From the barrier islands of Fort Myers Beach to the sugar-white sands of Clearwater Beach, the best Florida Gulf Coast beaches are a dream for beachgoers. While Florida’s Atlantic Coast is known for its flowing waves and water sports, Florida’s West Coast dabbles in idyllic beachside beauty.
The most popular beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast are rich in white sand and light green waters. Whether you’re looking for a quiet retreat in a state park or beach with a bustling party scene, the Florida Gulf Coast has something for everyone.
Not sure where to start planning your Florida Gulf of Mexico beach adventure? Find seaside bliss on one of these amazing beaches on the Florida Gulf Coast.
Looking for more vacation ideas? Check out all our other beach guides and our Florida Travel Guide for more recommendations on when to visit, where to go & what to do!
Top-rated beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast
The turquoise waters and golden, soft sands of Clearwater Beach have been a hit with generations of Floridians. Located along the Gulf Coast in Central Florida, the award-winning beach may well be the state’s prettiest.
This picturesque West Coast shore is popular with families and kept in immaculate condition. At Clearwater Beach, children will love playing in the shallow water while relaxed parents take in the beach’s gorgeous sunsets. The playground is popular for family fun, too.
In the center of Clearwater Beach lies the 1,080-foot-long Pier 60. The famed pier is a perfect spot for watching an epic sunset to nightly street performances and entertainment. Not only can you take in the scenic views, but you can also grab a drink at one of the cafes while the children play in the playground and inflatable slides.
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If you’re looking to stay the night in Clearwater Beach, there are plenty of plush beachfront hotels, vacation rentals, and beach bars in the vicinity, too.
Pier 60 is also a great fishing spot. One of the top Clearwater tourist attractions, Pier 60 remains popular year-round.
Panama City Beach
With 27 miles of sugar-white sand beaches and laid-back tropical vibes, Panama City Beach is one of the Sunshine State’s favorite seaside destinations.
Located on Florida’s Emerald Coast, the beach town is known for its pristine waterfront location and an array of fresh seafood restaurants. Popular with couples, families, and independent nature lovers, Panama City Beach is a stunning slice of seafront heaven.
The beach itself is ideal for outdoor adventures. The crystal clear water is a popular spot for diving, swimming, and surfing.
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Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, Panama City Beach’s artificial reef is home to thousands of fish and aquatic mammals. You’ll also spot ancient shipwrecks on the seabed.
Planning to keep the kids entertained? Check out some of the local amusement parks like Race City or WonderWorks.
For outdoor activities, head over to St. Andrews Park and Pier Park. At this pair of beachside nature preserves, visitors can surf, swim, dive, and relax in the calm water. You can even make use of the campfire facilities and enjoy a rustic, old-fashioned evening of toasting marshmallows.
Like Panama City Beach, Pensacola Beach charms beach bums with its pristine emerald waters and sugar-white sand. Situated on the Emerald Coast on Florida’s western tip, Pensacola Beach is one of the finest beaches near Pensacola and near the top of the list of the finest on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Pensacola Beach is often even listed as one of America’s best beaches on TripAdvisor.
The Pensacola Boardwalk is a perfect place to take in the beach’s beautiful sunsets while dining in one of its restaurants. Paradise Bar & Grill, a well-known eatery, can be found opposite the main beach.
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Gulf Islands National Seashore, the longest protected shore in the country, is another one of the top Pensacola Beach sightseeing spots. This pristine gulf shore is ideal for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies alike and boasts spectacular seaside views and plenty of family-friendly attractions.
Siesta Key Beach
Located on sunny Siesta Key in Sarasota County, Siesta Key Beach is widely regarded as one of the USA’s best. This magnificent Gulf Coast beach features golden sand and some of the clearest water in the country.
Siesta Key is a barrier island located southwest of Sarasota. Part of Florida’s Cultural Coast, the Siesta Key features plenty of hotels, restaurants, bars, and cafes to indulge in. You can also take part in an early-morning yoga session on one of Sarasota’s most beautiful beaches and find your inner zen.
Located near the top Sarasota attractions, Siesta Key Village is situated on Siesta Beach. Its variety of unique shops, high-end eateries, and cute cafes makes for a busy day exploring.
If you’re looking for a bit more solitude, head to the lesser-known Turtle Beach and Crescent Beach. Two of the coolest places to see in Siesta Key, these stunning beaches are a little off the beaten track. They’re ideal for a quiet swim and a brief escape from Sarasota city life.
Anna Maria Island
A seven-mile barrier island, Anna Maria Island features snow-white sand, pristine waters, and old-fashioned buildings. It’s bounded by the glittering Gulf of Mexico on one side, Longboat Pass on the other, and Tampa Bay towards the north.
The beautiful beaches on Anna Maria Island are some of the top-rated attractions on Florida’s Gulf Coast. These family-friendly shores are ideal for a chilled beach day with the kids or your partner.
Manatee Public Beach features outdoor showers, lifeguards, cafes, and beach volleyball equipment. It’s busy and for good reason. Its warm waters, golden sand, and a plethora of amenities make it extremely popular with tourists and locals alike.
If you’re after a quieter beach day, Coquina Beach is ideal. It has similar facilities to and is as beautiful Manatee Public Beach, but less crowded.
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There’s also Bean Point. The quietest beach on Anna Maria Island, this charming beach is ideal for solitude seekers and older couples. Swimming is not advised here due to the strong currents. The real draw of Bean Point, however, is the unrivaled views of Tampa Bay and beyond.
Henderson Beach State Park
Located on the Emerald Coast Parkway near Destin, Henderson Beach State Park is a perfect road trip destination. Featuring meandering nature trails, rising sand dunes, white sand, and calm waters, the Florida state park is a hotspot for family trips and exploration. The park is famed for being home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Destin.
Henderson Beach State Park is crossed with boardwalks where visitors can enjoy swimming, wildlife observation, and fishing. The 200-acre park also features outdoor picnic areas and campfire facilities.
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If nature is your thing, then you’ll love exploring the sandy beach and observing its plant and animal life, including dolphins, birds, and turtles.
Fort Myers Beach
Perched on the Paradise Coast, Fort Myers Beach is the ideal Gulf Coast destination for water sports lovers. This seven-mile stretch of beach is one of the most popular beaches around Fort Myers with kayakers, divers, surfers, and parasailers. Like Panama City and Daytona Beach on Florida’s East Coast, it’s also one of the country’s most popular spring break destinations.
Located on Estero Island, Fort Myers Beach features mouth-watering restaurants, stunning sunset cruises, and a famous Shrimp Festival. Whether you’re visiting with family, as a couple, or solo, you’ll find plenty to keep you amused in the beach town.
After your Fort Myers Beach adventure, carve out time to visit Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, two of the top places to go in Fort Myers. The idyllic, beachy setting of these islands offer miles of pristine, undisturbed, and family-friendly beach.
Both Sanibel Island and Captiva Island are perfect locations for laid-back shelling expeditions and picturesque sunsets.
The small, intimate town of Bradenton Beach is known for two things: its humble businesses and stunning beach. Family-owned bars, restaurants, shops, and fishing merchants have been part of the town’s fabric for generations.
Located on Anna Maria Island west of Bradenton, Bradenton Beach itself is home to numerous different aquatic species. Dolphins, turtles, and schools of tropical fish can be found swimming in the emerald waters.
Leffis Key Preserve is a gorgeous nature preserve nearby. If you’re looking for an alternative to the beach, then head here and explore the abundance of plant life on display here. You’ll also be treated to stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico from the park’s 26-foot hill.
The serene Venice Beach is a stretch of paradise. Like many other Florida Gulf Coast beaches, it features snow-white sand and sparkling turquoise waters. Venice Beach is ideal for relaxing, swimming, and sunbathing. If you’re looking for beautiful places to visit in Venice, FL, pack up your beach towels and head down!
Venice Beach is particularly known for its shelling. Fossilized shark teeth are common. You’ll often see other travelers collecting them near the water. If archeology is your jam, you’ll love traversing through the sand looking for ancient remnants.
Be sure to also stop off at Venice City Fishing Pier. At the 700-foot boardwalk, visitors can go fishing and treat themselves to stunning sunset views. You might even be able to spot a few dolphins on the horizon.
Located near the city of Naples, Marco Island is part of the Ten Thousand Islands chain, a network of islets off the coast of southwest Florida. The only developed islet, Marco Island is home to numerous luxury hotels and beachfront resorts.
The unspoiled scenery and immaculate beaches of Marco Island are huge draws for tourists. As far as Florida Gulf coast beaches go, Marco Island offers some of the best, including Tigertail Beach.
Marco Island is also home to world-class golf facilities. If going to the beach isn’t your thing, practice your swing while basking in the sun’s rays.
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The miles of beach and stunning blue water at Marco Island make it a popular spot for outdoor activities like kayaking and canoeing. The area also has a rich archaeological history. Visitors can explore it in detail by heading to the Marco Island Historical Museum.
Honeymoon Island State Park
Cherished by Floridians and tourists alike, Honeymoon Island State Park boasts stunning white beaches, emerald green waters, and picturesque forests. This state park is one of the Florida Gulf Coast’s top-rated attractions.
Local amenities include beach showers, a playground, a restaurant, and a hiking trail. Honeymoon Island State Park is home to one of Florida’s last remaining virgin slash pine forests. The wilderness houses armadillos, eagles, ospreys, brown pelicans, and tortoises.
If you’re dying for some beach time, you’ll feel right at home on the golden shores of Honeymoon Island State Park. Popular activities here include swimming, parasailing, snorkeling, and enjoying the views from the beachfront promenade.