Due to its geographic location, Florida is home to a number of gorgeous beaches that are perfect for a family vacation. 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. 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 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. 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, several pools, 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.
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. 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). If flying to the area, the nearest airport is the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, which is served by American , Delta, and United.
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.
Earlier this year, during a quick trip to Tampa, FL, my kids and I headed to the 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.
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. We took a quick walk along the beach, and then ate at the popular beachfront location of Frenchy’s Grill. 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.
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. Marco Island ended up being one of our favorite vacation destinations, thanks to the gorgeous beach.
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.
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.
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.
Do you have a favorite beach or beach town in Florida?
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