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Arguably, Florida has the best beaches in the U.S. with most sunshine seekers heading south for Miami’s sceney people watching or for Southwest Florida’s awesome shelling. But if it’s pure beach time you’re after, these are the Florida beaches where you should pitch a sand chair and umbrella. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

RELATED: 7 Florida beaches locals want to keep secret

Photo courtesy of One Ocean Resort & Spa

Atlantic Beach

Just outside of Jacksonville, this beautiful, pristine beach is a favorite of the locals for its wide, powdery sand. It’s a big kite surfing destination but thanks to its residential pockets with private beaches, it’s also very tranquil.
Where to stay: One Ocean Resort is a luxury resort that prides itself on “intuitive service” by providing guests their own private concierge, or as they call them, docents. Just as a docent in a museum is required to have broad knowledge of art, docents at One Ocean Resort get to know each guest’s individual tastes in order to provide world-class, personalized service.
What to do: If you’re not adventurous enough to try kite surfing, this beach has some of Florida’s best body surfing thanks to its great waves. You won’t need to go far to explore the village center of Atlantic Beach with its kitschy shops and eclectic cafes, not to mention a few beachfront bars.

Photo courtesy of Omni Amelia Island Plantation

Amelia Island

On the northernmost edge of the state (just after crossing the Georgia border) is Amelia Island, a sub-tropical paradise with 13 miles of pristine white sand beaches. You won’t find a bevy of high-rise hotels in this destination as it’s a sleepy little beach town but it’s a destination filled with charm and relaxation.
Where to stay: Omni Amelia Island Plantation is a family-friendly resort with something for everyone. You won’t feel the need to leave this self-contained property as it’s brimming with activities, restaurants and sports. The hotel includes 404 oceanview guest rooms but you’ll most likely be spending most of your time outdoors at the 10,000-square-foot family friendly pool, with a splash park and water playground. With North Florida’s largest pool deck, the complex also include an adults-only infinity edge pool, hot tubs and fire pits.
What to do: Fort Clinch State Park along the beach is great for hiking, shelling and hunting for shark teeth, as well as spotting local wildlife along the nature trail. Meander through Fernandina Beach, an old fishing port with a quaint main street shopping village.

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Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Ponte Vedra Beach

If you’re looking for a bit more luxury on the beach, this is where you’ll find it. Ponte Vedra is famous for its golf (and celebrity golfers), but it’s also a quiet residential enclave with one of the state’s most pristine, uncrowded beaches since much of it is private.
Where to stay: Ponte Vedra Inn & Spa is a AAA Five-Diamond luxury oceanfront resort with a much touted spa and golf course, in addition to plenty of children’s activities. The beach itself is private and unspoiled and shark’s teeth are plentiful.
What to do: If golf doesn’t suit your fancy, this glamorous resort town has some of North Florida’s best shopping and fine dining. Rent a beach cruiser and explore the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve with its interconnected habitats from the ocean to the forests.

RELATED: How to go shelling in coastal Florida

Photo courtesy of Casa Monica Resort & Spa

Anastasia Island

Not only will you be in the oldest city in the United States, but this barrier island is home to Anastasia State Park. The beach is protected by the tidal marshes so the water is calm, making it the perfect spot to sit at the water’s edge and get your feet wet.
Where to stay: Head a bit south and stay in one of the many oceanfront hotels in St. Augustine Beach or opt for the historic Casa Monica Resort & Spa in the heart of historic downtown St. Augustine, a Mediterranean revival-style building with luxury rooms and suites.
What to do: As the first U.S. settlement, St. Augustine is filled with historic sites and attractions including the famous Fountain of Youth. Much of the historic district is walkable, although the old trolleys and horse-drawn carriages are a great way to explore the town.

New Smyrna Beach, Florida

New Smyrna Beach, Florida

New Smyrna Beach

A bit further south, just past the Spring Break haven of Daytona Beach is New Smyrna Beach. If Daytona is party central, NSB, as the locals call it, is party light. Most visitors come for its sand and surf, as the beach is one of the few left where you can drive your car right up to the water’s edge. It’s a big family vacation destination with plenty of water sport options to keep the kids busy.
Where to stay: You’ll find plenty of hotels and privately-owned for-rent condos along the beach. Ocean Trillium Suites is a great centrally-located condo resort with kitchens and oceanview balconies and plenty of amenities.
What to do: NSB is a popular sport-fishing destination, but it’s also one of Florida’s top surfing destinations. The nearby inlet is a great place to launch a kayak and paddle alongside the manatees. Just a short drive away, the quaint village of Sanford has a number of art galleries.

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Tagged: Florida

Beth Graham
Beth writes about the things that feed her soul - food, wine and travel and blogs at MomUncorked.com.

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