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The Sunshine State has far more to bring to the table than just sunshine - and the hundreds of miles of beautiful beaches are picture-perfect proof. Whether you're after the soothing sea salt air and gentle Gulf shoreline, or the wild Atlantic waves on the vibrant east coast, you're sure to find the ultimate spot to soak up some rays and while away the days. Here's our top picks of the best beaches in Florida.
An iconic destination if ever there were one – Daytona Beach invites you to embrace your sense of adventure. One hour away from Orlando, escape the fairy dust and cartoon characters for a day and let (a different kind of) good times roll full throttle! Famed for its 23 miles of hard-packed white-sand beaches, visitors can take their cars on to the beach at certain access points. No more slogging with bags, buckets and towels – you'll have everything to hand! Once you've got a few hours of sun and splash under your belt, dive into Daytona's awesome attractions.
A blur of brilliance, there's so much to do you may need to plan a second day just to fit everything in! The International Speedway and Motorsports Hall of Fame host tours and major NASCAR events – a thrilling watch if you're lucky enough to bag tickets in advance. For the not so lucky, never fear! Head to Daytona Lagoon and its one million gallons of rushing water, adrenaline pumping waterslides, grand prix go-karting, mini golf, laser tag, arcade and thrill rides. There's plenty here to keep the whole family entertained for hours.
For those seeking a slower pace, head to Ponce Inlet. This beautiful place marks where the Atlantic Ocean and Halifax River meet. Stroll along nature trails or take a 90-minute boat eco tour through the waterways in search of dolphins, manatees and other marine life. If you've got the time, swing by the lighthouse and tackle the few hundred steps to the top. You'll be rewarded with incredible views over the ocean, river and surrounding area. Last but not least, catch free live music at the Beach Bandshell back in the heart of Daytona – jazz, folk, rhythms and blues are all part of the repertoire. Get ready for the embarrassing dad dance!
If you're looking for a unique experience, head to the Blowing Rocks Preserve in Jupiter. An ethereal, 100,000 year old limestone shelf awaits! The largest on the Atlantic, high tides and winter storms cause the sea to break against the rocks and force saltwater up to 50 feet in the air! Almost as wild and natural as a beach can get, you'd be forgiven for mistaking the landscape for Hawaii.
The studding of spectacular craggy rock formations are just the tip of the iceberg, with dunes, mangroves and sea grape trees all nestled in the area. No wonder it's a favourite hangout for loggerhead sea turtles! Why not take the family on a turtle hatchling walk, or hike and bike the many park and beach trails. A number of white-sand beaches are dotted about too. Dubois Park has more than 1200 feet of palm-lined shores, while Carlin Park offers an exercise trail and picnic areas. Ocean Cray has a playground, showers and pavilions, which makes it a great base for families. Two and a half hours away from Orlando, a visit to Blowing Rocks Preserve is a day trip adventure – but the natural phenomenon is definitely worth the trouble. Especially for those keen to see something different from a shoreline.
Warm Gulf waters lap against sugar-white sands at Clearwater. Nestled between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, this peninsula paradise is heaven for sun worshippers and swimmers alike! Stroll along the palm-lined promenade and pick out the perfect spot to make camp for the day. Shallow waters make an ideal playground for families, while Pier 60 is a great stop off point for anyone interested in casting a line and reeling in an afternoon of fishy fun.
With a reputation that precedes it, visitors come for the coastline, but they stay for the shopping, amazing activities and excellent live entertainment. There's something for everyone! From watersports to escape rooms and trampoline parks for those excited little legs. A sunset cruise or daytime dolphin tour are not to be missed. The playful porpoise are regularly seen making a splash and showing off for boats of beaming holidaymakers – so cameras at the ready to snap the majestic mammals as they ride the waves behind the boat. Between gentle waters and a wealth of attractions – Clearwater is the go-to Gulf Coast champion for a day well spent.
A short drive from Sarasota sits the sensational Siesta Key. Relaxation and rejuvenation goes without saying at this tropical treat, where you can enjoy unbelievable unspoiled landscapes and spectacular sunsets. Palm-tree dotted shores, sparkling emerald waters and pristine sugar-white sands are the foundations of an ultimate beach escape – and Siesta boasts them all without even blinking. The eight-mile barrier island is jam-packed with stunning natural scenery and breathtaking beauty.
The waters here are tranquil, perfect for a spot of swimming or snorkelling. And with year-round lifeguards, you can float easy knowing you're in good hands. Do as much or as little as you want when visiting this island paradise. Fishing, boating, parasailing, kayaking… the list goes on! Or just dip your toes in the sand and immerse yourself in a good book. Don't forget to keep an eye out for playful dolphins though! Out of the water, this quaint yet quirky beach offers tennis and volleyball courts, shaded playgrounds, picnic areas, and convenient concession stands to grab a quick snack between sunning and splashing.
Once a collection of secluded barrier islands accessible only by boat, this lovely location lavishes visitors with an untarnished two-mile stretch of beach. Framed by mangrove forests that have been preserved for everyone to enjoy, you can paddle in the protected sanctuary. Hop in a kayak and explore the serene canals and lagoons that are favourite hideout spots for majestic manatees and shorebirds. You might even glimpse a bottlenose dolphin's fin break the waters on the horizon!
Blend leisure with pleasure and while away an afternoon under an umbrella with a good book, after all, sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy it. Gentle waves caress the Gulf shoreline and their hypnotic movements might even cause you to nod off for an hour or two – pure bliss! When you awaken from your slumber, stroll along the boardwalk or take a trip on the tram. For those intrepid explorers, five miles of nature trails cover the park, all shared by hikers, cyclists and joggers. If that all sounds too much like hard work – get back to your busy schedule of swimming, shelling and sunbathing!
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