Florida, the southernmost state in the continental US, is still one of my personal favorites, even after visiting 47 of them (I want to visit every state, not just every country). But Florida is more than just Miami and Orlando! The Sunshine State has 12 distinct coastal regions that were attributed a name.
Of course, Florida officially has 2 coasts (on the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico), but they’ve been informally split into 12 different “coasts” since the state is pretty big and has the longest coastline of the contiguous US (1,350 miles or 2,170 kilometers).
I’ll give you a more useful presentation of Florida separately soon (I’ve been 30+ times). Still, I want to at least mention that it’s a 10-hour drive from the northwesternmost point at Perdido Key (at the border with Alabama) and the south in Miami (and even more if you go into the Keys archipelago).
In short, it’s vast and there’s a lot of variety: each of the 12 coasts really has its own vibe. So we continue our look at these 12 named coastal regions, in this part 2 of a 4-post series.
Today we finish off the entire Atlantic coast with the 3 middle coasts that happen to share amazing beaches exactly at the point where they meet.
Map of the 12 coasts of Florida
1-3. Gold Coast, Emerald Coast, First Coast
Read part 1 with the first 3 Florida coasts at the 3 extremities of the state, including the southernmost and the northernmost on the Atlantic coast.
4. Treasure Coast
From Blowing Rocks Preserve to Sebastian Inlet State Park
Location of Florida’s Treasure Coast
Overview of Florida’s Treasure Coast
The very first coast we covered was the Gold Coast (Miami area), so let’s go just north of there. The Treasure Coast borders the greater Miami area and was inspired by the Gold name (Treasure and Gold go together pretty well). But the origin is even more interesting.
The region is named after a Spanish treasure fleet of 11 boats lost here in 1715 during a hurricane. To this day, people are still looking for treasures in this area (on land and in the sea), as coins and artifacts sometimes still wash up on the shores of Florida’s Treasure Coast.
While still being close to the warmer tropical climate of southern Florida, the Treasure Coast is a much more relaxed area with smaller towns and more nature than urban areas.
At the southern end is Jupiter Island. Half of it is in Palm Beach County, part of the Gold Coast. Some definitions include Palm Beach County in the Treasure Coast region instead, but with Miami having grown so much, Palm Beach County is so urbanized and very much part of the Miami metropolitan area.
From there all the way to the northern end of the Treasure Coast in Sebastian Inlet State Park, there are plenty of uncrowded beautiful beaches. Sebastian Inlet itself is beautiful, and that one too is split in 2: the other half is on the next coast, so I’ve included it there instead of here.
Main cities on Florida’s Treasure Coast
Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce, Vero Beach
Airports: Vero Beach (VRB), West Palm Beach (PBI)*, Melbourne (MLB)*
*Outside of the Treasure Coast but close enough that it’s worth comparing prices
Best beaches on Florida’s Treasure Coast
Blowing Rocks Preserve, Jupiter Island
Wabasso Beach (Vero Beach)
South Beach Park (Vero Beach)
Fort Pierce Inlet Beach
Avalon State Park Beach (Fort Pierce)
Stuart Beach (Hutchinson Island)
Ross Witham Beach (Hutchinson Island)
Indian River Beach (Jensen Beach)
Other attractions on Florida’s Treasure Coast
In keeping with the coast’s name, Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge is a unique spot that formally provided shelter and food to shipwrecked sailors.
You can even snorkel a shipwreck in Indian River. That city’s Treasure Museum also tells the story behind the coast’s name. There’s also the Elliott Museum in Stuart which highlights art, history, and technology in the region.
If you enjoy shopping and the quaintness of small towns, head to Hobe Sound for nice boutiques and galleries. The nearby Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge and Nature Center is also great for nature lovers where you can canoe, hike, bike, fish, and take in the peaceful surroundings.
The Savannnas Recreation Area pictured earlier is another great spot to enjoy nature.
While not on the Treasure Coast itself, it’s worth mentioning that just across the county line, the natural area around Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse was the first location in the US east of the Pacific to be designated an Outstanding Natural Area by the government. The West Palm Beach area is full of activities too if you want to drive a little further.
Despite being so close to a major metropolitan area, the Treasure Coast really is full of nature. You can explore the Indian River Lagoon just by the ocean, one of the most biodiverse estuaries in the entire Northern Hemisphere (this one extends into the next coast too, but I included it here to compensate for the fact Sebastian Inlet is listed there).
5. Space Coast
From Sebastian Inlet State Park to Canaveral National Seashore
Location of Florida’s Space Coast
Overview of Florida’s Space Coast
As we continue north, about in the middle of the state, we arrive on the Space Coast. It’s aptly named after the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, both found on Cape Canaveral in this region.
The National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA) operates the KSC and launches rockets and spaceships from here. Even the area code is space-themed: 3-2-1! This coastal area was chosen for the Space Center because it’s closer to the Equator than most of the country, because it has a low population density, and because the ocean acts as a debris catcher for NASA.
Now, the thing I personally hate the most about one of Florida’s main cities, Orlando, is that they built it in the middle of the state! Yes, they have 2000+ kilometers of coastline and they had to put Orlando far from the coast! Insanity!
All this is to say that the Space Coast has the closest beaches for those who are in Orlando to visit the theme parks, or whatever other reason. It’s about 45 minutes away.
The Canaveral National Seashore starts here and extends into the next coast, with secluded beaches without any development on the oceanfront. The Space Coast, like the next coast, is also pretty well-known for surfing, as it’s one of the best spots in Florida for this activity.
Main cities on Florida’s Space Coast
Melbourne, Cocoa Beach, Palm Bay, Titusville
Airports: Melbourne (MLB), Orlando (MCO)*, Orlando-Sanford (SFB)*
*Outside of the Space Coast but close enough that it’s worth comparing prices
Best beaches on Florida’s Space Coast
Sebastian Inlet Beach
Playalinda Beach (Canaveral National Seashore)
Cherie Down Park (Cape Canaveral)
Canova Dog Park (Indian Harbour Beach)
Other attractions on Florida’s Space Coast
Aside from the beaches, the Space Coast has plenty to offer. Start at the visitor’s center for the Kennedy Space Center to learn more about the NASA program, its history, and aeronautics in general. Time your visit with a rocket launch for an absolutely unique experience!
As mentioned, the Space Coast is one of the best places to surf in Florida. You can visit the world’s largest surf shop, the original Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, the city where you’ll also find the very pretty pier from this post’s cover image.
For kids, the Brevard Zoo has a lot of activities like ziplining or kayaking through animal exhibits. Orlando and its theme parks are a quick drive inland (about 1 hour away) too.
The Port Canaveral cruise port just surpassed the Port of Miami to become the world’s busiest, if you like that kind of vacationing.
If you want to discover the artistic and cultural side of the Space Coast, there are a few notable downtown districts to wander around: Cocoa Village, Historic Downtown Titusville, Downtown Melbourne, and Eau Gallie Arts District. That last one has the Outdoor Art Museum with 30 murals and sculptures, along with galleries, restaurants, and more!
There are really a lot of outdoor activities to do. You can see alligators on an airboat ride, go kayaking with manatees, or fishing with dolphins.
You can see sea turtles in a few places and in Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, there are a lot of birds to contemplate.
6. Fun Coast
From Canaveral National Seashore to North Peninsula State Park
Location of Florida’s Fun Coast
Overview of Florida’s Fun Coast
Among the 12 coasts of Florida, the Fun Coast is among the ones where the name is not as widely used.
It’s sometimes called the Surf Coast and even sometimes included with the Space Coast we just saw, but it’s really its own distinct region. The Fun Coast is in fact the Daytona Beach area, so it’s sometimes just called Daytona (or even Halifax area, as they have the Halifax River there, not to be confused with the Nova Scotian capital).
Daytona was once the Spring Break capital of the USA, where a lot of people had a lot of fun. It’s still a fun place with one of the liveliest beaches, but a lot more family-friendly now.
The boardwalk and pier are very popular. Also, many people consider driving fun, and Daytona Beach is one of the only places you can drive directly on the beach!
The Fun Coast area is pretty popular, notably because of the iconic NASCAR race there. Many biker events take place in Daytona Beach too.
As for its alternative name, the Surf Coast, well it’s simply that surfing is excellent here, just like the nearby Space Coast we just covered. And Daytona Beach is also pretty close to Orlando, for those who want to combine multiple destinations.
Main cities on Florida’s Fun Coast
Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Ormond Beach
Airports: Daytona Beach (DAB), Orlando (MCO)*, Orlando-Sanford (SFB)*, Melbourne (MLB)*, Jacksonville (JAX)*
*Outside of the Fun Coast but close enough that it’s worth comparing prices
Best beaches on Florida’s Fun Coast
New Smyrna Beach
Ponce Inlet Beach
Other attractions on Florida’s Fun Coast
Every year, one of NASCAR’s most important races, the Daytona 500, is hosted here at the Daytona Speedway. Many people flock to see the spectacle. It also has a nifty history museum about racing and NASCAR.
New Smyrna Beach is known for being one of the best places for surfing in Florida: it was actually once named in the top 20 surf towns in the entire world. It’s also the world’s shark bite capital, but these are rarely fatal, apparently. Probably adds to the thrill!
It kind of goes without saying since this is Florida we’re talking about, but like most regions, there are great options for golfing. The LPGA International course is highly rated.
To get a great ocean view, head towards the Atlantic Ocean to check out Ponce de Léon Lighthouse, the 3rd-tallest in the USA (the highest will be in part 2 of our itinerary on the beautiful Outer Banks coastal region in North Carolina).
The area surrounding the lighthouse has many activities to offer too, like the Marine Science Center.
Speaking of museums, the Museum of Arts and Sciences is also among the most popular attractions. The area is full of history dating back to the years of plantations and seafaring. You can visit Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens for a tour of an old sugar mill plantation.
And Tomoka State Park has great outdoor opportunities at the other end of the Fun Coast.
Lastly, Ocala National Forest is a quick drive inland (about 1 hour away) if you want something completely different in terms of outdoor activities (as is Orlando at about the same distance too).
Coasts 7-12: Get the rest of the list in your inbox
Winter weather is here, and Florida is always warm (well, almost warm in the northern part). If you want an escape from the cold here in Canada, head to any one of these Florida coasts! You can pick based on your preferences: one of these 8 varied coastal regions will have what you’re looking for. Don’t miss the next part.
What would you like to know about these Florida coasts? Tell us in the comments below.
See the deals we spot: Cheap flights
Explore awesome destinations: Travel inspiration
Learn pro tricks: Travel tips
Discover free travel: Travel rewards
Featured image: Cocoa Beach, on Florida’s Space Coast (photo credit: Florian Schneider)