Florida Best Secret Beaches

Florida Best Secret Beaches

The Sunshine State doesn't want for pretty palm-lined stretches of sand. But for a beach experience that takes you away from the usual postcard-worthy haunts, access your peripheral vision and set your sights on Florida's sublime spaces between.

Outside the tourist meccas, give yourself a taste of a lesser-known, less crowded Florida. Here, the nature is abundant and thriving. There are waves to be ridden, and a unique beach culture lives on in small seaside towns you might ordinarily pass by.

Lost between Palm Beach's untouchable riches to the north and the ostentatious yacht culture of Fort Lauderdale to the south, Delray Beach appeals to those in search of a true South Florida coastal vibe without the accompanying dose of attitude. Picture an idyllic 1950s beach town. There's a main street filled with strolling families, a diner plating four-dollar eggs, and mangrove-shaded pathways. That's Delray Beach, the beachfront spot an hour south of Palm Beach that's a relic of old-Floridian charm.

The dunes here are largely preserved, with beautiful, wide beaches accessed through tangled arches of sea grapes that beckon with a come-hither intrigue. The beach itself is fenced off with a rickety wood fence followed by grassy dunes that lead to the sand and shore. It's quaint, quiet and reminiscent of Northern Florida beaches that beg you to bask in their natural beauty. Charming Delray Beach's 2-mile stretch of sand and typically calm, sapphire waters promise a relaxing getaway.

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Despite North Beach in Fort De Soto Park regularly being listed as one of the best American beaches, few tourists make it to this stunning swath of sand near Tampa. While it is easily accessible to millions of people, its bike and nature trails are often deserted, and the secluded stretches of gorgeous North Beach are populated more by gulls and terns than people.

Bay Area locals, however, consider Fort De Soto the best beach around. Come weekends, recreational boaters swarm within swimming distance of the sugary sands. Still, you can always find a private spot to sun on the wide beach itself.

As you drive in, the island park conjures old Florida, and you could get lost exploring the 900 acres of bike trails, beaches and nature walks. Fishermen toss nets into the mangrove shallows lining the road that runs through the park, and from atop the 105-year-old fort, the beach dunes below appear wild and untouched.

Leave the parking area at North Beach and emerge onto a completely natural beach prime for shelling, strolling or swimming in warm, shallow waters. Most folks congregate by the water's edge, and a short stroll can lead you to a private piece of paradise.

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Fishermen have long been lured to Sebastian Inlet State Park , where daily hauls off the pier — snook, redfish and mackerel, to name a few — are often more impressive than what the boats bring in from offshore.

Beach lovers in the know adore the 3-mile stretch of pristine oceanfront here. With the surf crowds paddling out to catch the big waves, you'll have the shore practically to yourself.

The park is situated at roughly the spot on Florida's east coast where the water makes that subtle switch from midnight blue to Caribbean-like turquoise. Nature reigns here; Sebastian Inlet's beaches are a major sea turtle nesting area and home to an impressive array of birdlife. Visitors regularly spot bottlenose dolphins and manatees in the park's waters. Meanwhile, the jetty attracts surfing fans with its annual contests. Monster Hole, a break that requires a 1/3-mile paddle to reach, is one of the East Coast's most respected proving grounds.

Located on park property at the site of a 18th-century shipwreck survivors' camp, the McLarty Treasure Museum is the place to see real pirate booty fished from Florida waters. Divers are still salvaging gold and silver from the 1715 wreck of a Spanish fleet, and new treasures are always being added to the exhibits

Have a secret that's just too good to keep to yourself? That's how the locals feel sitting on the hidden treasure that is Pass-a-Grille Beach . Officially incorporated into the city of St. Petersburg Beach in 1957, Pass-a-Grille, its residents will tell you, remains an enclave apart. The town gets its curious name from the French passe aux grilleurs, a reference to the French mariners who used to grill their fish on the beaches here during pirate times. It was the Spanish, however, who first arrived in Pass-a-Grille from the Old World in 1528.

From the broad, white-sand beaches, you can see the pink towers of St. Pete Beach's sprawling Don CeSar Beach Resort to the north. But south of Eighth Street (Pass-a-Grille's main boutique- and cafe-lined drag), the sands are blissfully empty all the way to the tip of the peninsula. The crystalline waters are perfect for swimming nearly year-round (just do the "stingray shuffle" to stave off any unwelcome encounters with these marine animals who are just as drawn to the lovely beach as you).

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