The Most Beautiful White Sand Beaches in Florida

overhead shot of Clearwater/St. Pete beach
Photo: Courtesy of VisitStPeteClearwater.com

With 1,350 miles of coastline, there are plenty of options when it comes to beaches in Florida. From curling waves and the golden sands along the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the warm Gulf of Mexico waters gently lapping onto the white sand beaches to the west, there truly is a beach for everyone.

If it's white sand beaches you're looking for, you've come to the right place—the Sunshine State is home to some of the whitest sand beaches in the world; so much so, they've been recognized as some of the best beaches in the U.S. Here, we take a look at a handful or so of the most beautiful white sand beaches in Florida, starting on the Panhandle and working our way south.

01 of 06

Pensacola

Pensacola white sand beaches
Courtesy of Visit Pensacola

At the westernmost edge of Florida is Pensacola and its spectacular beaches, including Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key (Spanish for "lost island"). These beaches are so spectacular, in fact, that they've been ranked among the best in the U.S. by Dr. Beach, the Travel Channel, TripAdvisor, and USA Today.

But don't take these experts' word for it — plan a visit and discover them for yourself. Fifteen public, sugar-white sand beaches beaches spanning 18 miles in the Pensacola area are all yours to stroll, swim, sun, and savor.

Beachfront Stay: Margaritaville Beach Hotel, Pensacola Beach

Beachfront Eats: Laguna's Beach Bar + Grill, Pensacola Beach; The Crab Trap, Perdido Key

02 of 06

Destin

Destin white sands beach
Courtesy of Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida

There's a scientific reason behind the soft, white sands of Destin's beaches: quartz. At the end of the last Ice Age, the rising Apalachicola River carried quartz particles from the Appalachian Mountains down to the Gulf of Mexico. When the Ice Age ended and the sea levels rose, the quartz sand formed the beaches found along the Destin area's shorelines.

Today, Destin's sandy beaches are made of finely ground, perfectly round quartz crystals that account for the powder-soft and -white sand beaches that the area is known for. Not only that, but the sand stays cool, even in the hottest summer months.

Beachfront Stays: Henderson Resort & Spa, Henderson Park Inn

Beachfront Eats: The Crab Trap, Destin; Rockin Tacos, Fort Walton Beach

03 of 06

Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach sandcastle
Courtesy of Visit Panama City Beach

With 27 miles of beaches along Florida's Panhandle, you're sure to find just the right one for you in Panama City Beach. This stretch of coastline is broken into seemingly countless public beach access points, and you could easily spend weeks or even months exploring each to find your favorite.

If you're looking for a private island experience, hitch a ride aboard the Shell Island Shuttle for, well, Shell Island, across from St. Andrews State Park. The uninhabited seven-mile-long barrier island is just three-quarters of a mile at its widest, so there's plenty of space to stake your claim for the day. As its name implies, the island is terrific for its shelling; keep an eye out for sand dollars, periwinkles, conch shells, pin shells, whelk, and olive shells.

Beachfront Stays: Holiday Inn Club Vacations Panama City Beach Resort, Radisson Panama City Beach - Oceanfront

Beachfront Eats: Hook'd Pier Bar and Grill, Schooners Last Local Beach Club

04 of 06

Clearwater Beach

overhead shot of Clearwater/St. Pete beach
Courtesy of VisitStPeteClearwater.com

There's a very good reason that Clearwater Beach has been named the #1 beach in the U.S. multiple times, and it's the beach itself! What makes it stand out among the 35 miles of beaches that stretch from Dunedin and Honeymoon Island south to St. Pete Beach is its powder-soft, glistening white sand, not to mention its width! The beach seemingly stretches on and on from the turquoise water to Mandalay Avenue and Gulfview Boulevard.

The fun doesn't stop in Clearwater Beach when the sun sets, either. Stick around for the nightly sunset celebration and see if you can spot the elusive green flash!

Beachfront Stays: Opal Sands Resort, Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach Resort

Beachfront Eats: Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar

05 of 06

Siesta Key

Siesta Key Beach
Courtesy of Visit Sarasota County

Just outside of Sarasota is Siesta Key, a terrific spot to lay your beach blanket, pop up the umbrella, and spend the day… or more. This stretch of beach was ranked among the 25 Best Beaches in the World by TripAdvisor in 2022, and was named the #1 Beach in the U.S. in TripAdvisor's 2020 Traveler's Choice Awards, and it's easy to see why. The seemingly endless stretch of beach has the same quartz-crystal powdery sand as the beaches on the Panhandle, and the sand stays somewhat cool in the hot summer months.

The public beach at Siesta Key is pretty hospitable with its large parking lot and concession stands for refreshing drinks and bites. If you're staying in the area, catch a ride on the free trolley and hop off at the beach to avoid searching for a place to park.

Near-Beach Stay: The Cottages At Siesta Key

Near-Beach Eats: Turtle Beach Grill

06 of 06

Marco Island

JW Marriott Marco Island
Courtesy of Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB

Nearly 30 miles of idyllic beaches stretch along Florida's Paradise Coast, from Naples south to Marco Island and the Ten Thousand Islands on the Gulf coast. While all of the beaches in this part of the state are pretty spectacular, one that we recommend is South Marco Beach, which has one of two public beach accesses on Marco Island.

There's plenty of room to spread out on this beach, and the harder packed sand at the shoreline makes it easy to walk along in search of seashells.

Beachfront Stays: Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa, JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort,

Near-Beach Eats: CJ's on the Bay, Mango's Dockside Bistro,

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