10 Best Florida Beaches for Families

Kids playing in the ocean at St. Pete Beach
Photo: Courtesy of VisitStPeteClearwater.com

Florida beaches are happy places filled with sun-drenched sandy coastlines and gently lapping waves, people picnicking, flying kites, shelling and bodyboarding. In a state known for its flashy theme parks and glitzy cities, a Florida beach is a simple and perfect place to slow down a little and reconnect with your family.

Those of us who traveled to Florida as children for family vacations have fond memories of growing up on the beach, spending afternoons jumping over big salty waves and collecting special seashell treasures, returning in later years with our own kids (or grandchildren) in tow, hoping to recreate some of those special times.

We've collected a few of our favorite family-tested Florida beaches ideal for sharing some of these memories with the children in your life, maybe creating new traditions and sandy footsteps for future generations to follow.

01 of 10

Siesta Key Beach

View at Siesta Key Beach
Cynthia J. Drake

It doesn't get any softer than the white sand of Siesta Key Beach, located in Sarasota on Florida's Gulf Coast. Though this beach consistently ranks on top beach lists everywhere, it isn't overrated. Siesta Key's cool white powder sand is a welcome treat for tiny feet on a hot day. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of frolicking dolphins in the distance. Family amenities include public restrooms, showers and a playground. Nearby, pay a visit to Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium, a nonprofit research center featuring exhibits on local marine wildlife that is sure to captivate all ages.

02 of 10

Sanibel Island

Boy learns how to cast a net in the water at Sanibel Island
Kinzie Riehm/Getty

The gentle crush of seashells underfoot is your clue that you've arrived in Sanibel Island, Seashell Capital of the World. There's an irresistible temptation here to spend hours sorting through the treasures washed up on shore on the 20 miles of beaches between Sanibel and Captiva, snuggled just north on Florida's Gulf Coast. Shelling is a relaxing, screen-free activity that the whole family can share here, with breaks to dip into the ocean.

03 of 10

St. Pete Beach

child playing at St. Pete Beach
Courtesy of VisitStPeteClearwater.com

You'll find the beaches in St. Pete/Clearwater in the Tampa Bay area on Florida's west coast. With the white powdery sand characteristic of this region, St. Pete Beach is known for a variety of outdoor activities, including parasailing and kiteboarding. The Don CeSar is a landmark on this stretch of coastline with its bright pink exterior. It's a great family destination hotel with a children's beach play area and even a mermaid meet-and-greet on Saturdays. Impress your kids with a meal at Rumfish Grill, boasting aquariums to gaze into while you dine (you can even snorkel inside the tanks).

04 of 10

Delray Beach

Colony Hotel Delray Beach
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

Located on the Atlantic coast, Delray Beach sits between Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, part of the collective Palm Beaches of Florida. We love the small town, friendly vibe of this beach town, filled with interesting shops and restaurants along Atlantic Avenue, just a short walk from the beach. Amenities on the municipal beach include public restrooms and showers, and umbrellas and beach chairs are available to rent. Families should make time for a visit to the Sandoway Discovery Center, where kids can learn about Florida ecology through encounters and feedings with sharks, stingrays and alligators, plus fossil digs.

05 of 10

Manasota Key Beach

Kids playing at Manasota Key Beach
Cynthia J. Drake

Venice, Florida, on Florida's Gulf Coast is the shark tooth capital of the world. Legions of sharks once called these waters home, including lemon sharks, sand sharks, tiger sharks, and the prehistoric megalodon. Though you aren't any more likely to encounter living sharks here than any other coastal destination, sharp-eyed hunters are able to unearth their fossilized teeth buried just beneath the sandy shorelines stretching from Venice Beach, Caspersen Beach, and Manasota Key. This is a fantastic pastime for kids and adults to share together. Bring along a sifter and some buckets and shovels, and put your little ones to work scooping up wet sand and sifting through it for treasures. Look for a black flattened root and a grayish point. You are almost guaranteed to find at least a couple once you know what you're looking for.

06 of 10

Amelia Island

Brother and sister playing on beach at Amelia Island
John Coletti/Getty

Located on the east coast of Florida, Amelia Island is north near the Georgia border. Fans of this Florida destination love the 13 miles of Atlantic beach, where you can add on a variety of family-friendly activities, from horseback riding to sunset dolphin and shrimping river cruises to luxury family picnics, custom made especially for your crew. Fernandina Beach offers amenities like picnic areas and outdoor showers. If you have aspiring surfers in your family, treat them to a private surf lesson and take home a new skill.

07 of 10

Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie

Baby in the sand in St. Lucie
Courtesy of Visit St. Lucie

This under-the-radar Florida beach destination offers a great location for young children to play in quieter environs than some of the cities to the south on Florida's Atlantic side. Spend your perfect day at Ft. Pierce Inlet State Park spotting gopher tortoises or surfers plying the coastal waters. Nearby, you'll find the National Navy SEAL Museum and beach horseback riding at Frederick Douglass Memorial Park.

08 of 10

Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key

Family overlooks Pensacola Beach
Courtesy of Visit Pensacola

Located in Florida's Panhandle region, Pensacola is home to the largest stretch of federally protected seashore in the U.S. The region's two main beaches, Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key, boast soft powder sand beaches and plenty of kid-friendly activities. Organize a family fishing charter for aspiring little anglers (local restaurants offer cook your catch option for the ultimate reward after a bountiful fishing trip), or set up a dolphin cruise for your whole family. The Gulf Breeze Zoo and the Pensacola Children's Museum are great options for non-beach days. Climb to the top of the Pensacola Lighthouse during a full moon (or a ghost tour, for those who aren't afraid of a little fear factor).

09 of 10

Key Biscayne

Lighthouse at Key Biscayne
Flavio Vallenari/Getty

On a barrier island eight miles south of Miami, Key Biscayne offers beaches in between two parks and offers a unique underwater archaeological trail along its coastal barrier reef. The family friendly beach at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, locally known as El Farito for its lighthouse, offers a playground, guided tours of the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper's cottage, an on-site restaurant, and bicycle, umbrella and beach chair rentals. Recent visitors have been amazed by the wildlife viewing, from iguanas to friendly manatees, as well as the calm waters—ideal for a day spent with little ones.

10 of 10

Melbourne Beach

Sebastian Inlet

Head to Sebastian Inlet State Park for three miles of beaches off Florida's A1A. This family friendly beach spot on Florida's east coast guarantees plenty to see. Known for its saltwater fishing and surfing, families come here to glimpse manatees, dolphins and stingrays. There is a short mile-long hiking trail, Hammock Trail, as well as picnic areas, an on-site restaurant and gift shop. Tip: for gentler waves, head to "the Cove" area on the north part of Sebastian Inlet, which offers a gentler incline and peaceful swimming conditions for beginner swimmers and splashers. Watch surfers tackle Monster Hole on the south side of the inlet.

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