Florida has 670 miles of beaches located on two major bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, if you want to avoid being wall-to-wall with other people or hate beach noise, it may seem there is no place to go.
Part of the problem is the local Chamber of Commerces obviously promote more those public beaches surrounded by restaurants, hotels, and shops, while just listing beaches often only utilized by residents. The big problem with a lot of websites noting lesser used beautiful beaches is they have limited parking, few if any facilities, and long walks to the sands. Officially, all of Florida’s coastline to the high-water mark is public beach, but beach access and parking eliminates miles and miles of beach.
So here is my choices listed in the mode of the popular food books: “Eat This – Don’t Eat That.”
Atlantic Ocean Southward:
Instead of Jacksonville Beach – consider Atlantic Beach to the North and if you really like a full-day excursion, I love Amelia Island’s Main Beach Park. Both of these beaches have long, wide beaches where you can avoid crowds. Look at Google Maps, and you will see Amelia has many Beach Access points.
Instead of the madhouse that is Daytona Beach – consider going north to Ormond Beach’s Andy Romano Beachfront Park. It is somewhat “Daytona Beach Light” with lesser crowds, but recreation facilities and food options.
Or how about a drive northward to an Old Florida style beachside town like Flagler Beach, complete with a pier, tremendous surfers, and low-cost food and recreation options.
Instead of moderately packed New Smyrna Beach – consider a southward drive into vast Canaveral National Seashore. There are many parking spots, but stop spot at the Ranger place and besides paying the fees, get maps for there are great hiking and nature spots that people often miss. Playalinda Beach is great but sometimes people forget their bathing suits.
Instead of Cocoa Beach with its huge Orlando visitations – consider driving south to Vero Beach, which has several beachside parks, decent food and recreation areas and even a Disney Beach Resort, which will probably soon open. Sebastian Inlet State Park is a great choice although it lacks facilities.
Instead of tiny city of Palm Beach – consider the low key dunes of Delray Beach with its Atlantic Dunes Park and its Gulfstream Park. These are strictly recreational beaches, but the town beach is a nice option. With Juno Beach and wonderful John D. MacArthur State Park, Palm Beach County has some less packed spots.
Instead of Fort Lauderdale Beach or Hollywood – consider these places although on the weekends in summer, some get somewhat crowded: the southern tip of the main beach is residential and away from the action, my laid-back Fort Lauderdale by the Sea (smaller condos and resorts), Deerfield Beach, and Pompano Beach.
Instead of South Beach Miami Beach and Crandon Park – consider Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, just a mile from the Crandon crowds. Look up North Shore Open Space Park and if you don’t mind a bayside beach, consider Oleta River State Park.
Instead of the Key West Beaches – consider the fact that the Florida Keys is more for diving and fishing than beaching. Hidden Fort Zack Taylor State Park is your best bet. Calusa Beach on Big Pine Island and shallow Anne’s Beach in Islamorada also get my picks.
Gulf Beaches Southward
Instead of Pensacola Beach – consider going west to Perdido Key toward Fort Clinch where there is the same beach but without the restaurants and hotels.
Instead of Panama City Beach, the center of summer action – consider less commercial, more low-key Miramar Beach, South Walton, or Santa Rosa Beach. St. George Island and St. Joseph Peninsula State Park are wonderful, but are limited in places to stay.
Instead of Clearwater Beach and Saint Petersburg Beach – consider Caladesi Island and Pass-A-Grille Beach. I will confess you must take a ferry to get out to the island and Pass-A-Grille has limited parking so go early and park away from restaurants/shops.
Instead of Bradenton Beach and Lido Beach and Siesta Key Beach – consider the north end of Anna Maria Island and Venice Beach, particularly Casparsen Beach.
If you really want a walk on an empty beach, go to Stump Pass, Englewood Beach. I used to live there.
Instead of Fort Myers Beach – consider Lovers Key State Park with its winding layout of coves and spots and also look at Bonita Beach.
Instead of not-that-crowded Naples Beach – consider Tigertail Beach on Marco Island.
There will be some more New Florida Vacation Guides in this Series.