Many consider Panama City to be the go-to destination for Spring Break, and Miami’s South Beach the crowded destination for overly-beautiful people. But Florida has over 663 miles of beaches, there are many sandy secrets that most travelers never heard of and considered by experts to be even better than the popular ones.
Here are the top 5 ‘under-the-radar’ spots that Floridians would rather keep to themselves;
#1 Santa Rosa Beach
No, this isn’t the Bahamas – these turquoise swells come courtesy of Northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast, home of Santa Rosa Beach. It’s surprisingly under-visited, considering it was named one of the “10 Best Beach Destinations for 2011” by Yahoo! Travel. It’s praised for its “lapping waves and cool sand” and the endless array of indoor and outdoor activities offered – like kayaking the tranquil waters of Choctawhatchee Bay or playing a round of golf on a championship course.
#2 Anna Maria Beach
Arguably one of the most tranquil beaches in Florida, Anna Marie beach offers spectacular views of Tampa Bay, the Skyway Bridge, St. Petersburg and some of the most unbelievable sunsets you’ll ever see! The beach is huge and extends around the tip of the island.
#3 Bahia Honda Beach
Key West gets most of the traffic in Florida’s Keys, but some would argue there are much better beaches on other islands. Experience the stunning views as you drive across the Overseas Highway from Miami to Bahia Honda.
Featuring an award winning beach and historic bridge, Bahia Honda State Park includes over 500 acres and an offshore island offers some of the best snorkeling and and beachcombing in Florida – it’s the perfect getaway for a couple or the entire family.
#4 Vero Beach
Vero Beach is arguably the most precious gem on Atlantic Florida’s Treasure Coast. Vero is no less alluring than South Beach and Cocoa Beach and its location in the heart of the Indian River Lagoon makes it home to some phenomenal flat-water kayaking.
#5 Crandon Park Beach
With visitors constantly streaming to Miami’s crowded South Beach, the locals are peacefully enjoying Crandon Park in Key Biscayne. The two-mile beach is family-friendly, with gentle Atlantic waves, a carousel and even an outdoor rollerskating rink.
Take the day relaxing on the beach, or exploring the dunes, mangroves, and coastal hammocks. The Island is also home to rare and beautiful plants like the beach peanut, Biscayne prickly ash and the coontie.
UPDATE: These 5 new secret beaches are more stunning
#6 Amelia Island
This barrier island flies almost entirely under the radar compared to nearby Jacksonville Beach. Take a kayak or paddle boarding excursion along Amelia Island’s 13 miles of Atlantic coastline, then keep an eye out for dolphins and even wild horses during a sunset cruise to neighboring Cumberland Island, Georgia.
#7 Caladesi Island State Park
The famed coastal researcher Stephen “Dr. Beach” Leatherman recently christened Caladesi as America’s best beach. But what keeps it uncrowded is that you have to take a ferry from Dunedin to get there. It’s worth it, though, for a Gulf of Mexico getaway where soft, white sand and wildlife meet modern amenities.
#8 Don Pedro Island State Park
Don Pedro Island. Photo by Dalia Colón.
Drive south of Sarasota for about an hour to reach Don Pedro Island, a sleepy seven-mile stretch of Gulf of Mexico beach that’s accessible only by private boat or the public ferry. You can bring your car aboard, but golf carts are the vehicles du jour.
#9 Delray Beach
When Florida locals want a beach town that’s vibrant but not overrun, they head for this upscale destination between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. The beach is accessible from East Atlantic Avenue, whose boutiques, sidewalk cafes and ice cream parlors round out the natural lure of the Atlantic Ocean.
#10 St. George Island
Hidden in Florida’s beautiful panhandle, this barrier island is enveloped by the Gulf of Mexico and the Apalachicola Bay. By day, climb to the top of the 72-foot-high lighthouse for a panoramic view of the area. Then at night, hit the restaurant scene for seafood and live music.
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