When you’re craving a little sand and surf, there’s no shortage of Gulf Coast shoreline within a few hours’ drive of the Tampa Bay area. Indulge your inner beach bum at one of these seven best beach towns near Tampa.

Beach Towns for Families

Traveling with kids or teens? These towns pack in family-friendly attractions by the boatload. (Sometimes literally.)

Holmes Beach

Manatee Beach

The Beach: Manatee Beach. Come for the all-you-can-eat pancakes at AMI Beach Cafe, stay for the sugar white sand and low-traffic shoreline.

Spotlight: Loggerhead turtles visit the beaches May through October to lay their eggs—you can join the local Turtle Patrol for free informational talks and a survey of the nests. Keep your eyes peeled on the horizon for dolphins while lounging, or book a MV Minnow boat tour with Captain Frank to get a closer look at the local marine life.

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Anna Maria

Anna Maria Island beach
Anna Maria Island beach | Photo courtesy of Mark Vance

The Beach: Coquina Beach. Famous for its “old Florida” vibe, remnants of old piers, and shady picnic spots under the pine trees, Coquina Beach was rated number five on Conde Nast Traveler’s list for best sand.

Spotlight: Leave your car in the driveway—ride the trolley instead! Take a day to wander around the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium for close encounters with sharks, sea turtles, and even a manatee or two, not to mention scientists hard at work in viewable labs. Make a pit stop at The Donut Experiment for a customizable sweet treat.

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Bonita Springs

A willet on Barefoot Beach Preserve
A willet on Barefoot Beach Preserve | Photo courtesy of DeaShoot

The Beach: Barefoot Beach Preserve Park. Covering 342 acres of land, this is a picturesque spot to explore with nature lovers (keep a lookout for the gopher tortoise and Loggerhead sea turtles).

Spotlight: Enjoy a thriving arts culture supported by the Center of Arts Bonita Springs, offering plays, musical or dance performances, film, and art exhibitions. The kids (and young at heart) will love a day on the greens at the Congo River Golf mini-golf course, where you can take a break to feed the live gators or beat the heat in the arcade.

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Beach Towns for Adventure Seekers

If you get bored after an hour sitting on the sand, these beach towns near Tampa offer a bit more excitement.

Fort Myers Beach

seashells on the beach
Seashells on the beach at Lovers Key State Park | Photo courtesy of Jason Helle

The Beach: Lovers Key State Park. Grab your hiking shoes, your trail runners, or your bike: There are five miles of trails just for you on Black Island, one of Lovers Key’s smaller barrier islands. Try kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, or canoeing. You can even take a kayak or canoe tour to Mound Key, a Calusa tribe site. Wind down with a stroll on the beach with your sweetheart, hunting for shells.

Spotlight: Fishermen rejoice. This is one of the best beach towns near Tampa to head out to sea for the big, feisty fish like grouper. If you’re looking for a more laid-back day, Lovers Key State Park has several natural estuaries with trout and snook.

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Marco Island

Tigertail Beach | Best Beaches Near Tampa
Tigertail Beach | Photo courtesy of djshaggy

The Beach: Tigertail Beach. This is a beach especially known for its birding, so be sure to bring your binoculars. If you’d like to see something a little stranger, hike to Sand Dollar Spit to spot horseshoe crabs and fighting conchs. You can also rent equipment like SUP boards, water trikes, and kayaks for a few hours of aquatic recreation.

Spotlight: The northwest entrance to the Everglades National Park is just 36 miles from Marco Island. Go for a day-long kayaking trip or an airboat tour.

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Beach Towns for Culturephiles

If a glass of wine in your hand is just as important than sand between your toes, head to these Tampa-area beach towns for a more cosmopolitan getaway.

Naples

Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park beach | Photo courtesy of Robin Wendell

The Beach: Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. A perfect midday picnic spot.

Spotlight: Reserve tee time at Eagles Lake Golf Course and golf alongside its namesake pair of bald eagles at the par 71 championship golf course. Afterwards, spend a sunny evening wining and dining along Fifth Avenue South.

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Bradenton Beach

Bradenton Beach
Dunes on Bradenton Beach | Photo courtesy of Rich Schwartz

The Beach: Lido Key Beach. One of the best west coast Florida beaches, offering sunset cruises and a long shoreline for strolling.

Spotlight: Shop ‘til you drop in St. Armands Circle, known for its collection of boutiques, art galleries, and high-end dining options offering plenty of fresh seafood.

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Author: Hannah Morrison

Hannah hails from Telluride, CO and currently lives in Portland, where she works as writer, editor, and unofficial resident poet for Team Vacasa. You'll often find Hannah singing and dancing down the sidewalk, making really tall sandwiches, and planning her next long run.