The Sunshine State is a great all-year-round destination that has an array of unique things to do. With 2172 km (1350 miles) of gorgeous coastline, Florida is dotted with stunning coastal towns all along its Gulf and Atlantic Coasts.
Coastal towns in Florida are filled with charm, picturesque beaches and crystal clear waters. These towns stretch all the way from the Florida Keys archipelago in the south, down to the state’s border with Georgia.
Whether you’re looking to escape to a town with a rich history like Fort Myers, or somewhere with more beachside charm like Seaside, you will definitely find it all in Florida.
Keep reading to discover 13 of the most beautiful coastal towns in Florida. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll be inspired to pack your bags and explore the stunning Sunshine State.
13 Beautiful Coastal Towns in Florida
Table of Contents
1. Fernandina Beach
The quaint town of Fernandina Beach is located on Amelia Island. It is the northernmost town along Florida’s Atlantic coast and is just 53 km (33 miles) away from Jacksonville.
Fernandina Beach is a seaport town known for its laid-back vibe and easygoing residents. While it is a stunning beach town, Fernandina has a rich history that might appeal if you enjoy stepping back in time.
Amelia Island is known as the “Isle of 8 Flags”, due to it being conquered by eight nations who had their flags posted on the island. Prior to that Amelia Island was home to the Timucuan Native American people who lived in north-central Florida.
Under British rule, Fernandina Beach was a thriving Victorian trading port and much of this can be seen in the downtown area. According to the locals, the town also served as a hiding place for pirate treasures.
The thing that the town is perhaps best known for today is its annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, which has been held on the island since 1964.
This three-day festival is usually held in May. The festival brings everyone in the town together to enjoy a variety of shrimp dishes, funnel cakes, lemonade and free music performances.
While shrimp may be the highlight of the festival, there are also various vendor booths that sell artwork, crafts and antiques. If you’re in the town when the festival is not being held, you can still explore the downtown area, which has loads of great restaurants and quirky shops.
2. Cocoa Beach
One stop you have to make on your way to Orlando is the cute town of Cocoa Beach, which is a mere hour away from the city. This charming town is located just south of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
It is also the gateway to the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex, which is worth a visit, especially if you are interested in spacecraft.
Cocoa Beach is a great vacation destination for many people, famed for its gorgeous beaches and surf breaks. Amateur and pro surfers flock to the area, especially at the end of the hurricane season (September – December), to catch some of the greatest waves on the east coast.
Whether you’re a keen surfer or not, you can pay the Florida Surf Museum a visit and learn more about the history of surfing in the area. The town is also a great place to enjoy a variety of watersports such as parasailing, sea kayaking and stand up paddleboarding.
Watersports may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there are plenty of other activities that you can enjoy while in Cocoa Beach. You can discover an abundance of wildlife at Lori Wilson Park, or play a round of golf at one of the nearby courses.
Looking to escape to a quiet resort town for a few days? Then look no further than the colourful town of Seaside.
Seaside is located in northwest Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a rather small town that features a 20th century New Urbanist design with white picket fences and pastel-coloured houses. The town has around 300 houses and was designed so that all the attractions, and shops would be within walking distance from its residents and visitors.
The town’s history does not date back centuries like some of Florida‘s other towns. Infact, Seaside is a fairly new town, only developed and built in the early 1980s.
Seaside was the vision of one man, Robert Davis, who inherited a piece of property in what is known as Seaside today. After years of planning and development, Seaside is now a thriving town.
The centre has various restaurants, shops and cool galleries. It also has beautiful white-sand beaches and amazing hotels along its beachfront with views that are to die for. With so much to offer it’s no wonder that Seaside has been voted one of the Top 10 Best Beach Towns in Florida by USA Today.
4. Key Biscayne
Key Biscayne is one of Florida’s best kept secrets. This island town lies 8 km (5 miles) east of Miami and 24 km (15 miles) south of Miami Beach in the Biscayne Bay. The island is connected to the mainland via the Rickenbacker Causeway.
The town is near enough to all the action of Miami, but just far away enough to feel like you’re on an island vacation. Key Biscayne itself has several attractions like the Bill Baggs Cape State Park. The park is home to the Cape Florida Lighthouse, which was built in 1825.
The park offers some of the most incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean. Key Biscayne also has some breathtaking beaches, which will have you feeling as if you’re on holiday in the Caribbean.
There are a number of fantastic restaurants along the beach with stunning views of the Miami Skyline. The glamorous Ritz Carlton Resort calls Key Biscayne home, so if you’re looking for a luxurious getaway, consider staying at this opulent resort.
5. Key Largo
Known as the self-proclaimed “Dive Capital of the World”, Key Largo is the first of the Florida Keys Islands. It is easy to reach and is a short 90 minute drive away from Miami via the Overseas Highway.
Key Largo offers a welcomed change of pace from Miami’s bustling atmosphere. This island town is renowned for its quiet beachside hotels, quirky restaurants and the most picturesque sunsets.
It is the perfect place for scuba diving, snorkelling and glass-bottom boating as it is home to the world’s largest artificial reef. Apart from this you can also enjoy fishing, kayaking and swimming with dolphins on the island.
Key Largo also boasts some impressive botanical scenery and one of the best ways to discover it is through the numerous hiking trails found on the island. It’s also a short distance away from the other Key Islands and the Everglades National Park.
Just 90 minutes away from Miami lies the beautiful Islamorada or “Purple Island”. It’s the second island after Key Largo in the northern part of the Florida Keys Islands.
Stretching 11 km (7 miles) over five islands, Islamorada is one of the best coastal towns to visit in Florida especially if you’re taking a road trip down from Miami to Key West. It’s also one of the most unique towns as it’s surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east side and the Gulf of Mexico on the west.
The waters around Islamorada are teeming with life and there are about 500 species of fish in the area. For that reason alone the town is considered to be the sports-fishing capital of the world.
Apart from fishing there are also a ton of other activities to do. Islamorada is a nature lover’s paradise with incredible hiking trails and stunning coral reefs.
If you do stop by, be sure to visit the Theatre of the Sea where you can swim with dolphins, view sea lions, or take a bottom glass boat ride.
And of course, it also has a ton of great places to eat. Be sure to stop over at Robbie’s Marina where you can try out their famous hogfish sandwich. Also don’t forget to stop by the Islamorada Beer Company where you can taste a variety of ales from the Florida Keys Islands.
7. Tarpon Springs
A visit to the coastal town of Tarpon Springs will make you feel as if you’re in a fishing village in Greece, when you are in fact, less than an hour’s drive from the cities of Tampa and St Petersburg. This charming town is also only 30 minutes away from one of the best places to watch the sunset in Florida, Clearwater Beach.
The town has been heavily influenced by the Greek sponge divers who settled in the area in the early 1900s.
Having been so heavily influenced by the Greeks, Tarpon Springs hosts an Epiphany celebration at the Greek Orthodox Church in January and an Opa’ Palooza Greek Seafood Festival in November.
If you can’t wait that long to eat Mediterranean seafood, there are loads of Greek restaurants in the town that will make you feel as if you are on one of the Greek Isles. Tarpon Springs is also home to a number of micro craft breweries.
Tarpon Springs downtown centre is also a great place to learn more about the history of the town and is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Downtown you’ll find a number of galleries, shops and antique stores dating back to the late 1800s.
8. Key West
Key West is perhaps the most popular town in the Florida Keys Islands. Located on an island in the Florida Strait, it is 256 km (159 miles) away from Miami, and only 90 nautical miles away from Cuba.
This vibrant town also happens to be the southernmost point in America. Key West has a very relaxed vibe to it, and is best known for being a popular spring break destination and boasts an exciting nightlife scene.
It is also home to America’s only living coral reef, meaning it’s a great place to scuba dive or snorkel. It also has a number of stunning white sand beaches.
Be sure to visit Duval Street, the heart of Key West, which runs right through from the northern part of the town to the southern part. It is lined with lively outdoor cafes, restaurants, bars, shops and galleries.
9. Siesta Key
Siesta Key Beach is a stunning island in the Gulf of Mexico. Its town, Siesta Key Village, is a popular vacation destination.
Siesta Key has an array of activities to do. Beach lovers will not only love the beach but also enjoy the tidal pools and coral reefs in deeper waters. Yogi’s will also be thrilled about the free beach yoga that takes place every morning at 9 am.
The buildings in downtown Siesta Key resemble small Italian coastal villages, and are filled with great shops, cafes and bars. You can even take the free shuttle to explore the town.
In the southern area you’ll find Turtle Beach which has boat ramps to go out into the deeper waters as well as a scenic picnic area.
10. Cedar Key
Cedar Key is one of the cutest coastal towns on Florida’s west coast. It is located along the Gulf of Mexico, just southwest of Gainesville.
It is a true gem and also happens to be one of the oldest towns in the Sunshine State. It was founded in the early 1800s and rebuilt later in the century after being wiped out by a fierce hurricane.
In its early days it was a prominent port along the Gulf Coast. Today it looks like it has been frozen in time, with old buildings and quiet streets. If you’re keen to get out on the water, you can also hire a kayak and explore this quiet town’s coastline and marine life.
11. Madeira Beach
Situated just 30 minutes away from the city of St Petersburg, Madeira Beach is one of the loveliest towns along the Gulf Coast. It is best known for being the home of John Levique, a pirate who called the town home after surviving a hurricane in the 18th century.
Madeira Beach is a cool, calm and collected town. The town center was built on a 330-metre boardwalk and is home to just over 100 shops and restaurants waiting to be explored.
It is also known for its dock area, John’s Pass, where you can take a charter boat and enjoy the day out at sea. The dock area is also the perfect place to grab dinner and drinks with a stunning view.
12. Sanibel Island
With an unlimited supply of sunshine all year round, Sanibel Island is the perfect place to escape for a relaxing vacation. It’s a short drive from Fort Myers and is best known for its incredible sunsets, and luxurious resorts.
The most popular activity on the island is shelling. The shores of Sanibel Island are covered with shells and conches in all shades of glorious pink. So if you’re an avid shell collector, then this is the perfect place for you.
After collecting your shells, you can go and identify their names at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. Other activities that you can enjoy include fishing, kayaking or just relaxing on the beach.
Naples (no not Italy) is a quaint town perched along the Gulf of Mexico in Southwest Florida. It’s famous for its high-end shopping and world-class golf courses. The Naples Pier was built in 1888 and has since then become a symbol of the city. It’s also one of the most popular fishing and dolphin-spotting areas in Florida.
Downtown Naples is a historic area filled with cool eateries, art galleries and chic boutiques. When you’re not hanging out there, you can lay around and work on your tan at one of Naples’ stunning beaches.
Final Thoughts on Coastal Towns in Florida
It’s no secret that Florida has some of the most amazing towns along both its Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. The best part is that they’re only a short distance away from some of the major cities in the Sunshine State.
A visit to any of these amazing towns will have you feeling like you’re a world away from the chaos of the city but still near enough to all the action.
No matter where you go, you’re bound to have a great time in any of these coastal towns.
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