20 Best Family Beaches on Florida Gulf Coast
Last Updated on March 16, 2023
If you are planning a family vacation in Florida and are wondering where to go, discover the best family beaches on Florida Gulf Coast that are perfect for kids.
Whether you are looking for kid-friendly beaches near you, great beach getaways, or fun vacation spots in West Florida, discover the top beach destinations on the Florida Gulf Coast for families!
The Emerald Coast of Florida is renowned for its sugar-white sands and crystal-clear waters. And while all of the beaches here are great for families, some stand out above the rest.
The Florida Gulf Coast is a popular tourist destination for a plethora of reasons: its sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and rich history. Located on the west coast and north Florida, the Gulf Coast extends from Pensacola to Naples.
Some of the popular tourist destinations on Florida’s Southwest Gulf Coast include Pensacola Beach, Destin, Panama City Beach, and Clearwater Beach. And if you’re looking for a more laid-back vacation, there are plenty of small beach towns located along the coast that offer a slower pace.
No matter what type of vacation you’re looking for, you’ll be sure to find it on the Florida Gulf Coast. So pack your bags and head on down to sunny Florida!
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Pensacola Beach is a must-see for families visiting the area and is one of the best Florida beaches with clear water. It’s located on Santa Rosa Island, a barrier island off the Florida panhandle, and is home to many shops, restaurants, and attractions.
The beaches here are wide and beautiful, with plenty of space for everyone in your family to enjoy. And if you’re looking for some adventure, there are also plenty of watersports to take part in, from stand-up paddleboarding to parasailing. It’s considered one of the best surf towns in Florida, especially around winter.
If you’re visiting with kids, be sure to check out the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which is located on Santa Rosa Island and is perfect for a day of exploring. There’s also the Pensacola Lighthouse & Marine Museum, which offers tours of the historic light station as well as stunning views of Pensacola Bay.
For something fun for kids, teens, and adults alike, book a kayak tour at night with see-through kayaks that glow in the dark and try to spot fish, stingrays, and dolphins.
If you’re looking for a hotel in this area, check out the Holiday Inn Resort Pensacola Beach Gulf Front, which is located right on the beach and offers an outdoor pool, a kids’ club, and direct access to the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Destin is a popular beach destination for families on the Gulf Shore, and it’s easy to see why. With its sugar-white sands and clear emerald waters, it’s no wonder this place is a top vacation spot!
The city is home to the largest fishing fleet in Florida, and is nicknamed “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” But there’s more to Destin than just fishing. The beaches here are also great for swimming, boating, and simply relaxing. And when you need a break from the sand, there are plenty of shops and restaurants nearby to explore.
If you visit Destin beach with kids, be sure to check out the Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park. This place has something for everyone, with its lazy river, wave pool, and waterslides.
Older kids can even try their hand at surfing and when you’re tired of the beach you can spend half a day at Track Family Recreation Center where kids can try mini-golfing, bungee jumping, go-karting, arcades, and bumper boats
If you’re looking for a place to stay in this area, the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa is a great option. This hotel offers direct beach access, an outdoor pool, and a kids’ club. Plus, it’s conveniently located near many of the best places to eat in Destin, FL.
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach is one of the most popular beach destinations on Florida’s Gulf Coast, and it’s easy to see why. With its 27 miles of white-sand beaches, there’s plenty of room for everyone in your family to spread out and enjoy the sun. And if you’re looking for some excitement, there are also plenty of watersports to take part in, from parasailing to jet skiing.
If you’re visiting Panama City Beach with kids in tow, be sure to check out some of the family-friendly activities available in the area like exploring the Gulf Islands National Seashore. And of course, no trip to Panama City Beach would be complete without spending some time on the white sand beaches.
You can also head to Shipwreck Island Waterpark where you’ll find activities for kids of all ages.
The Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum is a must-visit when in Panama City Beach. There, you’ll find a bunch of weird exhibits and interactive features that kids and teens will love.
If you like hiking, head to Conservation Park with its 24 miles of trails through wetlands, pine forests, and boardwalks.
If you’re looking for a hotel in this area, the Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach is a great family-friendly beach resort. This hotel offers direct beach access, an outdoor pool, and a kids’ playground.
Navarre Beach is a great option for families looking for a fun beach weekend getaway on the Gulf Shore offering plenty of kid-friendly activities.
If you’re in town with kids, be sure to check out the Navarre Beach Pier. This pier is one of the longest in the Gulf of Mexico and offers stunning views of the coast.
Apart from spending time at the beach, make sure to visit the Sea Turtle Conservation Center, where kids can learn more about turtles and how to preserve sea life. Next head to the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station to learn more about the local marine ecosystem while having fun.
If you need a place to stay, the Hampton Inn & Suites Navarre Beach is a great place for families. This hotel offers direct beach access, an outdoor pool, and a complimentary breakfast.
Fort Walton Beach/Okaloosa Island
Fort Walton Beach is a popular Florida beach getaway for families. With its wide beaches and crystal-clear waters, it’s no wonder this place is nicknamed “The Emerald Coast.” And if you’re looking for some excitement, there are also plenty of watersports to take part in, from parasailing to surfing.
A visit to Okaloosa Island is one of the top things to do with kids in the area, spend some time playing in the sea and enjoy the beach.
When you get tired of the beach, head to Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone where kids can have some fun – or to the Heritage Park and Cultural Center where you’ll find several educational exhibits. Be sure to check out the Emerald Coast Science Center as well, featuring hands-on science exhibits for kids of all ages.
If you need a place to stay, the Holiday Inn Resort Fort Walton Beach is a great option. This hotel offers direct beach access, an outdoor pool, a lazy river, and a complimentary breakfast.
Clearwater Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Florida and is the perfect destination for a family vacation. With its wide array of water activities and long stretches of beach, kids and adults alike will find plenty of fun things to do there.
If you’re visiting with kids, make sure to stroll around Pier 60 where kids can enjoy the beach playground, concessions, and 1,060-foot fishing pier – visit in the evening for live performances. Then head to Tampa Bay Grand Prix for some family fun (kids 6 and older are allowed).
Curious kids will love the Great Explorations Children’s Museum and its interactive exhibits (recommended for children ages 12 and below.)
When you’re done with the beach, try to spot wildlife while hiking at nearby Moccasin Lake Nature Park.
Older kids and teens can take a beginner scuba diving course and get certified as well.
Nearby, you can also visit Caladesi Island State Park, known for its unspoiled beaches, lush mangroves where you can kayak, and easy hiking trails.
The top hotel recommendation in this area is the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa. This hotel offers nice family rooms with direct beach access, an outdoor pool, and a spa.
St Pete Beach/Pass-A-Grille Beach
St Pete Beach/Pass-A-Grille Beach is a popular beach destination for families looking for a kid-friendly weekend getaway on the Gulf Shore.
Be sure to take a stroll on the St. Pete Beach Pier, one of the longest piers in the Gulf of Mexico offering stunning views of the coast.
Apart from water activities and spending time at the beach, you can visit the century-old Sunken Gardens and its 50,000 tropical plants and flowers.
Kids will also have tons of fun aboard Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise – search for treasures, join a dance party or a water gun battle, and get your face painted on a fun day out on the sea.
If you need a hotel, The Don CeSar is a great kid-friendly hotel. It offers direct beach access, an outdoor pool, and a spa. Plus, it’s conveniently located near many of St. Pete Beach/Pass-A-Grille Beach’s best shops and restaurants.
Indian Rocks Beach/Indian Shores beach
Indian Rocks Beach/Indian Shores beach is a great option for families looking for a quiet beach destination on Florida’s Gulf Shore.
Kids and adults alike will love visiting the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, home to over 200 bird species, and offering plenty of opportunities for bird watching. You can also stroll through the beautiful Florida Botanical Gardens showcasing local flora, enjoy the playground at George C. McGough Nature Park, or walk through mangroves at Indian Rocks Beach Nature Preserve.
The New Hotel Collection Harbourside is a great beach resort for families on Florida’s West Coast. Featuring an on-site water park with slides and a lazy river, the resort is only a 4-minute walk to the beach.
Madeira Beach/Redington Shores Beach
Madeira Beach and Redington Beach are great options for families looking for a quiet and low-key beach destination on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Be sure to check out the John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk. This village is home to over 100 shops and restaurants, and it offers stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico. There, you can grab something to eat or have drinks while watching the sunset.
When you’re ready to hit the beach, heat to Archibald Beach Park where you’ll find restrooms, showers, and a picnic area.
The Barefoot Beach Club is a great place to stay with kids. Featuring studios and apartments with a fully-equipped kitchen and sea-view, the club is right on the beach and has its own private beach for guests to enjoy. a pool, and a barbecue area.
Treasure Island Beach
Treasure Island beach is one of the best family beaches on Florida’s Gulf Shore. Featuring plenty of activities for families and amenities for kids, you’re sure to have fun while there.
Check out the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It’s one of the longest bridges in the world and it offers stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico.
Spend some time in the water kayaking or paddle boarding, make sure to rent see-through kayaks so you can see fish and corals on your trip. You can also book a small-group sailing tour for a chance to see dolphins and enjoy the coast from the water.
Nearby, you can visit Fort De Soto Park. Home to over 100 different species of birds, it offers stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico. There you can go hiking or cycling on one of the paved trails, try to spot birds, enjoy one of the playgrounds, visit the historic fort and museum, or spend some time at the beach. You can even camp there!
From Fort de Soto, you can take a ferry to the gorgeous Egmont Key State Park for wildlife watching and pristine beaches.
If you want to check in and stay at a hotel for a few days, the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort is a great option. This family resort offers direct beach access, 5 outdoor swimming pools, 4 full-service restaurants, 24-hour babysitting service and themed drop-off camps. Guests can enjoy paddle boats, beach volleyball, a water slide, and beach cabanas as well.
Fred Howard Park
Fred Howard Park near Tarpon Springs will make a great beach getaway on the Gulf Shore for families as it’s one of the best kid-friendly beaches on the Florida Gulf Coast. Less popular than other beach destinations in Florida, Fred Howard Park features kid-friendly beaches and plenty of things to do to keep the whole family busy.
Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks is a must-visit. The area is home to over 50 different species of sponges that you can see growing near the docks.
Howard Park Beach and Sunset Beach are nearby beaches you should visit during your trip. There you can rent snorkeling gear, kayaks, or paddleboards, and do some exploration.
In Tarpon Springs, you’ll find a small waterpark, Tarpon Springs Splash Park, with areas divided by age groups and shaded places to relax while the kids have fun.
Nearby, you can take a day trip to visit Anclote Key Preserve State Park. Made of four islands, the park is only reachable via private boat or ferry service. Make sure you bring everything you’ll need as there are no shops there. Don’t miss the picturesque 1887 lighthouse on the southern end of the park.
If you are planning on spending a few days in the area, your best option is to rent a condo or house. You’ll find plenty of options in the downtown area or near the beach.
Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island is a barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast and is a perfect beach destination for families looking for something not as commercialized as other places in Florida. Known for its long stretches of sand and “old-Florida” vibes, you’ll find plenty of beaches to visit on the island and fun places to visit with kids.
The top kid-friendly beaches include Manatee Beach Park, Bean Point Beach, Anna Maria Bayfront Park, Coquina Beach, and Cortez Beach.
In the laid-back town of Anna Maria, check out Pine Avenue, lined with shops, galleries, and eateries (stop at Donut Experiment to make your own custom donut). Make sure to visit Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum and its 1920 cottage. Nearby, the wooden City Pier from 1911 is great for a stroll.
Take a day trip to Robinson Preserve, home to over 200 different species of birds and lush mangroves. There you can go hiking, cycling, or kayaking while trying to spot birds.
In Bradenton Beach, spend some time mini-golfing at the Fish Hole Mini-Golf designed like a botanical garden.
You will find plenty of vacation rentals on the island or you can book a room at the Bali Hai Beachfront Resort and Spa. Located right on the beach, this family resort offers an outdoor pool, a garden with a barbecue area, and spacious family rooms.
A beautiful island in the Gulf of Mexico, Marco Island is a great destination for families looking for kid-friendly beaches and plenty of fun activities.
On the island, Tigertail Beach is among one of the most popular beaches, known for its wildlife and fiery sunsets, it’s also a great place to go shelling. South Marco Beach is the most convenient one, located near many vacation rentals, shops, and restaurants.
To learn more about the island’s first inhabitants, the Calusas, head to the Marco Island Historical Museum.
If you are there with toddlers, you can spend a few hours at Frank E. Mackle Park where you’ll find splash pools and amenities for families. They also have several sports courts that teens might like.
Nearby you can explore Keewaydin Island just off the coast of Naples, pack a picnic, walk on the beach, and let the kids have fun in the water.
If you want to spend a day on the water, book a catamaran sunset cruise or a half-day tour to the Ten Thousand Islands.
You’ll find plenty of nice family resorts on the island as well as good vacation rentals. The Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa is a great option for families wanting to stay in a busy area while being right on the beach.
Close to Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel Island has some of the best beaches for families on Florida’s West Coast. With its laid-back vibes and pristine beaches, Sanibel offers plenty of opportunities for fun and relaxation.
Apart from spending time at the beach and enjoying water activities like kayaking, snorkeling, or parasailing, you will find plenty of things to do with kids. You can rent bikes to explore the island and do some beach hopping. The island has 25 miles of paved, carless trails.
Make sure to stop at Sanibel Lighthouse – you can’t visit it but the area is nice for shelling and there’s a nature trail that’s worth a stroll.
You can also drive to Captiva Island and hop on a ferry for Cayo Costa State Park where you can enjoy the beach, snorkel, and go on a ranger-led kayak tour or hike.
You will find plenty of beach resorts on the island as well as little inns that are perfect for families traveling with kids. The Song of the Sea is a great choice. The hotel is right on the beach and features a pool surrounded by a nice garden, and each room comes with a kitchenette.
The island offers many vacation rentals as well, which are often more convenient when vacationing with kids.
There you have it! These are just a few of the great family beaches in the Florida Gulf Coast area. So get out there and enjoy the sun, sand, and waves with your loved ones. And don’t forget to book your stay at one of these top family resorts!
Check out some of our other US travel guides for families:
- 17 Best Hidden Weekend Getaways and Secret Spots in Texas
- Best National Parks on the West Coast and Western USA
- 20+ Best Family Vacation Spots with Teenagers
- Top 10 Best Family Vacation Spots in Arizona
- Best family vacations on the East Coast
- Best vacation spots in California for families
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