5 Top Beaches to Visit on a Florida Road Trip

A1A highway in Florida
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Florida, the Sunshine State, is famous for its warm ocean water and pristine beaches. It has more coastline than any other state in the U.S. apart from Alaska, which means choosing a beach to visit can easily turn into an overwhelming decision. If you're road-tripping through Florida, you'll need at least a few beaches throughout the state and not just the popular ones around Miami.

Whether you're traveling on the west coast of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico or the eastern Atlantic Ocean side, you have nearly 700 miles of beach to choose from across the state. Narrow down your itinerary by visiting one of these Florida beaches, which are amazing to visit all year round.

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Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach at evening time

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This is a beach that lies a short distance from the city of Clearwater, which is around 20 miles west of Tampa. It has frequently won awards for the high quality of the beach and lively surroundings. The waterfront is a stretch of over two miles of golden sand and clear water (as the name implies) in the Gulf of Mexico on Florida's west coast. Different water activities are readily available to keep everyone on the trip entertained, from dolphin spotting to parasailing to jet skiing.

If your road trip has already included copious amounts of beach time, there's plenty more to do in the city. For family fun, check out the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or the bustling Pier 60, which is always filled with street performers, music acts, and plenty of places to eat and drink. There's also a sizable nightlight scene for adults who want to spend a night out. Accommodations in Clearwater are available for all tastes and budgets, so you shouldn't struggle to find a perfect place to relax after a long day in the car.

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Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park

Naples Beach at dusk

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For those who are looking for a peaceful and quiet area to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings, the Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is at the north end of the more popular Naples Beach, which is about six miles south. Because it's a state park, Delnor-Wiggins is more heavily protected from contamination and is often regarded as one of the most virgin beaches in the state. The nearby wilderness area means that apart from sunbathing and swimming, visitors can also hike around and birdwatch.

In case you don't have the capacity in your car to pack a picnic, a concession stand is available on the beach for buying food and drinks. You can also rent all of the beach essentials in case you come unprepared, such as umbrellas and lounge chairs and even kayaks and paddleboats. Scuba diving and snorkeling are also popular in this natural haven, and you may even be able to spot local wildlife such as sea turtles and manatees.

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South Beach

South Beach, Miami, Florida

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This is one of the most famous beaches in Florida is Miami's South Beach, and its popularity has seen it immortalized in song and on television, including the popular TV series "Burn Notice." But whether you've seen South Beach on the screen or not, you can't deny that this Miami landmark is one of Florida's prettiest beaches—and one of the warmest to visit in winter, as well.

Apart from gorgeous water and excellent waves for surfing, this beach is well-equipped with necessities such as beach chairs and umbrellas. South Beach is a perfect place to enjoy a party, too, and the nightlife in the area is famous for offering a wealth of restaurants and bars which means that the good times don't end when the sun goes down.

Even though the beach is the biggest draw to the area, the South Beach community is more than just white sand and turquoise water. There are over 800 celebrated buildings around Miami Beach that are protected for their Art Deco designs and historical significance. You can even spend the night in one of them, or any of the other oceanfront hotels in the South Beach area.

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New Smyrna

New Smyrna Beach Florida

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Lying on Florida's Atlantic Coast, New Smyrna is a great beach for those looking to get away from the large and overdeveloped beach towns that can be found in many parts of the state. Located just south of Daytona Beach or about an hour east from Orlando, it's an ideal beach spot for people visiting Disney World or Universal Studios but who also want some time on the water.

The waves on the beach can occasionally get rough, which means it's not always ideal for swimming but it's often perfect for surfing. Whether you're already a pro or want to try out a beginner lesson, New Smyrna is a perfect place to catch some waves.

Next to the beach is the town of New Smyrna, which has a charming center with cute eateries, fun bars, quirky shops, and cultural centers to add another layer of enjoyment to your Florida road trip. One highlight is the Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum, a free museum located inside of a 19th-century church that explores race relations in the Florida town.

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Siesta Beach

Siesta Key beach at Sarasota, Florida, USA

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This popular beach is most famous for the high-quality sand which is white and beautiful and helps to make this one of the most attractive beaches in Florida. If you’ve ever wanted to lounge on a beach with the softness of flour, this is one of the most remarkable beaches you’ll step foot on. Another great reason to head to Siesta Beach is that the water is shallow, making it ideal for paddling and swimming, especially for those who are young or not particularly confident swimmers.

The beach is located on Siesta Key near the city of Sarasota and has won many awards, including the award for the best beach in the U.S. by TripAdvisor in 2015, 2017, and 2020.

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