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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.

Siesta Beach

📌 948 Beach Rd, Sarasota

Beach RF

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.

Greer Island

📌 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

Dolphin RF

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.

Bowman’s Beach

📌 1700 Bowmans Beach Rd, Sanibel

Sanibel Island Beach

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.

Gasparilla Island

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

Beach Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

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.

Vilano Beach

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.

Lover’s Key

📌 8700 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers

Beach Lovers Key

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 NWRuskin

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.

Navarre Beach

People at the beach RF

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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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

 

    32 Comments

  1. Siesta Beach sounds awesome. I still cannot believe I have yet to visit Florida. Right up my alley. I did layover in Fla a few times while flying to Central America. Awesome descent over Miami once, with its nice beaches and sleek, chic feel.

    • Florida is incredible, easily my favorite destination within the US. I hope you have the chance to visit at some point soon. Can highly recommend Siesta for when you do 🙂

  2. If you’re looking for natural beach without so many high rises, I’d tell you go to Pensacola Beach or Navarre Beach.

    • Both great suggestions Jeanne, thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Marco island is a terrific place for a family holiday/vacation. People are friendly and welcoming, lots of lovely places to eat good fresh food by the water, if you chose. It’s easy to navigate your way around this gorgeous place, with lots of homes situated on or by the water.

    The beaches are soft white sand, but in places you can go shelling and within minutes can have a lovely collection. Just make sure there are no little creatures still inside.

    • Totally agree with you Chad! I’ve only made it out to Marco Island once before, but I do remember it to be as you’ve described – very family friendly and a real sense of community 🙂 I’d love to return at some point, thanks for the great suggestion!

  4. Florida is a dream destination, I could definitely do with some sun right now!

    • It really is! If we were to ever move back to the States from Australia Florida would be the State 🙂

  5. Always prefer a hidden beach over one crawling with people!

  6. I’ve seen documentaries where people in Florida take metal detectors down to the beach and look for gold and silver coins from ancient shipwrecks. Have you ever found any treasure?

    • Absolutely, that’s definitely a thing! We’ve found some very cool relics like sharks teeth, but still holding out for the treasure!

  7. Best is subjective and opinions will vary.

  8. There are several small beach towns in a row between St. Pete Beach and Clearwater: Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, North Redington Beach, Redington Shores, Indian Shores, and Indian Rocks Beach. All great, affordable family beach towns with motels and condos for rent directly on the beach.

    • Great additions Chatelaine! Choice is definitely one of the best things about Florida beaches!

  9. Even with the brown sand I think the beaches in Ft. Lauderdale are very nice.

    • Absolutely, the nice thing about Florida is the diversity 🙂

  10. A beautiful beach that makes a great day’s outing is MacArthur Beach State Park just north of West Palm Beach. It’s a long, natural beach. The urban beaches all along the coast are all very nice.

    • Thanks for the tip Bon, I’ll have to stop by on our next trip 🙂

  11. We are Planning to come to Siesta Key for 2019 July Long Weekend. How much possibility is there of the rain does it rain whole day or only during some part of the day?

    • Hi Melissa, it only rains in summer during the afternoon, you’ll probably find it’ll storm for about an hour around 4pm every day. But otherwise, the beaches will be pretty much empty so it’s a great time of year to visit without the crowds 🙂 … being a long weekend you’ll likely have locals coming out though.

      Have a fabulous trip!

  12. So many different types of beaches in Florida! Usually you go to a place and they’re all replicas of each other but these look truly different. Of course Miami beach is on my bucketlist but I assume that’s pretty hectic and popular.

    • Absolutely, diversity is a pretty fab perk of visiting Florida, they have beaches for every interest! Yes Miami Beach is pretty crowded, personally not one of my favorites, but always important to see the things you want to see and see them for yourself 🙂 Definitely make time to see more of Florida beyond Miami though because it’s such an incredible State 🙂

  13. Will have to start working on my beach bod!

  14. ❤ Florida. we visit Sanibel every year, my parents have a timeshare. Pity that the shelling isn’t nearlly as good anymore as it used to be when we were growing up, but it’s still my favorite place in the world. Gets pretty busy during season.

    • We lived in Fort Myers, so would often visit Sanibel, yes the shelling used to be incredible! Definitely not the same as it was, but still get that Sanibel stoop!!

  15. When have you been there last? Most of the beaches mentioned are effected by the red tide on the West Coast and the algue at the South East coast at the Moment…

    • Thanks for the input … the red tide has been happening for as long as I can remember (we lived in Fort Myers and some years it was horrendous), though it does seem to be receiving a lot more coverage recently. Fortunately it’s never a permanent phenomenon, and will hopefully clear out quickly this year 🙂

  16. I’m going to St Augustine next month 🙂

    • Love St Augustine, hope you have a fabulous trip!

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