Florida’s most popular Spring Break destinations

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

Hundreds of thousands of college students would converge on Fort Lauderdale beach, 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 has grown impatient with the intemperance and improprieties of the past, but the kids still come in droves, albeit a more docile crowd than the glory years.

Florida’s Panhandle has not yet recovered from last year’s Hurricane Michael, and Panama City’s new laws restrict alcohol on the beach during March, so the scene there is likely to be tamer this year.

But the death of Florida’s Spring Break has been greatly exaggerated.

Where the boys and girls are…

Orlando

Orlando tops the charts as the No. 1 Spring Break destination in Florida, and deservedly so. The closest beach, Cocoa Beach, is only an hour away, but the real attraction is the multiplex of theme parks, with Disney World and Universal Studios leading the charge. With hundreds of hotels and motels (an estimated 130,000 hotel rooms), accommodations are not hard to find, and almost every hotel has a pool where the guys and gals congregate when not riding Space Mountain.

Things to do near Orlando

Fort Lauderdale

Spring Break postcard Fort Lauderdale BeachThe kids are less rowdy today and more into tanning time, but isn’t that how it all started back in the ’50s?  The college kids who visit now are more likely to be crashing at grandma’s condo, rather than 10 to a room at a Holiday Inn. The weather and sunshine are the most predictably pleasant of anywhere in Florida, except possibly the Keys, and the Elbo Room remains a popular focal point of beach activity. While Lauderdale’s famous “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

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

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, you’ll need to head further south. If you’re not into craziness, visit nearby Flagler Beach or 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. Nearby Sanibel Island adds to the area’s charm. Coed.com’s ranks this beach town as the No. 9 “trashiest destination” worldwide – “where the booze flows and the morals stay loose.”  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

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

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 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. There is plenty of action on these beaches and in the air around it. This is the space coast, after all, and with a little luck you might see a rocket launch from nearby Cape Canaveral. These are also the closest beaches to Disney World, Universal Studios and the multi-plex of theme parks in the Orlando suburbs. Cocoa is also a short hop to Orlando International Airport.

Things to Do Near Cocoa 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 Daytona and Fort Lauderdale 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

Panama City

Grayton Beach
Grayton Beach

‘Girls Gone Wild’ has its roots Panama City, but its heyday as a premier Spring Break destination is history. The area was severely damaged by Hurricane Michael last fall and has yet to recover. Recently enacted local laws banning alcohol on the beach and other restrictions have also put a damper on Panama City’s allure. Personally, I would seek a destination further south, where spring weather is a bit more predictable. It can get downright chilly in the Panhandle. If you still plan to go here in 2019, call ahead lest your plans be dashed.

Things to Do Near Panama City:

 

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Top Spring Break Beaches in Florida - Florida Rentals Blog

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    Check out the 3rd Annual FemAle Brew Fest happening on Saturday March 23rd at Pegasus Park at Gulfstream Park!

  3. Avatar

    Cocoa Beach is a most exciting holiday destination. I spent a really good time there with my mates during my last journey. I really enjoyed the boating and photography and came back with a lot of pleasant memories. I would love to go there again if I get any chance.

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