Florida secluded beaches may not be as easy to hone in on as you’d hope. But knowing where to look, beyond the big name destinations, is the secret to finding the best of the best among hidden and secluded Florida beaches.
The state is a popular destination for millions of visitors each year, and it’s no secret that has everything to do with our beautiful beaches. With hundreds of miles of coastline to explore in the Florida Keys and along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts, there’s plenty of opportunity to plop your chair in the sand and go for a swim on one of the best Florida secluded beaches in the state.
You’re hardly the only one on that mission here, of course, so get ready to get off the beaten path for Florida secluded beaches where you can avoid the crowds, not to mention the various genres of competing music blasting from sandy speakers.
Read along for our list of the six best Florida secluded beaches for an opportunity to stretch out and enjoy the relative solitude that can be found down a sandy path less traveled.
Best for Florida secluded beaches on the Gulf Coast: Cayo Costa State Park
The moment you arrive in Cayo Costa State Park you’ll forget all about the more crowded mainland beaches nearby. With over 9 miles of sugary sand, the Florida secluded beaches here are as beautiful as they are remote.
Just west of Fort Myers along the gulf coast of Florida, the barrier island of Cayo Costa is accessible only by boat. While intrepid visitors can arrive by kayak from nearby Boca Grande, the easiest way to get here is on the daily public ferry that makes the trip from Pine Island.
Once onshore, there’s plenty to see and explore. And with no distractions from restaurants or touristy shops, the main attraction here is nature. Famous for its driftwood covered beaches and bird estuaries, Cayo Costa is particularly amazing at low tide, when you’re likely to find sand dollars and plenty of other unique Florida seashells, too.
Manatees and dolphins are regular visitors to the waters surrounding the island and can frequently be seen right from the shore. To take a closer look at the island’s mangroves, kayaks and stand up paddle boards are available for rent (cash only) and the island’s interior waterways are the best place to paddle around and explore.
Remember, services on the island are limited. So be sure to bring everything you’ll need for a day at the beach–a picnic lunch, water and plenty of sunscreen are a must. Up for an extended adventure? You can stay the night here at one of Cayo Costa’s 30 primitive campsites or 12 basic, one-room cabins which can be reserved up to 11 months in advance through the Florida State Parks website.
Best for Florida secluded beaches on the Panhandle: Okaloosa Island Beaches
Only a 15-minute drive from Destin, you can find some of the best Florida secluded beaches on Okaloosa Island. Also known as Santa Rosa Island, Okaloosa is one of the best hidden beaches in Florida. Part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, Okaloosa Island feels half a world away from the tourist-heavy destinations just down the street.
The main activity here is simply to enjoy the miles of pristine and quiet shoreline–bring a beach chair and a cooler and you’re set for a day of seaside relaxation. For a little more action, pay $2 to stroll down Okaloosa Island’s 1,262 foot fishing pier for a beautiful view of the beaches and, quite possibly, a glimpse of the dolphins who regularly visit the area.
If you’re interested in tossing out a fishing line, fishing gear, necessary licensing and everything else you need to reel in the big one is available for rent at the pier, too.
Top off your perfect beach day with freshly caught local grouper at The Crab Shack, a gulf-to-table restaurant located just east of the pier.
Best for Florida secluded beaches close to Disney World: Canaveral National Seashore
If you want to take it way back to the way Florida once was–before high rise condos and chain restaurants dominated much of the coastline along the state’s east coast–put Canaveral National Seashore on your short list of best secluded beaches in Florida.
Located on the east coast, just north of Cape Canaveral, this is one of the best Florida secluded beaches close to Walt Disney World. It’s hard to imagine such an expansive and unspoiled shoreline exists practically within eyeshot of the shuttle launch pads at Kennedy Space Center and less than an hour’s drive from Orlando’s sprawling theme park attractions.
While the 24-mile beach has plenty of room for visitors to spread out, you might find yourself sharing the sand with nesting loggerhead turtles, terns scurrying in the tide and countless species of crabs and crustaceans. There are two entrances to the Canaveral National Seashore–one on the north end by New Smyrna and one on the south end by Titusville, with plenty of parking at each.
There’s a $20 entry fee for cars (your pass is valid for seven consecutive days) and it’s important to note that the two entrance roads don’t meet in the middle. So when planning a day at the park, you really do need to commit to one end of beach, or the other. On the north side, you’ll spot surf anglers who come–fishing rod in hand and wheeled cart fully loaded–to try their luck at landing the catch of the day.
The beaches on this end of the park are a big draw for fishermen because of the near-shore sandbars that trap the fish when the tide recedes, theoretically giving anglers a leg up on their mission.
With such a huge expanse of shoreline, the north end of Canaveral National Seashore offers plenty of room for fishermen and beachgoers alike to have their own space. Closer to the Kennedy Space Center, the south end of the park attracts more people than the north end. Even so, with 13 separate beach entrances (and corresponding parking lots) along the four mile beachside road, there’s plenty of room for your beach setup.
The farther you venture from the parking areas, the fewer people you’ll encounter and the more beach real estate you’ll have to stretch out on. Playalinda, the unofficial nude beach of Canaveral National Seashore, is the very best of Florida secluded beaches and is located near entrance 13. Bare if you dare.
Best for Florida secluded beaches in a state park: Fort Clinch State Park on Amelia Island
Just offshore from where the Florida state line meets Georgia, Amelia Island is the southernmost barrier island on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. A popular tourist destination, Amelia Island is home to several luxury resorts and world-class restaurants, too. To get away from the crowds, head to the northernmost end of the island and plan a day at Fort Clinch State Park.
Stretched across 1,400 wild acres, Fort Clinch offers beach goers a truly secluded experience. Seemingly a world away from the condo-strewn beaches down the coast, Fort Clinch State Park is known for its gopher turtles, great birding, abundant seashells and fossilized sharks teeth.
When you’re done relaxing in the sand, visit the park’s historic fort or take a stroll through the giant live oaks along six miles of unpaved hiking trails through the park. Bathrooms and picnic tables are available here, but plan accordingly with a picnic lunch if you want to stay a while because there are no restaurants onsite.
For those looking for overnight accommodations, Fort Clinch Park has both tent and RV camping available. Camping reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance through the Florida State Parks reservation website. The park is open daily from 8am to sunset and there’s a $6 per vehicle entrance fee.
Best for Florida secluded beaches in the Florida Keys: Dry Tortugas National Park
Located about 70-miles west of Key West and accessible only by boat or seaplane, Dry Tortugas National Park is a chain of seven small islands in the Florida Keys surrounded by clear blue waters and thriving coral reefs.
The beaches around historic Fort Jefferson are not only perfect for sunbathing, their warm and shallow waters make the park a great swimming and snorkeling destination, too.
The easiest way to arrive in the Dry Tortugas is aboard the Yankee Freedom, a luxury catamaran that docks in Key West and departs daily at 8am for the 2.5-hour ride. Tickets are $200 per adult and include the roundtrip transportation, a modest breakfast and a boxed lunch to enjoy during your visit to the islands. Complimentary snorkel equipment and the required national park pass is also included in the ferry ticket.
Remember to bring your bathing suit, towel and a change of clothes as well as sunglasses and a hat (shade is limited throughout the park). While most visitors to the Dry Tortugas make it a day trip and return to hotels in Key West, overnight camping is available for those interested in a rustic (think: shipwrecked on a deserted island) experience. Reservations aren’t accepted for the campsites in the park and are available on a first come first served basis.
Best for Florida secluded beaches near Tampa: Caladesi Island State Park
Just offshore from Dunedin on Florida’s Gulf Coast and not far from busy Clearwater Beach, Caladesi Island State Park has some of Florida’s most beautiful and secluded beaches. Accessible only by boat, the best way to get to the park is via the Caladesi Island Ferry which leaves every half an hour beginning at 10am from nearby Honeymoon Island.
The park has a lot to offer and while some visitors take advantage of the island’s three miles of walking trails, the real draw here is the sugary white sand that’s so fine it never gets hot enough to burn your feet. The Florida secluded beaches on the north of the island are truly unspoiled and lapped by calm waters, making them a great place to find rare shells and intact sanddollars.
Exploring the waters of the bayside of the island is a popular activity, too, and visitors can rent ocean kayaks from Florida Beach Services (located near the ferry docks). If you’re feeling adventurous, follow the self guided nature trail through the mangrove tunnels of the interior of the island and into the Gulf of Mexico.
While you are welcome to bring your own picnic lunch, Cafe Caladesi (operated by and in the same location as Florida Beach Services) serves a limited menu of casual fare like smoothies, burgers, and french fries. If you didn’t pack a beach umbrella or chair, you can rent both here, too.
After a quiet day of sun and relaxation, return to Dunedin’s The Fenway hotel, a 83-room boutique property with views of St. Joseph Sound. For a casual dinner, head to Cafe Alfresco on nearby Main Street for one of the area’s best grouper sandwiches.