Given that Florida boasts more miles of coastline than any U.S. state other than chilly Alaska, you might have imagined it would be relatively easy to find a peaceful beach here, away from the tourist throng.
Alas, it’s actually a far-from-straightforward task, in large part because the locals aren’t usually too eager to tell you about them (understandable, after-all, why would you not want to keep such secluded gems to yourself!)
The good news, though, is that we’ve strung together many of the best secret beaches based on our own local knowledge from 8 years living in the Sunshine State.
The Best Hidden Beaches in Florida
St. George Island State Park
📌 1900 E Gulf Beach Dr, St George Island
Sometimes, when you’re told that a particular Florida beach is ‘unspoiled’, what that really means is that the tourist crowds simply aren’t as intense as the Sunshine State norm.
That’s not the case with St. George Island State Park, though. It really is the very definition of unspoiled – you’ll do well to see a single other human being on a walk along here, being much more likely to have a few migratory shore birds for company.
You’ll find this breathtaking stretch of sand at the far eastern end of St. George Island, the 22-mile barrier island off the Apalachicola coast.
📌 948 Beach Rd, Sarasota
Siesta Key’s popularity is really starting to spread, so in terms of being ‘hidden’, this one only just scrapes in. But with its beautifully white powdery sand, we’re including Siesta Beach in the category of ‘get there while you still can before it gets really crazy’.
The beach is most famous for being covered in 99% pure quartz sand, which means a cool feel beneath your feet even when temperatures are at their highest. The shore area is also relatively shallow, strengthening the beach’s reputation for family-friendliness.
In a state in which you can expect almost any beach that you come across to be at least partially coral, Siesta Beach offers a distinctive appearance and feel that has led some observers to tip it to be the next Miami or West Palm.
📌 N Shore Rd, Longboat Key
This scenic stretch of sand at Longboat Key’s northwestern-most tip may be officially known as Greer Island, but it has been somewhat rechristened Beer Can Island by locals.
Regardless, there can’t be too many finer places in Florida to watch the sunset, surrounded not by chattering tourists, but instead an assortment of petrified tree trunks and driftwood.
Begin your exploration by heading to 7001 Seabreeze Avenue.
Shell Key Preserve
📌 Head to St. Pete Beach and take the Shell Key Shuttle
If we’re talking about gorgeous white sandy beaches, one that’s even more secluded than Siesta Beach can be found on the undeveloped barrier island situated at the mouth of Tampa Bay.
You can only reach it by boat, and once you get there, you’ll see that it isn’t just humans who pay visits.
The beach has been designated as a key area for shorebird nesting, while it’s also well worth keeping an eye out for dolphins having fun in the surf.
Sebastian Inlet State Park
📌 9700 S Hwy A1A, Melbourne Beach
It would be hard to make the argument for Sebastian Inlet State Park being a ‘hidden’ beach for locals, this having long been a must-visit spot for many of the state’s most hardened surfers and anglers – not least thanks to the fabled fishing pier here.
For those exploring Florida from outside the state though, this beach still qualifies as a relatively undiscovered gem.
📌 1700 Bowmans Beach Rd, Sanibel
Surely, there can’t be a single beach in Florida that has been left untouched by the ravages of commercialism?
Thankfully, there are a few fine contenders even in this category in the Sunshine State, such as Bowman’s Beach at Sanibel Island.
Sanibel has long cultivated an image as a sophisticated place to snooze on the sand beneath an umbrella, thanks to its exclusionary policies that prevent McDonald’s and other bourgeois shops and eateries from opening here.
The beach is also renowned as home to some of the world’s best shell hunting.
📌 via the Boca Grande Causeway at C.R. 775, Boca Grande
There’s definitely a certain charm to those frequently overlooked bits of the state where it feels like nature has been allowed to take over, with Gasparilla Island on the Gulf Coast – north of Sanibel and south of Sarasota – being another excellent example.
Once it gets to the point where your quiet sunbathing is just starting to feel that little bit eerily too quiet, why not head into the town of Boca Grande, which is a cheerful place to let the hours slip by on a backdrop of atmospheric little restaurants and shops and pastel-colored beach houses?
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
📌 6400 N Ocean Shore Blvd, Palm Coast
Yes, Florida can even offer beaches that are magnets for nature and wildlife lovers, as much as they are destinations for those simply wishing to while away the hours in the sun.
A prime example of such a spot is this state park on the Atlantic coast at Palm Coast, just south of St. Augustine.
It incorporates a formal garden that serves as a habitat for all manner of indigenous plant and animal life, while the beach itself stands out due to its unique coquina rock formations.
📌 3400 Coastal Hwy., Vilano Beach, St. Augustine
As an obvious focal point for a Florida break, if there’s one thing about downtown St. Augustine that isn’t quite as lovely, it’s the – yes, you’ve guessed it – maddening crowds.
That’s why you might appreciate the opportunity for a touch of laidback escapism north of town, laying down your towel at the beautiful Vilano Beach.
You’ll find this gorgeous stretch of beachfront on the north side of Matanzas Inlet, and can expect to be greeted by regularly breaking surf waves and an overall vibe that is decidedly more residential than touristic.
📌 8700 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers
Another Floridian beach that you could once only access by boat is the secluded Lover’s Key at Fort Myers, with local tradition suggesting it to be visited solely by lovers.
But of course, most of us don’t stick quite as slavishly to tradition these days as we once did, and with a Florida State Park also now present on the island, you might be just as likely to make the trip to see manatees, the occasional bald eagle and roseate spoonbills – the latter resembling a mix of a pelican and a flamingo.
Lover’s Key is yet to be emphatically ‘discovered’ by tourists, though, and that’s just the way we like it.
E.G. Simmons Park
📌 2401 19th Ave NW, Ruskin
A great obscure place to go fishing and camping, this Ruskin, Tampa Bay beach might also be the ideal spot from which to launch your boat, although if that’s your plan, we’d advise you to make sure you don’t get caught out by the relatively early closing time.
The seven miles of shoreline and 469 acres of wildlife here might also tempt you to burn through some hours watching birds and wildlife.
📌 8543 Navarre Pkwy, Navarre
Navarre Beach certainly has the right credentials for those seeking a somewhat sleepier seaside hideaway on their vacation in Florida, being situated between two much more popular spots – Pensacola Beach and Destin.
Indeed, other than those living in the immediate locality, you’ll unlikely to come across any native Floridians that give this beach a second thought as a destination. They probably should give this Panhandle gem a bit more thought, though.
The beaches around this way consist of the kind of luscious white sand that is normally obscured on many Florida beaches by tourist backsides, and you can certainly expect not to be pestered. Those emerald Gulf of Mexico waters don’t exactly hurt the aesthetic appeal, either.
We’re not too surprised, then, that this low-key community calls itself ‘Florida’s Most Relaxing Place’.
Incorporate a few of these overlooked spots into your itinerary for your Florida holidays in 2020, to ensure that you immerse yourself in a magical, but all-too-rarely-talked-about side of the Sunshine Coast that isn’t always reflected in the tourist brochures.
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