Our 14 favorite best Florida Panhandle beaches on the US Gulf Coast include amazing white beaches, some of the softest beach sand in the world, and an amazing shell beach.
The Emerald Coast beaches on the Florida Panhandle are regularly listed among the world’s best beaches. Find out why—and which are our top beaches on the Florida Panhandle.
Our list of Best Florida Panhandle Beaches are listed from east to west. Whichever amazing US Gulf Coast beach you visit, PLEASE make it cleaner when you leave than when you arrived. Thank you.
Alligator Point Florida
Looking the best Florida Panhandle beach for shells? Our first recommended beach may be it. Alligator Point is the best Northern Florida Gulf Coast beach for shells, by far. The public beach access is easy to find but I like to find a parking spot on one of the side streets away from there. For even more seclusion, visit Bald Point State Park—one of the least crowded beaches on the Florida Panhandle.
Alligator Point is almost directly south of Tallahassee and marks the eastern edge of the phenomenal Florida Panhandle beaches. Now let us head west and discover more remarkable beaches.
St. George Island
St. George Island is one of the best Florida Panhandle beaches for families—or couples, or anyone. The relatively undeveloped barrier island offers wide beaches with plenty of room to stake out your own spot for sun and fun. The state park at the east end of St George Island is even less crowded.
Getting to St George Island is one of the most fun US Gulf Coast drives. Drive to St George Island over four-mile-long overwater causeway from Eastpoint. And that is after driving over the four-and-a-half-mile-long overwater causeway from Apalachicola to Eastpoint—when coming from that direction.
On your return trip from St George Island stop in Eastpoint for one of our favorite places on the Gulf Coast Seafood Trail.
See also our favorite US Coastal Scenic Drives.
Cape San Blas
One of the best Florida Panhandle beaches for sunsets is Cape San Blas. The popular Florida Panhandle beaches to the west get all the glory but you will love this hidden gem FL panhandle beach.
Most of the Cape San Blas shoreline faces directly west and offers uninterrupted views of those glorious US Gulf Coast sunsets.
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park has secluded beaches with sand dunes on one side and crystal clear water you can walk in for up to a half-mile on the other. This is another perfect family-friendly Florida Panhandle beach destination.
See more Florida Panhandle hidden gems
Hurricane Michael in 2018 destroyed so much of Mexico Beach but the area is rebuilding and getting better. The magnificent white sand beaches of Mexico Beach will always draw visitors looking for a relaxing salt life experience in one of the best beach towns on the Florida Panhandle.
Panama City Beach
Let the debate start, which is the best beach in Panama City Beach Florida? PCB has dozens of beach entrances and that is wonderful.
Our choice for best PCB beach is the area around the M.B. Miller County Pier—especially early in the day or in the evening. The first time our feet touched the sand here (one night after dinner), we immediately thought it was some of the softest beach sand in the world. See if you agree.
Panama City Beach is one of the most popular Gulf Coast Spring Break spots.
The Laguna Beach area on the west side of Panama City Beach is one of our favorite beaches in the Florida Panhandle. The coastline here is lined with beach houses instead of large high-rise condo buildings, so it is less crowded, cleaner, and more peaceful.
US Gulf Coast Travel tip: find a spot in the beach parking area across the street from Thomas Donut and Snack Shop and enjoy a rejuvenating sunrise stroll or relaxing sunset walk. Then visit Thomas—one of our Gulf Coast Dessert Trail members—for fresh donuts or premium ice cream.
Access to many of the gorgeous FL Panhandle beaches along scenic highway 30A have been hampered by developments. Finding public beach access in Seaside, WaterColor, Ayls, and Rosemary can be a monumental challenge.
At the west end of 30A, the Inlet Beach public access parking along Park Place Avenue is one place still available. The Orange Avenue boardwalk leads to a gorgeous section of Inlet Beach with the typical Florida Panhandle soft, clean, sugar sand. A little further west is the Lupine Beach access, which leads to sand dunes and borders Camp Helen State Park.
Grayton Beach State Park
The crown jewel of South Walton is Grayton Beach State Park. So much more than just a beautiful beach, Grayton has a rare coastal dune lake, abundant forest (great hiking trails), overnight cabins, and a phenomenal underwater Turtle Reef Trail for snorkelers and SCUBA divers. The yellow poles shown above are markers to guide reef visitors. So cool.
Dr. Beach named Grayton State Park Beach as the top beach in the US. TWO TIMES.
That is remarkable. By default then (right?), Grayton Beach must be the best beach on the Florida Panhandle. Debate amongst yourselves and let us know what you think.
To the east of the park, Grayton Dunes beach access point on Garfield Drive has a boardwalk, parking, and showers. A Walton County permit is required to drive on the beach.
Henderson Beach State Park
OK, let’s be honest for a sec. The Florida Panhandle has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to amazing beach state parks. Add Henderson Beach State Park in Destin to that list. Not only is it one of Florida Panhandle’s best beaches but it is also a nice escape from the crowds in Destin on those busy beach days. Just walk 200 yards and you will have your own private section of one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
US Gulf Coast Travel tip: for a sunrise stroll on Henderson Beach (it does not open until 8am), park near The Back Porch and enter from the east side.
We have a love and hate relationship with some of the Florida Panhandle beaches. Many of the prime Destin beaches are privatized by the humongous condo complexes, leaving tiny stretches of public beach access for visitors. Ugh. If you are staying in a condo, then you are content with this paradigm. If not, then you have many other choices or can accept your fate and claim your sliver of one of the Florida Panhandle’s best beaches.
I like to visit this area before the crowds appear and pretend it is my private beach.
US Gulf Coast Travel tip: as above, enjoy free parking near The Back Porch.
See also our suggested Destin Florida Rentals.
Princess Beach, Okaloosa Island
Another option for the Destin crowd looking for an uncrowded Florida Panhandle beach is to head west across the bridge to Princess Beach. Wave to the Crab Island mayhem and look for the official and legal left turn about a mile later If there are no or few available parking spots, head another 2.5 miles west on highway 98, and U-turn back two miles to the Matterhorn Beach access.
Both beach areas have no facilities but that is why we love them. In the above picture, this is the most crowded portion of Princess Beach. Behind me, there is no one!
US Gulf Coast Travel note: Princess Beach and Matterhorn Beach are part of Eglin AFB and permission should be confirmed before your visit. See instructions in the below photo.
The least crowded section of Navarre Beach is usually east of the fishing pier. Drive about 1/4 mile past the sea turtle center to find two parking areas to access the least busy area of Navarre Beach.
But the views from the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier are so nice that it is one of the most popular places in Navarre Beach. Sea turtles are a common sight, as are surfers and that phenomenal emerald water. This is definitely one of the best places to watch sunset on the Florida Panhandle. See also our favorite Gulf Coast Sunset Spots
US Gulf Coast Travel note: Six miles west of the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier is the magnificent Opal Beach. Located in the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Opal Beach is a great choice when looking for an uncrowded white sand beach and convenient picnic pavilions.
Here are more spectacular white sand beaches further west in the same National Park managed property.
Gulf Islands National Seashore Beaches
Florida State Park beaches and the US military beaches had their say, now we will visit a US National Park property. Looking for the least crowded Florida Panhandle beaches? Drive west on highway 399 from Pensacola Beach into Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Langdon Beach is the primary day-use beach area in the Gulf Islands National Seashore park. Even when the parking area is full, there is plenty of beach area to be as secluded as you want. For even more uncrowded Florida Panhandle beaches, try either of the boardwalks across the street from the campgrounds or a white sand path from the Battery Cooper Loop area.
US Gulf Coast Travel tip: For one of the least crowded Florida Panhandle beaches and a hidden gem spot with amazing sunset views, park by Battery Payne in the Fort Pickens area and take the dune path to the very secluded beach area at the point.
Looking for the beach with the softest beach sand on the Florida Panhandle? Our final Florida Panhandle beach may have it. Just four miles east of Flora-Bama and the Florida/Alabama state line and on the eastern edge of Perdido Key State Park, stop at Perdido Beach Public Access 3 for a treat for your feet.
There are three public beach access areas along Perdido Key Drive (highway 292) but we think #3 has the whitest sand in the world. Agree?
Note you can also head west onto Johnson Beach National Seashore for more phenomenal white sand beach areas. There are so many gorgeous Florida Panhandle beaches in this area.
Which is the best Florida Panhandle Beach?
Let us know your favorite beach on the Florida Panhandle. Is it one of these? Another? Which one is the best Florida Panhandle beach for families? Best beach for sunset? Most fun Florida Panhandle beach?
Heading to Southwest Florida and the Florida Gulf Coast? Read Best Florida Gulf Coast Beaches
For amazing Gulf Coast food, see our Best Blackened Grouper Sandwiches in Florida.