The 5 Best Florida Beach Towns (Plus Where to Stay and Eat)

Mom and sisters on Florida beach
Photo: Shutterstock

If you’re looking for a warm escape from the winter chill, look no further than the best Florida beaches. And while there are any number of great Florida beach resorts, sometimes what your family really need is a whole beach town to explore.

The Best Florida Beaches for Families

From the white sands of Amelia Island to the historic walls of Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, the beach towns of the Sunshine State are ideal for a relaxing vacation that everyone in the family will love. Here are the top beach towns in Florida, plus where to stay and eat during your beach vacation. 

Key Largo, Florida Keys

Key Largo Far Beach, Florida
Key Largo Far Beach, Florida (Photo: Shutterstock)

Head about as far south as you can go in the Florida Keys and you’ll discover Far Beach, one of the only private beaches on Key Largo. Located near John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, this beach is a popular snorkel and diving site because its crystal-clear water beyond the seagrass-laden shallows. 

After your family is done at the beach, head to the popular Lazy Lobster Seafood Restaurant for fresh local seafood that tourists and islanders alike can’t get enough of. Do not leave without trying one of the variations of conch, including whole fried conch or conch fritters. 

Where to Stay Near Key Largo Far Beach

Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo offers private beaches and luxury accommodations that are great for everything from a girls weekend getaway to a big family vacation. The resort offers a wide variety of activities like boating, paddle boarding and snorkeling, all just steps away from your room. Each room overlooks the bay and is well appointed with cozy beds, hardwood floors, and a spacious deck.

Vero Beach, Florida

Vero Beach, Florida
Vero Beach, Florida (Photo: Shutterstock)

Just south of Orlando and Walt Disney World is Vero Beach, a sprawling strip of sand that’s home to one of the largest sea turtle nesting sites in Florida. And unlike the more overcrowded Florida beaches (think Miami Beach, South Beach, or Daytona Beach), Vero Beach is known for its ample space to spread out. You won’t notice any high-rises here, either, because the town of Vero Beach has placed an emphasis on preserving the natural beauty of this barrier island. 

When night falls, American Icon Brewery is the spot to hang out. Serving up the best beers in town, the local brew house also boasts a tasty menu that both kids and adults will enjoy. Don’t leave without trying the street corn nachos, a mountain of tortilla chips slathered with homemade nacho cheese, shredded lettuce, fresh pico de gallo, roasted corn, avocado cream, and spicy Cotija cheese. 

Where to Stay Near Vero Beach

Located just steps from Vero Beach’s sandy swath of coastline and a short car ride away from most everything else that Vero Beach has to offer, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort offers all the glitz and service you’ve come to expect from a Disney resort—without the Orlando crowds. 

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida, at night
St. Augustine, Florida, at night (Photo: Shutterstock)

Beach bums, surfers, and fishermen all flock to the white sands of historic St. Augustine Beach, where the option for on-beach parking makes it super easy to set up your spot without lugging everything down a pier and across the sand. And after your day in the sun, there are plenty of nearby dining options to enjoy. One favorite is Burrito Works Taco Shop on the main beach drag, which attracts sizable lines around lunch and dinner. 

Where to Stay Near St. Augustine Beach

One of a few beachfront properties with direct beach access to St. Augustine Beach, Guy Harvey Resort is located on a no-drive area of the beach, so there’s no need to worry about your little ones running off with excitement before looking both ways for cars on the beach. And when you need a break from the sand, head to the beach resort’s seasonal tiki bar for ice cold drinks and large outdoor pool. 

Amelia Island, Florida

Beach on Amelia Island, Florida
Beach on Amelia Island, Florida (Photo: Shutterstock)

Amelia Island is one of those popular Florida beach destinations that somehow doesn’t feel like a popular Florida beach destination. Maybe it’s the laidback island lifestyle, or maybe it’s the 13 miles of pristine beaches that circle the island that make it spacious enough for everyone to grab their own little patch of sand without feeling crowded. Either way, Amelia Island has some of the best beaches in Florida, along with dozens of shops for souvenirs and beach essentials, eateries, hotels, and historic sites to explore when beach time is over. 

Head to downtown Amelia Island for all of the local restaurants, including the not-to-be-missed Amelia Tavern. Here they serve up craft beers for adults and traditional American food that the whole family will enjoy. Try the Rueben Spring Rolls, which are filled pastrami, beer-braised sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese.

Where to Stay on Amelia Island

You really can’t go wrong with any of the dozens of lovely small hotels and B&Bs around Amelia Island, but for Florida beach lovers we recommend the Omni Amelia Island Resort. Located down a beautiful stretch of towering oak trees, the resort’s rooms boast ocean views as well as quick access to non-beachy activities like Segway tours and rounds of golf. 

Sanibel Island, Florida

Aerial view of Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, Florida
Aerial view of Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, Florida (Photo: Shutterstock)

Just off the coast of Fort Myers, the beautiful beaches of Sanibel Island are lapped by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and offer some of the best seashell hunting in all of Florida. The miles and miles of Sanibel Island beaches do get busy in late spring and during summer vacation, so head there early in the season for the best experience. 

When you get hungry, head to Traditions on the Beach, a local restaurant that’s been in operation since 1895. Look for a tapas-style menu at the bar and a full menu in the main dining room. And if you love crabmeat, you’ll never do any better than the Lump Crab Martini, which is served with fresh lump crab meat, house remoulade, and mango salsa. 

Where to stay on Sanibel Island 

One of the top ranked resorts on Sanibel Island is the Casa Ybel Resort, where every guest room is either a one- or two-bedroom suite that faces the Gulf of Mexico. After the beach, head to the resort’s grassy communal area for a nap in a hammock or to enjoy the evening with a drink in your hand. 

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Megan duBois
Megan duBois is a freelance writer who covers theme parks, cruising, food and drink, and family travel. Her work has appeared on Buzzfeed, Popsugar, Insider, Orbitz, The Daily Meal, Family Vacation Critic, TravelPulse, and more. Megan has been quoted as an expert and thought leader on theme parks for Forbes and other outlets. Follow her on Instagram @MinglingwithMickey and Twitter @Megand513 for theme park travel tips and tricks, and email her at megand513 [at] gmail [dot] com for story ideas.