Florida is not short of beaches. Its extensive shore is nibbled by coves and bays, lined with long sandy stretches and dotted with islands and keys. The state is also lapped by three different water-masses – the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico – ensuring a coastal character to suit everyone. There are coral-crunchy sands that slope to tropical reefs, ideal for divers and snorkelers. Wildlife lovers can search out remoter spots, where turtles and shorebirds flock. There are sheltered inlets where families can swim as well as wave bashed shores for surfers. And there are urban beaches of all sorts, from little fishing ports with piers and pelicans to the uber-cool promenades of Miami. Yes, Florida has a beach for you – here are five of the best:
South Beach, Miami
Best for: Being where the party’s at...
You can’t draw up a ‘best beach’ list without including this, the A-list prima dona that is South Beach. This is where palm trees shimmy alongside pastel-hued Art Deco magnificence, and where the beautiful people come to see and be seen. Visit twice: early, to see the gorgeous sunrise glow, and late, when SoBe becomes one big party town; Cameo and Nikki Beach Hotel’s Club 01 are two of the hottest spots.
Cannon Beach, Key Largo
Best for: Amazing underwater fun
Cannon Beach is a pretty spot, with a 17th-century canon on its soft sand and a shipwreck just offshore. More notably, it’s in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park; founded in 1963, this was the USA’s first undersea park, and protects 178 nautical square miles of reefs and mangroves. The snorkelling is spectacular, with varied fish and corals; you can also swim with the Christ of the Abyss, a 2.6m statue resting on the seabed.
Clearwater Beach, St Petersburg
Best for: A sunset shindig
First, there are no weather worries here: St Pete holds the Guinness World Record for the most consecutive sunny days – 768! Second, the ends of those days are pretty special: facing west on the Gulf of Mexico, Clearwater Beach sees dreamy sunsets. And it hosts a festival every night: Sunset At Pier 60 – a gathering of buskers and artisans, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2015 – runs 365 days a year.
Lover’s Key, Fort Myers
Best for: Romantic strolls and shell-hunting
Once only accessible by boat – so ideal for privacy-seeking couples – this barrier island is still swirled by an air of romance. Trams and boardwalks have made it easier to reach, but you can escape any crowds by planning a long walk along the two-mile stretch of sand, scanning for sea shells, dolphins, roseate spoonbills and (from May to October) nesting turtles as you go. It’s a popular spot for beach wedding, too.
Siesta Key, Sarasota County
Best for: World-beating sand
Florida International University’s Stephen Leatherman (known as Dr Beach) reckons that Siesta Key’s powdery sand is the best on the planet: 99% refined quartz, it’s consistently dazzling, silky smooth and – importantly, during baking-hot Florida summers – stays pleasingly cool. Gawp at the grains of this cracking crescent, take a dip in the emerald sea, rent a kayak or catamaran for a water-level perspective and stay to watch the sun sink into the sublime sand.