T+L traveled from coast to shimmering coast to reveal the best of Florida, old and new.
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At first glance, Siesta Beach, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, looks like the standard picture-perfect shore. It has clear blue water, exceptionally white sand, and is so pristine that Dr. Leatherman rated it the number one beach in America. But once you kick off your flip-flops, your feet will experience what makes this beach so unique. The powdery sand is 99.9 percent quartz crystal and so fine and uniform in size that it squeaks when you walk on it. Plus, its composition allows it to stay cool even with the hot summer sun blazing down.
World's Strangest Beaches | Travel + Leisure
Tampa’s warm climate encourages lingering outside for those Gulf of Mexico sunsets. Bayshore Boulevard, with its nearly 4.5-mile sidewalk, has long been the see-and-be-seen waterfront promenade in Tampa. Elsewhere, the nearly complete Tampa Riverwalk—along 2.5 miles of the Hillsborough River—is bringing new life to downtown. A mile away, the Ybor City neighborhood, with its Cuban and Spanish past, is the place to go for lively nighttime cafés and bars.
Love may be blind, but it doesn’t hurt to look, according to T+L readers, who rated Miami residents No. 1 for attractiveness and No. 3 for stylishness. In addition, the city took the top spot for its singles scene and nightclubs, making the Miami one of the hottest metropolises for kindling romance.
This 1940 Midcentury masterpiece is turning heads again in Magic City, thanks to Wyndham’s $90 million renovation. Original details by celebrated Miami Modern architect Morris Lapidus have been respectfully preserved, including the pool’s monumental double-decker diving board, while Art Deco armoires and shiny finishes in the 200 guest rooms channel a bygone era.
Disney’s first five-star resort delivers fairy-tale whimsy while appealing to even the most Mickey Mouse-averse among us. Four Seasons offers the requisite on-site character breakfasts and princess encounters, but not at the expense of grown-up indulgences. There’s a 13,000-square-foot spa, a championship golf course, an adults-only pool, and top-notch steaks and Riojas at the Basque-inspired rooftop restaurant, which has unrivaled views of the park’s nightly firework display.
In any other hotel lobby, you probably wouldn’t be caught dead shooting pool on an all-white billiards table mere steps from the front door. But at the Miami Beach Edition, Ian Schrager and Marriott’s latest love child, showing off is compulsory. Open gathering spaces ripple through the white-and-gold Yabu Pushelberg lobby, a potted-palm-shaded lounge opening to a glassy cocktail bar that gives way to a market-style café. Downstairs there’s a nightclub, a bowling alley, and a pint-size skating rink. Even the round dining room of Jean-Georges’ Matador Room restaurant encourages gawking. If some of the 294 rooms seem simple to the point of afterthought, it’s hardly a deterrent for Miami’s cool crowd, which is flocking to what is hands down the city’s hottest address.
Just south of the South Beach crowds, the tropical-inspired Ritz counts two heated swimming pools, four restaurants, and a wealth of water recreation activities on Biscayne Bay. This is the Miami area’s best full-service resort, complete with tropical gardens, a tennis center, a 20,000-square-foot spa, kids’ programs, and a pristine beach.
The David Rockwell–designed WaterColor Inn & Resort has an enviable setting on nearly 500 acres of white-sand beaches and secluded pine forests. Its 60 cottage-chic rooms are fresh off a renovation; first-floor units have outdoor showers. Guests can rent YOLO Boards, kayaks, and canoes at the BoatHouse to paddle along the nearby coastal dune lake. Beach bonfire services and big-screen movie nights are held after hours.
At Sandpearl Resort’s Camp Ridley, kids can join sand-castle-building contests and stargaze through solar scopes. Beachgoers enjoy 700 feet of Gulf Coast sand, with chair and water sport rentals and daily enrichment programs that range from kayaking to sailing to cooking. Accommodations are sophisticated and sustainable—this is Florida’s first LEED-certified resort—with your choice of citrus-hued rooms or suites with full kitchens and deep soaking tubs.
The Beach Club Resort has a variety of water features—lagoons, lakes, tricked-out swimming pools, and a killer waterslide that starts from the crow’s nest of a ship’s mast—designed to make pint-size visitors squeal with delight. It’s a few minutes’ walk from the Epcot side entrance and has a marina with ferries bound for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After dark, bring the kids down to Crescent Lake Beach for a night of campfire songs, s’mores, and Disney movie screenings under the stars.
Search for pink shells along the beach at this pastel-colored resort near St. Augustine. Then give in to the kids’ eagerness to splash around the 91,000-square-foot water park, with its lazy river, water flume, and multilevel pool complex. Pictured: Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast, Florida.