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

You know that our family was on a quest for the best East Coast beaches for families this year and I promised that we’d share our results after our long Florida beaches tour.  We traveled from Northeast Florida all the way to Key West to compare beaches of Jensen, Jupiter, West Palm, Miami, Islamorada, Marathon, and Key West, Florida beaches. Whew! Which do you think we chose as the best East Coast beaches???
Key West Beach with hammock and palm trees for best east coast beaches

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:


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 that day.  If we didn’t already have reservations further south, we could have definitely gotten lost on those white sandy beaches.  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 Jensen Beach would be worth driving a few miles off the interstate to Hutchinson Island.  We’d left the Florida Keys bright and early and were desperately searching for a great beach for the day.

We had already tried two beaches that ended in disappointment.  Bahia Honda State Park (in between Key West and Marathon) had no beach access due to lingering hurricane damage.  Jupiter Beach was had a rocky coastline covered in 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.

Girl in Jensen Beach - Hutchinson Island Florida ocean for best East Coast beaches

The crystal clear ocean of Jensen Beach and Hutchinson Island



Here’s the deal: one of the most amazing draws to the Florida Keys is the enormous coral reef that is world renown for diving and sportfishing.  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.

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 and Fort Zachary have good beaches – they just may be different than what you are picturing.

However, Smathers Beach (public) and the private beach behind Casa Marina Resort, although manmade, had stunning white sand and beautiful turquoise waters.  We didn’t get to spend time at Smathers and I was so sad.  It was gorgeous.

The stunning, private beach behind the Casa Marina resort was the destination to begin the Barefoot Billy’s Jet Ski Adventure.  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 a little hot and exhausting as we searched for the best beaches that Florida has to offer on the East Coast. It was all worth it though when we did find the white, fluffy sand and crystal blue waters. There’s nothing like a beautiful beach!

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 Huffington Post, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and adoring Wife to Superman and Mom to older kiddos. She shares “How-To” plan the BEST family vacations in the South with travel reviews and insider travel secrets that Women REALLY want to know!

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  1. 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,

      • 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. 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. September 24, 2018 / 8:07 pm

    I like Miami Beach not just because of the atmosphere – the traveling is pretty cool too 😀

  4. 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!

  5. September 24, 2018 / 10:38 pm

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

  6. Mayuri Saxena
    September 25, 2018 / 2:20 am

    These are some beautiful beaches…I went to California last month and I am still in awe of Malibu and Santa Monica but after looking at the east coast beaches, I have already decided my next vacation 🙂

  7. September 25, 2018 / 8:50 am

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

  8. September 25, 2018 / 9:26 am

    We live on the Gulf Coast, and I’m always looking for new places to check out. However, I’m afraid to make the trip and it’s a bust. So the family and I will definitely be checking a couple of these out! Thank you so much!

  9. Christa
    September 25, 2018 / 12:30 pm

    I think I’ll have to visit each of these to see if we agree. 🙂 I live in the desert, so I always want to vacation places that are near water.

  10. 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.

  11. 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

  12. September 25, 2018 / 10:14 pm

    I’ve never been to any of these beaches before, but one of my favorites on the East Coast is Virginia Beach!

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. September 26, 2018 / 2:29 pm

    Miami Beach – I’ve been there – and even when it rains, there’s a lot to do – and their beach is lovely

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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!

  21. 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!

  22. September 27, 2018 / 2:44 am

    I love beaches! this place looks perfect for vacation. Nice photos.

  23. September 27, 2018 / 8:06 am

    Ill be going to miami beach here in a few short months and cannot wait! I have never been there yet, so it was great reading about it here!

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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!

  27. 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!
    Megan recently posted…Things to Bring on a Beach Vacation So That You Have a Great TimeMy Profile

  28. 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.

  29. October 10, 2018 / 5:39 am

    Thanks For Sharing Information. I’m Really Excited.
    Thanks For Sharing Your Experiences.

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