Best East Coast Beaches: Our Pick For Florida’s Best Beach Sand + Water

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You know that our family was on a quest for the best East Coast beaches for families this year during a Florida vacation from Northeast Florida all the way to Key West. It was a press trip I certainly didn’t mind experimenting for all of you! I promised that we’d share our family vacation results to compare a few Florida beaches like Jensen, Jupiter, West Palm, Miami, Islamorada, Marathon, and Key West, Florida, to name a few. Whew! Which do you think we chose as the best family friendly Florida beaches on the East Coast?
Key West Beach with hammock and palm trees for best east coast beaches


We were curious to discover the differences between the beach sand, atmosphere, shells, and water from one end of Florida to the other (Florida Gulf beaches, we’re coming for you next)! Our judging scale took into consideration the seclusion, sand, atmosphere, water clarity, and water color to choose the best East Coast beaches in Florida.  More details about each beach will be at the very end!

After a couple family discussions, we’ve narrowed down the results of our best East Coast beaches contest:


This Florida beach is still a shocker to me. Miami Beach has such a nightlife reputation that I never considered it being in the running for one of the best Florida beaches on our road trip. It’s still incredibly surprising to us that Miami Beach was so unbelievably gorgeous and a place we are dying to revisit and spend more time. Our Miami beach time was cut very short because we were on a mission to arrive at our first Florida Keys resort further down the coast that day. 

If we didn’t already have reservations further south, we could have definitely gotten lost on those white sandy beaches. What I do know is that the quieter, more family friendly area is closer to the upper end of Miami South Beach. We stumbled upon a park area at 22nd Street near a hotel called W South Beach.

Be sure to check out the video footage below that I snagged to show you just how gorgeous this place was. Don’t worry, we’ll return for a longer Miami family vacation and let you know why families should definitely take a vacation to Miami Beach with kids.

Miami beach with visitors, sand, and ocean for best East Coast beaches
Miami Beach

Miami Beach with Kids?!


I wasn’t sure that Jensen Beach, Florida would be worth driving a few miles off the interstate to Hutchinson Island but I had my fingers crossed. We’d left the Florida Keys bright and early that morning and were desperately searching for a great Florida beach to spend the day on before heading back to our state.

We had already tried two beaches that ended in disappointment, Bahia Honda and Jupiter Beach.  Bahia Honda State Park (in between Key West and Marathon), supposedly a showstopper, had no beach access due to lingering hurricane damage. The tiny bit of Bahia beach was roped off and completely inaccessible.

I was shocked to see that when we arrived at Jupiter Beach had a serious rocky coastline that blocked us from the sand to the ocean. I would have been up for braving an adventureous climb over the rocks to get to the water but the rocks were covered in gross, green, slippery algae.  Ewww!

Apparently it makes a huge difference which beach access you choose on Hutchinson Island.  We weren’t technically at Jensen Beach Park but were just South of it – which was perfect!  It was secluded, had a huge free parking lot, bathrooms, volleyball, picnic pavilions, and a lifeguard.  As you can see from the image below, the sand was gorgeous and the water was crystal clear and the prettiest shade of blue.  WooHoo! We parked at the Jensen Beach parking lot at about this address -> 4065 Ocean Blvd.

view of girl in Jensen Beach water in Hutchinson Island Florida ocean for best East Coast beaches
The crystal clear ocean of Jensen Beach and Hutchinson Island



Have you ever heard that you couldn’t visit the beach while visiting Key West, Florida. Yeah, me either, until about a week before we were leaving for our Florida road trip. I began researching and was pretty confused and want to explain to you so that your family will know the deal.

One of the most amazing draws to the Florida Keys is the enormous coral reef that is world renown for diving and sportsfishing.  This incredible barrier is also what protects the Keys but makes waves and the culmination of sand almost impossible.  It also creates a rocky bed along the seashore of the Keys and Key West.

The coral reef situation is super cool but we were on a press trip to see Florida beaches, so I was determined to find white sandy beaches without a rocky seawall to access the beautiful turquoise waters of Key West.  Like I talked about in Key West Vacation Ideas, Higgs Beach has a beach but much different that what you have pictured in your mind. Me too. Fort Zachary also has a great beach as talked about in my Key West post.

However, Smathers Beach (public) and the private beach behind Casa Marina Resort, although man-made, had stunning white sand and beautiful turquoise waters.  It was absolutely gorgeous and never appeared to be crowed at all during our time in Key West, Florida.

The stunning, private beach behind the Casa Marina resort was the destination to begin the Barefoot Billy’s Jet Ski Adventure, and to me, the most Instagram-worthy spot in Key West.  You’ll see in the footage below that the over 1,000 feet of private beach is full of swaying palm trees and luxury hammocks, as well as jet skis and other recreation.  Closer to the resort has quiet lounge chairs and massage opportunities – even for those that are not guests.

Key West beach with sign and jet skis for best East Coast beaches
Key West Private Beach at Casa Marina Resort

One of our favorite east coast beaches

It was all worth it the many miles of our Florida road trip when we did find the best Florida beaches on the East Coast – just right for families. When we did find the white, fluffy sand and crystal blue and green waters, we all agreed that there’s nothing like a gorgeous Florida beach. Let me know if I can help you in any way when you head out on your own family vacay Florida beaches quest.

Which one of these on our family’s Best East Coast Beaches list will you visit first?  Share your experience with these beaches in the comments as well!

Know before you go

Miami Beach:  6261 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL

Jensen Beach:   4065 Ocean Blvd, Hutchinson Island, FL

Smathers Beach:  2601 S Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL

Casa Marina Beach:  1500 Reynolds St, Key West, FL


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, and more, Shan is a Family Travel Journalist with a passion for helping women lose the overwhelm of planning family-friendly trips in the south. She shares travel reviews & insider secrets that Women REALLY want to know about Georgia, Florida, & the Carolinas vacations.

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️



  1. Stephanie
    September 24, 2018 / 11:21 am

    I love the beaches in the Keys. I’m a Florida girl, and I grew up on the Gulf Coast so I can’t wait to see what beaches you choose there! I just got back from a weekend trip to Fort Myers Beach.

    • Shan
      September 24, 2018 / 2:06 pm

      What a lucky girl. We haven’t fully explored the Gulf, but that’s our next Florida adventure. Please let me know in the comments the best gulf beaches!!! 🙂

      much love,

      • Stephanie
        September 26, 2018 / 8:12 pm

        I’m always partial to Fort Myers Beach because that’s “my beach” but my family also does an annual reunion at our timeshare there. I also really like the beaches in Clearwater area and St. Pete. Another I’ve heard is gorgeous, but I haven’t been myself, is Siesta Key in the Port Charlotte area.

  2. Amanda Yorton
    September 24, 2018 / 2:48 pm

    Florida has some wonderful beaches! Have you ever been to Destin, FL? The beach there is absolutely amazing!!

  3. Lois Alter Mark
    September 24, 2018 / 9:13 pm

    The differences between the various types of beaches on the East coast never cease to amaze me! Though I’m much more familiar with the country’s more northern coastline, it seems like you all happened upon some real winners. Key West is definitely going on my must-visit list!

  4. April Marquardt
    September 24, 2018 / 10:38 pm

    Florida has the most beautiful beaches. You’re so lucky you got to visit.

  5. ShootingStarsMag
    September 25, 2018 / 7:42 am

    I really need to go back to Florida – it’s been years. These all seem like really awesome beaches though. So beautiful.


  6. Nicole Kauffman
    September 25, 2018 / 8:50 am

    Great list! We will be looking for a new beach next summer 🙂

  7. Becca Wilson
    September 25, 2018 / 1:16 pm

    These are definitely not the ones that I expected to see on this list. I have not heard of Jensen Beach before.

  8. Kevin
    September 25, 2018 / 2:00 pm

    It’s good to see some Key West beaches on here. It was tough to see what happened last year during Hurricane season

  9. Margie DQ
    September 26, 2018 / 8:54 am

    I am from Miami, and sometimes the beach is beautiful, while other times it is full of seaweed. I have heard Jensen is great and also love the tranquil Gulf beaches.

  10. Angela Tolsma
    September 26, 2018 / 10:45 am

    The only beach I’ve heard of on your list is Miami beach! I haven’t been on many beaches so I’d pretty much be happy with any experience as long as it wasn’t crowded!

  11. Holly
    September 26, 2018 / 2:10 pm

    This is awesome. I love beaches, no matter the coast. The beach is definitely my happy place. I’ll have to check these out next time we travel!

  12. Helene
    September 26, 2018 / 2:26 pm

    All these beaches look so beautiful. Key West is the one I would love to visit and since cold weather already is here, I miss the summer beach days.

  13. Marjie Mare
    September 26, 2018 / 6:37 pm

    I love Key West beaches, I have so many wonderful memories. My husband and I used to escape there for weekend getaways.

  14. Tara Holland
    September 26, 2018 / 9:35 pm

    Thanks for the information, I was wondering which beaches would be the best after the hurricane and all of the damage. We especially look for family friendly beaches with easy access.

  15. Flossie McCowald
    September 26, 2018 / 9:49 pm

    LOL! I don’t get to the coast of Florida that often (or if I do, it’s for work and I don’t have the opportunity to visit beaches too) – but honestly, were I to go, these all sound pretty fab!

  16. Jessica Hughes
    September 26, 2018 / 11:21 pm

    I love Miami beach and the beaches in the Keys. Jensen beach looks amazing and I’m going to have to try that one!

  17. Patranila
    September 28, 2018 / 5:17 pm

    Miami beach is my favorite. I’ve never even heard of Jensen. I’ll have to check it out!

  18. Glenda
    September 28, 2018 / 9:28 pm

    All these beaches look so beautiful. The water looks pretty clean. I really need to visit some of them in the future.

  19. Sarah
    September 28, 2018 / 10:47 pm

    I wish i loved the beach more.. but so much about it makes me go into anxiety/panic mode. I really wish it was more talked about. These beaches seem beautiful and i really with i could enjoy their beauty!

  20. Megan
    September 29, 2018 / 6:13 pm

    This is a great list of beaches. It’s actually a bit surprising how different some of the beaches are as you travel throughout Florida. The wonderful beach in Key West especially surprised me because there’s so little good beach in much of the rest of the keys. Though for me Miami Beach is still my fav in Florida…though the crowds can make it rough some days.

    thanks for sharing your experiences!

  21. Bekah
    October 1, 2018 / 12:45 am

    I actually prefer the beaches on the west coast of Florida way more than those on the East. My home beach of Hollywood a few miles north of Miami is my favorite for that area though.

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