Northwest Florida
Beaches and Towns

In the 21 years that Dr. Beach has been ranking beaches, Northwest Florida beaches have made the list four times. Three of them ranked number one. Why is that?

Perhaps it's because of the snow-white, quartz-crystal sand that washed down from the Appalachian Mountains eons ago, or maybe the sparkling emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps it's the ancient dunes, the highest on the Florida coast, or the natural vegetation that protects fragile ecosystems.

Actually, there's more to it than meets the eye.

Dr. Beach, who in real life is coastal research scientist Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, has 50 criteria that he uses to rank beaches all over the country and it's a pretty rigorous process. A beach has to meet the criteria to get listed.

Northwest Florida beaches that have made the cut

Grayton Beach State Park in Walton County

St. Andrews State Park in Bay County
St. Joseph's Peninsula State Park in Gulf County
St. George Island State Park in Franklin County

Click here to learn more about these beaches and state parks.

Exploring Northwest Florida beaches and towns will surprise and entertain you. From Tallahassee, the state capital, to historic Pensacola, to the new urbanism of Seaside, this eclectic mix means you'll never run out of interesting places to visit.

Fresh oysters, antiques shopping and the annual Florida Seafood Festival are just the start of big things to be found in little Apalachicola, Florida's oyster bar.

Antiques shop in ApalachicolaApalachicola offers history and unique shopping.

Fishing and scalloping are a way of life in laid-back Carrabelle, where wildlife is abundant and outdoor activities are many.

Carrabelle, FloridaShrimp boats in Carrabelle

Defuniak Springs

Home of the Florida Chautauqua Assembly, Defuniak Springs is a historic 19th Century railroad town.

Called the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village," Destin is a great place for fresh seafood, shopping, boating and fishing. If you're traveling with your pet, there are also several dog friendly restaurants in Destin where you and your pooch can enjoy a snack and the view.

Fort Walton Beach
From Camp Walton to Eglin Air Force Base, FWB has a long history and is the home of our nation's largest military installation.

Riverwalk at MiltonMilton is an historic river town and the county seat of Santa Rosa County.

A historic railroad town, Milton has a revitalized downtown riverfront, is home to the West Florida Railroad Museum, and is the gateway to the Blackwater River State Forest.

Home of the Panhandle Butterfly House, Navarre is a great place for sun, sand surf, and water-based activities.

Panama City Beach
Ever changing, Panama City Beach is a popular vacation destination on the Florida Gulf Coast that offers classic beach entertainment from theme parks to seafood shacks.

Panama City Beach, FloridaBeach-goers enjoy visiting Panama City Beach.

For over 450 years, Pensacola has anchored the western edge of Florida to the rest of the state with a rich history, vibrant present, and forward-looking future. Pensacola is the site of the first European settlement in the New World.

Port St. Joe
Once a major port city, Port St. Joe was the location of the 1838 Constitution Convention where 56 territorial delegates drew up the Florida Constitution.

Port St. Joe, FloridaPort St. Joe was once a busy commercial port.

Historic Quincy, just north of Tallahassee, has a number of buildings on the National Historic Register and the Soldiers Cemetery is the final resting place of Confederate soldiers.

St. George Lighthouse & MuseumThe St. George Lighthouse is the focal point of a beach-side park.

St. George Island
Climb the lighthouse and go camping in the Dr. Julian Bruce St. George Island State Park.

South Walton
In South Walton you'll find a collection of 15 beach communities that includes Grayton Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Sandestin, Watercolor, and the new-urban towns of Seaside, Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach.

Rosemary Beach in South WaltonSouth Walton prides itself on its upscale walkable communities.

As the state capital, Tallahassee serves as the legislative and political center of Florida, and is the home of Florida State University.

Started in the 1920's as a resort known as the "Vale of Paradise," Valparaiso today is located outside the North Gate of Eglin Air Force Base and is home to the Northwest Florida Regional Airport. 

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