A pair of chairs on the white sand beach of Fort Myers, Florida.

Enjoy the casual and welcoming atmosphere at Fort Myers Beach. Photo © Jon Bilous/123rf.

Between the peninsular coastlines, barrier islands, and the archipelago of the Florida Keys, you’re never more than a couple of hours away from an afternoon of castle-building, shell-collecting, or simply whiling away worries. These are the best beaches Florida has to offer.

  • Bahia Honda State Park (Florida Keys): The Keys may seem to be lacking in the beach department—that is, until you hit Bahia Honda, one of the best beach areas in the state. The park offers three gorgeous beaches and snorkeling just a few hundred feet offshore.
  • Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (Miami): There’s a mid-19th-century lighthouse at this park. Despite the allure of historical exploration, most visitors to this Key Biscayne park head right for the calm, blue waters and mile-long beach.
  • Blind Creek Park (Atlantic Coast): At the end of a nearly hidden driveway along State Road A1A south of Fort Pierce is a tiny parking lot for Blind Creek Park. There’s a 335-foot beach here that’s usually quite empty, which is surprising given the tropical blue waters and wide stretch of sand.
  • Caladesi Island State Park (Tampa Bay): The four miles of beaches on Caladesi Island are only accessible by boat. Such limited access would make it a prime beach-going spot, even if those four miles weren’t some of the most beautiful and pastoral stretches of white sand you’d ever seen.
  • Canaveral National Seashore (Atlantic Coast): There are 24 miles of undeveloped beach in this government-owned park. You can thank the security needs of NASA for the isolation. Kennedy Space Center’s launch pads are visible from the southernmost beach.
  • Cayo Costa State Park (South Gulf Coast): This beach consistently pops up on state and national “best beach” lists. The soft white sand and crystal-blue Gulf waters are a huge part of Cayo Costa’s appeal. It’s only accessible by boat, which nearly ensures that a day spent here is a special day indeed.
  • Fort Lauderdale Beachfront (Atlantic Coast): With broad stretches of sand, blue-green Atlantic waters, and ample facilities, the city oceanfront understandably draws the crowds, but they don’t detract from the beach’s beauty.
  • Fort Myers Beach (South Gulf Coast): Enjoy the casual and welcoming atmosphere at Fort Myers Beach, which couples large and accessible swathes of white sand and a laid-back, beach-bum vibe.
  • Siesta Key (South Gulf Coast): The curving coastline of Crescent Beach at Siesta Key is legendary for its white sand and wide and spacious stretches. It’s quite popular, thanks to those expanses of sand and gentle, blue Gulf waters that are shallow and calm.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Florida Road Trip.