Split image comparing the gulf and atlantic oceans, featuring text "which is best? gulf vs atlantic" with aerial views of both coastlines.

Are you thinking about moving to or visiting Florida and wondering which coast is best?

As Floridians, who love both coasts, have seen nearly every inch of beach in the state, and we think we can offer some suggestions.

While one coast might be best for beach-goers and another coast might be best for buying a home, we will dig into the nuances of each side of Florida and breakdown which area is best for which person.

Florida Coast Comparison

PreferenceRecommended AreaBenefits
Warmest WaterGulf Coast (e.g., Naples, Destin)Warmer temperatures, ideal for ocean swimming.
Best SandGulf Coast (e.g., Siesta Key, Destin)Pristine white sand beaches, highly rated in the U.S.
Smallest CrowdsMid to Upper East Coast (Melbourne/Palm Bay), Northwest Coast (Tarpon Springs/Fred Howard Park)Less crowded beaches, more tranquil environment.
Most Affordable Real EstateMid to Upper East Coast (Jacksonville area)Lower real estate prices, good investment potential.
Richest Cultural ExperiencesMid West Coast (Tampa), South Coast (Miami)Rich Hispanic and Caribbean cultures, vibrant events.
Safest from HurricanesMid West Coast (Tampa area), Northeast Coast (Jacksonville)Geographic positions reduce hurricane impacts.
Table Showing Best Locations on Florida Coast for Different Needs

If you want the warmest water: Gulf Coast

The Gulf of Mexico’s water is delightful, especially in the late summer.

Take Naples, FL for example; the water temperature in August reaches up to 87 degrees. The ocean swimming temperature is absolutely fantastic!

Naples Annual Ocean Temperature

Table displaying monthly average temperatures in fahrenheit and celsius for a location, with january being the coolest at 66°f and july and august the warmest at 87°f.

And for the most part, the entire Gulf Coast in the summer has wonderful temperatures.

Take Destin, FL for example, which lies in the northern panhandle area on the western side of Florida.

This enchanting destination boasts an average water temperature in the upper 80’s. Moreover, the beaches in Destin are truly awe-inspiring, adorned with pristine white powder-like sand.

Graph showing the sea temperature range for destin with a thick line representing the average since 1984, and thin lines indicating extreme temperatures in celsius and fahrenheit.
Graph showing the sea temperature range for destin with a thick line representing the average since 1984, and thin lines indicating extreme temperatures in celsius and fahrenheit.

That’s not to say that the Atlantic side doesn’t have great ocean temperatures as well.

In late summer, the water temperature from Melbourne down to Ft. Lauderdale will be pleasantly warm, making it ideal for a comfortable and enjoyable ocean swim.

If you want the best sand: Gulf Coast

It’s really hard to beat the sand quality on the western side of Florida. The Gulf beaches are some of the most highly rated beaches in the United States.

A few of our favorites: Treasure Island (South Tampa), Clearwater, Destin, Marco Island, and our absolute favorite—Siesta Key.

Each of these beaches has different pros and cons.

Who would we recommend these beaches to?

Treasure Island— People who want a great beach, with walking distance amenities, and close to a major city (Tampa) for nightlife and food.

Clearwater Beach—People who want a lively beach with tons of activity like volleyball, music, and food. This is one of the busiest beaches on the western side, but Clearwater also has a cute downtown, and it’s only a short drive to Tampa.

Destin—We love Destin and when we lived in New Orleans, we visited yearly. Destin has immaculate sand, and it’s great for families. It has a ton of great restaurants, such as the Back Porch.

Marco Island—If you have ample travel time and want island vibes and pristine white beaches, Marco Island is the place. You feel like you’ve left the country. The resorts are incredibly beautiful as well.

Siesta Key—Oh boy, where do we start? Gorgeous beaches, sand that feels like powdered sugar, the deepest beaches on the coast allowing you to set up in your own personal space right on the water, and terrific local restaurants and beach houses. We go here the most often—but that’s just our vibe.

Cloudy skies over a sandy beach with scattered groups of people, some walking and others sitting, and buildings along the horizon.
Cloudy skies over a sandy beach with scattered groups of people, some walking and others sitting, and buildings along the horizon.

If you want the smallest crowds: Mid to Upper East Coast and Northwest Coast

Florida gets busy!!!

There is a reason Orlando is one of the busiest airports in the world.

Last year, 135 million people visited Florida. It’s the most vacationed state in the U.S.

But maybe you want to go to a beach with ample space and fewer crowds…we get it.

We would recommend two areas: The Northeast and Central Altantic Coast and the North Central Gulf Coast.

Map showing various locations in florida, with red boxes highlighting palm coast, new smyrna beach, and a region near clearwater.
Smaller Crowd Beach Areas in Florida (Gulf & Atlantic)

Northeast and Central Altantic Coast

The Atlantic Coast can get busy, especially Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, and Fort Lauderdale.

However, there are pockets that have far fewer crowds.

For example, instead of Cocoa Beach, you may want to travel further south to Melbourne, Palm Bay, or Vero Beach.

These beaches have much fewer beach travelers. Cocoa Beach is a popular and it’s the closest beach to Orlando residents—so it’s gets busy.

In addition, instead of goign to the popular Daytona Beach area, you may travel south to New Smyrna Beach or north to the Palm Coast for smaller crowds.

We really love the Palm Coast shopping and stone buildings.

The Florida Agents at the Palm Coast

Northwest Coast

The Northwest Coast—south of Cedar Key and North of Tampa—is another cool spot for fewer crowds.

Small towns like Tarpon Springs or cool beach spots like Fred Howard Park are great places to visit if you want to see fewer people.

While you are up there, you can also visit Crystal River, Florida—home of the manatees and the most beautiful clear rivers you’ll ever lay eyes on.

If you want the most affordable real estate: Mid to Upper East Coast

Florida is getting more expensive. We’ve written about Florida finances here and here.

The gist of the Florida real estate market right now is the bigger the city center, the more expensive it’s getting.

However, we are seeing prices calm down quite a bit from the frenzied pandemic era. While Orlando is up 5% and Miami is up 6% year over year, Tampa and Jacksonville have stabilized with 0% year-over-year price increases.

Graph showing median home prices in orlando, miami, and tampa from 2023 to 2024, with prices increasing annually in each city.
Graph showing median home prices in Orlando, Miami, and Tampa from 2023 to 2024, with prices increasing annually in each city.

With that being said, if you are looking to maximize your budget on the Florida coast, you’ll want to choose the mid to upper east coast of Florida.

Looking at the example below, Tampa (west coast) and Naples (south coast) are both very expensive compared to Jacksonville area.

Miami is similar to Naples and any area between Naples and Tampa would be equally expensive.

Line graph displaying the median home prices in tampa and jacksonville, fl from 2022 to 2024 with respective prices and yearly percent change.
Line graph displaying the median home prices in Tampa and Jacksonville, FLonville, fl from 2022 to 2024 with respective prices and yearly percent change.

You could also consider the Panhandle of Florida like Pensacola or Panama City, however those areas have been increasing in prices quite a bit as well and there are some cons to living in the Panhandle area that we’ve written about.

The Jacksonville area represents a real bang for your buck.

Not only is it one of the least expensive large cities in Florida for real estate (average home sale $300k), but it’s also fairly incubated from hurricanes, and it’s close to great road-trip spots like Savannah, GA and the Appalachian Mountains.

In addition, it’s the largest city in Florida, which makes it a high-impact spot for job-growth and investment.

In 2023, Jacksonville had the largest increase (4%) in job growth of all metro areas in Florida.

If you want the richest cultural experiences: Mid West Coast & South Coast

While we believe you can find great cultural events and experiences in all corners of Florida, the mid-western coast (Tampa) and the South Coast (Miami) have the richest variety.

Both cities have rich Hispanic and Caribbean cultures with deep ties to delicious food, music, and people from all walks of life.

Cultural Events in Tampa and Miami


  • Calle Ocho Festival: March celebration of Latin music, food, and dance as part of Carnival Miami.
  • Art Basel Miami Beach: International art fair exhibiting modern and contemporary art, attracting artists, collectors, and celebrities in December.
  • Miami Carnival: Caribbean cultural festival in October with parades, music, and costumes.
  • Ultra Music Festival: March outdoor music festival with international DJs.


  • Gasparilla Pirate Festival: Pirate-themed event with parades and activities in late January.
  • Tampa Bay Blues Festival: 3-day outdoor blues music festival in April.
  • Ybor City Fiesta Day: Tampa’s Ybor City street festival celebrates rich Latin heritage in February.

If you are worried about hurricanes: Mid West Coast and Northeast Coast

Acts of nature happen and Florida has had its fair share of hurricanes over the past 100 years.

But if we look back in time using data from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmostpheric Administration), we will find a really clear picture of what areas people have been safer in from hurricanes in Florida: midwestern coast (Tampa area) and northeastern coast (Jacksonville).

The Tampa and Jacksonville areas are considered safer from hurricanes than other parts of Florida because of their locations. As you can see the hurricane tracks below for category 3,4,5 hurricanes, Tampa and Jacksonville are typically spared—neither experiencing anything above category 4.

Hurricane Tracks in Florida (100 years)

Tampa, on the west coast, benefits from the Gulf of Mexico, which weakens hurricanes as they cross it. In addition, Tampa has had a long-run of luck with no-direct hits in nearly 100 years. Hurricane Ian did come close recently.

Jacksonville, in the northeast, is often spared from direct hits because of its inland position and the shape of the coastline. Additionally, hurricanes from the Atlantic lose power in the cooler waters before reaching Jacksonville.


We hope this blog has been helpful in comparing various aspects of the Florida coast.

We love all coastlines in Florida and there is certainly a place for everyone here.

We have never regretted moving to Florida, and we love hopping in our car to visit all the various coastal cities in Florida.

If you need help or have questions about a specific coastal city, reach out to us anytime of the day.