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15 Gorgeous Beaches near Lakeland, FL

Located halfway between Florida's two coasts, Lakeland is an ideal location to experience both Atlantic and Gulf shores. You can enjoy the Gulf's laid-back atmosphere one day and go surfing on the Atlantic the next.
ItIsWild.com: Best Beaches near Lakeland Florida
Aerial view of Anna Maria Island, white sand beaches and blue water, barrier island on Florida Gulf Coast. Manatee County. USA

As the name hints, Lakeland is known for lakes rather than the ocean. Yet, its inland location is an advantage, too. From here, you can access both Atlantic and Gulf beaches and take trips to various locations along both coasts. 

Beaches near Lakeland offer virtually all the fun activities you can think of, including kayaking, paddleboarding, nature walking, fishing, camping, and incredible sunsets. 

Some options are busy touristy spots, but others are remote boat-in locations where you will have miles of soft white sand to yourself.

Check out what Lakeland has to offer!

Beaches near Lakeland:

  1. Clearwater Beach
  2. Saint Pete Beach, FL
  3. Fort DeSoto Park
  4. Howard Park Beach
  5. Honeymoon Island State Park
  6. Sunset Beach
  7. Indian Rocks Beach
  8. Archibald Beach Park
  9. Caladesi Island State Park
  10. Manatee Public Beach
  11. Cocoa Beach
  12. South Beach Park
  13. Lithia Springs Park
  14. Max Beach
  15. Anclote Key Preserve State Park

1. Clearwater Beach

Panorama of City Clearwater Beach FL. Summer vacations in Florida. Beautiful View on Hotels and Resorts on Island
Source: dreamstime
  • Distance from Lakeland: 59 miles (1h 20min)
  • Activities: boating, swimming, kayaking, fishing, jet-skiing, paddle boarding, shell hunting, snorkeling
  • Amenities: umbrellas, reclined chairs, volleyball courts, parking space, showers, rentals

One of Florida’s finest and biggest beaches worth exploring is Clearwater Beach. This gem is always abuzz with activity 24/7 and, therefore, a top choice for vacation and family trips. 

Any water activity you can think of takes place on this trendy shoreline. You can dive into its emerald-colored water or simply enjoy a walk across the sugary white sandy coastline.

Not only is Clearwater Beach a stone’s throw distance from restaurants and hotels. It’s also close to water sports rentals like boats, canoes, and kayaks. There are plenty of umbrella shades to rest under as you watch tourists going by. 

Besides its blue waters and sugar-white sands, this spot is also popularly known for having one of the longest fishing piers from where you can fish or enjoy tranquil sunset moments. At night, many bars along the coast remain open for business.

The beach is usually abuzz with private boat tours. You can hire one to ride across the extensive coastline and other close-by zones to catch magnificent dolphin views. There is also rich marine life to observe, such as stingrays and manatees.

As one of the busiest beaches in the area, there is always a lifeguard on duty all year round. And every once in a while, you might be lucky to indulge yourself in lively performances from street artists amongst other special event celebrations.

2. Saint Pete Beach, FL

St Pete Beach Florida
Source: depositphotos
  • Distance from Lakeland: 64 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: swimming, volleyball, sunset viewing, boogie boarding 
  • Amenities: umbrellas, reclined chairs, volleyball courts, parking space, showers, restrooms

If you are looking for a coastal destination abuzz with activities, you better check out Saint Pete Beach. 

As one of the heavily frequented tourist destinations, you will always find families taking a dive in its emerald-green waters or walking around on its soft sands.

Tripadvisor placed Saint Pete Beach in the top spot as US’ best beach in 2021. That should not come as a surprise given its laid-back yet fun-filled atmosphere.

Close to it is the historical Don CeSar resort, Postcard Inn for live music sessions, museums, multiple bars for bar-hopping lovers, as well as great shopping centers and places to eat and stay.

There is a long string of umbrellas dotting the shoreline for after-swim resting sessions. So if you are looking for a beach that is close to the town, this should definitely come at the top of your list.

3. Fort DeSoto Park

Palm trees at Fort De Soto park, north beach in Florida, USA
Source: dreamstime
  • Distance from Lakeland: 70 miles (1h 30min)
  • Activities: canoeing, kayaking, fishing, boating, camping, swimming
  • Amenities: campgrounds, fishing spots, showers, lifeguard, boat ramp, concessions, watersport equipment

With a 4.8 rating on Google and multiple heart-warming reviews, there’s no doubt that Fort DeSoto Park is one of nature’s most wonderful creations. 

Ever since 2009, this park’s emerald blue waters, soft sands, and shady pines have brought joy to many beachgoers.

Nestled within five islands, this park has a great history to it. It served as a defense fort during the Spanish-American war. You can explore the fort’s jail cells and canons which will definitely evoke some thoughts or make you grateful for the peace.

The most appealing aspect of Fort DeSoto Park is its beach and the enchanting lush green surrounding. 

Its pristine waters are ideal for swimming, fishing as well as seashells collection. This unspoiled island paradise is also home to dolphins, manatees, and other wildlife and sea creatures.

4. Howard Park Beach

Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs Florida
Source: flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Distance from Lakeland: 69 miles (1h 25min)
  • Activities: swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing, biking, windsurfing, kite surfing
  • Amenities: picnic shelters, softball field, butterfly garden, parking, sun shades

Do you intend to spend a whole day at a beach and not lack something new to do? If that’s the case then Howard Park Beach should be your number one priority. It’s part of a larger Fred Howard Park with all its playgrounds, outfitters, and rentals. 

Howard Park Beach is connected to the mainland via a mile-long causeway with plenty of parking for taking in the views.

Once here, there is plenty to do, from swimming, kayaking, and fishing, to wind and kite surfing. There are a few picnic spots with plenty more at the main park.

Food trucks jet in every once in a while during the day but it’s advisable to pack a few snacks just in case.

5. Honeymoon Island State Park

Panorama of Honeymoon Island State Park. Dunedin FL Causeway. Car parking. Blue-turquoise color of salt water. Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. Aerial view.
Source: dreamstime
  • Distance from Lakeland: 64 miles (1h 20min)
  • Activities: paddle sports, swimming, fishing, biking, nature walk, picnicking, hiking, surfing
  • Amenities: trails, playgrounds, picnic tables, showers 

Combining an island, a park, and a beach experience all at once, Honeymoon Island State Park is supremely magical. Like Clearwater Beach, it’s also one of the most-lively beaches in Florida for family vacations and fishing expeditions. 

The spot has over four miles of a wonderful beach to explore. A walk through one of the trails leads straight into one of the few remaining virgin pine forests on the island. If you turn your head towards the sky, you’ll see many bird species flapping around.

There are many cool swimming spots on Honeymoon Island. It is also popularly known for harboring the mightiest fish species like snook, kingfish, ladyfish, and many others.

Besides fishing and watersports, you can opt to ride a bike or explore walking trails that connect to other unspoiled islands like Caladesi.

It’s common to see visitors taking a walk on the island’s vast, sugar-white sandy shorelines. And when it’s time to relax, there are a couple of shops for coffee, ice cream, and food.

6. Sunset Beach

Volleyball net under palm trees in Sunset Beach in Tarpon Springs, FL., United States
Source: dreamstime
  • Distance from Lakeland: 65 miles (1h 30min)
  • Activities: swimming, boating, sunset watching
  • Amenities: boat ramp, boardwalk, shaded pavilion, showers 

Peace. Serenity. Contentment. These are the feelings you are going to experience if you happen to visit Sunset Beach in Tarpon Springs.

As the name implies, this is one of the best spots to catch the sunset as it recedes below the ocean waters creating a strikingly magical contrast both in the water and the luminous sky.

This beach is pristine and very quiet, except during spring when the season starts. 

The boat ramp for small craft and the sheltered waters of Sant Joseph Sound make it an ideal spot for kayaking, paddleboarding, and other watersports.

Sunset Beach doesn’t have ample parking. Nevertheless, it’s great for swimming, boating, and sunset watching. 

7. Indian Rocks Beach

Wooden Boardwalk to Indian rocks beach in Florida, USA
Source: dreamstime
  • Distance from Lakeland: 61 miles (1h 20min)
  • Activities: swimming, picnicking, sunset watching
  • Amenities: parking lot, showers, restroom

Indian Rocks Beach will make you want to spend countless hours idling on its lovely sandy shore. Sitting close to Clearwater, this gem suits those who want to be close to city restaurants, bars, and accommodation facilities. 

The most alluring aspect of Indian Rocks Beach is its wide stretch of the ocean coast and its soft, lustrous sand. Here, you can swim, watch the dolphins surf the Gulf waters, as well as put your sand-castle-building skills to the test.

There’s a mini-golf pit, a bird sanctuary for injured feathery friends, and parking spaces. Many other outstanding beaches lie next to it in case you feel like “beach-hopping.”

8. Archibald Beach Park

Sunset over Madeira Beach
Source: dreamstime
  • Distance from Lakeland: 62 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Swimming, collecting sea shells, picnicking
  • Amenities: picnic areas, restroom, parking, outdoor showers, volleyball courts

Archibald Beach Park may not be the most popular, but its majesty still inches close to some of the top choices in Florida. This is a clean beach with well-kept shores that don’t have seaweed or sharp rocks.

Being adjacent to the city of Madeira Beach, you will feel its vibrant vibe, especially on holidays when it is abuzz with tourists. 

This beach is special in that it houses all the essential watersports amenities, and it also sits next to luxurious resorts like Holiday Isles or Shoreline Islands Resorts.

Swimming aside, this earthly haven is punctuated with gently swaying palm trees and other coastal vegetation. 

There are mats to help those in wheelchairs access the beach with ease, too.

9. Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park in Florida
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Distance from Lakeland: 62 miles (1h 25min)
  • Activities: Kayaking, canoeingnature walking, paddling, swimming, boating, hiking, picnicking
  • Amenities: marina, playgrounds, picnic tables, kayak launch, showers

Caladesi Island State Park is a barrier island park located north of Clearwater. Accessible by boats or a ferry from Dunedin, it makes for an excellent adventure. 

For many years, the facility has appeared at the top of many lists as one of the best beaches in the country. As of 2022, Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman (Dr. Beach) ranks it as the second-best.

There are many reasons why people flock to Caladesi Island State Park. Perhaps the most important ones are its mild weather and rental amenities.

This beach’s sparkling waters make fishing and swimming pleasant and fun. And at a small fee, you can enjoy boat, canoe, and paddle board rides with friends and family.

Caladesi Island State Park is an excellent gateway for nature walks. Unlike others with only boardwalk trails, this one includes canoe and kayak trails that cut through mangroves. 

While on your seaside trails, you’ll be able to see Blue Herons and other bird species roaming around. There are also a few wildlife animals hiding in the thick mangrove trees.

What’s more, Caladesi Island State Park has best-in-class amenities. There are concession stands and a cafe for meals, snacks, and drinks.

10. Manatee Public Beach

Manatee Public Beach Florida
Source: depositphotos
  • Distance from Lakeland: 77 miles (1h 15 min)
  • Activities: picnicking, swimming, kayaking, biking, volleyball
  • Amenities: playground, picnic tables, restroom, volleyball net

Manatee Public Beach is located on Anna Maria Island at the entrance to Tampa Bay. It’s known for crystal clear water, sugar-like sand, and a selection of local cafes and restaurants. 

This beach is a top spot amongst both locals and tourists. As such you need to arrive early in order to secure parking space, as it gets really busy when the season is on.

A playground, a volleyball net, and a tiki bar are all the amenities here, but what else can you wish for on a relaxing beach?

11. Cocoa Beach

Sign at Cocoa Beach, Florida
Source: dreamstime
  • Distance from Lakeland: 105 miles (1hrs 54 min)
  • Activities: swimming, boating, sight-seeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing
  • Amenities: fishing pier, umbrellas, chairs, golf course, parking

There are many notable things on Florida’s Space Coast. However, none sticks out like Cocoa Beach. Perhaps it could be the reason it is regarded as a quintessential oceanfront. And luckily, it’s the nearest Atlantic beach to Lakeland.

There are endless ways to enjoy this gem. Think of swimming, paddleboarding, eco-touring kayak adventures, and deep-sea fishing. 

Speaking of fishing, Cocoa Beach boasts a monumental fishing pier that extends 800 feet into the Atlantic Ocean.

Sun and fun activities aside, there’s the history of Kennedy Space Center you may want to learn about. If you are lucky, you might just witness a rocket lift-off. 

Shopping centers, golf courses, and dining spots abound – it’s a must-visit spot.

12. South Beach Park

south beach florida
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Distance from Lakeland: 109 miles (2h 5min)
  • Activities: swimming, volleyball, shell collection, 
  • Amenities: lifeguard, walking trails, boardwalk, bathroom, volleyball court, pavilion, grill, vending machines

Still have an appetite for Atlantic Ocean-based beaches? Another coastline pearl that is bordered by glitzy hotels is South Beach Park. So impeccably maintained is this spot that you would think it barely receives visitors. 

There are several boardwalks, and some of them have thick canopies of wood over them, creating a convenient cover from the sun as you walk towards the beach. Within the tangled trees, you can see birds and other wild animals darting about.

South Beach Park is a charming spot and a dream for water lovers. You can swim in the crystal clear blue waters, build sand castles or even wander around just for the views. 

13. Lithia Springs Park

  • Distance from Lakeland: 30 miles (42 min)
  • Activities: swimming, camping, fishing, kayaking, canoeing
  • Amenities: camping facilities, showers, tables, chairs

Lithia Springs Park is a dashing little hole in Lithia. Tucked away in a conservation park, this outdoor retreat will fill the appetite of any discerning water lover. 

The pack is encapsulated in a thick canopy of lush green trees and coastal vegetation that paint a magnificent scenery. The sound of birds, critters, and the refreshing springs will make you want to visit this quiet spot repeatedly.

Its arresting beauty aside, Lithia Springs Park has ample resting spots, playgrounds, camping areas, and nature trails. The water here is crystal clear such that you can catch a view of fish gliding about lazily. 

Granted, it’s not an ocean beach but a swimming hole nevertheless. And its biggest advantage is that it’s much closer than saltwater beaches.

14. Max Beach

  • Distance from Lakeland: 11 miles (18 min)
  • Activities: jet skiing, swimming, volleyball, picnicking, boating, paddling, fishing
  • Amenities: bathrooms, picnic tables, volleyball pitch, boat ramp

Max beach is one of the shortest drives from Lakeland and therefore appealing to those who want a nearer beach retreat. 

Nestled on the edges of Lake Ariana, this serene gem is packed with fun and activities. To begin with, it has a volleyball pitch, swings, and a fishing pier wide enough for peaceful sunset moments. 

The surrounding is sprawled with green grass and a few palm trees that make Max beach a stunning setting imaginable. There’s a pavilion, complete with chairs, tables, and a grilling zone for barbecues, too.

15. Anclote Key Preserve State Park

Anclote Key Preserve Park Lighthouse in Florida
Source: unsplash
  • Distance from Lakeland: 69 miles (1h 30min)
  • Activities: bird watching, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, camping
  • Amenities: restrooms, primitive campgrounds

Located near Tarpon Springs, Anclote Key Preserve State Park has a gorgeous shore that you can explore in the much-famed Gulf of Mexico. The park is one of the hidden gems with a laid-back, 403-acre beach.

Unlike most beaches, this one comprises four amazing islands-Three Rooker Island, North Anclote Bar, Anclote Key, and South Anclote Bar. Basically, you’ll have quite a lot to explore.

If you are into birding, this beach should be at the top of your list. It has a whopping 43+ bird species to spot. That includes bald eagles, piping plovers, oystercatcher, and many more.

However, there is no lifeguard on duty, so be sure to look out for yourself, friends, and family members. Paddleboarding, snorkeling, and boating are also common activities on the island. 

What’s more, there’s also a historic lighthouse on the island that dates back to 1887. Adjacent to it lies perfect camping spots, making for a primitive but unique camping experience.

Although Anclote Key Preserve State Park is free to the public, it’s a boat-in location that you can’t access by car. Several ferries run from Tarpon Springs, so even getting here is an adventure.

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