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.
Many families travel to Florida for their world-class theme parks and other attractions. However, it’s also a great idea to plan on 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 and include it in the list.
Disclosure: I visited some of these best Florida beaches for kids through complimentary trips and some on my own but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these posts may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.
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.
During my visit to Amelia Island, I stayed at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, which has its own 3.5-mile private beach located on the property. The other resorts on Amelia Island 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. You could easily spend your whole vacation just at the resort because there is so much to do.
If you are just visiting Amelia Island for the day, there are public beaches that are open to the public not staying at a resort. Since Amelia Island is so north in the state, the weather isn’t always at warm as it is in more southern parts of Florida, 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.
Fort Walton is in a convenient location for many southerners, so it’s a popular road trip beach town. 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 time on the beach.
Check with the vacation home in advance to find out if they have beach access as well as beach supplies. The house we stayed in came with a golf cart to bring down supplies.
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 from Boston, 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. You’ll want to be sure to have a car because you’ll have to drive to most locations for shopping and dining.
Earlier, 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. I loved it so much that we returned for a family spring break vacation two years later.
During this first visit to Clearwater, 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. It was quiet at the aquarium when we visited, so we were able to attend several different shows.
We didn’t pack our beach clothes during this day’s 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.
On our second visit to Clearwater Beach, we stayed right on the water at the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa. This hotel is located right on the water and is adjacent to Pier 60. During our visit, the famous Sugar Sand Festival was taking place on the pier.
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.
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, and I feel that it flies a bit under the radar.
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. I would recommend choosing a beachfront resort if the primary objective of your trip is to spend time at the beach.
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 and drive a bit further.
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, water sports, tennis, and more. It’s definitely one of the best family beach resorts in Florida. You could spend much of your time there, because there are so many family activities.
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. It’s part of the Ringling complex.
The local area also offers 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.
Siesta Key, another popular beach destination, is also near Sarasota. If you enjoy visiting beaches, you can easily combine a trip to both locations during one vacation.
See hotels in Longboat Key here.
Do you have a favorite beach or beach town in Florida?
See are best Florida beaches story here.