Gulf coast? Atlantic coast? Which Florida beaches are the best?

Here are pros, cons for beaches of Florida’s east and west coasts

Gulf Coast vs. Atlantic Coast (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved, Jacob Langston)

Florida has an amazing array of beaches, but what sets apart those along the Gulf coast from those along the Atlantic?

According to Visit Florida, there are several different factors, including temperature, water clarity and sand.

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The nonprofit said water temperature on Gulf coast beaches, like those near Tampa, is typically at least five degrees warmer than those along the Atlantic coast during the summer months.

In fact, Visit Florida said that Gulf beaches can reach 92 degrees or more, which could make the water even warmer than the air around it in July through September. Meanwhile, Atlantic beaches are more likely to top out at 82-86 degrees, making them a cooler choice for the summer.

However, during winter, down south is where you want to be; beaches near Fort Lauderdale, Miami, the Keys, Marco Island and Naples will have the warmest water during these cooler months, Visit Florida reports.

Water clarity and waves

Another difference between the Gulf and East coasts is the clarity of water along the beachside.

In a blog post, Best Western said that a lack of strong waves in the Gulf means that there aren’t as many shell fragments, sediment or debris from the ocean.

This means that the water along these beaches tends to be a lot clearer than those along the Atlantic border. It also means that Gulf beaches are better for going shell-hunting, as the shells that wash in aren’t broken up along steep cliffs below the water like those on the East coast, Visit Florida reports.

Not everything’s bad on Florida’s east coast, though. Best Western said thanks to the harsher waves generated by the Atlantic Ocean, the eastern coast is much better for surfing and boogie boarding.


Sand is also a big difference between the two types of beaches. While Atlantic beaches like those in Volusia and Brevard counties tend to have browner, hard-packed sand, Gulf beaches are more likely to have white sand, which is much fluffier and easy to walk on, this report by Visit Florida reads.

According to the report, Atlantic beaches, like Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach, can even have orange sand, which is actually just tons of broken-down coquina shell fragments that have absorbed the rusty color of iron oxide.

Many of the beaches along the Atlantic coast feature broken-down shell fragments, which is part of why the sand is so hard-packed and colorful, Best Western said.

On the flipside, Best Western said that Gulf coast beaches are made up of mainly white quartz crystals, which is why they tend to be much softer and cooler than their east coast counterparts.

What’s the verdict?

It all comes down to preference. No, really.

While the Gulf tends to have more lush sands, richer areas for beachcombing and clearer waters, the Atlantic has tons of activity, with hard-packed sands built for jogging and active waves for surfers.

The Atlantic also tends to be a lot cooler than the Gulf, meaning that it’s better place to hang during those sweaty summer months. Of course, the reverse is true, where the Gulf is a better place to warm up on those cold winter days.

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About the Author:

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined in April 2022.