Affordable Florida Beach Towns Perfect For Your Next Vacation

Ponce Inlet
Photo: Getty Images / AStarGirl

Close your eyes and picture your happy place. What do you see? Sandy shores, a deep blue ocean, swaying palm trees? Can you hear the waves crashing and the seagulls calling? Are you already beginning to smell the salty surf and taste the pina colada? If your idea of a ticket to paradise means being knee deep in the water somewhere (and that somewhere is the beach), congratulations because you've officially been granted membership to the Southern Beach Lovers Club. No, it's not a real club. But yes, we do take our involvement rather seriously.

Being a Southern Beach Lover means taking annual—if not biannual—trips to fuel our obsession. But it doesn't mean cashing in our savings and jetting off to an exotic locale to do so. Whether we choose South Carolina's Sea Islands, Georgia's Golden Isles, or Alabama's Gulf Coast, Southerners know the best beaches are right in our own backyard and don't cost a fortune to visit.

Of course, you can't discuss beach destinations without mentioning Florida. And for those looking for a beach vacation that won't break the bank, Florida is the key … or should we say Keys. The Sunshine State is home to dozens of tiny beach towns ready to welcome you for a weekend away. Think quaint cafes, colorful shops, and uninterrupted views with hardly a high-rise condo or $5 souvenir sign in sight. Here are 10 inexpensive Florida beach towns to consider for your next vacation.

01 of 10

New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Robbie Caponetto

Florida's State Road A1A winds through some of the coolest beach towns in the South—and New Smyrna Beach shows Florida's A1A at its colorful, funky best. New Smyrna Beach, just like Flagler Beach up the road, is a surfer's dream (or anyone's dream, really) with its laidback attitude, quirky charm, and slow pace of living. Book your stay at The Salty Mermaid Oceanfront Hotel, a retro-cool renovated motor court, for beachfront views. Walk along the sandy main street, Flagler Avenue, for casual eateries, fun shops, and unobstructed beach access. This little town is so chill you'll find it hard to go back to real life.

02 of 10

Ponce Inlet

Ponce Inlet
Getty Images / AStarGirl

Daytona Beach has long held a reputation for being one of Florida's most affordable beach towns. Ten miles south, its neighbor Ponce Inlet is just as wallet-conscious with far fewer crowds. Start your visit by climbing the 203 stairs to the top of Florida's oldest lighthouse, Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. For just $7, you'll get access to sweeping views of the beach and entrance to the onsite museum that tells the landmark's fascinating history.

03 of 10

Cocoa Beach

Kayaking on Cocoa Beach
Emergent Media

Known for having a chill, no shirt, no shoes culture, Cocoa Beach is one section of Florida's Space Coast you won't want to miss. Find some free entertainment at the Cocoa Beach Pier, where you can watch surfers hang ten from dawn to dusk. Enjoy free beach access and parking at Lori Wilson Park. When you've worked up an appetite, grab a casual snack or meal at Sea Dogs, a classic, beachfront stand that has everything from smoked turkey legs to soft serve and frozen chocolate bananas.

04 of 10


Dunedin, Florida
Tina Sargeant

One of our South's Best Beach Towns in 2021, this tiny town located across the bay from Tampa surprises with plenty to see and do--plus eat and drink! (There are seven breweries within a five-minute walking radius of downtown.) For uninterrupted wild beauty, spend some time at Honeymoon Island State Park or Caladesi Island State Park. From fusion tapas restaurants to a minor league baseball team, Dunedin has plenty of delightful tricks up its sleeve.

05 of 10

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs Man on Boat
Chris Rogers

Located north of Clearwater, Tarpon Springs is a hotbed of Greek culture and a sponge harvesting industry that dates back more than a century. At the historic Sponge Docks, you'll find shops and a collection of authentic Greek restaurants. Pop into the Spongeroama Sponge Factory, where you'll find a large selection of natural sea sponges, Greek gifts, a museum, and boat tours. For anyone who's been dreaming of a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants-esque Greece getaway, Tarpon Springs is your stateside alternative that won't break the bank.

06 of 10


Anglins Fishing Pier at sunrise, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida, USA
Getty Images / Anthony Festa

Located on the outskirts of bustling Fort Lauderdale, the coastal city's quainter, quieter little sister Lauderdale-by-the-Sea offers a budget- and family-friendly alternative. Book a room in a charming boutique hotel or inn, walk to local shops, and enjoy the 2.5-mile beach that's famous for its living coral reef located just 100 yards from shore. Want to feel truly transported? Head to Aruba Beach Cafe, where you can dine on Caribbean Conch Chowder and Coconut Fried Shrimp while sucking down a fruity frozen cocktail.

07 of 10


Sebastian Inlet State Park, near Sebastian, Florida
Courtesy of Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Located on the Sebastian River, this quaint fishing village is a nature lover's dream. Enjoy sweeping views of the Indian River Lagoon with easy access to swimming, boating, diving, bird watching, kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, and even sea turtle spotting. Find a comfortable refuge at Island View Cottages, then spend a few days exploring town and its surrounding beauty.

08 of 10


venice florida

This Florida Gulf Coast town's name is no mistake. Take your time strolling through downtown Venice, where you'll find northern Italian architecture and meticulously landscaped boulevards. Start your day of exploration with a warm scone at Upper Crust Bakery & Cafe, then pop into shops along West Venice Avenue. When you're ready to hit the beach, there's plenty of sandy shore to discover and a big collection of fossilized shark teeth and colorful shells to uncover.

09 of 10

Okaloosa Island

Okaloosa Fishing Pier Fort Walton Beach
Getty Images

Okaloosa Island is the destination for old-fashioned family fun, with a beach boardwalk, fishing pier, mini golf, and Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. There are plenty of public beaches, and all the conveniences in Destin and Fort Walton Beach are nearby. Grab a bite at Al's Beach Club and take in the view of sparkling Gulf waters on the eastern end of Santa Rosa Island.

10 of 10

Cape San Blas

Cape San Blas kayaking
Colin Hackley

Located along the Florida Panhandle and near Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas offers miles of beaches without the crowds. Here, you'll enjoy some of the freshest seafood you can get your hands on. (Take a visit to the Skully's Low Country Boil for that, or catch it yourself.) If you find yourself getting sun burnt and stir crazy, check out the historic Cape San Blas lighthouse. Unlike busier beach towns, this secluded beach allows your four-legged friend to get in on the action, too!

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