With over 1,350 miles of coastline to choose from, Florida has plenty of options for a beach getaway. Most people know about Daytona Beach and the legendary South Beach of Miami, but if you prefer something a bit more low key check out these five great beach getaways.
Nestled in Florida’s panhandle surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and the Apalachicola Bay, the barrier island of St. George has miles of pristine beaches. If you are looking for uncongested natural beauty, this is your beach.
There are hotels, villas, old-style cottages and stunning vacation homes available as vacation rentals. The fishing in the area is unsurpassed with local marinas offering inshore and offshore fishing charters. St. George Island has kayaks, paddle boards, bicycles and assorted other beach toys for rent. Excursions to uninhabited islands, dolphin spotting boat trips and snorkel trips are family favorites.
Thanks to the fact that 81 percent of Franklin County's land is publicly owned, there are many options for fun and family friendly eco-adventures. The Apalachicola River Paddling Trail was designated as a national paddle trail in 2008. Nearly 100 miles of trails run through the swamps of the Apalachicola River giving paddlers of all levels the opportunity to get up close to nature.
With soft sugary sands, the warm clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico and brilliant sunsets, Fort De Soto Park makes a fantastic beach getaway. Protected by a sandbar, the North Beach has a large lagoon that doesn’t get above three feet deep making it the perfect place for children to swim.
Bike, skate or jog the 7-mile paved nature trail or kayak through lush mangroves. Keep a look out for pelicans, heron and egrets – year round residents of the park. Dolphins are often spotted from the Gulf fishing pier and sea turtles nest along the beach in summer.
A historic fort built for the Spanish-American War has old cannons and jail cells giving the kids (and you!) plenty to explore.
Park amenities include canoe, kayak and bicycle rentals, a food concession, picnic areas and outdoor showers.
Located on Central Florida’s east coast, New Smyrna Beach is a friendly beachside community. Building sand castles, surfing, kayaking and bicycling on the beach are all popular activities and beach rentals plentiful. Surf fishing is a favorite past time for all ages – just dig up a few sand fleas for bait and cast away!
Worth exploring is the 73-acre Smyrna Dunes Park at the northern tip of New Smyrna Beach. A two mile elevated boardwalk winds through the sand dunes providing a platform for viewing the unique vegetation, marine life, reptiles and animals that live in the park. The park also has picnic areas, pavilions and an observation tower.
New Smyrna streets are lined with quaint restaurants and shops. There are a number of hotels and many private rentals available. Most have pools and many have tennis courts, shuffleboard, basketball and other games for family fun time.
Located along Florida’s Space Coast an hour’s drive from Orlando, Cocoa Beach is named for its soft cocoa colored sand and known for its friendly waves. Designated the east coast surfing capital, you’ll find veteran surfers along with beginners riding the waves.
Driving into town along Highway A1A there are plenty of kitschy souvenir shops – a place to pick up that pink flamingo you know you have always wanted! But the one shop you can’t miss is the massive two story Ron Jon’s Surf Shop. This is the place to find anything you could ever want for all your favorite beach activities. Surf boards, swimsuits, sunscreen and everything in between… it’s all here. Beach rentals including surfboards, boogie boards, beach umbrellas and stand-up paddle boards are also available.
A landmark since 1962, the Cocoa Beach Pier has bars, restaurants and gift shops. The kids will enjoy the Dinosaur Store on the Cocoa Beach Causeway with its selection of dinosaur teeth, fake shrunken heads and arcade games.
Situated at the northern tip of Palm Beach County on Florida’s east coast, Jupiter along with its neighbor to the south, Juno Beach, are perfect retreats for beachgoers and surfers. Starting at the Jupiter Inlet with its classic red lighthouse, you’ll find wide palm lined beaches, sand dunes covered in sea grapes and glistening blue water. Dubois Park has 1,200 feet of beach with playgrounds and picnic pavilions. Carlin Park is a beach park with exercise trails, grills, showers and lifeguards. The wide sidewalks along the beachfront are perfect for strolling, rollerblading and biking.
The 990-foot fishing pier at Juno Beach is a favorite for casting a line. Fishing and swimming blend effortlessly here. Nearby Loggerhead Park features nature trails, a bike path, tennis courts and a Loggerhead Marine Life Center with a Sea Turtle Hospital.
Just south of Juno Beach, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park offers nature walks, kayak rentals and a pretty beach with sand dunes.
Do you have a favorite Florida beach getaway?
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Terri Marshall is a New York City based freelance writer whose work includes travel, spirits, and all things chocolate. Terri's work appears in several publications. She has been a featured guest on Peter Greenberg's Worldwide Travel radio program and Denver's KZKO Radio Morning Express show. Terri will not hesitate to go to the source for great chocolate - even if that means hiking through the jungle and picking cacao pods herself.
Happiest when she's globetrotting, Terri has covered destinations all over the United States, Europe, and into Central and South America. Favorite adventures include reindeer driving in Norway and fishing for piranhas in the Amazon jungle of Peru. You can keep up with Terri's adventures on her website www.TrippingwithTerri.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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