Florida's Coasts: Going Coastal

Bonita Springs at sunset

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

The Sunshine State is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico providing more than 1200 miles of picturesque coastline. But, although the state can easily be divided into east coast and west coast or Atlantic Coast and Gulf Coast, it's actually a bit more complicated than that. Instead, the thousands of miles of coastline are divided into 10 separate coastal regions with specific names and meanings.

First Coast

Starting in Northeast Florida, and spanning Jacksonville to a bit before Daytona Beach, you will find the First Coast. Aptly named as it was first area in the history of the U.S. to get discovered and colonized by European settlers. It's also the first coast you'll hit when driving into Florida from the Northeast. St. Augustine, the oldest city in America, was first settled by the Spanish in 1565.

Space Coast

Home to the Kennedy Space Center, it's easy to figure out why this area is called the Space Coast. All NASA space ships are launched from Cape Canaveral, which is right in the center of this region. Another fun fact, the area code for Space Coast cities is 3-2-1, can you guess why?

Treasure Coast

The idea of a Treasure Coast probably stirs up images of pirates, shipwrecks, and gold, and in fact that's exactly where the name came from. But, don't go there looking for treasure today, the name dates back about 300 years when several Spanish ships carrying large amounts of gold and silver sunk off the coast. The name stuck and oddly enough people have found random bits of coins in the shallows off the coast throughout the years.

Gold Coast

Right at the bottom of the state sits the Gold Coast. Famous for it's vacation-worthy cities, like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, the Gold Coast is one of the fanciest areas in the state. No sunken treasure here, rather the Gold Coast got its name from the golden real estate opportunities this area has created over the years.

Lee Island Coast

Coming up around the peninsula, the Lee Island Coast is the first stop on the Gulf side of the state. The funny thing is, Lee Island is not actually an island. Instead the coast is named after Lee County which is full of some of Florida's most beautiful barrier islands, Sanibel, Captiva, Estero, Marco Island, and a few 100 other small barrier islands. Fort Myers, Naples, Bonita Springs, and Cape Coral are some of the mainland cities on this coast.

Cultural Coast

Known for its legacy as a home to artists and musicians, the Cultural Coast is a popular vacation destination. Calm Gulf waters and beautiful barrier islands, make this a picturesque Florida destination. Spend time Sarasota or on Maria Island, Siesta Key or Lido Key — those are the most popular beaches in the region.

Sun Coast

St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Clearwater are the main cities on the Sun Coast. The region was given its name because this area gets the most days of sunshine per year in the state. The area is also home to beautifully clear Gulf beaches with sugary white sand.

Nature Coast

You guessed it, the Nature Coast is where you head to see some of Florida's most beautiful natural treasures. From exotic flowers to towering oak trees, this region is all about outdoor activities and discovery. Fishing, kayaking, hiking, and birdwatching are some vacationer favorites in this region.

Forgotten Coast

Can't forget the Forgotten Coast, although it's a relatively quiet region, which is why the name is apropos. In fact, in the 1990s a group of Florida Tourism employees actually forgot to add information about the region into a Florida guide. Although, the area is also not as built up as some of it's southern coastal counterparts, which is why it doesn't get much mention. But if you ask anyone in Apalachicola, the largest city in the area, they'll say they like it that way.

Emerald Coast

The blue-green waters off the Panhandle are what gave this region it's colorful name. It's a popular vacation destination and home to the city's of Pensacola, Panama City, and Fort Walton Beach.