Best Beaches in Florida | Sarasota County

Since moving to NC over a decade ago, we’ve been to Florida more times than I can count. Like so many times that our friends have joked that we should be part-year residents. But anyway, after countless trips to Florida, from Pensacola to the tip of Key West, I can say without a doubt that Sarasota County has the BEST beaches in Florida.

pin image for best beaches in Florida

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Siesta Key Beach sign

Our first experience with Sarasota beaches was at Siesta Key Beach – often named the #1 beach in the US. This beach is pure magic with its sparkling powdered sugar sand . . .

Siesta Key Beach with kids

The sand is nearly 100% quartz-crystal, and it never gets hot. Seriously, we visited in July, and the sand was cool to the touch – it reminded me of the sand at White Sands National Park (which is gypsum sand).

smiling girl Florida beaches with kids

There are hardly any waves which is great if you’re traveling with youngsters. Even though there are minimal waves to jump in and you certainly cannot surf, Siesta Key Beach is perfect if you’re looking to relax. If you are looking for those big waves, Carolina Beach on the NC coast is one of our faves!

smiling kids best florida beaches

Now, the lack of waves doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to do at Siesta Key Beach. It’s quite the contrary, actually. We saw plenty of people parasailing, and there are lots of companies offering dolphin and sunset cruises.

girl on sugary sand of Siesta Key Beach

Sometimes it’s nice to just hang out in the sand . . .

best beaches in Florida Siesta Key Sarasota County

Or go out into the big, blue sea with your big bros!

Eating Wawa at the beach

And it’s always a good time for a sandwich from Wawa! While there is food available from the Siesta Key Beach Pavillion – where they have a fairly extensive menu! – we almost always bring sandwiches to the beach. With a larger family, packing our food in for the day is quite a bit cheaper, and it frees up room in our budget to get treats!

snowcone at Siesta Key Beach

The snowcones at Siesta Key Beach come in these fantastic cups designed to catch all the drips! And at less than $5, they’re not a bad deal for the size!


searching for shark teeth in Sarasota County

About thirty minutes south of Siesta Key Beach, we found a small parking pull-out off Harbor Drive and a trail to get down to South Brohard Beach. While Brohard Beach (the only beach in Sarasota County that allows dogs!) and Caspersen Beach are known for having an abundance of shark teeth, they can also get crowded. Our hope was that we’d avoid the crowds by going to a smaller beach between the two.

storm rolling in over Venice Beach

And boy, did that pay off! We had the beach virtually to ourselves, especially once a storm started rolling in.

Girl with fierce look Brohard Beach

Working on her “fierce” face. She was concerned that there would be sharks around since this beach had a reputation of being full of shark teeth. Rest assured, we didn’t see a single shark over the course of the several hours we were there.

searching for shark teeth Venice Beach

The kids spent hours coming through the sand and shells, looking for shark teeth. We didn’t have the proper equipment – next time, I’d make sure to bring something to scoop and sift – but that didn’t deter the kids at all.

Shark teeth in Venice Beach

And we were successful! We only found a couple of shark teeth, but it left the kids wanting to come back again, and that’s always a good sign in my book!

empty Brohard Beach in Sarasota County

Just as quickly as the storm rolled in, it blew by, and we were back to blue skies… and still had the beach to ourselves! The kids were getting hungry for dinner, so we packed up and called it a day, but this would be a gorgeous place to watch the sunset. In fact, I think next time we’ll pack some sandwiches and do just that!

What’s your favorite beach in Florida?? Have you ever looked for shark teeth before??

Driftwood Beach | Jekyll Island, GA

Y’know how sometimes you figure out where you want to go and then decide what you want to see while you’re there? Well, for our visit to Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island, Georgia, I did just the opposite. After seeing pictures of Driftwood Beach online, I knew I wanted to check it out and planned a trip just so that we could visit!

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exposed tree roots Driftwood Beach sunburst

Driftwood Beach, located on the north end of Jekyll Island, is part of Georgia’s famed Golden Isles and is considered one of the top beaches in the country. What was once a forest by the sea is now a sandy beach full of driftwood.

climbing on driftwood sunburst georgia

Decades of erosion led to these pine and oak trees falling and decaying gradually over time. The bleached and weathered wood is perfect for climbing – the kids thought the downed trees were their own personal playgrounds.

smiling kids on driftwood beach jekyll island

We arrived from nearby St Simons Island where we were staying at the King and Prince Resort just in time to watch the sun set behind the trees.

smiling girl driftwood

The kids had a blast climbing on the massive driftwood branches – honestly, they probably could have spent the day here climbing around and exploring.

visiting driftwood beach with kids

Once the sun dipped below the horizon, the skies looked like they were painted with the colors melting into each other. The beach cleared out quickly after sunset and it felt like we had the beach to ourselves.

driftwood beach jekyll island georgia with kids

With as beautiful sunset was at Driftwood Beach, next time I want to make sure to visit for sunrise. Driftwood Beach is a favorite spot for photographers and weddings and it’s very easy to see why!

moon over driftwood beach jekyll island

The driftwood closer to the water was covered in barnacles so be careful if climbing barefoot because they can be sharp. Ellie HATED the barnacles and refused to go anywhere near them – hence a picture with 4/5 of the kids.

moon over driftwood beach

Goodnight from Driftwood Beach. I’ve heard that Driftwood Beach is great for night sky photography so that’s on my list for a future visit, too! Have you been to Driftwood Beach before?? Or the Golden Isles??


  • Parking for Driftwood Beach is right off of N. Beachview Drive and is free – it does cost $8 to access Jekyll Island per vehicle/per day.
  • Check a tide chart before you visit. The best time to explore Driftwood Beach is on an outgoing tide or at low tide.
  • Wading and fishing are allowed though the water is kind of a murky brown color from the surrounding marshes, swamps, and rivers. Swimming is not recommended due to the currents.
  • Keep an eye out for alligators. We didn’t see any but I’ve always wanted to see one strolling along the beach!
  • Driftwood is protected so you need to leave it on the beach.

Beach Must Haves

After countless beach trips with our crew, I’ve come up with our list of beach must-haves. I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill things like bathing suits and towels, but those things that you absolutely need for the beach but might otherwise forget about.

Beach Must Haves pin

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Sharkbanz shark deterrent bands

First on the list are Sharkbanz. The kids and I watched Jaws right before our girls’ beach trip to Carolina Beach, and Ellie was a bit nervous about getting in the water. Thankfully, Sharkbanz sent us a couple of their new bands to try out, and that was all Ellie needed to convince her to get in the water!

Sharks use electroreception to navigate and hunt, especially at night or in murky water. From a fish to a swimmer, everything in the water generates a weak electromagnetic signal when moving, and sharks utilize that information to attack. Sharkbanz uses patented magnetic technology to deter sharks by creating a strong electromagnetic field that disrupts a shark’s electroreceptors.

Underwater Camera

Smiling girl at the beach with a GoPro HERO8 and Sharkbanz

One of our newest beach must-haves is a GoPro for those fun underwater/soaking wet pictures and for Ellie to record videos for the YouTube channel that she so desperately wants. While we have the GoPro HERO8, and I love that you don’t need a separate housing to mount it, I know other people that have older (and less expensive!) models that LOVE them as well! The GoPro HERO9 just came out, and it has some impressive upgrades like recording in 5k and detachable lenses.

Beach Rentals

Smiling family at the beach with rented beach chairs and umbrellas

While we have beach chairs and umbrellas, I’ve decided that renting gear at the beach is the way to go after many trips lugging gear all over the place. Not only can you eliminate a lot of extra “stuff” in your vehicle (which is how the 6 of us were able to take a trip to Carolina Beach in the Mazda CX-9), but you don’t have to deal with carrying chairs and umbrellas back and forth to the beach. And even more important, your car doesn’t end up looking like a sandbox after you bring back half the sand from the beach at the end of your trip!

Beach chair and umbrella rentals Carolina Beach NC

If you’re ever in Carolina Beach, NC, I cannot recommend Tony Silvagni Beach Rentals highly enough. Our chairs and umbrellas were set up on the beach well before the advertised time of 9am, and if you spring for the MVP package (which you totally should!), they don’t pick up your gear until 7pm. The extra couple hours of beach time are glorious since the beach clears out around dinnertime.

Girl with bodyboard at the beach

In addition to chairs and umbrellas, you can also rent things like bodyboards, surfboards, and paddleboards at the beach. We rented bodyboards one afternoon while we were at Carolina Beach, and the girls had a blast! The big kids had fun taking them out to the bigger waves, and the littles liked using them where the waves were crashing. Totally well worth the $5 for a 5-hour rental fee!!

Beach Toys

Girls playing in the water at the beach and on the sand with bodyboards and beach toys

While we typically rent chairs and umbrellas, we still bring an assortment of beach toys from our house. Over the years, we’ve amassed quite the beach toy collection, and while these aren’t the exact sets we have, these and these are ones that I would definitely buy. I always make sure to order a couple of larger shovels because the big kids can dig faster/deeper with them.

Sunscreen, Obv, but this one’s our fave

Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen

I mean, everyone knows that you need sunscreen for the beach – or at least, I hope they do! – and Neutrogena Beach Defense 70 is hands down our favorite. While I also bring along a spray sunscreen, nothing beats the coverage of a lotion, especially on a windy day at the beach, especially if you have the next product!

Moon Block Sunscreen Applicator

Pink Moon Block Sunscreen Applicator

Oh my gosh, this one was a total sunscreen gamechanger for me. I bought one for our last beach trip, and I honestly don’t know how we survived without it for so long. The Moon Block Sunscreen Applicator makes applying sunscreen SO. MUCH. EASIER. You just put sunscreen on the applicator, then apply the product in stroke-like motions until it’s blended. This made it so much easier to apply sunscreen to myself and the kids as well, and for the first time, they didn’t get a sunburn because I missed a spot! There’s a 2-pack available on Amazon that I cannot recommend highly enough!

What’s your must-have beach item?? Any special tips to share??

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