With an abundance of charming getaways dotting both its Gulf and Atlantic sides, the Florida seashore just might be the perfect escape from the busy city. From historic maritime havens to seaside villages buzzing with arts and culture, the Sunshine State has a beach town for every sun-seeking traveler. Wander along boardwalks, pop into quaint galleries and boutiques, then plunk down a chair and soak up the rays in our favorite Florida beach towns.
To most, Key West is best known as a place to let loose and party. But this historic city at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys is also a beautiful spot to take leisurely bike rides down cobblestones streets overhung by banyan trees or watch the blazing sun disappear behind sailing ships.
Open the fence to Nancy Forrester’s backyard and enter an enchanting jungle of tropical birds and giant palms.
The quaint island of Siesta Key offers some shops, watersports rentals, and cozy accommodations. But it’s Siesta Key’s Gulf-side strand that is the real draw: With pure-quartz white sand and calm, shimmering turquoise water, it’s no wonder it was named the best in the country in 2011 by Dr. Beach.
Stroll through charming Siesta Key Village, stopping in at shops and perusing restaurant menus. You might opt to dine at the lively Siesta Key Oyster Bar—it’s something of an institution here. Wherever you end up, make sure to top off your meal with homemade dessert from one of the village’s many ice cream parlors.
If you like your beach towns to be more Maine than Myrtle Beach, Apalachicola is just the spot for your next vacation. Historic homes and buildings, tempting fresh seafood, and acres of state parks and wildlife refuges make this charming port a maritime getaway that will transport you to another time and place.
The Raney House Museum, set in a Greek Revival mansion, is a must-see on any trip to history-filled Apalachicola. This carefully preserved home provides a glimpse into the town’s past as one of the largest cotton ports on the Gulf Coast.
Famed for its white-sand beaches teeming with coquinas, whelks, sand dollars, and scallops, Sanibel Island is a paradise for nature lovers. But there’s more than shelling on this barrier island: Head downtown and visit the shops, restaurants, and artist galleries on main thoroughfare Periwinkle Way, and you’ll see why almost 200,000 vacationers make the trip to this charming spot every year.
While not open to the public, the Point Ybel Lighthouse (or Sanibel Island Lighthouse) is a must-see photo op on the island. Pause along your shelling route to snap a shot of this beachside beacon, which has guided seafarers to Sanibel Island’s shores since 1884.