Few sunsets are as spectacular as the ones over the Gulf of Mexico. Not to mention the sandy beaches and clear blue waters that seem to run on forever. Simply magical. If you’re looking to have an unforgettable sunset cruise, you have to consider one of these six Florida Gulf Coast beaches:
- Saint Petersburg Beach
- Clearwater Beach
- Henderson Beach
- Fort de Soto
- Smathers Beach
- South Venice Lemon Bay Beach
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1. Saint Petersburg Beach- St. Pete, Fl
Saint Petersburg Beach was ranked as the #1 best beach in the United States and the #5 best beach in the world by TripAdvisor. It’s near the mouth of Tampa Bay, making it a short boat ride to Tampa and Clearwater. It’s a quick day trip to Fort Myers and Cape Coral.
This beach is a paradise for boaters as it has nearly immaculately clear waters that are teal to turquoise or emerald in hue. The people are friendly, and there are hundreds of marinas in the area, plus countless waterside restaurants, on-water activities, and seaside shops.
And for the beach itself— wow! The beach, which faces west, has the most incredible sunsets you could ever imagine. The sands are sugary soft, bright white, clean, and usually not far from a tropical coral reef.
Whether you want to sit on the beach and admire the water or sit on your boat admiring the coastline and beach, it’s a fantastic place that everyone should witness at least once in their lifetime.
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2. Clearwater Beach- Clearwater, Fl
Clearwater Beach is just north of St. Petersburg Beach, and it also has so much to offer. Clearwater Beach is on an island that is conveniently connected to the mainland by Gulf Boulevard and the Clearwater Memorial Causeway. This beach is extra wide and brilliantly white and lends you insight into a stunning community filled with beautiful sights, luxurious estates, and amazing beachside restaurants and shops.
Pier 60 Fishing Pier is a great spot to walk and fish after you’ve had your fill of the beach. So is the amazing Caladesi Island State Park just to the north. This park offers narrower but more remote beaches, plus access to the historical Henry Scharrer Homestead.
The entire Clearwater and Tampa Bay area is famous for snorkeling, so if you want a unique view of Clearwater Beach, you should give that a go.
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3. Henderson Beach- Destin, Fl
Henderson Beach has 30-foot white sand dunes near the warm gulf waters. Nature lovers will love Henderson Beach State Park for its trails, plenty of fishing opportunities (flounder, catfish, redfish, cobia, and pompano fish species), more than 60 campsites, swimming areas, great picnic sites, and lots of wildlife. This is the last coastal scrub in this region.
Birdwatching is an activity to be had here. So whether you’re in it for the stunning gulf water or the nature that lies beyond the beach, Henderson Beach is a magnificent area to experience.
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4. Fort de Soto- St. Petersburg, Fl
Fort de Soto Beach on Fort de Soto Key is a gorgeous spot to experience Florida at its best. It’s near the mouth of Tampa Bay, near Desoto Point, Shell Key Preserve, and Egmont Key.
The Historic Fort de Soto was built in the 1800s to protect the Tampa Bay area (and mainland Florida) from marauders. There is plenty at the beach here, you won’t need to look far for a meal, restroom, or amenities while enjoying your beach day.
If you decide to boat up to Egmont Key, consider approaching from the west side. The east side is protected and supports a fragile forest of seagrass.
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5. Smathers Beach- Key West, Fl
Key West is probably the most magical destination on this list— towering palm trees, classic homes, chill people, and stunning orange-red sunsets put you in the ultimate beachy mood.
Smathers Beach is the biggest beach on the island, and it’s a popular spot for sunbathing, shore wading, windsurfing, and swimming among the coral reefs, dolphins, and nurse sharks. The beach is lined by palm trees, lush flora, cute picnic areas, and charming beach town shops.
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6. South Venice Lemon Bay Beach- Sarasota, Fl
This lovely beach (in the vicinity of Sarasota) is a hidden gem beloved by locals. It is secluded, quiet, and a haven for wildlife like manatees, sea turtles, bald eagles, osprey, and dozens of small mammals. Songbirds also love this area, giving you a sweet soundtrack to your beach day.
If picking up shark teeth and searching for cool seashells is part of your beach day plans, then walk about a mile north on the beachline to Caspersen Beach. This area is also quiet, with some interesting trinkets to pick up while you’re there.
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The memories you will make on Florida’s west coast last a lifetime, so snag your boat (and a captain, if you’d like) right away. We’ll see you out on the water!
Explore water-travel destinations! Find your next trip at Destination Guides and other boating resources here.
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