Trip Ideas - 21 min read

20 Best Clear Water Beaches in Florida (Great for Activities!)

Sheryl Cooper

Sheryl Cooper, Updated October 3, 2022

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Imagine sparkling white sands against the backdrop of clear shallow waters emanating a gorgeous mix of blues and greens. Picture-perfect beaches give vacation vibes. Florida beaches encompass it all on both coasts.

Whether stepping into the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, or one of many natural springs in the Sunshine State, seeing the bottom of the water is a memorable experience. Multiple factors affect water clarity, including wind, storms, and currents.

Florida has astonishing beaches, from the bays and springs along the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast to the Atlantic Ocean beach villages on the east coast. The beaches of the Panhandle or the Emerald Coast, which are northwest of the state, and the barrier islands of the Florida Keys at the most southern point of Florida.

There are many beach choices, so get ready to discover 20 of the best clear water beaches in Florida.

1. Tarpon Bay Beach

Credit: Jeff / Flickr

Sanibel Island, known for its gorgeous sandy beaches and clear warm water, is host to several “best of” beaches in the Florida Keys. Tarpon Bay Beach happens to be one of the most popular ones where the bay water’s visibility is incredible.

Sitting in the Gulf of Mexico, Tarpon Bay Beach fulfills all vacation goals. This beautiful setting brings guests worldwide to vacation and relax on the sandy beach in the sun, swim in calm, clear waters, and beachcombing.

The low tides offer superb opportunities to find island shells (please don’t take home any live ones). The bay has high visibility, which makes it a fun place to kayak and paddleboard, with dolphins and manatees swimming below.

Fishing is a popular sport in the bay. You’ll see folks who kayak or surf fish in the bay, where fish are abundant, including tarpon, snook, grouper, king mackerel, and snapper. Inquire locally about chartered boat rentals with guides.

Visitors also come here to catch a gorgeous sunset reflecting off the water, and many come to get married. It’s beautiful. Tarpon Bay has many quaint eateries with fish and craft beers on the menus.

2. Henderson Beach State Park

Credit: Gaurav Kavathekar / Flickr

A visit to Destin guarantees you a picture-perfect beach experience. Henderson Beach State Park is just one of several that you can visit. Enveloped by white dunes that are 30 feet high, Henderson Beach is an easy walk into the sparkling emerald green and teal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Henderson Beach State Park is a part of the Emerald Coast, where marine life prospers. Swimmers and guests seek sightings of dolphins, tropical fish, Loggerhead turtles, and green sea turtles.

The temperature of the water, ranging from 75 to 80 degrees, is inviting to waders and swimmers. And the sand is another invitation to forgo phones and devices for a day of chilling out in paradise. Beach wheelchairs can be reserved through the Destin Fire Control District.

The area’s natural landscape and wildlife thrive under the protection of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Off the beach, Henderson Beach State Park features nature trails, which appeal to all ages, campsites and a campground, areas for grilling, a playground, and amazing views of Emerald Coast sunsets.

Related Read: 15 BEST Florida Beach Resorts For Families

3. Siesta Key Beach

Credit: Evelyn Burns / Flickr

The Florida Keys are some of the state’s most precious beach destinations.  Siesta Key is a barrier island about 8 miles long off the coast of Sarasota.

The water at this beach glitters in the sun with visibility galore. The white sand consists of almost 100% quartz. This picture-perfect setting is a postcard come to life.

The Siesta Key Pavilion has the best access to the beach, with an abundance of amenities serving visitors. Everything from showers and bathrooms, bike racks, a volleyball court, beach chairs, and beach wheelchairs are available. Siesta Key Beach also offers multiple public access areas with parking spots and lifeguards.

Head toward Siesta Key Access 12 or Point of Rocks beach, mid-point on Siesta Key. You’ll spend a fantastic day of snorkeling, swimming, and tide pool exploring.

The water’s limestone shelf provides unique snorkeling access at high tide and marine life in the low tide pools. With clear visibility of 6 feet and more, snorkelers and tide poolers can explore the beautiful natural scenery of Siesta Key.

4. Bahia Honda State Beach

Credit: Michael Owens / Flickr

Open now after the mess that Hurricane Irma created, Bahia Honda State Beach remains to be a favorite place to visit in the Florida Keys. Located at mile 37, Bahia Honda State Beach is an island with gorgeous clear waters.

Visitors enjoy swimming in both the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay. Bahia Beach State Park is a beautiful place to visit; however, you spend your time there.

Put snorkeling and scuba diving at the top of your activity list. These waters are crystal clear, which makes it super easy to see all types of marine life, including nurse sharks, stingrays, crabs, sea stars, scrawled cowfish, yellowfish, barracudas, and angelfish, sponges, and coral. Looe Key Marine Sanctuary is a spot to visit.

You don’t have to travel or bring your snorkel or scuba equipment. There are multiple dive shops and touring companies in the area where you can rent and set up a tour. Travel and explore the waters above while in a kayak that you can rent at the beach’s concession stand.

If fishing is your sport, Bahia has excellent tarpon fishing. The state beach also provides camping areas for campers and tents. If land makes you feel more comfortable, comb the shorelines and water for shells, or take a bike ride along the beach park’s concrete path, about 3 ½ miles. Bring your bike.

Related Read: 17 BEST Restaurants in Panama City Beach

5. Honeymoon Island State Park

Credit: mbarrison / Flickr

Sounds romantic? For some, Honeymoon Island State Park is a blissful honeymoon vacation or popular wedding destination. To others, Honeymoon Island State Park is an outdoor adventure land. Located in the Tampa Bay area of Dunedin, Honeymoon Island State Park is a barrier island and sand spit surrounded by beautiful water.

Stay put for a few days – the beaches are excellent for relaxing, swimming, surfing, exploring, hiking, birding, and fishing. The beach landscape varies at Honeymoon Island featuring pristine white sand you dream about. Surfers and kayakers launch from the main causeway. It is pretty common to see dolphins and manatees swimming in these waters.

The sand feels coarser from broken shells as you walk toward the north point of the beach stretch. Even though you will need to wear shoes to protect your feet, his part of the beach doesn’t lack scenery. It’s also a wonderful place to collect shells. Walk south to the end of the sand spit to explore tide pools, salt marshes, and dunes.

Birders come to perch at Honeymoon Island’s Rotary Centennial Nature Center. You can look for an extraordinary range of nesting species, including terns, osprey, and oystercatchers. Great blue herons, roseate spoonbills, and snowy egrets are also hunting for food.

Wondering how this park was named, then read on. In 1939 there was a contest giving away free overnight stays to honeymooners. The contest only lasted a few years, but inspiration of the name stuck.

6. Fort Zachary Taylor Park Beach

Credit: RH & XL / Flickr

Key West beachgoers, nature lovers, and history buffs can enjoy a day at Fort Zachary Taylor Park Beach. The waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico meet here. It’s a favorite beach to visit for the beautiful clear blue water. Pack beach shoes and a beach blanket as the sand is a bit gravelly.

Fort Zachary Taylor Park Beach is most well-known for snorkeling. You can snorkel and dive off the beach to discover some of the most colorful fish and plant life.

Rent gear or bring your own to witness parrot fish, lobster, yellowtail, and snapper. You’ll also get an up-close look at the area’s coral. Swimming, paddle boarding, and floating on a raft in the calm waters are top activities at this beach.

Fishing is a fun activity, too. Pole fishing is allowed off the Key West Shipping Channel. Some visitors take their catch of the day to the picnic and barbecue amenities to make lunch or dinner. When cooking doesn’t sound appealing, visit Cayo Hueso Café on the beach for a yummy treat or refreshing beverage.

This state park is a historic landmark named after U.S. President Zachary Taylor. The Fort was built in 1845 to protect the shoreline during the Civil War and Spanish-American War. When you tour the Fort, you will learn about the country’s most extensive collection of original pre-Civil War cannons on display.

7. Bean Point Beach

Credit: Marina Jack II / Yelp

Located on the north tip of Anna Maria Island, Bean Point Beach is a must-visit for those seeking a peaceful day of relaxation.

This island beach doesn’t attract the typical beach crowds, which makes it a preferred spot for locals. Set up on the white sand for the day to view the clear turquoise water where the Gulf of Mexico joins Tampa Bay.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) protects this ecosystem. You’ll see vibrant wildlife on the Island in general. At Bean Point Beach, look out for dolphins, turtles, and manatees. An array of birds live in the area, including spoonbills, herons, seagulls, cranes, pelicans, and eagles.

Visitors should note that public parking is not available. Taking the trolley from Anna Maria City Pier is recommended to reach this beach.

Related Read: 30 BEST Restaurants Jacksonville, FL

8. Turtle Beach

Credit: Chuck Palmer / Flickr

Turtle Beach is another local favorite on Siesta Key. Turtle Beach is a tranquil haven, from the blue-green waters to sunsets over the horizon. Less crowded than Siesta Key Beach, Turtle Beach offers a beautiful location for sunbathing, shelling, kayaking, and discovering the area’s wildlife (hint: turtles).

Named for this beach’s turtle nesting destination, Turtle Beach is home to endangered loggerheads and sea turtles. Each year from May to October, hundreds of sea turtles come to lay nests on the shore.

You’ll have the opportunity to see the turtle mamas tending their nests. When the babies hatch in early November, you may be able to catch them heading into the water, where they begin their lives in the sea.

Turtles aren’t the only animals you’ll catch a glimpse of at Turtle Beach. Manatees, dolphins, stingrays, and many bird species, including the Ruddy Turnstone, which migrate here in the spring and summer.

Turtle Beach is a super spot for shelling. When low tide comes or after a storm blows over, comb the shoreline to collect shells; often, you can find whole shells. Snorkelers also have luck shelling near the coast. Remember not to take any living shells from the beach.

Here are a few other items to know about Turtle Beach. Swimmers should know there is a quick drop-off from the shore. You can set up tents and sleeping bags to camp under the stars. Paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing are fantastic ways to tour the bay and Turtle Beach.

9. Beer Can Island

Credit: fotofugue / Flickr

Beer Can Island, also known as Greer Island, is a barrier island found at the north point on Longboat Key close to Sarasota. Once an island, Beer Can Island is now a peninsula due to beach erosion and shifting sand. Also, once a party destination hence the island name.

When the weather is perfect, as in no or low wind, and the water is calm, the shallow waters are clear right to the bottom. While swimming or wading at this beach, you’ll likely see manatees swimming in the waters too.

Birders come to Beer Can Island specifically to catch sight of migratory species like American Oystercatchers, Black Skimmers, Red Knots, and Willets during the winter months, and beautiful songbirds such as Magnolia Warblers and Prothonotary visit in the fall.

During the rest of the year, birds including Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Snowy Egrets, and Great Blue Herons fly and perch within the area.

Beer Can Island is a beautiful beach with white sand amid fallen Australian Pine trees that look like driftwood statues. Photographers visit the Island to capture the beach’s natural beauty.

Related Read: 45 BEST Things To Do In Sarasota, FL

10. Biscayne Bay

Credit: Aglez the city guy / Flickr

Preserved Biscayne National Park is one of the best places to visit near Miami to experience clear shallow waters. Made up of over 90% water, Biscayne National Park is an outstanding location for reveling in and exploring a glorious day in the sun or under the tropical palms and salt-tolerant mangrove trees.

Beachgoers seek the Biscayne Bay area, where there is a swimming lagoon and a little beach at Homestead Bayfront Park. The temperature of the aquamarine water averages 82.4 degrees during peak summer months, which is inviting to swimmers, snorkelers, and scuba divers.

The water condition is excellent for exploring marine life, including a living coral reef, spiny lobsters, turtles, manatees, rays, baby sharks, and upside-down jellyfish.

Through the Biscayne National Park Institute, you can easily book water tours. There are Institute-led programs, including paddleboarding through the lagoon, kayaking to the Stiltsville seagrasses, snorkeling, scuba diving, and boat outings.

Fishing is allowed in the bay. You must have a Florida saltwater fishing license obtained from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. There are hundreds of species to catch, including snapper, tarpon, and grouper.

11. Boca Grande

Credit: hsadura / Flickr

Situated at the south point of Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande is a spectacular destination hailing clear blue-green waters and sparkling sandy white beaches. This charming town is home to many Floridians and an oasis to visitors.

The fishing at Boca Grande is exceptional. The fishing industry began when early settlers arrived in this village. From April to August, saltwater anglers trek to Boca Grande, the capital of tarpon fishing, to catch tarpon.

Other catches include redfish, speckled trout, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel. And, if you end up at local restaurants, plan on ordering their fresh local seafood.

In the Boca Grande Bayou, outdoor lovers take advantage of the calm waters to standup paddle, kayak, and swim. Check with the area businesses to rent paddleboards and kayaks, and hire a guide to tour the waters.

Today people visit Boca Grande to hit the beaches and scour for seashells at Lighthouse Park. Boca Grande is also an interesting place to explore the old town and historic lighthouses. The best shelling area is at Lighthouse Park.

The World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament happens annually in mid-May. It’s a catch-and-release event that doles out cash prizes. Other events include music, art, and food festivals.

12. Anne’s Beach

Credit: Annie Gorman / Flickr

Named for local environmentalist Anne Eaton, Anne’s Beach on Islamorada at the south end of Upper Matecumbe Key is a sweet spot to park the family for the day. Set on the Atlantic Ocean, Anne Beach is a well-liked destination for its clear shallow waters.

Time stops at Anne’s Beach. The appeal here is how chill it is. Come to sit in the water or park your beach chair at the shore while it splashes around you.

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this activity. Since the water here is so shallow, you can walk far out into the ocean only to have the water hit your knees. Don’t let the seagrass hold you back.

Water activities include swimming, snorkeling, and windsurfing. With the shallow water and low undertow, Anne’s Beach is an ideal place to learn how to snorkel. There is a coral reef you can snorkel to that houses interesting marine life such as skates, rays, horseshoe crabs, and schools of fish.

13. Coquina Beach

Credit: Patricia Bauchman / Flickr

Coquina Beach is the absolute day trip or vacation destination with Caribbean-like aqua water and white powder sand. Found on the West Coast of Florida in Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island, Coquina Beach is off the Gulf of Mexico.

There are numerous beach amenities at Coquina Beach that attracts families and travelers. Everything from multiple lifeguard stations, picnic tables in the shade, grills, and volleyball courts to food and beverage options, clean bathrooms, outdoor showers, and changing stations, is provided to make it easy for beachgoers to spend an entire day here.

Swimming, snorkeling, and bird watching are popular activities on Coquina Beach. Walk the long beachy stretch where you may find a sand dollar or two. There is a bike path, too.

When you need to respite from the sun, explore Coquina Bay Walk, a short (under one mile) nature trail. Mangroves will keep you cool and shaded from the sun.

Go on a marine life treasure hunt by following the signs toward a cove. Here you can discover small crabs, fascinating creepy crawlers, insects, sponges, and sea squirts.

Coquina Beach also hosts a weekly open market (check online for exact days and times). Shoppers can find fresh produce, gourmet eats, and local artisan goods.

14. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea

Credit: Bruce1942 / Flickr

Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is a hot spot in Fort Lauderdale on the east coast of Florida. The clear visibility of the water at this beach is why it’s named one of the best places to dive. Grab your scuba gear and walk right into the water from the shore to start your underwater journey.

One hundred yards in, you’ll encounter the Pompano Dropoff Reef, where you can explore the SS Copenhagen, a cargo steamer shipwreck.

This area thrives with marine life with spiny lobsters, sea fans, moray eels, glassy sweepers, lookdown fish, parrot fish, sponges, and coral. Kayakers, standup paddlers, and kiteboarders end up here for a day in the water. Expect peak summer water temperatures in the low to mid-80s.

Noted as the “sand and surf paradise,” Lauderdale-by-Sea is a bustling beachgoers scene with a beautiful stretch of beach about 2 ½ miles long.

For folks who want to get out of the sun, grab an available chair under the open-air shaded pavilion and enjoy the ocean view. Hang out long enough, and you just might participate in free dancing lessons offered in the evening at the pavilion.

15. Grayton Beach

Credit: Alan / Flickr

Located on 30A, Florida’s scenic highway, Grayton Beach is unique because two different bodies of water come together. The saltwater of the Gulf of Mexico meets the freshwater of Western Lake. But what keeps visitors coming to Grayton is its clear emerald green gulf waters.

Absorb the sunshine by laying out on the fine quartz sand while cooling down with a swim in the clear water. From the beach, chartered boats head out to fish and explore. Kayakers and standup paddleboarders easily drop their equipment at the shore and head out.

Surrounded by Grayton Beach State Park, Grayton Beach also gives visitors easy access to Western Lake, where you can fish, canoe, kayak, and paddle around. Western Lake spans 100 acres with beautiful scenery and nature to discover.

Floridians refer to Grayton Beach as “old Florida.” The beach has an exciting history with old wooden beach cottages, a cute town filled with local artisan goods and crafts, coffee, and cafes.

16. Crandon Park Beach

Credit: Aglez the city guy / Flickr

Locals in Miami visit Crandon Park Beach for an idyllic day of clear green water, silky soft white sand, and striking coconut trees. The water is lukewarm, the ocean breeze hits the right way, and the two-mile-long beach attracts beachgoers seeking paradise.

Because a long sandbar protects the beach, the water is tranquil. Take a kayak, paddleboard, and snorkel gear out to explore local rare birds, hawks, puffer fish, parrot fish, crabs, mangrove snapper, and other sea life such as sea stars and shrimp.

Out of the water, explore the shoreline to seek out sea turtle nests. The beach provides barbecue grills to visitors. Picnic under an umbrella or a cabana, both can be rented.

Families enjoy some time spent at the Crandon Family Amusement Center, which is open on the weekends. Families have good times on the restored historic carousel, at the playground, and skating at the roller rink.

17. Jupiter Beach Park

Credit: Renee Silvernail / Pinterest

Juniper Beach Park’s popularity lies in its warm and brilliant turquoise water. The view alone from the sand is transporting. Within the Jupiter Beach community, both locals and visitors enjoy laid-back sunny days on this beach. This area is bold in its outdoor water activities, including swimming, snorkeling, surfing, paddleboarding, and boating.

Located where Jupiter Inlet meets Loxahatchee River, which meets with the Atlantic Ocean, Jupiter Beach Park has a lot of boat traffic near the fishing pier and jetty walk, which makes the water a little bit rough there. Surfers ride those jetty waves, which is a surfing-only area. Swimmers use the front part of the beach.

Other great beach pastimes at Jupiter Beach Park include a playground, sand volleyball courts, and picnic areas. If needed, reserve a surf wheelchair ahead of your visit. You can also stroll over to the fishing pier for refreshments, set up your bait and pole, and gander at the boats and surfers.

Dogs are encouraged to visit Jupiter Beach Park, but pet parents should keep them on a leash. If you want to let, your dog run free, head over to beach markers 25-57. Here pups can play freely in the sand and water.

Jupiter Beach Park, as well as the other Jupiter beaches, has an abundance of mangroves and sea grape trees.

18. Silver Glen Springs

Credit: Alan Cressler / Flickr

Silver Glen Springs is a first magnitude natural spring in Ocala National Forest in Marion, Florida. With crystal clear electric blue water, Silver Glen Springs welcomes boaters, snorkelers, and swimmers to explore this top ecological site in the state.

While the water maintains a chilly 72 degrees through most of the year, that doesn’t stop people from getting in. Swimming along with manatees, turtles, and many fresh and saltwater fish species, including striped bass, is a unique way to appreciate nature. Those who prefer to be above water can explore via kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. Inflatable tubes or rafts are fun vessels to launch onto the water.

Boats are also a popular way to visit Silver Glen Springs. There is a designated area for boats so swimmers can enjoy the waters safely. Pontoon rentals are available.

Hang out on the grassy edges of the spring beach, where you’ll see snail fossils and limestone. Herons and eagles search the water for food. You might also see occasional hungry raccoons and squirrels hunting the picnic area for scraps. Silver Glen Springs is also a great place to hike. Short trails lead you to other springs.

19. Far Beach

Credit: Pat Charles / Flickr

Far Beach, a favorite of the Key Largo beaches, is a beach in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The 3-mile reef attracts divers, swimmers, and snorkelers into its shallow clear sapphire waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Peppered with tall palm trees, Far Beach is one of the best Key Largo beaches to relax on the soft white sand. Don’t be too surprised when you see crabs and lizards traveling by. The bottom of Far Beach water beach is rocky. Past visitors recommend bringing water shoes when stepping into the water.

One unique way to see the reef is by touring on one of the many glass bottom boats at Far Beach. Or choose an up-and-close experience with marine life by scuba diving or snorkeling. You can also view many sea animals and plant life by touring the John Pennekamp Park’s Visitor Center and Aquarium, located within the state park.

There is a per-person fee to enter the park. Overnighter guests do not have to pay additional fees to camp.

20. Dune Allen Beach

Credit: Lisa Dworkin / Flickr

On the South Walton coast off 30A, Dune Allen Beach is one of Florida’s treasured gems in Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. Its white sugar sand and clear sea green water is always inviting to beach lovers and family vacationers.

Check out the three coastal dune lakes from Dune Allen Beach – Allen Lake, Stallworth, and Oyster Lake. This is a rare natural marvel. The basins are shallow and home to many marine habitats. Snorkeling, scuba diving, paddleboarding, and kayaking are easy ways to sightsee, and you can launch right from the sand. Keep a look out for dolphins and sea turtles.

Other water activities include surfing, jet skiing, and sailing. Dune Allen Beach gets some wind, which makes the water an ideal spot for windsurfers.

Dune Allen Beach has amenities including lifeguards, free parking, restrooms, and barbecue grills. Take a walk off the beach for a tasty local meal at Stinky’s Fish Camp or Elmo’s Grill, or get in a little beachy retail therapy at nearby boutiques.

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