea life close to shore. A manatee swam past while we were floating in the water. From shore, we saw a stingray leap from the water. And, while dining at the Rod and Reel Pier, a dolphin swam through the area fairly close to the nearby swimmers.
We didn’t get to scuba dive on this trip, but how I would love to with these creatures so close by in this crystal clear water. It is a great spot for shelling and hunting for sand dollars. We found countless seashells for our daughter to make necklaces and save for her mermaid-themed room. Though we never found a full sand dollar, we saw many hanging from a nearby shell tree where people hung them and wrote hopeful messages.
The beach closer to Bean Point is significantly less crowded, so it is a fantastic place for our family to set up our rental canopy and park ourselves for the day. We were far enough from other visitors to spread out and enjoy the beach.
Where to Eat on Anna Maria Island
The town of Anna Maria is mostly made up of rental home accommodations, restaurants, ice cream stands, and boutiques – including the delightful Ginny and Jane E’s at the IGA café and shop – that are perfect for families. There are several restaurants that cater to locally made, high-quality food ingredients, smoothies, and healthier bites.
But if you want a real indulgence, check out the giant cinnamon roll at Ginny and Jane’s or make your own donut at the Donut Experience. For the best tacos with the freshest ingredients, try the Poppos Restaurant. The Rod and Reel Pier and the Sandbar are beachside/oceanfront restaurants for your seafood fix.
Bike rides, watersports, fishing, and mini-golf not far make it an ideal spot for a family beach vacation. While we had every intention to rent bikes, we were there during the month of July so we were feeling more like a lazy beach vacation. But if you love more activity, there are plenty of things to do to make it entertaining.
Didn’t bring your beach chairs? Not to worry. There are plenty of beach rental shops where you can borrow everything from sand toys to beach chairs, canopies, and wagons. This was a lifesaver for us, as it enabled us to set up on the beach day under the shade of a canopy and enjoy full days on rental chairs at the beach.
Visiting for the Day
You can come to the town of Anna Maria and access the beach for the day. Parking is either on a side street or for a busy time, like July 4th weekend, the Sandbar Restaurant offers paid parking in its lot. Believe me, it is well worth the fee to spend the day at this glorious beach.
Located on Florida’s Southwest Gulf Coast approximately 50 miles north of Fort Myers, Palm Island is seven miles of paradise. This little gem has long been a favorite of one of Terri Marshall’s family.
One of the things Terri, a Florida native, loves most is that it is accessible only by boat or car ferry, making it a quieter family vacation. Golf carts, scooters, and bicycles are your transportation once on the island. And no matter what the season, Palm Island’s beaches are never crowded. Terri, her kids and grandkids spend hours on the beach looking for shark teeth, sand dollars, and starfish.
The primary lodging and recreation center for the island is Palm Island Resort. Built in the old Florida style architecture, the resort has one-, two-, and three-bedroom fully equipped villas for rent, perfect for families. Clusters of four to eight villas are arranged around heated swimming pools, Hydra Spas, and tennis courts. The recreation center rents golf carts, kayaks, jet skis, tennis equipment, snorkel gear, and fishing poles.
Give the kids a pirate treat. Red Beard the Pirate and his parrot, Bones, were fortunate enough to be shipwrecked on Palm Island where he teaches little pirates swashbuckling crafts aboard his shipwrecked vessel.
For decades, Naples has been considered a sleepy old retirement town. However, Naples is now incredibly family-friendly. What has changed is the attitude towards young families, who have in recent years taken up residency and made up more of the tourist population.
Hannah Rinaldi lives in Naples, so she knows a few things about what makes Naples family-friendly
The great thing about Naples, she says, is it has continued to thrive as a tourist destination without becoming a tourist trap. Naples still has protected beaches that aren’t crowded with resorts and condos. The beaches all are public with easy access and parking. Many of the beaches even have long boardwalks through protected wildlife areas, something you won’t find at more developed Florida beaches.
There is so much to do in Naples for families. Hannah’s family’s favorites include a day trip to the Everglades to ride an airboat and a trip to the Children’s Museum of Naples. For more ideas of what to do in Naples, read this post.
If you love eco-tours and learning about marine biology, Sarasota is the best family-friendly beach destination for you. Sarasota is on the Gulf of Mexico, but also on Sarasota Bay. The bay is an estuary that serves as a nursery for baby fish, sea horses, sea stars, dolphins, sea turtles, manatees, and more. It’s such an exhilarating experience to see these sea creatures up close and personal in the wild!
TravelingMom Maria Smith, mom of four, has great ideas of the family activities to do in Sarasota that are not only geared to kids but can entertain adults too. The Ringing Museum of Art and Mote Marine are great for all ages. Her family enjoyed beach days at Lido Key, where there are three beaches, a self-guided canoe trail, a multi-purpose field, and a volleyball court. Now that’s a family-friendly beach! She also recommends great family-eateries, like First Watch restaurant and Cha Cha Coconuts.
Fort De Soto Park
With soft sugary sands, the warm clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and brilliant sunsets, Fort De Soto Park makes a fantastic Florida beaches getaway. It is a favorite beach of TravelingMom Terri Marshall. Protected by a sandbar, the North Beach’s large lagoon doesn’t get above three feet deep. That’s where she takes the little ones to swim.
Fort De Soto Park also get kudos for cleanliness, shady patches, and clear water. There’s a snack bar offering basics like hot dogs and soda, picnic areas, and clean public restrooms with showers.
When you need some time away from the beach (I hear that’s a thing for some people!) Fort De Soto Park has a 7-mile paved nature trail ideal for a bike ride. Or you can paddle a kayak through lush mangroves and spot pelicans, heron, and egrets. Look for dolphins from the Gulf fishing pier and sea turtles that nest along the beach in summer.
Built for the Spanish-American War, historic Fort De Soto has old cannons and jail cells that Terri’s kids loved to explore. Park amenities include canoe, kayak and bicycle rentals, a food concession, picnic areas, and outdoor showers.
More Family-Friendly Beaches in Central West/Southwest Florida
Here are a few more favorite beaches in Central West/Southwest Florida you might want to check out:
Northeast Florida Beaches (Atlantic Ocean Side)
Florida may be located in the south, but it isn’t considered southern, at least not by southerners. Still, Amelia Island, a barrier island with 13 miles of beach, is known for its southern hospitality. With a small-town feel mixed with southern charm, Amelia Island offers an unforgettable family vacation. Get up early to walk the beach in search of shark’s teeth, then eat your fill of local shrimp for lunch before taking the ferry over St. Johns River.
St. Augustine Beach
One of our family’s favorite places and beaches in all of Florida is St. Augustine Beach. It is a perfect blend of a Florida beach experience, coupled with the history and culture so unique to this very special place.
St. Augustine offers 42 beaches to explore. On top of being beautiful, they are the site where Spanish explorers first set foot hundreds of years ago. If your kids love exploring as much as mine do, they will love this location.
The beaches are miles of immaculate coast and watched by lifeguards which made it a perfect day of swimming and playing for my kids. Of course, typical beach activities, like sandcastle building, wave body surfing, and snorkeling were my kids’ enjoyment.
Beyond the beach is the cultural experience and historical significance of St. Augustine. This is important for our family, as sharing other cultures with our children is very important to us. My kids loved visiting the Colonial Quarter ,stepping back in time and learning about history. From visiting the Fountain of Youth to seeing the world’s oldest schoolhouse, enjoying a kids’ pirate walking tour, my kids loved the cultural and historical experience of this unique city.
The Pirate & Treasure Museum is a must-see for any kids who love Pirates of the Caribbean as much as mine, and if they are fascinated by lighthouses, the St. Augustine lighthouse is worth a stop. In addition these attractions, there are many free things to do in St. Augustine.
Central East Florida Beaches (Atlantic Ocean Side)
New Smyrna Beach
Located on Central Florida’s east coast, New Smyrna Beach is another of Terri Marshall’s favorite beachside communities. Building sandcastles, surfing, kayaking, and bicycling on the beach are all popular activities. Surf fishing is Terri’s family’s favorite past time for her gang— they just dig up a few sand fleas for bait and cast away.
At the 73-acre Smyrna Dunes Park at the northern tip of New Smyrna Beach, a two-mile elevated boardwalk winds through the sand dunes. This provides a platform for viewing the unique vegetation, marine life, reptiles, and animals that live in the park. There are also picnic areas, pavilions, and an observation tower.
In town, New Smyrna streets are lined with quaint restaurants and shops. There are a number of hotels and many private rentals available. Most have pools and many have tennis courts, shuffleboard, basketball, and other games for family time.
Cocoa Beach exudes a kitschy vibe. Located along Florida’s Space Coast an hour’s drive from Orlando, Cocoa Beach is known for its friendly waves and family-friendliness. Designated the east coast surfing capital, you’ll find veteran surfers along with beginners riding the waves.
Driving into town along Highway A1A there are plenty of beachy souvenir shops. This is the place to pick up that pink flamingo you know you’ve always wanted! Don’t miss a visit to the massive two-story Ron Jon’s Surf Shop. This is the place to find anything you could ever want for all your favorite beach activities. Surfboards, swimsuits, sunscreen, and everything in between: it’s all here. Beach rentals including surfboards, boogie boards, beach umbrellas, and stand-up paddleboards are also available.
A landmark since 1962, the Cocoa Beach Pier has bars, restaurants and gift shops. Take the kids to the Dinosaur Store on the Cocoa Beach Causeway to browse among the selection of dinosaur teeth, fake shrunken heads, and arcade games.
Looking for the best beach to surf in Florida? The rougher waters of the Atlantic make Daytona Beach the great place for families who want to surf while on vacation in Florida.
Once considered the spring break capital of Florida, Daytona Beach is surprisingly family-friendly. Low prices for beachfront hotels make Daytona Beach one of the most affordable family vacation destinations in all of Florida. While most Florida beach towns have torn down older hotels to make room for pricier condos, Daytona Beach is still home to family-owned hotels and motels right on the beach.
There is also so much to do for kids in Daytona Beach, much of it free. Favorite family activities include a day trip to Ponce Inlet to explore the lighthouse and science center, a walk around the Riverfront Shops with a stop at Angell and Phelps Chocolate Factory and a Friday night concert at the Daytona Beach Bandshell.
Read More: Why You Should Take Your Kids to Kennedy Space Center.
One of our family’s favorite beaches in Florida is Vero Beach. The wide sandy beaches on the Atlantic Ocean make it one of those old-fashioned beach vacations. Playing in the sand, beach volleyball, looking for shells, and relaxing are our favorite things to do in Vero Beach. The beach is home to nesting turtles, so there are no lights on in the evening so as not to disturb them.
For kids, a treasure museum, a wildlife refuge, airboat adventure tours, and an environmental learning center are fun and educational. The Peter’s Grove Nursery is a great place for kids to see mini farm animals and learn about the region’s farming heritage. My kids loved petting the baby chicks.
Vero Beach is home to Disney Vacation Club Vero Beach Resort. It’s our family’s resort of choice. We have stayed at Disney’s Vacation Club Vero Beach Resort several times. It blends Vero’s quiet, nature-centric vibe with the family entertainment only Disney can provide. Much quieter than one of the theme park resorts, you still get the magic and legendary cast member experience, character visits, resort entertainment for the kids, and the beauty of the beach. (“Cast member” is what Disney employees are called.)
Things to Do at Vero Beach Resort
My kids spent the better part of our last visit playing poolside BINGO, mini-golfing and dancing at the resort’s dance parties. The resort also offers a kids’ club with crafts and activities, board games and beach toys for rent, character breakfasts, and more. What could be better!
The resort is a destination in itself and it’s a great family vacation if you just stay on property. But if you are itching to get out, there are some museums, galleries, and shopping in the area, and family-friendly restaurants are plentiful.
For a great family restaurant about a 15-minute drive from Disney’s resort, head to Harborcove Bar and Grille. It is a colorful restaurant with great family-style dining and seafood overlooking the marina. My kids loved eating delicious seafood while overlooking the pier.
The best part about Vero beach is that it is only about an hour’s drive from Orlando, meaning you can add it on to a Disney vacation.
More Family-Friendly Beaches in Central East/Southeast Florida
Here are a few more favorite beaches in Central East/Southeast Florida you might want to check out:
Final Thought About the Best Florida Beaches For Families
Florida is world-renowned for its incredible beaches, and it is easy to see why. There are many options for every kind of beach experience – from active, to quiet, historic, and nature-centric. It means Florida has a beach that fits just about every family.