Southern Florida is famous for being home to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches with stunning scenery and warm waters. There are many fun things to do in Southern Florida. Some of Southern Florida’s best beaches are unknown to others outside of the region, while others are an adventure for visitors to reach, many are beaches that have yet to be spoiled.
1. Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park
The height of the desirable coast of Collier County is the Barefoot Beach Preserve, an area where many different species of animals call home and visitors are allowed to ambience that the natural surroundings of the park provide. The Barefoot Beach Preserve is a natural preserve encompassing more than 340 acres and is of the last remaining undeveloped barrier islands along the southwest coast of Florida. The Barefoot Beach Access at the county park includes a parking area with just under one hundred parking spaces. The preserve consists of a sugar-sand beach, picnic area, showers, and a nature trail. Explore great family vacations in Florida.
2. Cayo Costa State Park
The Cayo Costa State Park is a park on Cayo Costa Island that offers visitors and locals with a grand area of the state of Florida that has been left untouched, as well as provides protection for the Charlotte Harbor Estuary. Cayo Costa State Park can only be reached by kayak or boat and boasts nine miles of shoreline that remains undeveloped and is great for birdwatching, fishing, shelling, snorkeling, swimming. Visitors can also explore the area along one of the many bicycle or walking trails throughout the interior of the island, or camp in a tent or small rustic cabin. Browse our things to do in Florida guide for more ideas.
3. Beaches Near Me: Clam Pass Park
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The Clam Pass Park is a stunning beach access point in Collier County in area of North Naples, Florida. The park contains 175 parking spaces that visitors can utilize for free as long as they have a sticker for beach parking. Clam Pass Park is one of the area’s most popular beach accesses, boasting approximately thirty-five acres of coastal habitat and preserving that habitat through providing access to the sandy beach via a boardwalk of about three quarters of a mile in length. The boardwalk itself offers a quiet nature walk for visitors as it winds through the mangrove forest. Florida beaches offer a cheap way to enjoy the state's natural beauty.
4. Dania Beach, Southern Florida
Dania Beach’s claim to fame is its “Blue Wave Beaches” that have won awards, as well as its close proximity to the city of Fort Lauderdale and the numerous nature activities that it offers for visitors. All of this makes Dania Beach an appealing spot for a beach vacation in Southern Florida. The city of Dania Beach is home to the Dania Jai Alai, famous throughout the world and located in the heart of the entertainment and dining district of the city. Also situated near the beach is Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant, which serves delicious homemade ice cream.
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5. Southern Florida Beaches: Deerfield Beach
Deerfield Beach offers visitors an opportunity to experiences the beaches of Southern Florida without having to deal with large crowds. The “Blue Wave” award-winning beach earned its recognition from the Clean Beach Council thanks to to the excellent water quality, policies for habitat conservation, public information, safety services, and beach conditions of Deerfield Beach. Activities visitors will find in addition to the beach itself include camping, fishing, a skate park, and the country’s longest courses for cable skiing, which is a hybrid of wakeboarding, skiing, and surfing. There are several opportunities for dining and shopping as well.
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6. Beach Near Me: Delray Beach, Southern Florida
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The city of Delray Beach, Florida is one of Palm Beach County’s hidden gem and has been rated as the “Most Fun Small Town” by the Travel Channel, USA Today, and Rand McNally, as well as one of the top ten “Happiest Seaside Towns” by Coastal Living. Delray Beach has also won the All-America City award three times and is a great beach destination for not only beach activities, but nightlife, shopping, art, sports, and culture as well. Know for being an intimate, vibrant city, Delray Beach consists of award-winning beautiful beaches, nighttime entertainment, fine restaurants, upscale shops, and more.
7. Fort Lauderdale Beach
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Fort Lauderdale Beach is a romantic Southern Florida beach that is often overshadowed by some of the city of Miami’s more popular beaches, however, the Fort Lauderdale Beach is just as stunning as the Miami beaches, but offers a more family-oriented and relaxing atmosphere. Locals and visitors alike can spend a day strolling along the shore or relaxin the soft sand, while kids play and splash around or build sand castles. More active and adventurous fun includes renting a catamaran and honing sailing skills. The world-famous Primanti Brothers Restaurant offers sandwiches, while many beachside seafood restaurants are located nearby. Read about the most beautiful white sand beaches in Florida.
8. Hallandale Beach, Southern Florida
Hallandale Beach is a place that isn’t exactly in Miami, but not really in Broward either and is often overshadowed by nearby Hollywood Beach. It is often thought of as “the middle child” of the beaches of Southern Florida. The beach isn’t anything flashy, but it does boast a convenient locations between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Along with the beautiful beach, visitors can also enjoy saltwater fishing, boating, swimming, golf, and tennis. Evenings offer both casual and fine dining and nighttime entertainment ranging from rock ‘n’ roll to ballroom dining. Malls, shopping centers, and boutique shops offer all kinds of merchandise.
9. Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge
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The beachfront road that travels along the coast of Jupiter Island reaches a dead end at the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, part of the country’s National Wildlife Refuge System. Most people wouldn’t know about the public beach at the road’s end, as there aren’t any signs indicating this is the case. Extending north for over two miles to where the just as pristing St. Lucie Preserve beach starts, the Hobe Sound beach area totals over five miles of unspoiled and wild sandy shoreline. The only amenities visitors will find at the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge are portable restrooms.
10. Southern Florida Beaches: Hollywood Beach
Situated between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Hollywood Beach is well known for being a beautiful stretch of sandy beach, an ideal setting for beach vacations. The unique Hollywood Beach Broadwalk has been ranked by Travel + Leisure as one of the “Best Beach Boardwalks” in America, stretching for almost two and a half miles along the ocean and offering beachfront bars and restaurants, unique shopping, live music, and year-long activities. The promenade is also home to the Charnow Park with a water playground for children and the Hollywood Beach Theatre. A trolley service takes visitors from the Hollywood Beach into Downtown Hollywood, Florida.
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11. John U. Lloyd Beach State Park
Formerly named the John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, the Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park is situated just to the south from Port Everglades and is the last remaining example in Broward County of an undeveloped coastal ecosystem. The state park is named after a leader in the Civil Rights Movement who from the 1950’s to the 1960’s led “wade-in” protests in an effort to desegregate the beaches in Southern Florida. The John U. Lloyd Beach State Park is now a popular spot for picnicking, bicycling, hiking, boating, fishing, and swimming, providing an escape from the busy city.
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12. Beaches in Southern Florida: Lauderdale-by-the-Sea
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Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, a town in Southern Florida, offers a beautiful beach, welcoming public plazas where outdoor games are available on a daily basis and monthly free dance classes are offered, frequent live music, and numerous sidewalk cafes. The town is widely considered to be the diving capital of the South Florida Shore, with divers and snorkelers come from all over for a chance to swim through the reefs and spot lobsters, turtles, and tropical fish. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is a walkable town with everything conveniently located, with vividly colored banners anchoring the boundaries of the town, as well as colorful signs providing directions. Read about the best Florida weekend getaways for a relaxing vacation.
13. Lovers Key State Park
The Lovers Key State Park is situated to the south from Fort Myers Beach and got its name due to the fact that at one time it was so remote, the only visitors were lovers seeking privacy. The park is today is much easier to reach. Lovers Key State Park is thought by many to be one of Southern Florida’s best beaches, however, the beach still remains largely unknown. The beach at Lovers Key is approximately two and a half miles in length and is lined by natural vegetation. Birding, kayaking, beachcombing are popular activities among visitors at the beach. Check out these Gulf Coast beaches for an inexpensive relaxing day out.
14. Closest beach to me: Oceanfront Park Beach
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The Oceanfront Park Beach in the City of Boynton Beach, FLorida is open every day of the year beginning at sunrise until about 9:00 pm. Lifeguards are present patrolling the beach on a daily basis. Designated skim board and surfing areas can be found at the south and north ends of the Oceanfront Park Beach. Lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for rent at the beach as well. The picnic areas in the park includes restrooms, picnic tables, and grills, while the visitors can find benches and canopy-covered walkways throughout other areas of the Oceanfront Park. Explore fun things to do in Boynton Beach on vacation.
15. Southern Florida Beaches: Pompano Beach
Pompano Beach offers quite a bit for visitors, from great shopping opportunities to fine dining to the relaxing and fun beach. Located centrally between Miami and Palm Beach, Pompano Beach is often referred to as “The Heart of the Gold Coast.” There are many fun activities and attractions in Pompano Beach.
Pompano Beach is famous for its excellent opportunities for fishing and boating and accentuated by its off-shore living coral reef that is accessible to snorkelers and scuba divers. Families and anglers alike come to one thousand-foot-long fishing pier, picnic tables, grills, and beachside playgrounds. Pompano Beach also hosts several annual events, such as the fishing rodeo, seafood festival, and holiday boat parade.
16. St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park
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The St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park is an ideal beach in Southern Florida for those who want a beach practically to themselves. The park is situated in Stuart, Florida on a barrier island that is only accessible by means of a boat or kayak, even though the island is just approximately one-third of a mile across the Intracoastal. The beach at the St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park is certainly a reward for making the journey as the shaded boardwalk opens onto the wild, wide, pristine beach that goes on for miles. The park includes restrooms and a picnic pavilion. Explore beaches near Tallahassee on your trip.
17. Tigertail Beach, Southern Florida
Tigertail Beach, which is located on Marco Island, is a popular beach among local residents due to its “split personality.” Visitors can park on one of the island’s lagoon at the well-kept, clean park that offers rentals of beach gear, stand-up paddleboards, and kayaks, as well as a concession stand, a playground, picnic tables, and changing rooms. The other side is a wild sand spit extending around three miles to the north and offers a beach with scads of shells, soft white sand, ospreys overhead, dolphins swimming off-shore, and many shorebirds. Many take the adventure of crossing the 50-yard lagoon. Florida day trips offer a great way to explore nearby.
18. Southern Florida Beaches: Captiva Island
Situated off of the Gulf Coast of Florida near Fort Myers, Captiva Island is associated sometimes with neighboring Sanibel Island to the south. Both of these islands are all about outdoor activities, such as water activities, birding, sailing, and biking. Captiva Island is a small piece of land that is nestled against the southwest coast of Florida and gives of an almost magical, slightly off-kilter feel. The small island is also home to one of the most remote beaches in the United States. The island’s shell beaches are some of the world’s most beautiful of their kind. More day trips from Naples.
19. South Beach, Southern Florida
South Beach is a famous beach located in the southern area of the city of Miami, and is one of the beaches visited most frequently along the East Coast of the United States. Visitors can one of the favorite hobbies of Southern Florida by grabbing a paddle board or simply spend a day relaxing on the sandy beach while drinking a refreshing cold daiquiri or other cocktail from the world-famous Wet Willy’s. In addition to the beach, South Beach also possesses an arts district with some of the region’s most famous contemporary art, as well as several nightclubs. Browse our best places to visit in Florida guide for more ideas.
20. Southern Florida Beaches: Siesta Key
The Siesta Key boasts powder white sands made up of almost entirely of quartz and blue crystal-clear waters. The beach is a popular destination among any travellers along the state of Florida’s west coast. Each year, numerous visitors come to the tiny island to view some of the world’s best sand sculpting art during the Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Competition held at Siesta Key. Lifeguards are on duty and the waters are extremely shallow, making the beach one of the safest for young children. Turtle Beach is a popular spot at the south end of the key for launching kayaks.
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21. Bahia Honda State Park
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When it comes to experiencing some of the most beautiful views that the Florida Keys has to offer, a trip to the Bahia Honda State Park should be on the table. The park is hugely popular with tourists and locals alike with long stretches of sandy beach, tons of sun, and fantastic snorkeling opportunities. Bahia Honda State Park is so popular that it’s even had to close park access upon reaching a set maximum capacity. As such, visitors are encouraged to come early to snag coveted spots under the shade. That beach isn’t all there is to enjoy at the park, however, with great mountain biking trails, birding opportunities, as well as boat tours, and camping sites open to the public. Read our guide on the best Florida state parks to explore the outdoors.
36850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key, Florida 33043
22. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
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Just a few minutes from Miami lies the stunning and popular Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Home to gorgeous waters characteristic of Florida, what makes this state park and beach particularly unique is the historic 1825 lighthouse situated along the beach’s coast. Guests can climb the tower to catch spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay that are bound to take your breath away. After all, the park’s beach has consistently ranked in the country’s top 10 beaches. When guest are done enjoying the beach, they can get guided tours of the lighthouse and the keepers’ cottage, or explore all that the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park has to offer via bicycle, boat, kayak, or on foot.
1200 S. Crandon Boulevard, Key Biscayne, Florida 33149
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23. Fort Zachary Taylor Beach
The natural beauty and rich history of Key West collide at the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. A unique and one-of-a-kind destination in the southern end of Key West, the fort has stood the test of time having predated even the Civil War. Today, this National Historic Monument is home to the world’s largest collection of Civil War armament such as cannons, gun ports, and more. Guests can visit the red-brick pathways of the fort to see history come to life, while guided tours paint a vivid picture of what life must have been like for the soldiers bravely defending the country’s southern coast. Learn all about Fort Taylor’s critical role in the Civil War and the Spanish-American War through local re-enactments and historic demonstrations that run regularly at this state park. Discover St Petersburg beaches on vacation.
601 Howard England Way, Key West, Florida 33040
24. Phil Foster Park
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Beneath the Blue Heron Bridge lies one of the most popular and most frequented snorkeling and scuba diving sites in the world. While there has always been an abundance of marine life to see in these crystal-clear waters, Palm Beach County leveled up on the experience by creating an 800-foot-long snorkel trail composed of man-made reefs that are roughly 6 to 10 feet in depth. The reef attracts tons of Florida’s endemic sea life such as colorful angelfish, juvenile snappers, blennies, octopus, spotted rays, and starfish among other creatures. After exploring the underwater paradise, guests can enjoy lounging on the beach, visiting the fishing pier, or playing at the shaded playground with their families. Sanibel Island beaches are quite beautiful.
900 E. Blue Heron Boulevard, Riviera Beach, Florida 33404
25. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
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Established in 1989, the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is a lovely mix of tropical coastal land and mangrove forest habitat. As such, this barrier island is home to an incredible array of rare and endangered animals as well as plants. At the nature center of the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, guests can learn more about the park’s flora and fauna and discover the unique characteristics of the park that make it such a diverse and unique habitat. Apart from this, guests in the park can enjoy soaking up the sun out on the beach, swimming in refreshing waters, surfing the beach’s great waves, or snorkeling the coastal waters to explore the paradise waiting beneath the waters.
10900 Jack Nicklaus Drive, North Palm Beach, Florida 33408
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Attraction Spotlight: Manchineel Tree
The manchineel, or beach apple, is a flowering tree found throughout Florida, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America. The tree mainly grows in brackish waters of mangroves and swamps along the coast. The manchineel tree is instrumental in preventing erosion by stabilizing the sand with its roots and offering a natural windbreak. However, should you come across a manchineel tree on the beach – stay far away. It is among the world’s most poisonous trees. The sap from the tree is highly toxic and can seep from the stem, branches, leaves and fruits. Although the manchineel gets its name from the Spanish “little apple,” for the apple-like fruits that it bears, it is absolutely not edible. In fact, in Spain, it’s colloquially referred to as manzanilla de la muerte, or “little apple of death.” Rumor has it that the manchineel tree is what killed the explorer Juan Ponce de Leon in 1521 on his second trip to Florida. He was allegedly struck by an arrow that had been dipped into the poisonous sap, dying shortly thereafter.
Manchineels may grow up to 50 feet tall. The trees have a red-grey bark, 2 to 4-inch green shiny leaves, and bear little green flowers that give way to a fruit that looks similar to a small green apple. The milky white sap, or latex, is the most toxic part of the tree and is found in every part. It is said that even standing close to the tree puts one in danger, as the sap may drip from the leaves or branches. Of course, touching the tree, eating the fruit, or coming into contact with the bark is extremely dangerous. Those who are exposed to the toxins may experience burning, itching, and allergic reactions including swelling of the throat, eyes, and mouth, as well as blistering. Blistering of the skin has been reported by those were touched by just a small drop of sap from a nearby tree. Ocular injuries have been reported in areas where smoke from burning trees was present. Those who have mistakenly eaten the fruit and lived to tell the tale describe the manchineel as pleasantly sweet at first, followed by a peppery, burning sensation and tightening of the throat.
Scientists are unclear on the exact makeup of the tree’s toxins, although it does contain phorbol, which is a highly water-soluble skin irritant. This explains the increased risk of exposure due to rain, as phorbol components dissolve easily into raindrops and can be spread to anything nearby. Even cars parked under the tree are at risk of being corroded by the dangerously strong toxic sap.
In many parts of the world, the trees are identified with warning signs. Some are marked with a red X or a red band, while others have more specific signage posted. On the island of Bonaire, the trees are unmarked, so visitors must be vigilant.
Although the plant is extremely toxic, it is nonetheless used for timber in the Caribbean. The sap is removed by drying cut branches in the sun. It is also reported that gum made from the tree bark can be used as a treatment for edema, an abnormal retention of fluid under the skin. Dried fruits of the tree have also been used as a diuretic. The tree is as toxic to most animals as it is to humans, but there is one species of iguana, the black spine iguana, which is known to live among the branches of the tree and even eat the fruit.
Most stories of run-ins with the manchineel come from literature and novels, which tell tales of exploration, pirates, being shipwrecked, and washed ashore on a secluded island, only to find the manchineel as the sole source of fruit. The manchineel and its toxic effects make for a dramatic story. Almost immediately after its discovery, the manchineel was appearing in opera, novels, and dramas. In the 1865 German opera L’Africane, the heroine commits suicide by lying under a manchineel and inhaling the fumes of the tree. Both the Calusa, native peoples of the southwest coast of Florida, and the Caribs were known to use the sap of the manchineel tree in warfare. The latter group used the leaves to poison the water supply of their enemies.
The manchineel is currently on the endangered species list in Florida. For visitors who are looking for one, it is most common in the coastal mangrove forests of Flamingo in the Everglades National Park, and can be found in clusters on some of the smaller key islands, such as Key Largo and Elliot Key.