We give you the lay of the land of both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and some highlights of each to define which is right for your next Florida beach vacation.

Rather than thinking of Florida as a whole when it comes to your next beach vacation, the state is often separated by coast. But how do you figure out which coast is the best destination for your vacation? Read on to as we dissect Florida’s East Coast versus Gulf Coast standoff.

The Florida Ocean Face-Off

Atlantic Coast

The waters of the Atlantic Ocean on the East Coast of Florida are, in general, known to have more wave action than the Gulf Coast. It means more opportunities for surfing (Kelly Slater grew up surfing this coast) and general water play for those looking for a vacation that includes a more active beach experience.

Gulf Coast

Those looking for a more laid-back ocean experience will love the Florida Gulf, and the brilliant white sand beaches that stretch long and flat, thanks to consistently calm surf conditions. The beaches that border the Gulf draw families with young kids, especially to family friendly areas like Treasure Island and Clearwater Beach, consistently ranked in the top of the nation’s finest beaches.

Florida’s Treasure Coast vs. Cultural Coast

Atlantic Coast

Thanks to a fleet of Spanish ships lost off the coast in 1715, and the subsequent recovery of sunken Spanish treasure in the 1960s, the coastal areas of St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, and Palm Beach counties is known as Florida’s Treasure Coast. If your Florida beach vacation is based at the Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, you’re in luck – the resort is situated on the largest stretch of secluded beach in Palm Beach County. Sift carefully through the silky sugar sands and you might just turn up some of the Spanish silver that washes up on beaches from time to time.

Where to Stay Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa

Gulf Coast

Sarasota’s concentration of cultural attractions and amenities has earned this area the reputation as being Florida’s Cultural Coast. From The Ringling to the Sarasota Opera to the Towles Court artist colony, the area is rich with a vibrant creative culture. For those looking to soak up art, music, culture, architecture, and performing arts along with the sun, this is the place to be.

Where to Stay Lido Beach Resort | Zota Beach Resort | The Resort at Longboat Key Club

Out on the Water

Atlantic Coast

Ships traveling up and down the East Coast of the US with the Gulf Stream are part of life, but it wasn’t always as safe as it is today. And as such, Florida’s East Coast has a collection of shipwrecks perfect for diving. Thanks to the warm, clear waters off Delray Beach, snorkelers and beginner scuba divers have a prime opportunity to see the remains of the shipwrecked S.S. Inchulva, known as the Delray Wreck, which lies 500 feet offshore in just 20 feet of water.

Where to Stay Opal Grand Resort | Delray Sands Resort

Gulf Coast

Though there are plenty of charter boat options, both power and sail, we think the best way to depart dry land on the Gulf Coast is to take a shot at Sky Surfing. Get airborne in one of these small aircraft, known as a trike or Delta-Wing, piloted by expert aviators. Looking down into the clear, turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll catch sight of dolphin, shark, manatee, stingrays, and sea turtles.

Where to Stay Opal Sands Resort | Sandpearl Resort | Treasure Island Beach Resort

Day Trip Fun

Atlantic Coast

Whether you head over for a hike through the coastal hammock and natural dunes or venture out under the stars for evening turtle walks in June and July, the Loggerhead Marine Life Center is a great place for travelers of all ages to see the natural side of Florida’s east coast. A nonprofit ocean conservation facility located in Juno Beach, the organization has a 30-year history of protecting and preserving Florida’s most fragile native residents.

Where to Stay Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa

Gulf Coast

When John and Mabel Ringling handpicked 20 acres of waterfront land over 100 years ago, it’s unlikely they could have foreseen just how popular the property would become. The 36,000-square-foot Ca’ d’Zan, or the “House of John” in Venetian dialect, was built in the mid-1920s, the crown jewel of Sarasota. John, one of the five brothers who founded the circus that would go on to be known as “the Greatest Show on Earth,” left his beloved estate to the people of Florida upon his death, and thus The Ringling was born. After an extensive overhaul in the early 2000s, the entire estate, including Ca’ d’Zan, the Museum of Art, the Historic Asolo Theater, the Circus Museum, the Education Center, and more are open for visitors to tour.

Where to Stay Lido Beach Resort | Zota Beach Resort | The Resort at Longboat Key Club

For the Fishermen

Atlantic Coast

Considering Hutchinson Island is known as the “Sailfish Capital of the World,” it’s likely the fisherman in your life will be itching to get out on the water to try to catch one of the ocean’s most striking and spectacular sportfish. Because the Gulf Stream runs up the coast just a few miles off Hutchinson Island, however, sailfish are only one of the species you’re likely to encounter with the right tackle and bait. Choose from several fishing charter boats, including luxury sport-fishing yachts, for those discerning fishermen.

Where to Stay Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa

Gulf Coast

If you’re hoping to get in a few casts on your Florida Gulf coast vacation without the hassle of a permit, the Naples Pier is the place for you, thanks to the bulk fishing license the City of Naples purchased for the 1,000-long Pier that juts out into the crystal-clear Gulf of Mexico waters. Snook, sea trout, pompano, and Spanish mackerel frequent the waters beneath the pier, but even if the fish aren’t biting, you can console yourself with the view of one of Naples’s spectacular sunsets.

Where to Stay Edgewater Beach Hotel

Opal’s Atlantic Coast Resorts

Opal Grand Resort | Delray Sands Resort| Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa | Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa | Sunset Key Cottages

Opal’s Gulf Coast Resorts

Edgewater Beach Hotel | Lido Beach Resort | Opal Sands Resort | The Resort at Longboat Key Club | Sandpearl Resort | Treasure Island Beach Resort | Zota Beach Resort