Siesta Key Beach
Siesta Key's Crescent Beach has been officially ranked as "the finest, whitest sand beach in the world." Its energy is palpable and made even more so by the many activities that it invites. Jogging, throwing Frisbees, volleyball and picnicking compete with the bliss of simply floating in the clear, calm waters of the Gulf.
Siesta Key boasts other beaches and attractions to enjoy. Snorkelers love the sea life at Point of Rocks at the south end of Crescent Beach and Turtle Beach even further south offers a low-key alternative for a place to unwind and read that novel sitting seaside.
In Siesta Village you'll find an assortment of boutiques, bars and restaurants for quiet dinners and more raucous pub-crawling. But if you are on Siesta Key on a Sunday evening, you'll be magically drawn to the mesmerizing beat of the Siesta Key Drum Circle, where you will find tribal style drummers next to sword balancing belly dancers and an array of beach life that takes one back a few decades.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area occupies approximately the southern third of the island of Key Biscayne, at coordinates 25°40′25″N 80°09′34″W. This park includes the Cape Florida Light, the oldest standing structure in Greater Miami. In 2005, it was ranked as having the 8th best beach in the country, and in 2013 Forbes ranked it at 7th.
The park was named in honor of Bill Baggs, editor of The Miami News from 1957 until his death in 1969. He worked to protect the land from development and to preserve some of the key in its natural state.
In 2004 a large historical marker was erected at the site to mark it as part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Trail, as hundreds of Black Seminoles, many fugitive slaves, escaped from here to freedom in the Bahamas, settling mostly on Andros Island. In the early 1820s, some 300 American slaves reached the Bahamas, aboard 27 sloops and many canoes. The US National Park Service is working with the Bahamas, particularly the African Bahamanian Museum and Research Center (ABAC) in Nassau, to develop interpretive programs at Red Bays, Andros.
The park has more than a mile of sandy Atlantic beachfront, where snorkeling and swimming is possible. Besides the beach and tours of the lighthouse and keeper's quarters, activities include boating, canoeing, kayaking and fishing from the seawall along Biscayne Bay, bicycling, hiking and wildlife viewing. The park has such amenities as picnicking areas and youth camping. It also has a visitor center, a museum with interpretive exhibits and concessions. No Name Harbor, a natural harbor in the park, is used for anchorage.
The land Crandon Park occupies was once part of the largest coconut plantation in the United States, operated by William John Matheson and his heirs. In 1940 the Matheson family donated 808.8 acres (327.3 ha) of their land to Dade County (now Miami-Dade County) for a public park. In return, county commissioner Charles H. Crandon promised that the county would build a causeway to Key Biscayne. World War II delayed construction, but the causeway opened in 1947.
At one time Crandon Park also included a zoo, occupying 48 acres (19 ha) of the park. The first animals in the zoo, including some lions, an elephant and a rhinoceros, had been stranded when a circus went out of business in Miami. Some Galapagos tortoises, monkeys and pheasants were added from the Matheson plantation. Other animals were added, including a white Bengal tiger. In 1981 the Crandon Park Zoo was moved from the park to a location south of Miami, and became the Miami MetroZoo, later renamed the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens.
The park is more than 800 acres (320 ha) in size, and has 2 miles (3.2 km) of beach on the Atlantic Ocean side. Crandon Boulevard extends from the end of the Rickenbacker Causeway through the length of the park, providing access to the Village of Key Biscayne and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.
The park has a variety of facilities, including a marina, a golf course, the Tennis Center at Crandon Park, a family amusement center, picnic shelters and a nature center. There is parking for more than 3,000 vehicles in the park. Part of the park is set aside as the Bear Cut Preserve, a designated natural Environment Study Area. Guided tours through the preserve are available.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, also known as Biscayne Nature Center, is located at the north end of Crandon Park. Features include natural history exhibits, demonstration lab classroom facilities, an audio visual presentation room and a gift shop. The center is a project of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation Department and the not-for-profit community support group.
Sombrero Beach on Marathon Key is a cozy backyard playground for islanders.
The Keys is most acclaimed for its bars, sunsets and sea adventures, so mangrove-free Sombrero Beach is a lucky find. With its soft sand and turquoise waters, the Middle Keys gem serves locals and in-the-know visitors. Turn off U.S. 1 toward the Atlantic Ocean side at Mile Marker 50 and wind along Sombrero Beach Road past homes on stilts and Marathon High School to find the serene, manmade retreat favored by young families, Miami women on girls-only getaways, and savvy travelers.
Along with free, adjacent parking, the beach has other perks, including handicap access on a wide, flat path, a picnic pavilion, children’s playground, volleyball court, restrooms and showers. Dogs on leashes are allowed. The sandy strip is a perfect perch for sunning, snorkeling in the gentle surf and fishing in the shallow water during the park’s hours between 7:30 a.m. and dusk.
Marathon is a 10-mile-long, family-oriented island community between Key Largo and Key West, so there is plenty to do. It’s near the Dolphin Research Center, a nonprofit education and research facility that is open to the public. The 90,000-square-foot series of saltwater lagoons offers in- and out-of-water dolphin encounters for all ages and abilities.
The city is historically known for its beach, where the hard-packed sand allows motorized vehicles to drive on the beach in restricted areas. This hard-packed sand made Daytona Beach a mecca for motorsports, and the old Daytona Beach and Road Course hosted races for over 50 years. This was replaced in 1959 by Daytona International Speedway. The city is also the headquarters for NASCAR.
Daytona Beach hosts large groups of out-of-towners during the year, who visit the city for various events, notably Speedweeks in early February when over 200,000 NASCAR fans come to attend the season-opening Daytona 500. Other events include the NASCAR Coke Zero Sugar 400 race in August, Bike Week in early March, Biketoberfest in late October, and the 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race in January.
The "Elbo Room" bar, at Las Olas Blvd and A1A, was featured in the 1960s film Where the Boys Are. The movie led to the city's former reputation as a spring break mecca. The bar anchors the Southern end of the 'Strip', a strip of eating and drinking establishments that run along the land side of the beach road.
Spring Break peaked in the mid 1980s and the city now attracts a more upscale crowd. Fort Lauderdale is in the midst of a luxury condo building boom, this is displacing the hotels that once lined the beach.
The city is more cosmopolitan than most, having lots of Europeans and gay residents. The beach culture reflects the laid back nature of the community. You will find European food in the restaurants and bathers in thong swimsuits.
The downtown area, especially around Las Olas Boulevard, has seen dramatic growth in the past decade, and now hosts many new hotels and high-rise condominium developments. Other improvements include a wide array of new boutiques, art galleries and restaurants.
The entertainment district runs east-west along Las Olas Boulevard. East Las Olas Blvd has a mile of upscale shops and restaurants. Across the railway lines, West Las Olas caters to a younger crowd. There are funky nightclubs and restaurants between the railway lines and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. In between East and West, there is a new set of shops called Riverside that sits on the RiverWalk. The RiverWalk runs along the north side of the new river, from the shops at Las Olas to the performing arts complex.
Known for beautiful beaches, nature preserves and parks, Hutchinson Island consists of two barrier islands on the coast of Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River counties, Florida. The two islands are separated by the Fort Pierce Inlet and are known as North Hutchinson Island and South Hutchinson Island. North Hutchinson Island is divided into two counties - Indian River County and St. Lucie County. The Indian River county portion of North Hutchinson Island which extends to the Sebastian Inlet is sometimes called Orchid Island, although it is not a separate island.
The Martin County portion of the island is unincorporated. The southern end, which is sometimes called Stuart Beach, receives mail from Stuart Zip Code 34996, while the northern part receives its mail from Jensen Beach Zip Code 34957. Martin County has limited the building height on the island to four stories and thus has no high-rise or mid-rise buildings. The closest incorporated areas to the Martin County portion of Hutchinson Island are the towns of Ocean Breeze and Sewall's Point. The city of Stuart is west of Sewall's Point.
- The House of Refuge, on the National Register of Historic Places, is located on S.E. MacArthur Boulevard near the southern end of the island.
- The Elliott Museumis on N.E. Ocean Boulevard.
- The Florida Oceanographic Coastal Centeris across the road from the Elliott Museum.
- Island Princess Cruises departs nearby.
Large Public Beaches located on South Hutchinson Island include two popular large public beaches with lifeguard stations, pavilions, concessions, restrooms, outdoor showers, and ample parking are located in Martin County on So. Hutchinson Island. Jensen Sea Turtle Beach is located at the intersection of N.E. Ocean Boulevard and the Jensen Beach Causeway, while Stuart Beach is located east of the Elliott Museum off N.E. Ocean Boulevard.
Martin County also owns smaller beach strips along the oceanfront from Bathtub Beach on the south end of MacArthur Boulevard to one located just south of the St. Lucie County line on the north. Bathtub Beach is the only one of these to have any amenities beyond the standard wooden stairs over the dunes. It is very popular with families with children because of the calm, shallow pools at water's edge warmed by the sun's rays and protected from the breaking surf by large offshore rock formations.
The beaches are natural plus there's very very extensive network of bike rails that bring you all the way to the quaint historic town of Fernandina Beach. Be sure to drop in there, you may see a train move slowly through the center of town.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is a tropical paradise that’s perfect for sunbathing, swimming, shelling and snorkeling. It’s located on a narrow 166-acre barrier island separated from the mainland by tidal creeks and mangrove wetlands. The park’s nature trail is a favorite of bird lovers and its observation tower offers peaceful views of Wiggins Pass and the Gulf of Mexico. Picnic areas have grills, restrooms and showers, as well as paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, umbrellas and beach chairs for rent.
Naples Municipal Beach
The bustling Naples Municipal Beach features 10 miles of flawless white sand and an iconic local landmark: the Naples Pier. First built in 1888, the pier extends 1,000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico and is a favorite of fishing enthusiasts, sightseers, families and everyone who loves a good sunset. The beach features a concession stand, volleyball courts, picnic tables, parking, restrooms and showers, as well as children’s lifejackets available to borrow free of charge. Access the beach and pier at the west end of 12th Avenue South.
Barefoot Beach on Little Hickory Island north of Naples is perfect for those seeking a natural beach environment surrounded by wildlife and greenery. Barefoot boasts 8,200 feet of soft sugary sand on one of the last undeveloped barrier islands on the west coast of Florida. Perfect for families, the beach’s shallow water and gentle waves are made for relaxing and enjoying the view. Amenities include a picnic area, equipment rental, a concession stand, showers, restrooms and handicapped beach wheelchair access.
In both daytime and at nightfall, the South Beach section of Miami Beach is a major entertainment destination with hundreds of nightclubs, restaurants, boutiques and hotels. The area is popular with tourists from Canada, Europe, Israel and the entire Western Hemisphere, with some having permanent or second homes there. South Beach has also been visited by many American and foreign tourists, evidenced by the fact that the practice of topless sunbathing by women on the beach and in a few hotel pools on Miami Beach has been considered by the local citizens as being more permissive than on most beaches of the United States, and despite the fact that the practice has not been officially legalized by the local government, it continues to be adopted in large scale.
South Beach's residents' varied backgrounds are evident in the many languages spoken. In 2000, 55% of residents of the city of Miami Beach spoke Spanish as a first language, while English was the first language for 33% of the population. Portuguese (mainly Brazilian Portuguese) was spoken by 3% of residents, while French (including Canadian French) was spoken by 2%, and German by 1%. Italian, Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew were all spoken by less than 1%.
Another unique aesthetic attribute of South Beach is the presence of several colorful and unique stands used by Miami Beach's lifeguards on South Beach. After Hurricane Andrew, Architect William Lane donated his design services to the city and added new stops on design tours in the form of lifeguard towers. His towers instantly became symbols of the revived City of Miami Beach.
Due to easy causeway access, Sanibel is a popular tourist destination known for its shell beaches and wildlife refuges. More than half of the island is made up of wildlife refuges, the largest being J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The Island hosts the Sanibel Historical Village and a variety of other museums including the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum and theaters, as well as many non-profit organizations such as the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, and the Sanibel Sea School.
The main town is located on the eastern end of the island. The city was formed in 1974, as a direct result of the main causeway being built in 1963 to replace the ferry, and the rampant construction and development that occurred afterward. Developers sued over the new restrictions, but the city and citizens prevailed in their quest to protect the island. The only buildings above two to three stories now on the barrier island were built during that period.
A short bridge over Blind Pass links Sanibel to Captiva Island. More than half of the two islands are preserved in its natural state as wildlife refuges. Visitors can drive, walk, bike, or kayak through the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge  The island's most famous landmark, the Sanibel Lighthouse, is located at the eastern end of the island, adjacent to the fishing pier. The main thoroughfare, Periwinkle Way, is where the majority of stores and restaurants are located, while the Gulf Drives (East, Middle and West) play host to most of the accommodations.
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, has also been a key player in helping to curb uncontrolled commercial growth and development on the island. Since 1967, SCCF has been dedicated to the preservation of natural resources on and around Sanibel and Captiva and has led efforts to acquire and preserve environmentally sensitive land on the islands including critical wildlife habitats, rare and unique subtropical plant communities, tidal wetlands, and freshwater wetlands along the Sanibel River.
While there's a plethora of stunning beaches in Florida, the above list is a great start for visitors. Please feel free to add your favorite beaches in the comment section!