Florida travel: 12 of the best uncrowded beaches in the Sunshine State
No one can deny that Florida has some of the best beaches in the world. In fact, a recent Tripadvisor poll placed eight of them in its top 25 list with Siesta Key landing the top spot. The Sarasota beach has been voted again and again as the place that you want to be.
But while there are times when you want to hang with the crowd and be seen, there are also times when you just want to take in the sun and surf, peacefully. For those moments, we have rounded up a list of Florida’s least crowded beaches — and all are definitely worth a visit.
1. ATLANTIC BEACH, JACKSONVILLE
What to love: If your idea of a beach day is bumming around, barefoot in shades, shelling the shore during low tide, Atlantic Beach will be a sort of heaven for you. This historic Jacksonville beach near the the Florida/Georgia border has somehow retained its Florida beach bum personality -- with a dash of Southern debutante mixed in, the Travel Channel wrote. The beaches are wide, the neighborhood is quiet. In fact, Jacksonville New-Times journalist Mark Woods (yes, the Mark Woods who’s walked Jax twice) wrote that the most pedestrian-friendly street in Duval County is Beach Avenue in Atlantic Beach. “It’s the rare street where vehicles don’t rule the road. Walkers, runners, cyclists and dogs do,” he wrote.
Nearby points of interest: Check out Coop 303 for a modern take on Southern classics like shrimp and grits, and chicken and waffles. Or try the local favorite: Lemon Bar, an outdoor bar serving up cocktails and live music.
Address: Atlantic Beach: 800 Beach Ave, Atlantic Beach; 904-247-5800
2. CORAL COVE PARK, TEQUESTA
What to love: The primary draw of this quiet beach – the county’s northernmost — is the snorkeling. With clear waters and multiple rock formations within wading distance of shore, Coral Cove allows you to swim with the tropical fishes, stingrays and seahorses. In addition to its guarded beach, Coral Cove also offers 600 feet of Intracoastal Waterway frontage that’s paddleboard-perfect.
Address: Coral Cove Park: 1600 S. Beach Road, Tequesta; 561-624-0065
3. JOHN D MACARTHUR STATE PARK, PALM BEACH GARDENS
What to love: The only state park in Palm Beach County, MacArthur truly is a local treasure. A 1,600-foot boardwalk carries you from an exhibit-filled nature center to a beach of untamed, abiding beauty. From certain vantage points on the boardwalk, you can block out all signs of civilization and imagine what it was like to be an early settler plying these waters. And if your party isn’t up to the walk, trams will ferry you between parking lot and beach. Reef and rock outcroppings in shallow water near the park a popular destination for snorkelers and scuba divers hoping to see squid, schools of snook and colorful tropical fish.
Address: John D. MacArthur State Park: 11611 Ellison Wilson Rd., Palm Beach Gardens; 561-624-6952
4. OCEAN RIDGE HAMMOCK PARK, OCEAN RIDGE
What to love: What this low-key beach lacks in amenities – it doesn’t have restrooms, and it’s one of only two Palm Beach County beach parks without lifeguards (the other is Jupiter’s Ocean Cay) – it makes up for with the singularly beautiful trail that zig-zags to the beach through dense coastal hammock. Walking through it feels like you’ve entered a fairy tale set in South Florida.
Address: Ocean Ridge Hammock Park: 6620 N. Ocean Blvd., Ocean Ridge; 561-276-3990
5. GULFSTREAM PARK, DELRAY BEACH
What to love: Gulfstream Park is often referred to as “a hidden gem,” thanks to its low profile and small size. The well-manicured park area is packed with shady picnic tables, grills, a play area and swings for toddlers.
Nearby points of interest: Grab huge, handcrafted sandwiches to go at Seaside Deli & Market. Forget your sunscreen or want to pick up a skimboard? Pop into friendly Nomad Surf Shop, a local landmark since 1968.
Address: Gulfstream Park: 4489 N. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach; 561-629-8775
6. ATLANTIC DUNES PARK, DELRAY BEACH
What to love: If you prefer solitude and serenity to the busier scene on Delray’s primary beach, Atlantic Dunes is for you. And you’ve got two ways to reach the beach from Ocean Boulevard. The most direct route is the wide boardwalk. The other, marked by a small sign bearing the image of a blue stick figure, is a hard-packed, 300-foot nature trail that leads you through a tropical hammock. The live oaks and seagrapes can get so dense that you might need to lift your sunglasses to see the path ahead.
Address: Atlantic Dunes Park: 1605 S. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach; 561-243-7250
7. SEBASTIAN INLET, SPACE COAST
What to love: Fishermen and surfers have long loved where ocean meets sand at the Sebastian Inlet. The three-mile stretch of pristine oceanfront is as good as yours since the surf crowds have bigger waves to catch. Locals love this beach because of where it’s situated -- right at the spot where the water makes the subtle switch from deep blue to Caribbean turquoise. Oh, and because of the bottle nose dolphins and manatee sightings.
Sebastian Inlet is about 12 miles south of Melbourne and offers a slew of outdoor activities and amenities. From bicycling and birding to camping, hiking, shelling and star-gazing, there’s plenty to fill your day at the beach. See the full rundown here.
Nearby points of interest: Don’t skip out on the McLarty Treasure Museum, which is located at the beach on the site of an 18th-century shipwreck survivors’ camp. Talk about some real pirate booty, you’ll see gold and silver from the 1715 wreck of a Spanish fleet.
Address: Sebastian Inlet: 9700 South Highway A.1.A; Melbourne Beach; 321-984-4852
8. PASS-A-GRILLE BEACH, WEST FLORIDA, ST. PETE
What to love: The charming, Old Florida feel of this historic town is what sets it apart from other beautiful beaches that stretch from St. Pete to Clearwater. The core of the town is only a block wide from beach to bay, with the soft sandy beach on one side and the Intracoastal on the other. Take your time strolling (barefoot, if you really want to catch the vibes) through the downtown as you pop into quaint shops and colorful galleries.
Nearby points of interest: If you’re a breakfast-lunch-dinner kind of beach day person, stop by Seahorse Restaurant, a local favorite, for the grits and pecan pancakes. The Paradise Grille (900 Gulf Way) is another spot not to be missed. It’s a bar right on the beach, and what better way to continue your R&R on one of Florida’s quietest beaches than with a sunset in sight, a craft beer in hand and live music in the air?
Address: Pass-a-Grille Beach: St. Pete Beach
9. ST. GEORGE ISLAND STATE PARK, NORTHWEST FLORIDA
What to love: For beachgoers, birdwatchers and year-round fishermen, St. George is a go-to destination. With miles of undeveloped beach on this barrier island, it’s a perfect setting for a quiet taste of paradise. On the Gurl side, you’ll get blue waters, white sands and even some dolphin sightings, while on the bay side, you’ll enjoy healthy marshes with wading birds and nature trails.
Nearby points of interest: The historic Cape Saint George Lighthouse was built in 1852 and reconstructed in 2005. There are 92 wooden stairs and an eight-rung ladder to the lantern room at the top -- and every step is worth it. There’s also a museum on site. For tasty seafood and perfect, beachside cocktails, try the Blue Parrot Oceanfront Cafe.
Address: St. George Island State Park: 1900 E. Gulf Beach Drive; St. George Island; 850-927-2111
10. CANAVERAL NATIONAL SEASHORE, BETWEEN DAYTONA AND COCOA BEACH
What to love: This barrier island is a sanctuary for people and wildlife alike. It’s also the longest unspoiled beach on Florida’s east coast. The north entrance from New Smyrna Beach is the road less traveled, so you’ll definitely want to take this route to find your piece of uncrowded beach. A few miles south, take the turnoff to Eldora and then slow waaay down. The subtropical tree hammocks to the Eldora State House are everything.
Nearby points of interest: Don’t miss a visit to Turtle Mound near the entrance. It’s a prehistoric archaeological site where native Timucuan Indians discarded their shells. A viewing platform here will give your soul the sweeping panoramas it needs.
Address: Canaveral National Seashore: S Washington Ave, Titusville; (321) 267-1110
11. CALADESI ISLAND STATE PARK, BETWEEN CLEARWATER AND TARPON SPRINGS
What to love: Situated north of Clearwater and south of Tarpon Springs, real Florida awaits your arrival at this state park. While accessible via the Caladesi Connection, a ferry that leaves from Honeymoon Island State Park (located at the northern tip) for Caladesi, many believe the best way to access this paradise is by kayak or stand up paddleboard. This untouched island offers too many natural delights to count.
Nearby points of interest: For the perfect day, visit the local seafood favorite, Olde Bay Cafe & Dunedin Fish Market, which overlooks St. Joseph Sound with a view of the island.
Address: Offshore Island, Dunedin; 727-469-5918
12. BAYFRONT PARK, ANNA MARIA ISLAND
What to love: This quiet little island overlooks the waters of Tampa Bay, is great for picnics and boasts an impressive view of the Sunshine Skyway bridge. It is perfect for when you just want to get away and enjoy the sounds of the waves rushing to the shore.
Nearby point of interest: If you want to spend every moment that you can with your toes in the sand, then grab lunch or dinner at the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe. There’s indoor and outdoor dining, a gift shop and live entertainment.
Address: Bayfront Park, 316 N Bay Blvd, Anna Maria; 941-748-4501
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