Let’s talk Florida beaches!

I’ve been going to Florida Gulf Coast beaches since I was a kid, and if there is one thing I have it is opinions about them–because the beaches on Florida’s Panhandle all have a very different feel!

No matter what kind of traveler you are, one of the Florida Gulf Coast beaches will fit your travel style. Whether you like to shop and dine out or sit back and pretend like the rest of humanity doesn’t exist, there is a beach along Florida’s Gulf Coast for you.

The “Spring Break” Beaches

Everyone has heard of Destin and Panama City. These are the Florida beaches that make the news for spring break crowds. Generally these beaches are family friendly though, and the higher crowds means there is plenty to do. Housing here is most often high-rises with condos for rent, meaning it’s convenient and relatively easy to stay right on the beach. And with restaurants, shopping, movies theaters, bars, and entertainment attractions for rainy days, there is plenty to do apart from the sand and waves.

I’ll be honest here—these aren’t our favorite beaches (we like lower crowds and no high-rises). But if you are looking for a beach stay with all the luxuries of home (think: Target and Starbucks), then these beaches might be a great fit for you.

Popular Beaches Include:
  • Destin
  • Panama City Beach
  • Pensacola Beach (not as built-up as the other two, but still not exactly remote)

Luxury Beach Living

30A beaches are located between Destin and Panama City Beach on County Road 30A. This stretch is known for its polished communities on beaches with beautiful white sand and clear blue water. These small beach towns all are strung together and offer amenities and luxury without the high-rises. With fine-dining restaurants, boutique shopping, and charming houses, they can make you feel like you are living in a beach utopia. (In fact, Seaside was used to film the movie The Truman Show.)

Florida Gulf Coast Beaches: Seacrest Beach

Because these beaches are so close together, they can be easy to mix up, but each beach town has its own vibe. Watercolor beach is known for its colorful pastel houses. Aly’s Beach has pristine manicured hedges and white buildings. Rosemary Beach has a sophisticated European feel to it.

Our only big critique here is that you usually can’t see the beach from the road while driving–beach views are almost always blocked by town buildings, beach houses, or shrubbery.

30-A Beaches Include:
  • Blue Mountain Beach
  • Grayton Beach
  • Seaside
  • Seagrove Beach
  • Seacrest
  • Alys Beach
  • Rosemary Beach
Rosemary Beach Architecture

(And if you visit a 30A beach and are a book lover, don’t miss some favorite bookstores! Sundog Books is in Santa Rosa Beach, and The Hidden Lantern Bookstore is in Rosemary Beach.)

Low-Crowd, More Remote Beaches

Our favorite kinds of beaches are the ones with less crowds, less houses, and more space. Cape San Blas and St. George Island are both Florida Gulf Coast beaches we can’t recommend enough. With beach houses a bit more spread out, there is usually more space to enjoy the beach without feeling like you are sitting in front of the waves with the rest of humanity. (However, if you do want something to do on your vacation, we love visiting the small town of Apalachicola for restaurants and shopping.)

These beaches do come with less amenities though, so plan out your grocery shopping ahead of time. When we go to St. George Island, we bring almost all of our food with us in the car–grocery shopping isn’t always easy and there are only a handful of restaurants on the island.

And if you really want to go extreme with the remote beach access, there are also beaches along the coast that are only accessible by boat like the unpopulated St. Vincent’s Island (between Cape San Blas and St. George Island) and Dog Island, which does have some houses on it.

Lower-Crowd Florida Panhandle Beaches Include:
  • Mexico Beach (note: Mexico Beach was devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018 and is still working on recovering and rebuilding)
  • Cape San Blas
  • St. George Island
St. George Island Florida sunrise

Some people may think they don’t like the beach—but we think they just haven’t found the right one! Florida’s Panhandle has a beach everyone can enjoy, from shopping and dining out to watching the waves and reading a good book.

Want to bring the beach home? Check out these 3 Great Books Set at the Beach!