Florida Beaches can generally be divided into seven regions (clockwise from top left): The Northwest Region, or Panhandle, the North Central Region or Nature Coast, the Northeast Region, the East Central Region, The Southeast Region, the Southwest Region, and the Tampa Bay Region (the South Central Region is not germane to Beach Family Portraits, unless you consider the shores of Lake Okeechobee a beach!).
I have lived in, visited, traveled through, worked in and/or vacationed in pretty much all of these regions at some point, so in this section I’ll give you a quick rundown of the popular beaches and general “feel” of each area, and provide some links for further research. I also encourage you to research the Chambers of Commerce and other sources such as Beach Hunter’s listing of the Best Florida Beaches before making a final decision on where to shoot your Florida Beach Family Portraits.
The Northwest Region (aka: The Panhandle)
The Florida Panhandle stretches form the Florida/Alabama border in Escambia County, near Pensacola, to east of Apalachicola and south of Tallahassee. This region is home to the following popular beach resorts (from west to east): Pensacola Beach, Navarre Beach, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Sandestin, Seaside, Panama City Beach, and a few less-populated beach destinations around Apalachicola.
You could certainly do worse than to have your Family Portraits in the beautiful beaches of Florida’s panhandle, often referred to as The Emerald Coast. This area literally has it all, from mid-sized cities with all of the usual dining and entertainment, to busy spring break and summer Family Portraits tourist destinations, to small intimate beach towns. And of course, there is Florida’s capital, Tallahassee (though it’s nowhere near the beach)!
This region has the added bonus of being easily accessible by car from most of the Southeastern United States, especially Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia, and is also easily accessible by air via four mid-sized regional airports (Pensacola Regional Airport, Okaloosa Regional Airport, Panama City-Bay County International Airport, and Tallahassee Regional Airport).
The North Central Region (aka: The Nature Coast)
The North Central Region, aptly named Florida’s Nature Coast, doesn’t have a single large city to speak of. As the name suggests, this is the place to Family Portraits if you want to spend time in a natural setting, swim with the manatees, hunt, fish, hike, bike, etc. There are several popular Nature Coast Beaches if this sounds like your cup of tea.
This region is home to the quaint and memorable fishing village of Cedar Key, as well as such popular tourist destinations as Silver Springs, Weeki-Wachee Springs and the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, and is one of the few places in Florida where you can take your horse on vacation!
The Northeast Region
The Northeast region, anchored by the sprawling City of Jacksonville, is home to a multitude of beaches suitable for your Florida Beach Family Portraits. These include: Fernandina Beach, Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Palm Coast, and, Flagler Beach, among others.
This region is also home to the historic City of St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, which lays claim to its own beach as well (though this area is governed by the separate city government of St. Augustine Beach – a common convention through the State of Florida).
I really can't say enough bout St. Augustine. It's a scenic, historic town with lots to see and several romantic bed and breakfasts and the usual smattering of hotels. Be sure to visit the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and let me know if you come across the Fountain of Youth!
This region is easily accessible by car, particularly for visitors from Georgia and South Carolina, and is served by Jacksonville International Airport.
The East Central Region
Florida’s East Central Region, anchored by the Cities of Orlando and Daytona Beach, is the gateway for the majority of visitors to the state, primarily due to it being the home of the world famous Walt Disney World theme parks.
The Orlando area is also home to Universal Orlando (formerly known as Universal Studios), which has three theme parks of its own, as well as Sea World and literally hundreds of other smaller tourist attractions. The nearest beaches are about an hour east of Orlando, as are the world famous Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral.
Daytona Beach is well known to auto racing enthusiasts as the home of Daytona International Speedway. Best known as the site of the annual Daytona 500, the track actually holds a variety of racing events throughout the year and also boasts the Daytona 500 Experience, an interactive motorsports attraction adjacent to the track that is open to visitors year-round.
As far as Beach Family Portraits go, this area has several good options. Ormond Beach, to the north of Daytona, is a suitable area for your Florida Beach Family Portraits, as are New Smyrna Beach and Cocoa Beach to the south. Port Canaveral, also in this area, is a popular cruise ship terminal, and Lighthouse Point Park near Daytona Beach was named the ninth best beach in America in 2007!
Daytona Beach itself has the somewhat unique distinction of being one of the only beaches in Florida to allow cars to drive on the beach. This is in homage to its heritage as auto racing Mecca (auto races were literally held on Daytona Beach from the 1930s until the construction of the speedway in the 1950s), and it is limited to certain areas of the beach and certain times of day. Daytona is also home to Bike Week each year.
The Southeast Region
The Southeast Region is lined with several suitable beaches for your Florida Beach Family Portraits, including: Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie, Jupiter, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale, and Hollywood. But this area is best known for Miami Beach and the Florida Keys: two areas at opposite ends of the “laid back” spectrum.
The hustle and bustle of the City of Miami and the nightlife of Miami Beach are unmatched in Florida. Miami is a large multi-cultural city with strong ties to South America, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, is a major cruise ship port, and can be a ton of fun if that’s what you’re looking for.
On the flip side, you can’t get much more laid back than the Florida Keys, just a few miles away. Anywhere from Key Largo to Key West (about 100 miles on the Overseas Highway, which boasts 42 bridges and hundreds of stunning views along the way!) it is almost impossible to find a bad beach for a Florida Beach Family Portraits. But keep in mind, most of the night life and culture is centered around Key West. The Upper Keys, as we call them, are generally slower-paced fishing, diving, and watersports getaways.
Key West deserves a paragraph all its own. A fishing, shipping, and salvage depot up until the Mid-1800s, Key West is closer to Cuba (94 miles to the south) than to the nearest major U.S. city, Miami (129 miles to the north). It retains much of this isolationist attitude, and even staged a mock succession from the United States in 1982. To this day, you can get a souvenir passport if you’re willing to declare your allegiance to The Conch Republic!
The heart of Key West is Duval Street, in the city’s Old Town district. Lined with bars, restaurants, and shops, it is the center of tourist activity and a lively place at any time of day or night. Adjacent to Duval Street is Mallory Square. If you are lucky enough to be nearby in the late afternoon, don’t miss the nightly Key West Sunset Celebration!
As previously mentioned, Key West is easily accessible by car via US1 (aka: the Overseas Highway), and Key West International Airport is served by most major carriers.
The Southwest Region
North and west of the infamous Florida Everglades and sits the Southwest Region of Florida, home to Naples and Fort Meyers. A little slower-paced than its neighboring Tampa Bay region to the north, this area is a great place for a Florida Beach Family Portraits.
Marco Island, about 15 miles south of Naples, is the southernmost beach in this region suitable for a Florida Beach Family Portraits. From there, working your way north, you come across Naples, Fort Meyers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Pine Island, Englewood-Cape Haze, Venice Beach, Siesta Key, Longboat Key, Bradenton Beach, and Anna Maria Island. All are gorgeous Florida beaches worthy of your consideration if you are planning a Florida Beach Family Portraits in this region!
This region also boasts an impressive balance of both naturalist pleasures and upscale city attractions such as Myakka River State Park, Lake Manatee Recreation Area, The Gamble Plantation, the Ringling Museum, the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates, and the upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment district of St. Armand’s Circle.
The Tampa Bay Region
Last, but certainly not least, we come to the Tampa Bay Region. Situated around its namesake Tampa Bay Estuary, Tampa Bay is yet another popular departure point for cruise ships. The Tampa Bay Region it is anchored by the Cities of Tampa, Saint Petersburg, and Clearwater, with literally dozens of smaller municipalities sprinkled in between.
The Tampa Bay Region is a popular tourist destination for visitors from all over the United States, as well as the United Kingdom and Germany. And it happens to be my home, and the home of Simple Treasures: Portrait and Wedding Photography, Serving St Pete Beach and Tampa Bay! (don’t say I didn’t warn you).
It is also the home of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, the Florida Aquarium, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Sunken Gardens, the Don Cesar Hotel, the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, The Pier, Baywalk, Channelside, the Salvador Dali Museum, and a wide array of additional activities and destinations.
We also enjoy some of the most beautiful and accessible beaches in the world. Seriously - two of our local beaches (Fort Desoto and Caladesi Island) have been named number one and number two in “America’s Top Beaches” in the past two years! The moral of the story of course is: Come to Tampa Bay and let us plan your Florida Beach Family Portraits!
Now, as far as beaches go, working from south to north, we have: Fort Desoto, Pass-A-Grille, St Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Redington Shores, Indian Rocks Beach, Clearwater Beach, and Honeymoon Island. You honestly can’t go wrong with any of theseTampa Bay area beaches. But for Family Beach Family Portraits and Weddings in the Tampa Bay Region, our personal favorites are:
The Tampa Bay Region is easily accessible by car, with I-4, I-75, I-275, and US Highway 19 fanning out in almost every direction, and is serviced by Tampa International Airport and St Petersburg Clearwater International Airport.
And as you head north from the Tampa Bay area you’re pretty much back into the Nature Coast area. Congratulations – you’ve worked your way through nearly every beach in the State of Florida!
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