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7 Secret Florida Beaches to Visit This Winter

While tourists hibernate, retreat to these underrated sandy spots.

U.S. News & World Report

7 Secret Florida Beaches to Visit This Winter

A boardwalkcurves over the vegetation on the dunes in Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola, Florida.

Escape the winter blues and retreat to underrated beach towns across the state, from Playalinda to Pensacola Beach.(Getty Images).

Longing to visit a secluded shoreline this winter? Regardless of whether you're looking for crystalline shores and swaying palms, beautiful nature trails or unspoiled wildlife sanctuaries, there are plenty of under-the-radar beach hideaways to explore. And while recent tropical storms have impacted much of Florida, particularly the Florida Keys, recovery efforts have helped communities across the state recover rapidly, and many hotels, restaurants, attractions have reopened their doors. So, instead of hibernating this winter, trade sweaters and scarves for swimsuits and sunglasses at these seven secret Florida beaches.

Caladesi Island State Park

To reach this isolated, crowd-free state park in Clearwater, Florida, you'll need to take the ferry from the Dunedin Causeway to the beach. Once you arrive, you'll be rewarded with a remote, undeveloped sandy stretch. Here, you can wander over 1,800 acres of grass flats and mangroves, and roam 650 acres of upland nature trails. Best of all, aside from blindingly white sands and wildlife-watching opportunities, you'll find modern amenities, including a bar and a gift shop.

Crandon Park

Located near South Beach, Key Biscayne's Crandon Park is a family-friendly 808-acre urban park featuring sand dunes, a pristine shoreline and seagrass beds, along with a carousel and an outdoor rink for roller-skating. The waves are gentle, and you'll find plenty to check out away from the water, including historic gardens. And at the end of the day, check out the vibrant nightlife in nearby Miami.

Jupiter Beaches

If you're planning a laid-back sandy retreat with your dog, set your sights on Palm Beach County. At Jupiter Beach Park, you'll find plenty of picnic areas and coastline for Fido to run, sniff and play. Meanwhile, John D. MacArthur State Park is open year-round, and though the park requires a $5 parking fee per vehicle, it's a great place to explore and enjoy bird-watching. If you're looking for a dose of history, Dubois Park boasts an archaeological site listed on the National Register of Historic Places and boasts 1,200 feet of coastline, a 100-foot swimming lagoon, grills and a playground.

Santa Rosa Beach

Think of Santa Rosa Beach as a smaller version of the Bahamas. Here, you'll find turquoise waters lapping at the 26-mile shoreline along the Emerald Coast. The shores offer several entrances to the Point Washington State Forest. What's more, the area offers the perfect place to try paddleboarding. After a stroll on the beach, get your art and culture fix by visiting Santa Rosa's Gulf Place Town Center, home to the area's upscale artists. Rosemary Beach also has many quaint villas and cottages, along with charming cafes, boutiques and bookshops.

Playalinda Beach

Nature enthusiasts will love traveling through a wildlife refuge to reach Playalinda Beach, located along the Cape Canaveral National Seashore. Here, you can catch sight of manatees, loggerhead turtles and bald eagles, among other species. Best of all, the 24-mile-long Playalinda is virtually untouched, and free of traffic, motorized boats and buildings. Stay nearby in Cocoa Beach for access to plenty of restaurants, shops and hotels.

Pensacola Beach

Pensacola Beach's 52-mile-long gulf and shoreline along the Santa Rosa barrier island features a small population and plenty of tranquil sandy areas. Here, you'll find white-sand beaches, turquoise waters and plenty of places to kick back and relax. Best of all, you'll find plenty of affordable accommodations and villas in the area. When you need a break from the sunshine, enjoy shopping or checking out the area's vibrant nightlife. Traveling with kids? Take youngsters to the nearby Gulf Breeze Zoo.

Lovers Key State Park

Want to plan a romantic beach break? Visit Lovers Key, a barrier island on the Gulf Coast. The state park serves as a getaway for couples who are seeking a respite from their hectic lifestyles. Here, you can check out wildlife such as bottlenose dolphins, bald eagles, marsh rabbits and more. Or you can enjoy active pursuits such as hiking and biking, before swimming, sunbathing or picnicking. Couples looking to get out on the water can also enjoy kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding, among and other pastimes.

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About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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