Laurie K. Blandford
| Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Five reasons why season in SWFL is the best
From more enjoyable weather to an increase in bustling communities, here are five reasons why the busiest part of the year is the best part of the year.
While the rest of the country shivers, the Sunshine State is enjoying temps approaching the 80s. It’s officially beach season in Florida.
So with spring break around the corner and a forecast of balmy weather for pretty much the next eight months, we thought it would be a good time to share our picks for best beaches in the state. Plus, we can’t think of a better way to social-distance than with our toes in the sand.
The list is culled from USA TODAY Network contributors in coastal communities across Florida. Presented in alphabetical order, these are 10 of our favorite places to be when the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean or sets on the Gulf of Mexico:
In case you missed it: In 2020, 5 of TripAdvisor’s Top 10 Beaches were from Florida. This year, it’s just these 2
Just south of Amelia Island, you’ll find one of the most dramatic beaches in Florida. You can’t swim there, the parking lot is kind of small, and you’ll have to walk for a few minutes to reach the beach, but be sure to bring your camera. The beach is littered with bleached-out, long-dead trees that have fallen from the eroding shoreline. Think of them as full-tree driftwood. The beach, which borders Nassau Sound in Big Talbot Island State Park, is a favorite of photographers and tree-climbing kids. – Tom Szaroleta, The Florida Times-Union
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Speed, sand and sun are the calling cards of Daytona Beach, the signature destination along Volusia County’s Atlantic coastline. Touted as the “World’s Most Famous Beach,” Daytona beckons sunbathers with its 23 miles of hard-packed, white-sand beaches that can be enjoyed by foot, bike, and even car from sunrise to sunset from Nov. 1 through April 30.
There are also the eateries and game rooms of the famed Daytona Beach Boardwalk and concerts at the historic oceanfront Daytona Bandshell, within view of the balconies of landmark beachfront restaurants such as Sloppy Joe’s. Of course, Daytona Beach also roars with events such as NASCAR’s iconic Daytona 500 last month and the 10 days of two-wheel excitement at the annual Bike Week celebration. – Jim Abbott, The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Another popular option: Ormond Beach makes TripAdvisor’s list of Top 25 beaches in the U.S.; let the debate begin
Park along A1A and step onto Delray Beach, spanning 1½ miles of South Florida coastline. One of the only downtowns in the U.S. located right on the ocean, Delray Beach offers the best of both worlds: beautiful beaches paired with the sprawling Atlantic Avenue, which boasts a seemingly endless amount of bars, restaurants and shops.
The beach itself hosts more than 3.2 million visitors every year, but it rarely feels overcrowded. Delray Municipal Beach is very accessible, just a few miles east of I-95 at the east end of Atlantic Avenue. – Megan Kearney, Florida Digital Optimization Team
Coming soon near the beach: Here’s what to expect at the mega food hall coming to downtown Delray
Beyond the silky sand and daily sunsets, Naples Beach has lured nature lovers and, well, lovers for years. Unlike hard-sand beaches in other parts of Florida, Naples Beach is soft, and its narrowness creates a secluded spot to view the Gulf of Mexico, Naples Pier and others enjoying fun in the sun.
After some sun and water, head to Old Naples Pub, 255 13th Ave. South., not far from the Pier and tucked away off Third Street South. The fish is fresh, and so are the jars of pickles on each table, and you’ll enjoy anything you order. – Dave Osborn, Naples Daily News/Fort Myers News-Press
A slice of paradise in the Panhandle, Pensacola Beach is world-renowned for its sugar-white sand and emerald-green waters, placing No. 15 on Tripadvisor’s 2021 Top 25 Beaches list. It’s home to historic Fort Pickens and campground and the newly revamped Laguna’s Adventure Park activity venue.
Fresh seafood straight from the Gulf of Mexico highlights the menus of the sports bars, fine-dining restaurants and everything in between. Plus, the beach is rich with nightlife, as some of Northwest Florida’s most popular bars – like Shaggy’s and Bamboo Willie’s – line Via De Luna Drive and Pensacola Beach Boulevard. – Jake Newby, Pensacola News Journal
There’s something about being on an island, out there in the water a few miles from the shoreline, that makes Sanibel Beach a top spot. Besides shelling (annually ranked among best the spots in the U.S.), the beach’s gulf breezes make you feel as if you’re truly away from it all. – Dave Osborn, Naples Daily News/Fort Myers News-Press
Where to watch the sunset: 48 restaurants with sunset views in Sanibel and beyond
Sebastian Inlet State Park
This undeveloped state park with a manmade cut connects Florida’s Space Coast to its Treasure Coast, as well as the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian River Lagoon. It stretches over 3 miles of barrier island and spans 1,000 acres. Surfers travel from across the world to catch waves at First Peak or Monster Hole, and fishermen cast lines from two jetties that extend into the ocean.
The park also is great for beachcombing, swimming and snorkeling, especially at the protected Cove area on the north side of the inlet. It includes camping, two museums and a restaurant. – Laurie K. Blandford, TCPalm/Treasure Coast
Named the best beach in the U.S. twice by Stephen “Dr. Beach” Leatherman and leading Tripadvisor’s list in 2020 while placing in its Top 20 this year, Siesta Beach’s fame comes from its powdery sand made almost exclusively of pure quartz, which remains cool on your feet even on a scorching summer afternoon.
Located on the north end of Siesta Key in Sarasota County, it’s regularly seen on the MTV reality show “Siesta Key” along with nearby bar the Crescent Club, established in 1949. Located even closer, less than a mile away from the main Siesta Beach parking lot, visitors will find Siesta Key Village, a vibrant mix of restaurants, bars and shops including the Beach Club, which opened in 1947 and has also been seen on the MTV show. — Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
In case you missed it: Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, No. 1 in 2020, drops in ranking of best in the US for 2021
More than just a beach: 15 of our favorite Siesta Key Village restaurants and bars
You know you’ve arrived at Miami’s popular South Beach – nicknamed SoBe – when you hear music blaring from every direction and see colorful art-deco lifeguard stands. An always-bustling atmosphere paired with white-sand beaches has secured its reputation as one of Florida’s most popular spring break and vacation destinations.
If you’re hungry, South Beach offers an interesting mix of casual beach fare to fine dining. South Beach comes alive in the evening at an array of impossibly trendy bars, clubs, hotels, sidewalk cafes and restaurants along the iconic Ocean Drive. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a celebrity. – Megan Kearney, Florida Digital Optimization Team
St. Pete Beach
The big winner on Tripadvisor’s annual Travelers’ Choice Awards for beaches, St. Pete Beach in the Tampa Bay region’s Pinellas County was lauded as “a great walking beach with white-quartz sand, clear calm water, and seashells by the truckload. It’s the most perfect place to watch the sun set over the ocean.”
Home to the Don Cesar, aka The Legendary Pink Palace, built in 1928, St. Pete Beach places visitors within steps of numerous resorts, restaurants and bars such as Jimmy B’s, Postcard Inn and the Undertow.
Considering visiting the area? Pinellas County landed four on Tripadvisor’s latest list of best beaches in the country: St. Pete (No. 1); Madeira (No. 9); Treasure Island (No. 16), home to the original Caddy’s; and Clearwater (No. 18), another one of our favorite places for outdoor fun in Tampa Bay. – Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Nearby destinations in Tampa Bay: Here are 5 well-known places for outdoor fun
More Tampa Bay destinations: Here are 10 famous places to eat, drink, play and stay
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