12 Warmest Beaches in Florida This Winter (Rated by Locals)

Topdown view of a white sand beach on Sanibel Island during Sunset in winter with turquoise water and dark green bushes

Want to up your swimming game for an upcoming triathlon? Want to get your toddlers familiar with ocean water without risking them catching a cold? There are many reasons for seeking warmth during winter, and Florida has you covered! As the state with the most temperature climate all year round, there is plenty of beach fun to be had without shivering! Some beaches in Florida are even more ideal for visiting during the winter. There may be less seaweed, fewer tourists, more animals in mating season, and flocks of birds arriving from the North! We identified a dozen beaches that guarantee warm air and sea temperatures all year round.

What are the warmest beaches in florida in December?

In Florida, the warmest beaches in December are Miami South Beach, Tigertail Beach, and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. Each of these locations boasts average air temperatures above 75 °F, with Miami South Beach being the warmest at 76.3 °F. The sea temperatures at these beaches are also warm, with Miami South Beach and Tigertail Beach averaging at 76.7 °F and 76.3 °F, respectively.

What are the warmest beaches in florida in January?

In January, the warmest beaches remain largely the same, with Miami South Beach continuing to be the warmest. Despite a slight drop in temperature, it still boasts an average air temperature of 74.9 °F and a sea temperature of 74.7 °F.

Overview of the warmest winter beaches all over Florida

Here is a table that shows the average air and sea temperature in Fahrenheit for December and January. The rightmost column indicates the average of the other four values.

BeachDecember avg. temperature (°F)January avg. temperature (°F)December avg. sea temperature (°F)January avg. sea temperature (°F)Total avg. temperature score (°F)
Miami South Beach76.374.976.774.775.7
Tigertail Beach76.174.576.374.075.2
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park75.974.475.172.574.5
Sanibel Island Beach75.674.073.970.873.6
Bowman’s Beach75.674.073.970.873.6
Smathers Beach72.369.677.075.073.5
Fort Zachary Taylor Beach71.669.877.075.073.4
Playalinda Beach71.269.075.773.772.4
Fort De Soto Park71.669.372.268.770.5
Caladesi Island State Park71.568.671.467.969.9
Vilano Beach60.455.466.962.861.4
Grayton Beach55.451.868.365.060.1

As you can see, Miami’s South Beach takes the cake in terms of overall warmth. Likely due to its vicinity to a large city.

Let’s plot these 12 beaches on a map and see if we can find some more patterns:

It is no surprise that the southern beaches tend to be warmer. We still included Vilano and Grayton on these maps, as these are relatively warm and your best bet if you live near Jacksonville or Tallahassee.

The beaches in Key West, like Fort Zachary Taylor and Smathers Beach, may not be the warmest for sunbathing, but they have the highest water temperatures. Likely due to the incoming currents from the Caribbean. 

1. Miami South Beach

The concrete-laden southern tip of Miami does not only accommodate tons of beach goers. It also functions as an “urban oven”. Thus, it is no surprise that nearby areas, such as South Beach, are hot all year round. While this may be unbearable during the summer months, many people enjoy South Beach as a convenient winter getaway when temperatures rarely dip below 75°F.  There are friendly lifeguards on duty during the day. While parking is free, the spots are limited, and you will likely have trouble finding a spot after 10 am. Bring your own chairs and umbrellas, as renting them s expensive (up to $20 per rental item). 

Besides swimming and surfing, South Beach is also great for:

  • Visiting the large playground
  • Strolling in Lummus park
  • Renting bikes for $5 to ride up and down the beach walk
  • Strolling along the boardwalk
  • Exploring the 50-year-old Botanical Garden (plenty of blooming action in the winter)
  • Speed boat tours
  • Parasailing
  • Renting a jet ski
  • Renting a segway to ride along the famous beach strip

2. Tigertail Beach

Tigertail is a picturesque white sand beach featuring a stunning lagoon and plenty of wildlife. It is located on Marco Island, which has fallen victim to overly ambitious cookie-cutter real estate projects. 

Nevertheless, the beach itself is a paradise for nature enthusiasts. The tidal pools and the beach boast high biodiversity that consists of over 200 bird species and plenty of marine animals that live in the intertidal zone. You may also see the occasional group of dolphins. 

There is a stunning trail that you can hike on during the winter months. The refreshing, salty breeze will make you want to take deep breaths. Another benefit of visiting during winter is the increased chance of spotting falcons, pelicans, ospreys and albatrosses nesting in the mangroves in front of Tigertail Beach. Definitely bring your binoculars!

Tigertail Beach on Marco Island is part of the Ten Thousand Islands and can be reached in slightly over 2 hours from Miami via. Highway 41. The parking fee is $10, and it takes quite a while to get to the beach from the parking lot.

Suggested activities besides swimming in the lukewarm water:

  • Birdwatching
  • Tidepooling
  • Beachcombing
  • Hiking
  • Paddleboarding and Kayaking
  • Shelling (There are plenty of sand dollars)

3. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park features a secluded beach that is a fantastic place to take a refreshing swim or a relaxing snorkeling trip. The wildlife here is world-class, and even if you forgot your snorkeling gear, you may see a wide variety of land, and sea animals, such as:

  • Dolphins
  • Raccoons
  • Tortoises
  • Starfish
  • Gophers
  • Pelicans

It is a 40 minutes drive from Fort Myers to reach this park. Parking is ample, and veterans only pay $4 for a day pass.  The standard day pass costs $6 per vehicle. The beach area is open from 8 am till sundown. The accommodation options near this park are a great bang for your buck and accommodate luxury travelers and larger families. They are also a fantastic base for day trips into the Everglades. Unfortunately, many beautiful vacation rentals have been completely wiped out by hurricane Ian.

Recommended winter activities:

  • RV camping
  • Taking the mile-long nature trail to the observation tower
  • Scuba diving and snorkeling
  • Picnicking and BBQing (bring your own charcoal!)
  • Paddleboarding and kayaking

4. Sanibel Island Beach

Sanibel Island has many cool beaches, but this is the main one. Many beachcombers visit Sanibel Island beach to look for intricate shells. Unfortunately, the water is plagued with seaweed, which makes swimming unpleasant. So you may want to rent a floaty if getting tickled by seaweed creeps you out. The first 20 meters of the water are incredibly shallow, which makes this beach ideal for playing water polo or splashing with toddlers in floaties. Opportunities for shade are limited, so bring your umbrella and sunscreen for the kids. The sun can be incredibly strong even during winter.

Sanibel Beach can be reached by car within 35 minutes of downtown Fort Myers. Parking is challenging and expensive. It costs $5 an hour, and you will likely have difficulties finding an empty space after 10 am. If you get tired of all the seaweed, head east towards Bowman’s beach (a 15-minute drive). Speaking of Bowman’s…

5. Bowman’s Beach

Bowman’s Beach is another fantastic place on Sanibel Island that features lukewarm ocean water all year round. Like most beaches on Sanibel Island, parking is costly at $5 per hour per vehicle, but you get your money’s worth as it’s one of the cleanest and most well-maintained beaches. We suggest you empty your bladder before driving here as the path to the toilets is long and very hot (a no-go if you’re barefoot), even in winter! The beach is less than ideal for snorkeling, as the visibility is abysmal. Swimming is nice, however, as the water tends to be much calmer on this side of the island, and there is also no seaweed infestation here. You also stand a good chance of spotting dolphins, sea turtles, and pelicans here during the winter months. The real highlight of this beach is the manatee families that frequent the brack water.

It takes around 45 minutes to drive to Bowman’s from downtown Fort Myers. The toll road costs $6. Don’t forget your mosquito repellent if you plan on watching the sunset here.

Recommended activities:

  • Barbecuing
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking on various nature trails
  • Watching the Sunsets
  • Beachcombing

6. Smathers Beach

If you’re a competitive swimmer and looking for a place to train in lukewarm water during the winter, look no further than this beach! The water around Smathers Beach is around 76 °F in the winter months. The beach itself offers fun activities and plenty of clean amenities. The warm, clear waters are also protected from oceanic currents, making them a welcoming destination for casual snorkelers. The entire beach is dotted with lush palm trees that provide plenty of shade, although you will likely have to move your towels every half an hour if you want to avoid the sun. 

While this beach seems like paradise on the surface, there are a few downsides to it:

  • There is quite a lot of stinky Sargasso seaweed in the winter months when the winds blow in from the south
  • The beach is frequented by homeless people, who often occupy the bathrooms all day (except for when they actually need a bathroom!)
  • The bed is rocky, so definitely wear swim shoes if you want to take a stroll in knee-deep water.

Getting to Smathers Beach in Key West will take a bit over 3 hours from Miami. The free parking spaces are limited, but the paid parking spots are not too expensive.

Recommended activities:

  • Volleyball
  • Windsurfing
  • Jet skiing
  • Paddleboarding
  • Kayaking
  • Snorkeling
  • Renting a sailboat

7. Fort Zachary Taylor Beach

This beach is the southernmost point of the entire continental United States, so it is no surprise that you will enjoy a temperate climate here all year round. The beach is known for its pristine waters, which are also home to a coral reef. The beach is quite rocky, so don’t forget to bring water shoes and avoid open-toed shoes or slippers. You will remember you are close to the Caribbean once you see the large iguanas sunbathing on the rocks. They also have the mating season in December. Surfing here is not possible since there are virtually no waves.

You will have to drive 3 hours and 15 minutes from Miami to reach Fort Zachary. We recommend staying in Key West for at least two days to make the travel time and toll fees worthwhile. Parking here costs $6 per car and $5 per motorbike. You will have no problem finding a spot, especially in the winter.

Recommended activities: 

  • Snorkeling
  • Hiking on the nature trails
  • Visit the old Fort Zachary
  • Beachcombing
  • Mountain Iguanas
  • Picnicking
  • Bring your hammock – plenty of trees to hang them!

8. Playalinda Beach

Playalinda is a vast, windy beach with lush-green grassy dunes. It is a tranquil and secluded beach with temperature conditions located at the doorstep of Orlando near the NASA space shuttle facility. Whether you are looking to swim or sunbathe, definitely bring your bug repellant and watch out for nasty animals, such as horseflies, mosquitoes, and jellyfish.

Playalinda beach is a one-hour drive from Orlando, making it an ideal location for a relaxing day trip with family or friends. The parking + entrance fee for this beach is $20 per vehicle. Thus, it is the most expensive winter beach on this list. It’s also only open until 6 pm. If you overstay by just a few minutes, you are risking a $155 fine!

Besides hoping to witness a rocket launch, there are plenty of other fun activities at this beach during winter:

  • Surfing (not ideal for beginners, though!)
  • Naturist bathing (the beach has a clothing-optional section)
  • Hiking to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which is a vast habitat featuring over 1500 different species of animals and plants. Highlights include Bobcats, alligators, manatees, and turtles
  • Spotting turtles

9. Fort De Soto Park

The beach at Fort De Soto, located near St. Petersburg, is a haven for outdoor lovers as there are tons of activities you can pursue both year-round. December and January mark the ideal time for animal-oriented activities, such as looking for dolphins or manatees. The beach is not only dog-friendly but also frequented by especially friendly dogs. They are obviously happy to be there! Don’t forget your camera and telephoto lens to snap some sweet photos of all the flamboyant birds resting on this beach for a quick pit stop. Alcohol is not allowed, and this rule is strictly enforced by the local rangers. 

If you plan to visit Fort De Soto Park, check the event calendar online. This park frequently hosts festivals, so make sure to avoid these days if you are simply longing for an ordinary winter beach day.

It only takes around 20 minutes to get there from St. Petersburg, but you should definitely stay a while once you’re there, as the tolls and parking fees add up.  Entrance fee to the park is $5

Recommended activities:

  • Biking
  • Kayaking
  • Snorkeling
  • Barbecuing
  • Dolphin-watching
  • Bird watching
  • Exploring the old fort
  • Searching for unique shells

10. Caladesi Island State Park

This barrier island seemingly has it all. White sand, azure blue waters, stunning wildlife, and a pristine intimate mangrove forest. It is quite challenging to reach this beach, but this is precisely the reason why it is so peaceful and quiet there. We only saw a dozen other people on the entire island during our visit. There is an extensive grid of trails that divide the entire island into bite-sized hikes. Pets are forbidden on the beach. As with many beaches adjacent to mangrove forests, you should bring your bug spray!

Driving from both Tampa and St. Petersburg to the Ferry Port near Caladesi Island takes around 40 minutes by car. We were unlucky and got stuck in traffic in West Tampa due to construction projects. It is impossible to reach the Island by car. The ferry ride costs $15 from Honeymoon State Park per vehicle. Parking typically runs you around $8. This is quite hefty, but the park itself is incredibly well-maintained. 

Recommended activities:

  • Exploring the mangroves by canoe or kayak
  • Exploring the ruins.
  • Hiking all across the island
  • Snorkeling

11. Vilano Beach

Vilano Beach is admittedly not that warm, but it is your best bet if you are looking for a tolerable swim near Jacksonville during December or January.  The locals here are amiable, and the beach also tolerates dogs and 4×4 vehicles (a rare occurrence in Florida nowadays!) Vilano Beach is completely exposed to the merciless swell of the Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, it is only suitable for seasoned swimmers.

The beach is great for a short casual trip, as it is only a 45 minutes drive from Jacksonville without any tolls. Parking is also ample and completely free!

Recommended activities:

  • Surfing
  • Watching the sunrise
  • Combing through the beach for seashells, sand dollars, and shark teeth

12. Grayton Beach

If you’re an aspiring triathlete from Tallahassee looking to keep training your swimming during the winter, you will likely need to flock over to Grayton Beach. Otherwise, you can probably skip this one. The beach has white sand and dark green waters. The water is slightly refreshing, but still tolerable and warmer than other beach areas nearby. 

The unique coastal dune lakes at Grayton Beach are more suitable for swimming than the ocean itself. The beach is wheelchair accessible and is the starting point of many stunning trails through the nearby forests.

You will need to drive for around 2.5 hours to reach Grayton Beach from Tallahassee. From Memorial to Labor Day, the entrance is free. On other days, it is $5 per vehicle and $2 per bicycle, which is more than reasonable, considering the amenities are well looked after and clean.

Recommended activities:

  • Snorkeling
  • Looking for sea turtles in the dune lakes (they lay their eggs on the beach during winter)
  • Swimming out the reef close by
  • Renting a SUP
  • Riding the bike along the trails and visiting watercolor beach
  • Dashing down the dunes!

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