The Best Alternative Beaches In Florida: Not Here, But Try There

Famed Yankee catcher Yogi Berra once said that “no one goes to that (place), it’s too crowded.”

That is the problem of many of Florida’s top beaches – if you don’t get there early, you might not get a decent parking space.  These famed beaches are also usually filled with people, screaming kids, and blaring music. As I get older, I don’t like such crowds.

So here are some ideas for visiting nearby alternative beaches that offer almost the same quality beach and accessories (food, parking, drink) but with less crowds and often less price tags.

On Miami Beach, every tourist thinks of South Beach – it’s the Malibu of South Florida minus the mountains and surfboards.  It is great to walk the boardwalk, look at the models in volleyball tournaments, and take in the cafes. After all that if you want a huge, wider beach – try Haulover Beach Park.   WARNING: it has a nude beach section.

On Key West, most arrivals pass huge Smathers Beach with its restrooms and recreation rentals by the dozens.  It is free but the water is shallow and dusty.  If you want to avoid the crowds and snorkel in the rocky parts, the beach at Fort Zachery Taylor State Park is hidden from a lot of Key West first timers.

floridatraveler KEY WEST FORT ZACK PARK

This Key West beach (Fort Zack) is a calm treat.

Some people love the pier, the automobiles, the action of Daytona Beach although  I am not a big fare of hard, wet sand.   You get the same beach without the crowds and noise to the north at New Smyrna Beach and there are neat shops and food spots to visit.

floridatraveler NEW SMYRNA BEACH

Where are the cars?

Palm Beach has a narrow beach with very limited access for visitors and little parking. If you can’t get invited to a tycoon’s beach party, I suggest you travel north to John D. MacArthur State Park, the only state park in Palm Beach County.  Besides the natural beauty of the dunes and sands, there is a great rock reef offshore for divers.

floridatraveler John D MacArthur Beach

John D. MacArthur State Park

Sanibel Island is wonderful as a beach spot if you staying in one of the island’s tropical resorts, but it has its serious shortcomings for walking for food.  I prefer the lovely but small Captiva Island Beach, whose only shortcoming is limited parking.

floridatraveler CAPTIVAL ISLAND best

For people who want a more action-filled beach, you should go to the Times Square section on north Fort Myers Beach.  But if you want a South Sea Islands isolated beach spot, you should wander around the beaches at Lovers Key State Park, an island further south.

Everyone will tell you the best beach in the heart of the Suncoast is Siesta Key in Sarasota County and I will NOT reject that headline, but if you don’t like the crowds of families and activities, drive southward.  Crescent Beach has the same cooling white sand and more privacy.

floridatraveler SIESTA KEY SNORKELING

Point of Rocks at Crescent Beach on Siesta Key

And there is a great bonus here for at the southern end of Crescent Beach is Point of Rocks, one of the best snorkeling spots on the Florida Gulf Coast.

 Clearwater Beach has been voted the best urban beach in the nation, but the parking lots are crowded and the crowds soon fill Pier 60.  If you arrive early and want to park next to the best grouper sandwich restaurant and the 1930’s beach pavilion, turn north until you see the park next to the Art Deco hotel.  This North Clearwater Beach spot is best.   #mcbobleonard  #florida  #beaches

 

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About floridatraveler

Historian and travel writer M. C. Bob Leonard makes the Sunshine State his home base. Besides serving as content editor for several textbook publishers and as college professor, he moderates the FHIC at www.floridahistory.org
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