Avoid the tourist traps and discover these gorgeous hidden gems — with plenty of space for your beach blanket.
My former high school math teacher would say that the amount of enjoyment you get out of your time at the beach is inversely proportional to the number of butts in beach chairs around you. In other words, when you’re somewhere hot and sandy, more people equals less peaceful. With this in mind, if you want to avoid the crush of tourists this summer, head to these still under-the-radar Florida beaches where the tourists don’t outnumber the grains of sand.
1. Lover’s Key, Fort Myers, FL
For years, this secluded beach was only accessible by boat, with local tradition saying that only lovers made the trip. Today, there’s a Florida State Park on the island where you’re likely to find a slew of Florida wildlife including manatees, roseate spoonbills (kind of a cross between a pelican and a flamingo), and even a bald eagle or two. What you won’t find: hordes of tourists.
2. Bowditch Point, Estero Island, FL
Drive past Fort Myers Beach and head to the very northwest tip of Estero Island for this out-of-the-way alternative to the Spring Break vibe of its more popular neighbors. The short drive will earn you extra peace and quiet, and a view of the Gulf of Mexico that’s hard to beat. And stick around for the sunset.
3. E.G. Simmons Park, Ruskin, FL
This beach on Tampa Bay is known as one of the area’s hidden fishing and camping beaches. It’s a great place to launch your boat, although if you do, pay attention to the early-ish closing time. The park is also great for bird and wildlife watching, with 7 miles of shoreline and 469 acres of wildlife for your enjoyment. Just do like the locals, and be sure to clean up when you leave!
4. Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, FL
If you’re a gem, you can’t stay hidden forever. And with some of the whitest, most powdery sand in all of Florida, Siesta Beach may just be the next West Palm or Miami even. While the sand on most beaches is at least partially coral, here it’s 99 percent quartz, which means even on the hottest days the sand is cool to the touch. Add in a relatively shallow shore area, and you have a recipe for an amazing family-friendly beach located in Siesta Key.
5. Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel, FL
Sanibel Island has maintained its status as one of the swankier places to plant your beach umbrella for years by prohibiting bourgeois shops and eateries like (gasp!) McDonalds from setting foot on their island. Their penchant for exclusionary governing policies means that visitors enjoy a quiet, noncommercial atmosphere, including Bowman’s Beach, which has some of the best shell hunting in the world. If you make the drive to Sanibel, also check out the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, too.
6. Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, Palm Coast, FL
Just south of St. Augustine lies beautiful Palm Coast. This state park on the Atlantic coast is well known for two things: the unique coquina rock formations found on its beach and a formal garden that features a variety of indigenous plant and animal life. It’s perfect for the nature lover who would rather gawk at wildlife than the backside of someone else’s beach umbrella.