Beaches / Florida Roundups

Florida’s top Spring Break beaches

When I first arrived in Fort Lauderdale back in the ’70s, Spring Break was an event to behold.

Hundreds of thousands of kids would converge on the beach, spilling over and blocking State Road A1A for a month of steady drinking and assorted debauchery inspired by the iconic ’60s movie “Where the Boys Are.”

Fort Lauderdale tired of the intemperance and improprieties, seeking a better class of tourist, the once-wild Spring Breaker who graduated to greater wealth, families and a tamer way of life.

And now Panama City has followed Fort Lauderdale’s lead with new laws restricting alcohol on the beach during March. As a result, Panama City took a hit in 2016.

But the death of Spring Break is greatly exaggerated.

Where the kids go today in Florida

College students still seek ways to let off some energy and burn the libido. It’s a rite of Spring, and Florida’s sunshine and awesome beaches continue to attract.

Sure, it’s quieter now in Fort Lauderdale and Panama City, but the kids still come in smaller numbers while other Florida beach towns have stepped up to fulfill a college kid’s most deviant desires.

Spring Break Schedules, College by College

Daytona Beach

Spring Break in Daytona Beach, sometime between 1976 and 1996

Daytona (Florida Archives)

The World’s Most Famous Beach has long been a popular Spring Break destination, and for good reason. This is a town that likes to party, kicking off the spring season with the Daytona 500, Bike Week in mid-March, with the celebrations continue well into April. It especially gets crazy near the newly renovated Main Street Pier and boardwalk. But beware: the weather can be tricky during spring, and it’s not always beach weather. If you want guaranteed beach weather, head further south. If you’re not into all the beach craziness, drift north to Flagler Beach or south to New Smyrna Beach and pristine Canaveral National Seashore.

Things to Do Near Daytona Beach

Fort Myers Beach

It stands to reason that consistently good weather on the Southwest Florida Gulf coast would draw a Spring Break crowd, and the room rates in Fort Myers Beach are seasonably reasonable. Add Coed.com’s ranking of this beach town as the No. 9 “trashiest destination” worldwide – “where the booze flows and the morals stay loose” – and BAM.  If you can pull yourself away from the Lani Kai, escape the maddening crowds with a side trip to one of these nearby destinations.

Things to do near Fort Myers Beach

Clearwater

Clearwater has long been a sleeper in this roll call, but the kids will tell you that it has always been popular, rivaling even Daytona and Panama City with its crowds and party action. While the main beach in Clearwater is the center of the action, smart Spring Breakers trickle off to some of the Gulf Coast’s prettier beaches on Honeymoon Island or Fort Desoto, and for a real treat, paddle a kayak out to Caladesi Island and camp, weather permitting.

Things to Do Near Clearwater

Looking for a seafood festival? Check out Florida Rambler’s 2017 Seafood Festival Calendar

 

Spring Break on Miami Beach

South Beach

Miami Beach

Topless tolerance and Art Deco panache have helped Miami Beach emerge as a premier Spring Break destination. Beachfront hotels and Lincoln Road’s outdoor cafes are the hot spots for hanging out. The SoBe crowd is well-heeled, so you’ll be stylin’ (and spendin’.)  Not a cheap night out but likely a night to remember. Still, there’s a lot more to Miami and the rest of South Florida than South Beach, so check out our other things to do in South Florida.

Things to Do Near Miami Beach

Key West

Spring Break on Smathers Beach in Key West

Key West

What happens in Key West stays in Key West, and there are plenty of distractions. Parties are a 24/7 event here at any time of year, and everything kicks up a notch when the college kids swarm down Duval Street, Key West’s beaches and bars. Mallory Square pops, as always, with its sunset freak show, and there are plenty of restaurants where you can impress that cute girl or guy from the University of Iowa. Nobody should visit the Keys without taking along our popular Florida Keys Mile-Marker Guide and checking out the fabulous Lower Keys along the way.

Things to Do in the Florida Keys

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach is the surfing capitol of Florida, and you can gear up to look like a surfer at the only 24-hour surf shop in Florida, the Original Ron Jon Surf Shop. The beaches here get pretty lively during Spring Break, and the town has long been accommodating to young people. It’s a great beach to watch a rocket launch at the nearby Kennedy Space Center, or take a cruise on a Disney ship. And it’s only a hop and a skip to find plenty of things to do in Central Florida.

Things to Do Near Cocoa Beach

Fort Lauderdale

Still popular over Spring Break, the kids are less rowdy today and more into tanning time. But isn’t that how it all started back in the 60s?  The college kids who visit now are more likely to be crashing at grandma’s condo, rather than 10 to a room at the Holiday Inn. The weather and sunshine are the most predictably pleasant in the state, and the Elbo Room remains a popular focal point of beach activity. While “The Strip” can still hold its own, the current crowds are just as likely dispersed onto neighboring beaches in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Pompano Beach, Hollywood and Deerfield Beach. Since you’re not as wild as you used to be, check out these activities around South Florida.

Things to Do Near Fort Lauderdale

Panama City/Destin

Spring Break in Panama City

Panama City

‘Girls Gone Wild’ has its roots here, but Panama City’s heyday as a premier Spring Break destination are over. New local laws banning alcohol on the beach and other tough restrictions have put a damper on Panama City’s allure. It’s a bummer for the kids and beach businesses, but residents of this community are enjoying the reprieve. Frankly, the weather is so unpredictable here in spring, I’d seek out a destination with the promise of beach time even if the bars were open 24/7.

Things to Do Near Panama City:

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Tell us about your favorite Florida Spring Break destination in comments.

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