As a Florida native I would say:
Destin and Pensacola
Caladesi Island- Dunedin
Pass-A-Grille- St Pete
Clearwater Beach- Clearwater
Ft. De Soto Park- Tierra Verde
St George Island State Park- Eastpoint (according to Forbes list of 2013)
Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park- Bonita Springs (according to Forbes list of 2013)
Cape Florida State Park- Key Biscayne (according to Forbes list of 2013)
Siesta Key- Sarasota area
If you stay in Pinellas County you can go to Caladesi, Pass-A-Grille, Clearwater and Ft. De Soto plus a few more beaches like Redington Beach.
Use lots of sunscreen as the sun is very hot down here and you will burn and then you won't enjoy the rest of your trip.
Though I'm not a "cracker" (native Floridian) I have had family there since I was born and moved to the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast in 1973. To add to what jeffdmiller has written, recommending beach areas very much depends on what you want such as crowds and nightlife or more of a quiet relaxing area, are you driving from the north or flying as the state is a very long drive from the Georgia/Alabama state line, what time of year you will be visiting and more. Not knowing any of those items just mentioned for me I'd completely avoid Miami unless you just want that experience.
Sanibel and Captiva Islands off the coast of Ft. Myers
Key West and just about any town along U.S. 1
There are many hidden gems along the coasts so let us know what you're looking for and how you'll be arriving, I am certain you will get great feedback from the MI gang.
Juno Beach or any where a little north of Palm Beach is beautiful and usually unspoiled. My favorite is Melbourne Beach - a 20-mile span known as the Archie Carr Wildlife Preserve and it is AMAZING (lots of seaturtle nesting in the summer). If you go north from Melbourne to Titusville, you can't go wrong with beautiful beaches all the way. Near the Kennedy Space Center is Playalinda Beach (from NP site: The southern access, Playalinda Beach in Titusville, is on Fla 406/402. Playalinda Beach is reached via Fla 402 (also known as Beach Road). From I-95, the exit number for our north district (Apollo Beach) is 249. For the south district (Playalinda), the exit number from I-95 is 220. At both exits, go toward the east & follow the signs.)
All those beaches are east coast. If you're looking for west coast, definitely Captiva (that area is expensive, tho). I am not as familiar with west coast as I am east.
In my opinion, the most beautiful beach in Florida is in the Panhandle. There's a charming town called Seaside where the white sand is beyond beautiful. You can go all the way up to Pensacola and you will find the most beautiful beaches - The Gulf Islands National Seashore. You can find more info on the National Park website:
The Perdido Key Area is off Florida Route 292, southwest from Pensacola; turn east on Johnson Beach Road.
Naval Live Oaks is on U. S. 98 east of Gulf Breeze, Florida.
The Okaloosa Day Use Area is on U. S. 98 east of Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
The Fort Pickens, and Santa Rosa areas, take U.S. 98 east across the Pensacola Bay Bridge
I have been to Playlinda Beach many times. It is a world famous "Nude Beach". I did not participate other than "Observe".
There is a great FF in Titusville, and you can dine at The Dixie Crossroads prior to going to Playlinda. You can also go a little North to The Manatees at "Manatee Park"!
Enjoy! and good luck!
LOL! The one and only time I recommend a beach and it turns out to be the nude beach?!?! I have never seen anybody nude on Playalinda Beach! NEVER! It was a great spot to see the Space Shuttle when it was on the launchpad. Of course, now the beloved Shuttle is gone. You are right; that is a great FF Inn right there in Titusville. I found it to be the best hotel in Titusville for a reasonable rate - but no where near the beach.
The whole beach is not nude. You have to go to the far North end of the beach for the nudity!
I would never have believed it if I had not seen it myself. It has been a source for a lot of controversy for decades.
BTW, if you go to Playlinda, stop by The Titusville Pier for a nice, casual meal I have been going to Titusville since December 1966!
Thanks jerrycoin. I have been going to Titusville since 1981 when the Shuttle program started; I was a launch-junkie. That's how I knew about Playalinda Beach because it's a great viewing spot of the launchpad. PERHAPS I should have done a little research on that nude issue before recommending it. Ya think?!? Nobody is ever going to give ME any credibility now. Hey, it was good for a laugh! I will most definitely stop by the Titusville Pier on my next visit there. Thank you!
Wow. Like the others have said, this is a pretty open-ended question with many many answers depending on what you're looking for. You can't go wrong at Eden Roc on Miami Beach or the Ritz-Carlton on South Beach. The Clearwater/Sarasota/Bradenton areas have amazing sugary white sand (Siesta Key, Anna Maria Island). St Armand Circle on Lido Key is pretty awesome to visit. Daytona is okay for a day visit, but I wouldn't want to stay there. Come back and give us a hint of what you're looking for!
Note to all: Marriott will no longer operate the Eden Roc starting July 11th
And on another note, it so quietly slipped by -
jerrycoin at Playalinda Beach
Excuse me miss, would you please lift your arm?
I'm looking for a rare coin.