It's easy to write about the famous attractions in Florida like Disney. But there's much more to do than just Disney World! Let's explore the vibe of Florida's beach towns. In our travels, we've enjoyed the culture of many different beach towns, including their food, music, art, and history. Here are some fun things to do.
From the Keys to the Panhandle, each of Florida's beach towns offers something that makes it unique for tourists and locals alike. When planning a Florida beach vacation, it is a good idea to look into the local vibe and attractions. That way, if you can't get out in the sun, you can still have fun at your destination.
You can't visit a Florida coast without trying the food. Each Florida beach town has different food. Seafood is obviously a staple of the Sunshine State's, with fresh catches available at local restaurants. Some of the most requested seafood dishes in Florida include conch fritters, shrimp and grits, and grouper sandwiches.
Key Lime Pie
In addition to seafood, everyone knows about Florida citrus fruits. Fresh oranges, grapefruits, and lemons grow abundantly in our warm climate and are used in everything from cocktails to desserts. Key lime pie, a tart and creamy dessert from the Florida Keys, is one of the most iconic dishes you can try.
Beyond seafood and citrus, when you venture south towards the Palm Beaches and Miami Beach, much of the food offers a Latin influence. Cuban sandwiches, made with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread, are a popular menu item in many beach towns. Other dishes like empanadas and fajitas are high on the list of our favorites.
Here are a few suggestions for food and drinks to try near Florida beach towns:
Music Festivals in Florida
Many beach towns have a rich music culture. From rock to rap to Latin beats, there's something for everyone. Orlando isn't a beach town (but it's less than an hour's drive to one) and it hosts several popular electronic music fests every year. The City of Tampa has the Tampa Bay Blues Festival every year on the waterfront.
We probably don't have to tell you that one of the most famous music scenes in Florida is in Miami's South Beach, where DJs and musicians like deadmau5, come to perform at nightclubs and beach parties. The city is also home to the annual Miami Music Week, a week-long electronic music festival that draws thousands of fans each year.
Outside of Miami Beach, many other Florida beaches have a strong connection to country music. The Gulf Coast has a strong country music scene and history. It is celebrated each year at the Tortuga Music Festival in Fort Lauderdale, and the Gulf Coast Jam in Panama City Beach which brings together some of the biggest names in the genre for a weekend of live performances. Big names include Shania Twain, Kenny Chesney Miranda Lambert and Chase Rice.
In Daytona Beach, you will find some larger rock music and metal festivals held at the Daytona International Speedway. Welcome to Rockville includes artists like Slipnot, Pantera, Metallica and the Deftones.
We can't leave out Key West which hosts the massive Key West Fest featuring classic country bands for 4 days. What a party!
Art and Museums in Florida
Many Florida beach locations have a vibrant art culture, with galleries, museums, and street art. One of the most famous art scenes in Florida is in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood, which is home to over 70 galleries and street art installations. The Wynwood Walls, painted by some of the world's most famous artists, is a must-see for any art lover.
St. Augustine also is home to an art community that celebrates the city's history. The St. Augustine Art Association hosts regular exhibitions and events that showcase the work of local artists. Stop by beaches like Anastasia Island in between art shows.
Sarasota has the Ringling Museum, a museum complex established in 1927. It's named after its founder, John Ringling, who was one of the five Ringling brothers of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It is not far from Siesta Key Beach.
The museum complex includes several buildings, such as the Museum of Art, the Circus Museum, the Ca' d'Zan mansion, and the Bayfront Gardens. The Museum of Art features a collection of European paintings and sculptures, including famous works by Rubens and Gainsborough.
The Circus Museum explains the history of the circus, including costumes, props, and artifacts from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. You can tour the Ca' d'Zan mansion is a Venetian Gothic-style mansion that was once the home of John and Mable Ringling.
Historic Florida Sites
There are some notable Florida beach towns that offer cultural landmarks. The sunshine state has played a significant role in many pivotal moments in American history.
One of the most famous historical landmarks in Florida is the Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th-century fort in St. Augustine that was built by the Spanish to defend their territory. Today, the fort is a National Monument. Built in 1627, this historic structure, found along the Matanzas Bay, was built with coquina stone. It was designated a National Monument in 1933.
The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios was built in 1609 and is the oldest shrine in the United States. People come here to pray and experience the peace and beauty of the building and grounds. It is a five-minute walk from the Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.
Another Fort to visit was built in 1742, Fort Matanzas. It was a Spanish military base helping to guard the southern approach to St. Augustine and the northeastern Florida coast. The area became a National Monument in 1924. Today, the site also has 100 acres of salt marsh and barrier islands along the Matanzas River.
The Fort Pickens area is one of our top picks for culture, history, beach access and all around fun. You can even camp here with a tent or RV. Built in the 1800’s to help defend the Gulf Coast from overseas enemies Fort Pickens showcases a system of coastal forts for protecting Pensacola Bay and the communities that lined the mainland shore. It provides an interesting look at American history and the Civil War.
The Florida Space Coast
The Kennedy Space Center near Cocoa Beach needs no introduction. It sees 1.7 million guests per year. It is open daily from 9 a.m. and closing times vary by season. The Kennedy Space Center is interesting for families because it offers many exhibits, shows, and attractions that are fun and educational for kids and adults alike. Some of the highlights include:
Surfing Culture in Florida
Florida is not generally known for its surf culture, as the waves are often smaller than California or Hawaii. Kelly Slater, an American professional surfer from Cocoa Beach, made Florida famous when he appeared in Baywatch. There are a few beaches in the state that are popular among surfers, including the following:
Shelling Beach Culture
You can find shells on almost any beach in Florida, but some are better than others. Larger, unspoiled shells are harder to find after being tossed in the surf. Here are a couple of great shelling beaches:
Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Sanibel Island is the most popular beach for shelling. The beaches are covered in shells, which are a result of the island's location and the way that currents bring shells onto the shore. Visitors to the island often spend hours walking along the beaches because there are more shells than sand! Sanibel is recovering from Hurricane Ian but beaches are opening up.
Caspersen Beach in Venice, Florida is also known for shelling and shark's teeth. It is a unique, somewhat rocky beach on the Gulf Coast. It's a very natural environment that provides a goldmine of shells for the whole family to enjoy.
Nature Preservation Spots
One of the best beaches in Florida for nature-loving visitors is Canaveral National Seashore. Located near Cocoa Beach, this 24-mile stretch of undeveloped beach is home to a variety of wildlife. It's a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Playalinda Beach, with a view of Kennedy Space Center, has nearly 1,000 parking spaces! You can enjoy hiking, camping, birdwatching, kayaking, and fishing. In nearby Sebastian Inlet, there are opportunities for bioluminesence kayaking.
Love Miami but need a break from the busy beach? Biscayne National Park is about 35 miles south of Miami. Boating, snorkeling, and camping are favorite pastimes along the shore of Biscayne Bay. Guided tours leave from the visitor center. You can snorkel along to spot several small shipwrecks or cruise to Boca Chita Key to see its lighthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There's nothing like a good lighthouse for a breathtaking view.
Best Fishing in Florida
Florida is known for its world-class fishing, and there are many beaches in the state that are popular among anglers. However, one of the best beaches in Florida for fishing is the Destin Harbor Beach. Although I'm sure there would be arguments about this!
Destin is known as the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village". The Destin Harbor Beach is located in the heart of the town. It is home to a number of charter fishing boats, which offer half-day and full-day fishing trips. You can catch red snapper, grouper, amberjack, and king mackerel. You can also just use the fishing pier which is a popular choice.
Florida Motorsports Culture
Daytona Beach is known as the "World Center of Racing," and is the best-known beach in Florida for racing culture. This Atlantic ocean beach has a long history of car racing, dating back to the early 1900s, and has the famous Daytona International Speedway. It hosts a variety of events including the Daytona 500, and the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (which we've see once). There is also a museum that celebrates the history of the Daytona 500, and the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which allows you to experience the thrill of driving a NASCAR car.
The culture of Daytona Beach is definitely influenced by racing, with many restaurants, shops, and hotels with racing themes. The beach itself is wide and flat, making it ideal for driving, and isused for events such as the Jeep Beach Week. Fortunately, Volusia County takes care to protect the nesting sea turtles and keeps the beaches clean. They have an extensive beach safety crew too.
Craft Breweries in Florida
There are several beach towns in Florida that are famous for their craft beer scene. We mentioned St. Pete Beach above. One of the most popular is the town of Dunedin, located just north of Clearwater and near Honeymoon State Park. Breweries include: Dunedin Brewery, which has been brewing beer since 1996 and is one of the oldest microbreweries in the state. Other popular breweries in Dunedin include Cueni Brewing Co., and Soggy Bottom Brewing Co.
Dunedin is also known for its annual Dunedin Craft Beer Fest, which brings together breweries from all over Florida and beyond for a weekend of beer tasting and festivities. What could be more fun than music and beer?
Another Florida beach town with notable craft beer scene is Jacksonville, which has breweries like Intuition Ale Works and Bold City Brewery.
Best Golfing in Florida
One of the most well-known golfing centers is Naples. With over 90 championship golf courses in the area, this is a golfer's paradise. Some of the top public golf courses in Naples include the Tiburón Golf Club, highly rated by Golf Digest. Another is the Old Corkscrew Golf Club designed by Jack Nicklaus.
St. Augustine and Palm Beach are also popular destinations for golfing in Florida. St. Augustine has several top-rated golf courses, including the World Golf Village, which has the World Golf Hall of Fame. Palm Beach is known for its golf courses, including the Breakers Ocean Course. Both destinations offer beautiful Florida weather and beaches to enjoy when you're not golfing
Children's Museums and Learning
Rainy day on your Florida vacation? Children's museums are popular because they offer a fun and interactive learning environment for children. Unlike traditional museums, children's museums encourage kids to touch, explore, and interact with everything. For "get out of the sun" days in Florida, this is a great option for families with kids of different ages.
There are several Florida beach towns that have children's museums. Here are a few examples:
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Susan and Bruno are travel bloggers. We write about Florida beaches on every coast. Our opinions only.