19 Best Beach Towns Along Florida’s Gulf Coast

Garrett Gardner

Florida’s Gulf Coast is a treasure trove of beach towns worth visiting at least once in a lifetime. With their pristine white sand beaches, clear blue waters, and endless sunshine, these towns offer the perfect escape for anyone looking to rejuvenate and unwind. From the bustling beaches of Key West to the charming cities of Bonita Springs and Miramar, there’s something for everyone here.

So, if someone is looking for a beach vacation combining relaxation, adventure, and culture, head down to Florida’s Gulf Coast and discover the best beach towns this paradise offers. Tourists will never want to leave with so much to see and do in the Sunshine State.

UPDATE: 2023/04/08 13:57 EST BY NOAH STAATS

The Hunt For Florida’s Best Gulf Coast Beach Towns Continues!

This article has been refreshed with even more of the best Florida Gulf Coast towns, as well as tips for a relaxing beach vacation and things to do at each respective place.

19 Clearwater

Clearwater Beach, Florida

Clearwater Beach, Florida

  • Clearwater is a laid-back, mid-size coastal city.
  • Home to the famous Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Located in the Tampa Bay Area, Clearwater, Florida, is a stunning, laid-back town with a population of roughly 120,000. One of the best beach towns on the Gulf Coast of Florida, this place is known as the Sunshine City because of its great weather and bright, sunny conditions.

Clearwater features a 3-mile stretch of white sand backed by hotels and restaurants, all of which make up a lively downtown area. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium also hosts injured sea life and has been documented in various movies, TV shows, and documentaries.

18 Sarasota

Sarasota, Florida

Skyline on the bay at dawn of Sarasota, Flordia

  • Sarasota is south of Tampa and sits on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
  • This city was once the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus.
  • Sarasota is more expensive, pandering to the luxury market.

Another great Gulf-Coast town in Florida worth visiting is Sarasota. This city is south of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast and was once the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus. Sarasota, Florida, tends to be more expensive, as it’s filled with fine dining, shopping, and luxury homes, apartments, and hotels.

Furthermore, the Sarasota area is home to miles of beaches with soft white sand and shallow waters, including Lido Beach and Siesta Key Beach.

17 Miramar Beach

Miramar Beach shoreline
Via Shutterstock

Hotels and beach cottages line the sands of Miramar Beach.

  • Miramar Beach mixes classic Florida charm with upscale amenities and attractions.
  • This area is considered one of the more charming towns in Florida.
  • There are plenty of places to stay during a trip here, with hotels and condos overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

​​​​​Miramar Beach is among the most charming beach towns on the Florida gulf coast. It is a classical enclave off the coast due to its scenic beach roads, resorts, and magnificent restaurants. In addition, it has beautiful condos with a sweeping view of the Gulf of Mexico.

Ultra-modern facilities are ideal for family trips which are complimented by state-of-the-art shopping experiences. Silver Sands Premium Outlets is one of the most prominent designer outlet spots in the States. So, not only can someone get a tan here, but they’ll also be able to stock up on new fashions.

16 Bonita Springs, Florida

Close-up of waves crashing at Bonita Springs Beach in Florida.
Photo by Josh Sorenson on Unsplash

Close-up of waves crashing at Bonita Springs Beach in Florida.

  • Part of Bonita Springs lies on Hickory Island, separating Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Bonita Springs is located in Southwest Florida and features many nearby destinations.
  • Bonita Springs regularly makes lists of the top beaches in the state.

Part of Bonita Springs lies on Hickory Island, separating Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The city is in the Southwest of Florida and contains several beaches and parks. It also has a boardwalk and a swimming area dedicated to providing visitors with natural baths and extraordinary relaxed encounters. Tourists attest to why the city was named one of the top ten beaches.

It’s also worth mentioning that Bonita Springs Beach offers showers for visitors, as well as on-site parking. There are also play and picnic areas at the Bonita Springs Beach Park, which may be fun for families traveling to the coastal city.

Related: This Florida Key Is The Prettiest, With The Best Views

15 Saint George Island

Beach chairs on caldesi island, the beach on st. george island

Beach chairs on caldesi island, the beach on st. george island

  • Saint George is known for its peacefulness and less-crowded beaches.
  • Many beaches and attractions around Saint George, Florida, are pet-friendly.
  • Saint George Island State Park offers hiking, water sports, birding, and swimming.

Saint George Island is one of the most therapeutic towns in Florida, making it the ideal travel destination for families. It has unique restaurants and bars that tempt tourists to overspend. The town’s exotic nature seems forgotten, but the city is enjoying its natural beauty amazingly. One bonus here is that places around town are pet friendly.

St. George Island State Park offers the best hiking activities, water sports, birding, and swimming. Its luxurious resorts make it a top-rated spot for high-end clients. There’s enough luxury to make even a short weekend getaway memorable here.

14 Captiva Island

Beach sunset at Captiva Island in Florida
Photo by Jaimee Hoffman on Unsplash

Beach sunset at Captiva Island in Florida

  • Captiva Island is three miles from Fort Myers.
  • This town has a vintage charm and unique architecture.
  • Captiva has a lively bar and restaurant scene.

Captiva Island is situated approximately three miles from Fort Myers. Its vintage style and charming nature make it one of the most therapeutic beach towns on the gulf coast. People worldwide are curious to discover the nature of a town where no cars are allowed. Even though travelers come to the island with the ultimate goal of disconnecting from the noisy world, they still find plenty of bars and restaurants for enjoyment.

Mucky Duck Restaurant & Bar is colorfully decorated to unravel a nautical feel. Due to its uncrowded nature and warm sandy beaches, Captiva Island is ideal for a family setting that, if lucky, will spot sea life, observe birds, and dance with dolphins.

Captiva Island is within a short drive from Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach, which may be a fun excuse to skip over to the next town for a dual-beach day.

Related: 8 Unique Things To Do In Destin, Florida

13 Cedar Key

Birds flocking in the water at Cedar Key, Florida, USA
Photo by Robin Canfield on Unsplash

Birds flocking in the water at Cedar Key, Florida, USA

  • Cedar Key is the second-oldest town in Florida.
  • Visitors can explore historic buildings and landmarks throughout this coastal city.
  • Cedar Key is known to have beautiful, decade-old cedar trees lining the streets.

Being the second-oldest town in Florida, Cedar Key preserves the heritage of the Gulf Coast. It’s one of the best Florida beach towns Gulf Coast destinations have to offer history lovers; this spot boasts charming harbors, historic buildings, and generational businesses built on the shore along the oceanfront. One fascinating reason to visit the city is to witness its enriching history.

After being founded in 1849, the hurricane wiped it away less than a century later. Cedar trees regrew later, making it one of the most picturesque destinations on the gulf coast. Fishing, biking, and kayaking is the ultimate way to enjoy the city.

If someone wants to explore a historical Florida beach town, Cedar Key is a perfect choice. This is the second-oldest established city in Florida, making it ideal for history buffs.

12 Madeira Beach

Image by Peacenik from Pixabay 

Chairs and umbrellas out at Madeira Beach in Florida

  • Madeira Beach has a rich pirate history.
  • There are countless restaurants and shops around Madeira Beach, Florida.
  • Visitors may want to check out the Mad Craft brewery after hitting the beach.

Considering the variety of activities and beauty in Madeira Beach, it is undoubtedly one of Florida’s best Gulf Coast towns. Travelers can start by visiting John’s Pass Village and learn about the pirate who first referred to Madeira Beach as a home.

The town harbors over a hundred restaurants and shopping centers. Foodies and wine lovers are well catered for since Florida Winery offers free tasting. Finally, beer enthusiasts can visit Mad Craft brewing company for a mind-blowing experience.

11 Tarpon Spring

Sunset in Tarpon Springs in Florida
Image by David Frampton from Pixabay

Sunset in Tarpon Springs in Florida

  • Tarpon Springs has a thriving Greek community.
  • There are many antique stores in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
  • Tarpon Springs is known for its sponges brought to shore from nearby waters.

History lovers cannot afford to skip visiting this enriched Florida Gulf Coast town. The city is rich in antique item shops, sponge shops, and art galleries. Some of the best Greek restaurants nationwide are found in this town. Tarpon Springs hosts the largest population of the Greek community, who go down the history as some of the originators of civilization.

Every historian and photographer would want to visit the place, learn about the Epiphany celebration, and capture moments of the Greek Seafood Festival.

Tarpon Springs has a rich Greek history, with many businesses still being Greek owned to this day. Exploring restaurants, hotels, antique stores, and religious sites may be a nice way to catch up with Greek culture.

10 Anna Maria Island

Parasailing over Anna Maria Island
Photo credit: Aaron Frutman on Visualhunt

Parasailing over Anna Maria Island

  • Anna Maria Island is roughly two miles from Sarasota and its beaches.
  • This town has an old-fashioned, “classic Florida” feel.
  • Horse riding, shipwrecking tours, and plenty of natural sightseeing are available to visitors.

Anna Mariah Island is approximately two miles from Sarasota on the Gulf Coast. Disallowing huge developments on the land preserves its distinctive old-fashioned feel. Even though it’s a small town, Anna Maria Island offers travelers a wide range of activities.

Taking a horse ride on the beach and diving at Bradenton Shipwreck is heavenly. Additionally, the city is home to dolphins, turtles, manatees, and a bird sanctuary, which is handy for photographers. As such, it’s one of the best Gulf Coast beach towns in Florida for those who enjoy nature and wildlife.

9 Siesta Key

Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, Florida

Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, Florida

  • Siesta Key is known for its clear, shallow waters.
  • There are many shopping malls, bars, and events happening in Siesta Key.
  • This is a popular spring break location for Florida residents and those in nearby states.

Its shallow waters, white sand, and tropical feel make it a popular destination for individuals seeking to escape life’s daily grind. Plenty of restaurants, some of America’s huge shopping malls, bars, and events allow travelers to rejoin the world after rejuvenating their minds. Crescent Beach is ideal for a family setting, and progressing towards limestone rocks to fish is permitted.

It could be fun to plan a trip to enjoy the tours and activities in the Florida Keys, as there’s always something to do. This entire area on the Gulf Coast of Florida is jam-packed with beaches, quirky hotels and restaurants, and history that only the Sunshine State can provide.

8 Sanibel Island

a beach on sanibel island in florida

a beach on sanibel island in florida

  • Sanibel Island is a more secluded, quiet beach town in Florida.
  • Boating here is a favorite pass time for visitors and residents.
  • The area is family-friendly.

Off the coast of Florida stands the quietest, most charming, and most isolated beach town (some even say it’s one of the best beach towns to live in, not just visit). Guests who visit this island town have the calmest time of their life, away from the noisy world. It’s an excellent pick for a family getaway. Boating and swimming on its white sunny beaches never get old, nor does a walk in its surrounding lush tropical forest.

Sanibel Island is the perfect choice if someone wants to spend a relaxing, quiet week with their family. Because it’s smaller and has fewer “big name” stores and events, Sanibel Island tends to have more tranquil year-round energy.

7 Seaside

Sand dunes Seaside Beach in Florida
Image by Pam Carter from Pixabay 

Sand dunes Seaside Beach in Florida

  • Seaside is off Highway 30 in South Walton.
  • This town is known as one of the cutest in Florida, offering walkable access to nearly everything.
  • There are quaint shops, hotels, eateries, and more to explore in Seaside, Florida.

Off-Highway 30A in South Walton, people can find the beautiful small beach town of Seaside, which was designed to be one of the cutest regions in Florida. This gulf coast town is walkable, where the Truman Show was filmed. The atmosphere, architecture, downtown shops, restaurants, and white sand beaches distinguish Seaside. Visitors to the beach town are recommended to dine at Vue, located on 30A and recognized as the region’s best waterfront sunset and dining.

6 St. Petersburg

A shot of the new St. Pete Pier, St Petersburg, FL
Marcus Ubenz: Unsplash

A shot of the new St. Pete Pier, St Petersburg, FL

  • St. Petersburg features a new pier, white sand beaches, blue water, and many fun events throughout the year.
  • This city is known to have some of the best beaches in Florida.

This beach town in Florida is known as the Sunshine City, and it can be easily reached from Clearwater and Tampa. St. Pete Beach, or St. Petersburg, is located on the Gulf Coast in Central Florida and is known as one of the best beach towns in the state. Iconic white sand and turquoise Gulf of Mexico waters set St. Pete’s beaches apart.

People visiting this beach town must also explore the hidden Sunken gardens, free murals across the downtown area, museums, beach bars, restaurants, rooftops, and breweries.

5 Henderson Beach State Park, Destin

Chairs on the beach in Destin
Via: Shutterstock

Two chairs in the sand overlooking the turquoise ocean in Destin

  • This beach town features great camping opportunities.
  • Destin, Florida, is known for amazing fishing.

One must not miss the beautiful Henderson Beach State Park on Florida’s Emerald Coast. The protected nirvana features innate beauty with a nature trail and 60 campsites. Turtles, dolphins, and birds, including brown pelicans and black skimmers, can be found here. This beach is located in Destin, which is known as the luckiest fishing village in the world.

4 Venice Beach

Lifeguard Tower in Venice Beach, Florida

Lifeguard Tower in Venice Beach, Florida

  • Venice Beach is known to be clean.
  • This town has been named the “shark tooth capital of the world.”
  • Nesting turtles can be seen here between May and October.

Tourists flock to Venice Beach in Florida for its pristine conditions, thus ranking it among the top Gulf towns in Florida. They can also benefit from various amenities, including concessions, a boardwalk, volleyball courts, a sail-shaped pavilion, and restrooms. Many tourists consider Venice, Florida, to be a bit of Italy, so that could be fun for those wanting to soak in Italian-inspired cuisine, culture, shopping, etc.

People coming to Venice Beach will spot fossilized shark teeth on the shores of Venice Beach, known as the “shark tooth capital of the world.” These teeth can mostly be seen on Venice Jetty. Nestling turtles can also be spotted between May and October in Venice Beach.

3 Key West

Key West Lighthouse, Florida
mariakray / Shutterstock

Key West Lighthouse, Florida

  • Key West is at the southernmost tip of Florida.
  • This town features some of the state’s most popular beaches, as well as the popular Duval Street, where lots of shopping and nightlife takes place.
  • Key West is roughly 95 miles from Cuba.

Key West offers plenty of things to do, unsurprising since it is one of the most famous beach destinations in Florida. It marks the end of the road for those traveling down through Florida (although it doesn’t need to be the end of the journey – consider taking the ferry to visit Dry Tortugas National Park).

The island is four miles long and one mile long and is the southernmost end of US Route 1. From Key West, people are only 95 miles from Cuba. One of the island’s most popular attractions is the Key West Lighthouse, which people can climb. Also, the island’s famous Duval Street is where lots of retail therapy can be enjoyed. Plus, Duval Street offers some excellent nightlife.

Related: This Florida State Park Preserves A Lost & Forgotten Ruin (With A Compelling History)

2 Pensacola

Pensacola, Florida beach sunset

Pensacola, Florida, beach during sunset with waves

  • Pensacola is Florida’s westernmost city.
  • This beach city is one of the oldest European settlements in the United States.

Out on Florida Panhandle is Pensacola – the westernmost city of Florida. The Florida Panhandle is famous for being distinctly Southern in culture and flavor. It is a city of only 54,000 and is renowned for its stunning beaches. Notably, Pensacola is the site of one of the oldest European settlements in what is today the USA. It was the site of a Spanish settlement even predating that of St. Augustine by six years (in 1559) – although the settlement was abandoned and not inhabited again until 1698.

1 Islamorada

Islamorada, Florida Keys, Florida
Photo by Keith Luke on Unsplash

Islamorada, Florida Keys, Florida

  • Islamorada is located between Miami and Key West.
  • This area is spread over five islands: Tea Table Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Windley Key, and Plantation Key.

Before holidaymakers get to Key West, they should consider stopping at Islamorada, one of the prettiest Gulf Coast towns in Florida. Islamorada is an incorporated village between Miami and Key West. It is spread over five islands: Tea Table Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Windley Key, and Plantation Key. It has a population of around 7,000 residents and is a great place to enjoy the tropics of the Caribbean.

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