Florida has been beckoning vacationers to its beaches for decades. The “Sunshine State” has over 1,000 miles of scenic coastline and deciding where to go can be overwhelming. Knoxville Moms narrowed down the list to classic Florida beach towns including some of our favorites. We have no doubt there will be a destination for every family on this list. Wherever your Florida vacation takes you, we’re sure there will be sunshine and plenty of memories made.
Amelia Island—Get away from it all on this pristine barrier island near Jacksonville. There are 13-miles of unspoiled beaches. Favorite spots to explore and enjoy include Amelia Island State Park and the Main Beach Park. Visitors also flock to Amelia Island’s championship golf courses. If your kids need a break from the sun, check out Villa Villekulla. The toy store has room to play and an interesting array of hand-picked, quality toys. Digging in the sand just got more interesting thanks to Amelia Shark Tooth Adventures. Kids will learn and have a blast hunting for fossils and shark teeth. Sounds like a win-win!
Boca Raton—This Florida beach community isn’t just for retirees! Boca Raton has become a hot spot for families. Boca boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida. You can visit area beach parks for a nominal parking fee. Most are well-equipped with all the things families need like playgrounds, grills and showers. Red Reef Park is a must-do. The public park offers 67-acres of swimming, snorkeling, fishing and more. You’ll also find the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center there. It’s a great stop to learn about all the coastal creatures in the area. For kid-friendly bites, check out Farmer’s Table, Biergarten and Augy’s Restaurant & Pizzeria.
Clearwater Beach—Gentle water and white sand are the prime attractions in Clearwater Beach. The Beach Walk promenade is just one of the ways to enjoy the scenery. Pier 60 is the perfect spot to watch breathtaking sunsets. You can also find food, entertainment and activities on the pier like a shaded playground. The Clearwater Beach Aquarium is famous thanks to a dolphin named “Winter.” The dolphin starred in two popular movies, “Dolphin Tale” and “Dolphin Tale 2.” You can visit the aquarium and participate in many of the activities and tours also offered there.
Delray—Called Florida’s “Village by the Sea,” Delray Beach offers a small-town friendly atmosphere. But it’s not short on activities and entertainment. Delray Municipal Beach is the perfect way to start your vacation. Travel + Leisure named Delray Beach one of the 12 best beaches in Florida. That’s saying something for a state with so much coastline! If you tire of all the sun and fun, check out the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. It’s a full cultural experience and worth the visit. Be sure to make time to explore downtown Delray Beach. It’s very walkable and offers specialty shops, dining and entertainment.
Destin—This Gulf Coast beach is popular with East Tennesseans and it’s easy to see why. The fine white sand and warm tranquil water alone is worth the drive to Destin. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the beach, too. From swimming to snorkeling, you can do it all. There are plenty of family-friendly attractions. The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in nearby Fort Walton Beach will wow with its variety of exhibits and shows. If you love thrills, check out one of Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park. The Destin Harbor Boardwalk is a great spot to stroll. It’s a bustling entertainment district with shops, restaurants, bars and tours.
Islamorada—Nestled in the Florida Keys, Islamorada is a paradise. Since there aren’t many public beaches, your best bet is to stay at an oceanfront resort with beach access. While there, take a trip to the Islamorada sandbar which is about a mile offshore. It’s a perfect spot with shallow water to snorkel, swim and kayak. Islamorada is considered the “sportfishing capital of the world.” You can easily find the right fishing tour for your level of experience. Kids will never forget a dolphin encounter at the Theater of the Sea or seeing a real treasure chest at the History of Diving Museum.
Key Largo—This Florida Keys destination is most well-known for being a top diving destination, but you don’t have to dive to enjoy everything the island has to offer. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a great place to explore and relax. The best spot to swim at the park is Cannon Beach. It earned that name thanks to 17th century cannons located there. You can also cruise on the African Queen. The boat was made famous by the movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is another fantastic experience. You can see the only coral reef in the United States and all its incredible residents from the comfort of a glass-bottom boat.
Marco Island—This is the largest and only developed land in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands. Marco Island has the Gulf of Mexico on one side and mangrove estuaries on the other. That’s what makes this Florida destination so unique. If you want to get back to nature, you can stay at a primitive campsite at Collier Seminole State Park. The Briggs Nature Center allows you to observe wildlife in its natural habitat. There are shelling excursions and self-guided canoe trips, too. Tigertail Beach is a must-do for all visitors. There are tidal pools to explore, shelling, birding, wildlife spotting and kayaking. There are also plenty of creature comforts for families like a snack bar, umbrella rentals and a playground for the kids.
Palm Beach—This Florida beach town is called “America’s First Resort Destination” for good reason. People from all walks of life have been coming to Palm Beach since the 1800s. The white sand and ocean views are the perfect backdrop for swimming and playing. Bicycling on the beach is also popular. For a change of scenery, kids will also love a visit to the Palm Beach Zoo. Don’t forget to bring a swimsuit for the zoo splash pad. The Cox Science Center & Aquarium are another family option. Palm Beach offers luxurious accommodations that also welcome children of all ages like The Breakers, the Palm Beach Marriott and Eau Palm Beach.
Panama City Beach—This Florida favorite was named the top three beaches in the United States. Panama City Beach is another popular destination for East Tennesseans. There are 27-miles of pristine beach made for relaxing, frolicking and even biking. Adventurous families will find parasailing, snorkeling and swimming with dolphins. Families looking for thrills will find Cobra Adventure Park, Coconut Creek Family Fun Park and Goofy Golf. When your family gets hungry, there’s a wide array of restaurants to choose from. If you’re ready to book your PCB vacation now, there are accommodations to fit every budget and experience.
St. Augustine—Steeped in history, St. Augustine is more than just a beach destination. It’s the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the United States. While that’s the attraction for many visitors, the unspoiled beaches keep beckoning people back too. Anastasia State Park offers abundant wildlife and natural tidal marshes. Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve is a beautiful spot to hike, bike, fish kayak, picnic and ride horseback. If you’re after a more luxe vibe, try Ponte Vedra Beach. It’s home to the AAA five diamond Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. If that doesn’t fit your budget, there are mid-price resort options nearby as well. With such a storied history, St. Augustine has an eclectic array of restaurants from the classic seafood spots to international fare.
St. George Island—Just off the coast of Apalachicola, this barrier island is known for having some of the most peaceful, serene beaches in the state of Florida. You won’t find crowds here, but there are lots of activities for families to enjoy. Of course, there are beaches and plenty of spots for swimming. You can also take a hike at Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park to bird watch or star gaze. If you’re visiting during early summer, take a walk on the beach at dawn. You may spot nesting sea turtles! A fun way to explore the island is on bicycle. You can rent or bring your own. There are six miles of paved path to cruise. For the best view of the island, climb the Capt. St. George Lighthouse for just a small fee. The lighthouse museum is also worth checking out during your visit.
Santa Rosa Beach—This Emerald Coast community has its own distinct personality. Here you’ll find luxury beach houses, upscale dining and an artist colony called Gulf Place. The turquoise waters and sugar sand beaches helped land Santa Rosa Beach on Travel + Leisure’s “Best Beaches on Earth” for families list. If your family enjoys hiking, biking or horseback riding, there is plenty to choose from in Santa Rosa. It’s home to three state parks–Grayton Beach State Park, Deer Lake State Park and Eden Gardens State Park. There is also Point Washington State Forest. End your fun-filled day at the Vue on 30A for an incredible sunset and dinner!
Siesta Key—Just a short drive from Sarasota, Siesta Key has been named the nation’s best beach twice. Its laid-back attitude and lots of amenities make the barrier island popular with families. Siesta Public Beach has recently undergone major renovations including a new playground, family picnic area and the upscale “Siesta Sun Deck” pavilion concession overlooking the beach. Siesta Key Village is a great place to eat, shop, and stroll. It’s easy to get to thanks to the free trolley around the island. Be sure to eat one of your meals at Siesta Key Oyster Bar or “SKOB” as the locals call it. The great seafood and live music make this spot a Siesta Key landmark.
For more information on Florida’s beaches, click here.