Gainesville may have The Swamp, but it lacks the beach. I’ve been here for about two and a half years, and I’m still not used to a land-locked city. I find myself in a pool wistfully wishing the chlorinated water was salty or the concrete floors were sandy. Face it, the best part about living in Florida, or any peninsula, is having two giant coastlines to visit.
If you’re thinking about a road trip or vacation I wholeheartedly recommend a beach day.
The closest beaches to Gainesville I recommend would be St. Augustine for the east and Tampa for the west. St. Augustine is about an hour and a half drive away. Right now the water will be cold but in May it should warm up. Expect smooth sand and moderate waves. Parking can be difficult to find on many St. Augustine shorefronts so keep your eyes peeled. If you go, make sure to visit the historic district – it’s actually a lot of fun.
The Tampa Bay area is very beautiful and so are its beaches. Tampa has moderate temperatures all year long so you can visit anytime and go to a beach. I’ve spotted a couple of jellyfish off of harbors in the Tampa metro area so take the time to read the warning posted by lifeguards. Tampa is about two and a half hours away.
For south Florida beaches I prefer the east coast. If you want bigger waves try Jupiter Beach in Jupiter, Fla. The beach has an interesting aesthetic with rocky shores and more pebbles in places than sand. Parking is free!
Lake Worth Beach is my favorite beach to bum at. The water is usually warm and clear, and the sand is fine and white. The beach usually is populated with locals and not tourists. The area around the beach is pretty cool. Downtown Lake Worth definitely has the best Hispanic food for the best prices. Parking is metered.
If you want a more posh experience try Palm Beach. Most of the beach is private but there are some public parts. It’s fun to walk around and look at the million dollar homes surrounding Palm Beach. Be careful you don’t trespass. Metered parking is available, but try to find some free parking along the side streets.
Last but not least is South Beach in Miami, Fla. I hate to disappoint you all, but my one experience in South Beach was underwhelming. It’s crowded, hot, not the cleanest and parking was almost impossible. I suggest a less famous beach near Miami.