7 Best Beaches on Florida's Gulf Coast

Venice Beach, Florida
Photo: Courtesy of Heather Young

Florida's Gulf Coast runs 770 miles, from Perdido Key and Pensacola on the western edge of the Panhandle, south to Naples and Marco Island at the edge of the Everglades. With all of that space, it's little surprise that there are some incredible beaches dotted along the west coastline. Even better, for the most part these beaches boast powder-soft, sugar-white sand and clear, turquoise water that sets the scene for an idyllic day at the beach.

While there are some very popular beach destinations along the west side of the state, here we take a look at the quieter side and seven of the best beaches on Florida's Gulf Coast starting in the south and making our way north to the Panhandle.

01 of 07

Fort Myers Beach

Fort Meyers Beach
Courtesy of The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau

Fort Myers Beach spans the entire length of the seven-mile Estero Island on which it sits, flanked by the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Matanzas Pass to the east. It's a water sports enthusiasts' dream destination! Snorkeling, swimming, stand-up padding, and kayaking are all enjoyed in the calm, warm waters, and shelling is a favorite pastime when strolling the sugar-white sands.

Beachfront Stay: Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina
Beachfront Eats: PierSide Grill and Famous Blowfish Bar

02 of 07

Boca Grande

Boca Grande
Courtesy of Fort Myers—Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods

Get away from the crowds with a visit to the beaches that line Boca Grande. Accessible only by a toll bridge, the island has a quiet, exclusive feel where most people get around by foot, bicycle, or rented golf cart. Take an early morning beach walk, and you may not see anyone other than the birds and dolphins who make the island and its waters their home.

Near-Beach Stay: The Gasparilla Inn & Club
Beachfront Eats: South Beach Bar & Grille

03 of 07

Venice Beach

Venice Beach, Florida
Courtesy of Heather Young

Just south of Sarasota, Venice Beach is a quiet spot on the Gulf of Mexico to spread out a beach blanket, pop up an umbrella, and spend some quality time with your family, or just yourself. Take a walk along the shoreline in search of seashells and, if your eyes are keen, fossilized sharks' teeth. After all, Venice is considered the "Shark Tooth Capital of the World."

Near-Beach Stay: Venice Beach Villas
Beachfront Eats: Sharky's On the Pier

04 of 07

Indian Rocks Beach

Indian Rocks Beach
Courtesy of VisitStPeteClearwater.com

Between Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach (TripAdvisor's No. 1 Beach in the U.S. in 2021) is Indian Rocks Beach, a locals' favorite for its quiet and chill vibe. There aren't any beachfront resorts on this stretch of the 35 miles of beaches that run the length of Pinellas County, but rather low-rise condos set back from its white sands and turquoise waters. Find a place to park and walk to the beach at any of the 27 public beach access points.

Beachfront Stay: Colonial Court Inn
Near-Beach Eats: Guppy's on the Beach

05 of 07

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island
Courtesy of visitstpeteclearwater.com

You don't need to be on a romantic getaway to enjoy one of Florida's best Gulf Coast beaches just north of Clearwater—Honeymoon Island State Park. The state park boasts four miles of unspoiled beaches that are perfect for shelling, swimming, and fishing. If you have your four-legged friend along, there's a dog beach on the southern tip of the island where you can frolic and play (on-leash).

Near-Beach Stay: Fenway Hotel in nearby Dunedin
Near-Beach Eats: Olde Bay Café in nearby Dunedin

06 of 07

Blue Mountain Beach

Blue Mountain Beach
Courtesy of Visit South Walton

A laid-back vibe and natural beauty are two characteristics that draw beachgoers to Blue Mountain Beach, one of South Walton's 26 miles of beaches on Florida's Panhandle. Cross the sand dunes—Blue Mountain Beach has the highest elevation in the area at 65 feet—and arrive onto a sweeping white-sand beach with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the day.

Beachfront Stay: Vacation rentals like 60 Grande Beach Drive are the way to go at Blue Mountain Beach.
Near Beach Eats: A day at the beach is made even better with a scoop or two at The Creamery.

07 of 07

Henderson Beach

Henderson State Park
Courtesy of Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Follow a winding trail that passes by some of the last remaining endangered coastal scrub communities and sand dunes that reach up to 30 feet high en route to the beach at Henderson Beach State Park in Destin. The beach stretches more than a mile, offering plenty of space to swim, stroll, sunbathe, and relax. Picnic pavilions and restrooms make it easy to spend the day at the beach.

Beachfront Stay: Tent camping is available at Henderson Beach State Park, or stay close by at The Henderson Beach Resort & Spa.
Beachfront Eats: Take a walk down the beach to The Back Porch for fresh seafood.

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