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As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. We found that to be especially true in the case of beaches when researching the best beaches in Florida because Summer means the beach and, close to home, we have some of the world’s best beaches. In our search, we read reviews by the Travel Channel, TripAdvisor, and Conde Nast Traveler, among others, and found little unanimity in their recommendations.

The only unanimous choice was Siesta Key on the west coast southwest of Sarasota. The area has wide white sand beaches and calm warm waters, with nearby candlelit restaurants and cozy accommodations. There are also the most luxurious of accommodations, which makes it just perfect for singles, couples and families alike.

Other beaches on more than one recommended list were Clearwater Beach, which is unique being nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay and is generally recognized as one of America’s finest beaches, Sanibel Beach, west of Fort Myers, where shelling is popular as is Bowman’s Beach with its secluded stretch of sand, and South Beach in Miami Beach, known as an international playground with non-stop nightlife and long stretches of beautiful beaches and clear waters.

The beaches of Key West also appear on more than one list, primarily because Jimmy Buffet correctly identified it in a song as a place where there are changes of latitudes and attitudes. The beaches are nice but a largely unknown fact is that there are not many natural beaches in the Florida Keys. The attraction of Key West lies in the people, the funky bars and restaurants, and the feel that you are in another country, or world.

Two of the more posh areas of Florida are also recognized for their special beaches and majestic mansions, Palm Beach and Naples Beach. Both are considered “islands of wealth and sophistication” and offer some of the finest hotels, tony boutiques and delicious eateries.

If you are into shelling, Captiva Island is known for its large shells, especially on Turner Beach (a favorite of mine) where there are daily displays of dramatic sunsets at the end of Captiva Drive. The island is north of Sanibel Island, and northwest of Fort Myers.

Other beaches popular for their access to bars and lounges include Delray Beach with a village atmosphere provided by the hot spots along Atlantic Avenue, Fort Lauderdale Beach known best for its Spring Break festivities, Pensacola Beach and Panama City Beach, both with a small town feel but sporting robust party-goers, and the more traditional beaches of Hollywood, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, which offer extensive beaches and are enjoyed by sun worshipers of all ages.

Lesser known beaches that are recommended by those who seek new gems to chat about with friends are Caladesi Island State Park in Denedin, north of Clearwater, Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde near St. Petersburg, Lovers Key State Park between Naples and Fort Myers, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne east of Miami, Blowing Rocks Preserve in Hobe Sound, Bahia Honda beaches on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys, and Amelia Island northeast of Jacksonville, featuring luxury resorts, lush golf courses and miles of warm beaches. Let us know if we’ve missed your favorite spot to have fun in the sun!

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