Due to its geographic location, Florida is home to a number of gorgeous beaches that are perfect Florida vacations for families. From the panhandle, with its white sand beaches, to the Gulf Coast’s sugary sand beaches, to the more traditional sand on the Atlantic side, there are so many options for family travel. While many families travel to Florida for their world-class theme parks, it’s also a great idea to plan in a little beach time during your trip.
I’ve been to a few wonderful beaches and beach towns in Florida, and it’s so difficult to choose my favorite. Each offers a variety of benefits for families. Here are five of the best beaches in Florida with kids, based upon the actual beach, as well as the number of family activities located in the area. Did I miss your favorite? Leave me a comment below so that I know which one to visit next!
Disclosure: I visited some of these best Florida beaches for kids through complimentary trips and some on my own. All opinions are my own.
5 Best Beaches in Florida With Kids
Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island
I wasn’t familiar with Amelia Island until I went for a conference last year, but I was really missing out. This island, one of the Sea Island barrier islands, is located in Nassau County, along the Northeast coast of Florida. There are numerous beaches located on the island, and Fernandina Beach is definitely one of the best family beaches in Florida.
I stayed at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, which has its own 3.5 mile private beach located on property. The other resorts also have their own beach access. The Omni has tons of activities for families, including mini golf, beach activities, several pools, nature walks, and delicious restaurants.
If you are just visiting Amelia Island for the day, there are public beaches that are open to the public. Since Amelia Island is so north in the state, the weather isn’t always at warm as it is in more southern parts of the state, so be aware of that when planning your trip. The Amelia Island airport is served by the nearby Jacksonville International Airport. It’s about 35 minutes from the airport, which offers many direct flights to and from major US cities (including Boston).
See hotels on Amelia Island here.
Fort Walton Beach
Located along the Gulf Coast of the Florida panhandle, Fort Walton is a popular vacation destination for many southerners. It’s adjacent to Destin, another popular beach town, so you can definitely combine a vacation to Fort Walton with a visit to Destin. It’s one of the best places for family beach vacations in Florida.
The area offers several large hotels as well as many vacation homes (early last year, I stayed in a large vacation home in the area). Look for a vacation home on the beach if you want to spend most of your tie on the beach.
If flying to the area, the nearest airport is the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, which is served by American, Delta, and United. For my trip, I had to connect in Atlanta, so you may not be able to find a direct flight.
Once you dip your toes in the white sand, you’ll know why this is such a popular beach vacation destination for families. The sand is so perfect, and almost looks like snow from a distance. In this area, you’ll also find outlet shops, restaurants, and other family activities.
See hotels in Fort Walton here.
Earlier this year, during a quick trip to Tampa, FL, my kids and I headed to the white sugar sand of Clearwater Beach. I had heard wonderful things about the beach, but had never visited.
We started our day by visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter the dolphin from the Dolphin Tale movies. The aquarium’s mission is rehabilitating and releasing animals back into the wild, although some animals, like Winter, can’t be. Kids who love animals will love the aquarium, which is located a short distance from the beach. Definitely look at their schedule so you can attend some of the shows as well as look at the exhibits.
We didn’t pack our beach clothes during this day visit, but did head to Clearwater Beach after the aquarium. This public beach is open every day of the year, and is always staffed with lifeguards. There’s paid parking available near the beach, and there are a number of beach resorts located along the coast. It’s gorgeous, and definitely one of the best Gulf Coast beaches for families. (see more things to do in the Gulf Coast of Florida with kids here).
We took a quick walk along the beach, and then ate at the popular beachfront location of Frenchy’s Grill. There are several locations of Frenchy’s, but the beach location is the most popular.
If you are planning a trip to Clearwater Beach, you have several airport options – the Tampa International Airport and the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. There are lots of direct flights from the Tampa airport, so that may be more convenient even though it’s a bit farther.
During your visit to Clearwater Beach, you can also visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay if you’d like. It’s not too far of a drive. I’d definitely recommend renting a car if possible, because you’ll want to drive during your stay.
See hotels in Clearwater Beach here.
I didn’t know much about Marco Island when I planned our family vacation there several years ago. I wanted to go to a warm beach destination, and I was able to get a great price on a vacation package there through JetBlue Vacations. Marco Island ended up being one of our favorite vacation destinations, thanks to the gorgeous beach and casual atmosphere. It’s definitely one of the best family friendly beaches in Florida.
Marco Island is located along the Gulf of Mexico, a little over an hour from the South Florida International Airport in Fort Myers. After crossing over a small bridge, you’ll be in the small beach town of Marco Island. Featuring several large resorts along with vacation homes and condos, there are plenty of family-friendly places to stay. Our vacation package included the Marco Beach Ocean Resort, which we loved.
The beach itself offers lots of shelling opportunities (something my kids really enjoyed), along with plenty of fun watersports for families. We enjoyed staying at a resort right on the beach, because we were able to use their chairs and umbrellas and get food service right from our spot.
See hotels in Marco Island here.
Longboat Key, one of the Gulf coast barrier islands, is located right near Sarasota, Fl. It’s easily accessible through the Sarasota Airport, although you could also fly in through Tampa or Clearwater-St. Pete. During my visit during a recent press trip, I stayed at the Resort at Longboat Key Club, a luxury beach resort offering a spa, marina, golf, numerous restaurants, watersports, tennis, and more. It’s definitely one of the best family beach resorts in Florida.
The nearby area offers lots for families, including the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. Kids will love to explore the Circus Museum, which includes a stunning mini circus that is so fun to check out. There’s also kayaking, a beautiful shopping area, and a marine laboratory and aquarium. The area is home to sea turtles, so depending on your visit, you may see some sea turtle nests.
See hotels in Longboat Key here.
Do you have a favorite beach or beach town in Florida?