Sure, we all love a good spa resort or ski trip, but if the relentless winter has worn you down, know that there are balmy breezes, sandy beaches, and palm trees awaiting you in Florida.
February's rounding the bend and spring is not quite ready to make an appearance; I can't think of a better time to the south for a fun family vacation—maybe for the kids' spring break from school. As a mother of two little ones living in Florida, I know the best spots for families on both coasts. Check out my favorite beach destinations for little and big (that means you!) kids alike.
Atlantic Ocean Side
The secluded St. Augustine Beach is a perfect respite from daily life. Photo courtesy the St. Augustine tourism bureau
Where to Play: Though not known as a beach destination, this historical city of St. Augustine is a must-visit with the family. St. Augustine beaches are both secluded and unspoiled with more than 40 miles of scenic coastline where Spanish explorers first set foot hundreds of years ago. Spend the days at the beach and the nights among the cobblestone streets of the historic district. My kids loved the Pirate and Treasure Museum, Old Jail, and Alligator Farm among other city attractions.
Where to Stay: The Hilton Garden Inn at St. Augustine Beach is my go-to hotel for a great location at a budget-friendly rate.
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The pool area, complete with waterfalls, at The Palm Beach Marriott Singer Resort will keep your kids playing in the water all day. Photo by Mandy Carter
Where to Play: Part of The Palm Beaches, Singer Island feels like a private oasis. The wide beaches, turquoise water, and breezy air will leave you feeling relaxed and sun-kissed. Though not a lot of attractions on the island, there are a number of kid-friendly sites to see within a quick drive. Head to Loggerhead Marine Life Center to meet recently rescued sea turtles and catch classes and storytimes during the week. At nearby John D. MacArthur State Park also lies the urban estuary of Lake Worth Lagoon and the Intracoastal Waterway, where you can kayak, canoe, and hike short trails and visit the Nature Center.
Where to Stay: The all-suite Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa is a great beachfront hotel for families with a very child-friendly pool and a kids club.
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The beach at Delray Sands Resort is a perfect area for family bodyboarding. Photo courtesy of the resort
Where to Play: Small beach town, big personality: Delray Beach was voted Most Fun Small Town in America by USA Today. When not enjoying the white-sand beaches and delicious local restaurants, check out the unique Morikami Japanese Gardens. Take your fun indoors at the Silverball Museum for some unique family entertainment with modern and old-school arcade games or drive to Boca Raton to visit the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.
Where to Stay: Delray Sands is a great beachfront boutique hotel with the perfect combination of upscale and coziness. For a larger hotel with all the amenities you could ask for, stay at the Delray Beach Marriott.
Maragritaville Hollywood Beach Resort has everything a family needs for a relaxing vacation. Photo courtesy of the resort
Where to Play: This family-friendly South Florida beach destination provides a wide beach with a great broadwalk to bike, rollerblade, or just take an evening stroll before stopping in at one of the many local beachfront restaurants. Hop on the FREE Hollywood Trolley and head south to John U. Lloyd State Park, where you can take a kayak tour of Whiskey Creek.
Where to Stay: My favorite family-friendly hotel on Hollywood Beach is the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, which offers complimentary chairs and umbrellas on prime beach space in front of the hotel. There are three pools, a Flow Rider, and a hut to rent kayaks and paddle boards for exploring the mangroves of the intercoastal waterways. For a more luxurious family stay, The Diplomat will not disappoint.
The water and waves at South Beach are breathtaking. Photo by Mandy Carter
Where to Play: Yes, it may sound surprising but I enjoy South Beach with my kids. Avoid wilder crowds by going during winter (as opposed to spring break). If rain arrives or the kids need a break from the waves, take some time to explore the Miami Children's Museum, located just over the bridge from Miami Beach.The Miami Seaquarium is an amusement park, museum, educational program, and rescue center all in one and a must visit with kids who love sealife.
Where to Stay: Hotel Victor is a beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of South Beach. Though swanky, it's great for families because of its walkable location, beach playground across the street, shallow heated pool, and Sugar Factory restaurant located right off the hotel lobby. Another great accommodation option is Casa Victoria Orchid, a boutique hotel located on the historic Espanola Way.
Where to Play: Often known for its golf courses and plentiful high-end shopping, Naples, Florida is also perfect family vacation destination. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, in the Southwest region of Florida, the beaches of Naples offer miles of gentle waves, soft white sand, and beautiful warm weather year-round. Besides the abundance of beaches, we never get bored in Naples with its family-friendly attractions and activities! The Naples Zoo and Caribbean Gardens is a fantastic way to spend half a day exploring nature. If you have younger children, you won't want to skip the Golisano’s Children’s Museum of Naples. For waterside activities, the area offers great shelling, calm kayaking, and good fishing off the Naples Pier.
Where to Stay: My favorite beachfront hotel in Naples is the Edgewater: It’s an all-suite, boutique hotel in a convenient location. The Ritz Carlton Naples is also a great family-friendly beachfront hotel that offers kids club activities.
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Golf carts are on hand at the South Seas Island Resort to move around easily and quickly, especially if you have little ones. Photo courtesy of the resort
Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Where To Play: There are so many beaches that feel private and secluded on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, located right outside of Fort Myers. My favorite spot to take the kids is near the Sanibel Lighthouse where the waves are calm and the shells are plentiful. Rent bikes for a day to explore the entire island, making sure to stop at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Center. Our family’s favorite beach to watch the sunset is at the Mucky Duck in Captiva. The Sanibel Sea School is an interactive way to get the kids involved in marine ecosystems while having fun.
Where To Stay: The South Seas Island Resort will be the luxurious island escape of your dreams. This expansive resort has everything you need on property for the entire family to have an excellent beach vacation.
The waterfall at the Children's Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby's Botanical Gardens is 12-feet-high and cascades down rocks covered in lush plants. Photo courtesy of the garden
Where To Play: One of the eight barrier islands of Sarasota, Siesta Key beach is continually voted as one of the best beaches in the U.S. The sand is 99% pure quartz, which makes it sugar-fine, uber soft, and cool on the feet. It's easy to spend a day here with the FREE parking, calm waves, beach volleyball courts, large playground, picnic tables, and nice outdoor showers. Take a day to explore the nearby family-friendly attractions like the Ringling Museum and the Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Where To Stay: To take advantage of this beautiful, relaxing beach destination, I suggest condo-style accommodations on the beach. Hyatt Residence Club is a great place for the entire family to spread out or consider renting one of the many rental homes available in the area.
The turtle presentation at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, featuring rescued turtles, will warm your heart. Photo courtesy of the aquarium
Where To Play: A great add-on to an Orlando vacation, Clearwater Beach is beautiful and family-friendly. When taking a break from the sunshine and sand, plan a few hours at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. When evening rolls around, head to Pier 60 for a wonderful sunset celebration with artisans, crafters, street performers and more. To see the Gulf from a different perspective, go on an adventure with Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise.
Where To Stay: The Hilton Clearwater Beach hotel is next to Pier 60, making it an excellent location for evening activities with the kids. This comfortable and modern hotel makes it easy to have a car-free vacation.
Top photo courtesy of South Seas Island Resort
For more warm-weather escapes, check out our complete Florida Family Vacation Guide.