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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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Best Beaches in Florida for Families

Let’s all go the beach…let’s go to the beach! We are lucky to live like we are on vacation every day here in Tampa Bay. Florida has 825 miles of sandy beaches, so the real question becomes, “Which one?”

Let’s dive into some of our favorites. We’ll even share some of our secret spots that you can explore with the family this summer.

(Oh–and don’t worry if you don’t see YOUR favorite family-friendly beach! We’re continuing to add to this list!)

Tampa Bay Area Family-Friendly Beaches

For MORE beaches in the Tampa Bay area to explore with the kids, click here for our complete list of Our Favorite Beaches for Families in Tampa Bay.

Best-Beaches-for-Families-Tampa-Bay-ParentingBest-Beaches-for-Families-Tampa-Bay-Parentingfun places in Tampa Bay that aren't crowded

Caladesi Island 

24 Miles from Tampa 
Why: Only accessible by boat, ferry or kayak, this pristine little island has views for miles and will allow you to escape from the world for an afternoon.  (pictured above) It was also just named as one of the Top 10 Beaches in the country by Dr. Beach for 2021.
How: Hop on the Caladesi Island Ferry from Honeymoon State Park and enjoy the three miles of beaches, nature trails and picnic pavilions.
What Not To Miss: The Caladesi Discovery Center has an observation deck with the most gorgeous panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico. Bring your water/ walking shoes to take full advantage of the island for the day.

Clearwater Beach

30 Miles from Tampa
Why: With a sugar-fine and ultra clean beach, cotton candy-skies, crystal blue waters and a Gulf beach vibe,Clearwater Beach reigns supreme.
How: Book a Gulf view room at the Opal Sands Resort or Sandpearl Resort right on Clearwater Beach to soak up every last ray of sunshine during the day. Take a walk down the beach to find the perfect seashells, enjoy a grouper sandwich from Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill and end the night with Sunsets at Pier 60.
What Not To Miss:
A private charter with Daisy Mae Charters whose captains will take you out to explore the deep blue gulf and all it has to offer.

Pass-A-Grille Beach

38 Miles from Tampa
Why: A perfect day beach with plenty of parking and fewer crowds.Bring your best beach set up and relax as the waves and clouds pass you by.
How: Head out to the beach early to beat the traffic. Or stay in the Don CeSar, which puts you just slightly north on St. Pete Beach.
What Not To Miss: Breakfast on the beach at Paradise Grille to start your day and million dollar after-dinner views from the rooftop deck at The Hurricane to end it. 

Fort De Soto North Beach

38 miles from Tampa

Why: This is one of our favorite local beaches and it’s no wonder it has been ranked as one of the top beaches in the country. Fort De Soto Park features 7 miles of gulf front views with 3 of those miles being sugar sand beaches your toes will crave. It’s also a popular spot for camping and fishing among local families.
How: You’ll definitely want to get there early since this is more of a day trip beach and you’ll want to get ahead of the traffic and secure a great spot at the beach!
What Not to Miss: Visit the historic fort and/or bring the bikes and bike the nature trails before cooling off in the waves! If you want to experience more beautiful, less-traveled beaches, consider taking the ferry from Fort De Soto Park to Egmont Key or Shell Key.

Anna Maria Island

66 Miles from Tampa
Why: Seven miles of beautiful beaches that locals know are among the best in the state.
How: Find yourself a quaint Airbnb or book a 2–3-bedroom suite with a fully equipped gourmet kitchen at the Mainsail Beach Inn. The free air-conditioned Anna Maria Island Trolley will drop you off right at the beach. Dine at the Sandbar Restaurant where you win a free bottle of champagne if you guess the correct time of the sunset!
What Not To Miss: Doughnuts from The Doughnut Experiment; burritos from Poppo’s Taqueria; and a visit to Beach Bums for a bike, paddle board or golf cart rental (car parking is in high demand on the island) 

Space Coast Beaches for Families

best beaches in florida for families cocoa beach

Cocoa Beach 

144 Miles From Tampa 

Why: Rich in surfing history, this cozy surf town is a fun place to explore with kids, surf board or boogie boards in tow.  
How: Book a week end on Florida’s Space Coast at the Westgate Hotel in Cocoa Beach, close to the famous Ron John Surf Shop and Cocoa Beach Pier.  
What Not To Miss: A visit to Kennedy Space Center is a must. Enjoy hotdogs and shaved ice from SeaDogs after you learn to catch some East Coast waves.

  

North Florida and Panhandle Family-Friendly Beaches 

Best beaches in florida for families Ponte Vedra inn

Ponte Vedra Beach 

207 Miles from Tampa
Why: This East Coast gem boasts stunning views and rich history.
How: Stay at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club (pictured above), the epitome of oceanside elegance. Request a beachfront room on the first floor so that you can open your door and literally step out onto the beach. At least on one morning, catch the sunrise over the Atlantic.  
What Not To Miss: Take a day trip to America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, and explore the cobblestone streets and historic Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas.  

Amelia Island

227 Miles from Tampa
Why:
Quiet beaches, natural beauty, unique history and charming seaport character mark this North Florida barrier island. 
How: 
Escape to the 1,350-acre Omni Amelia Island Resort that overlooks the Atlantic to the east and marshland and the Intracoastal Waterway to the west. The island is home to an irresistible mix of spa, golf, dining, shopping and leisure activities.
What Not To Miss:
Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through historic downtown Fernandina Beach or cast off on a sunset sail down the Intracoastal Waterway. Kids will enjoy a trip to Fort Clinch State Park, home to one of the most well-preserved 19th century forts in the county.

St George Island State Park

296 Miles from Tampa

Why: It was just named as one of the Top 10 Beaches in 2021 by Dr. Beach and it’s easy to see why! Right near the Apalachicola Bay Area is the gorgeous St George Island. The sugar sand and crystal blue-green waters on miles of undeveloped beach front truly giving you a feeling of rest and relaxation.

How: It’s a short drive from Tallahassee and not too far from popular beaches like Panama City Beach and Rosemary Beach. There are so many different beach rental homes to choose from with room for just your family or even homes big enough to house several families for a group trip!

What Not to Miss: We mentioned the miles of undeveloped beach–since you’re far away from the glow of bright big city lights, the the stargazing is spectacular! In fact, staff with the Florida State Park system are working on a National Dark Sky designation for St George Island State Park.

Rosemary Beach

396 Miles From Tampa
Why: Emerald waters, charming architecture and sugar sand beaches make this an enchanting beach for any vacation.
How: It’s perfect for a multi-generation vacation, so you’ll want to choose the ideal vacation home from the many options available. Book early because they will go fast!
What Not To Miss: Bring your bikes! Once you park your car, you won’t want to get back in. The quaint town has a network of paths and boardwalks connecting the beaches, homes, restaurants and more. You can rent them from the Bamboo Bicycle Company too.

Sandestin

418 Miles from Tampa
Why: To see how the Emerald Coast got its name when you visit the pristine Northwest Gulf Coast and see the waters shimmer in greens and blues.
How: Make lifelong family memories when you stay at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa and spend hours on the beach with chairs and umbrella, indoor and outdoor pools with private cabanas, beach volleyball, bike riding, kayaking, golf and more.
What Not To Miss: Just a short (free!) trolley ride away from the resort,
the Village of Baytowne Wharf has a variety of restaurants, bars, shops and activities for all to enjoy. 

Southwest Florida Family-Friendly Beaches

best beaches in florida for families Marco Islandbest beaches for families in florida Marco Islandbest beaches for families in florida Marco Island

Marco Island

195 Miles from Tampa
Why: There are two public beaches with each offering something a bit different. South Beach access has parking off of Swallow Avenue and then you can cross the street to the public beach access. A little further north, Tigertail Beach has everything you need for a family visit to the beach. There’s a playground, restrooms, tidal lagoon for viewing wildlife, butterfly garden, beach cabana rentals, water trike rentals, jet ski and paddleboard rentals, and more! Keep in mind to get to the barrier island beach, you’ll need to cross the lagoon, so be prepared to walk and get your feet wet. Some people rent paddle boards simply to help carrier beach towels and kids across.
How: There are some beautiful resorts on the beaches like the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort or Marco Beach Ocean Resort. Both are located between the two public beaches and have private beaches for guests as well.
What Not to Miss: Day trip over to Naples Botanical Garden’s Smith Children’s Garden—closed due to COVID, but that could change!

South Florida Family-Friendly Beaches

best beaches in florida for families

The Palm Beaches 

216 Miles from Tampa
Why: Glamor, glitz and golden sands.  
How: Book a room atThe Breakers and soak up the iconic vibe of staying in one of Florida’s first beach resorts built by the father of Florida tourism himself, Henry M. Flagler. Shop in style on Worth Avenue and dine al fresco at the La Goulue.
What Not To Miss: Visit the Palm Beach Zoo, climb to the top of the Jupiter Lighthouse or learn to blow glass at the Benzaiten Center for Creative Arts.

Fort Lauderdale

275 Miles from Tampa 
Why: Laid-back luxe in the “Venice of America,” which boasts 300 miles of inland waterways under electric blue skies—and guarantees 300-plus sunny days per year.  
How: Stay at thePelican Grand Beach Resort or the W Fort LauderdaleRelax by day on their private beaches, go paddleboarding with SUP PUP or even learn to surf with Hang Loose Surf School. Las Olas Boulevard is your destination for leisurely brunch and shopping.
What Not To Miss: A Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi
ride for a birds eye view of Millionaire’s Row with detailed stories about all the mansions along the waterways.  

Key Largo

342 Miles From Tampa
Why: Diving, snorkeling and the brightest blue waters you’ve ever seen put Key Largo, the first of the 125-mile-long chain of the Florida Keys, squarely on the must-see list.
How: Take your family getaway to the next level at the Caribbean-esque tropical destination, Playa Largo Resort & Spa. Enjoy snorkeling, paddleboarding or kayaking in the beautiful waters of The Florida Keys with Caribbean Watersports.  
What Not To Miss: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is America’s first underwater preserve that protects the Florida Reef, the only living coral reef in the continental United States. Book a snorkeling trip or a glass bottom boat trip direct from the park’s website. Head to the Lazy Lobsterfor dinner and they will also cook your catch!

Dry Tortugas National Park

438 Miles to Key West + 70 Miles West via Boat or Plane
Why: 
Secluded beaches, snorkeling, birding and even camping at this National Park should be on everyone’s Florida beach vacation list.
How: 
Only via boat or seaplane can you get to this National Park. Book your ferry reservation out of the Key West Terminal on the Yankee Freedom III for a narrated ride over to one of the world’s most unique eco-attractions. Passengers have the option to also join a 40-minute guided tour of the historic Fort Jefferson. Your National Park admission is included in the price, as is snorkeling equipment, breakfast and lunch.
What Not To Miss:
Made up of seven small islands, this uncharted and enchanting island is one of America’s most inaccessible National Parks and it is in our backyard.Explore the island’s historic sites and the incredible marine wildlife underwater. Untouched and preserved, the Dry Tortugas National Park is truly a treasure to be visited.


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Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne is an award-winning former television news journalist who spent 15+ years in newsrooms across the state of Florida including Sarasota, Tallahassee, Fort Myers and right here in Tampa Bay where she still freelances on occasion. She covered the political beat, crime beat and every day breaking news during her time in Florida newsrooms, but is now focused on sharing positive news stories and events with families in Tampa Bay. She is a proud mommy of two little boys who keep her on her toes and laughing every day. Her goal is to inspire families just like yours to get out and play and experience all that Tampa Bay and our great state of Florida have to offer! She encourages you to share your stories and upcoming events so we can spread the good news.

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