Florida's 1,350 miles of coastline contain some of the country's best beaches, with velvety sand, clear blue water and ideal conditions for water sports and wildlife-spotting. However, with picture-perfect beaches comes high tourist demand, and hotel rates often reflect this -- especially those at ocean-facing properties with direct beach access and water views.
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The good news: After visiting more than 1,000 hotels throughout coastal Florida, Oyster's reporters have zeroed in on 18 great picks that offer both beachfront locations and low rates. From Clearwater to the Keys, St. Augustine on the Atlantic to Panama City Beach on the Gulf of Mexico, here are the best affordable hotels right on the beach in the Sunshine State.
If swaying in a hammock, snorkeling nearby reefs, watching the sun set and throwing dinner on the grill sounds like your perfect vacation, then Island Bay Resort may just be your version of Shangri-La. The simple beach hideaway in Tavernier (one of the Florida Keys) has 10 quaint cottages with kitchens and private terraces, some with barbecues. The private beach isn't suitable for swimming, but its tiki huts, hammocks and Adirondack chairs make nice spots for posting up and hanging out. Guests boating in can park at Island Bay's private dock, and charters and tours are available for those wanting to snorkel and dive the area's famous reefs.
Inn on the Beach began life as a 1920s beach house, and has operated as an inn since the 1950s. Even after a few expansions and a 2016 renovation, the bright white, two-story stucco building still very much feels like an intimate residence -- and an exceedingly tidy one at that. The 12 fresh and contemporary studios and cottages have kitchens or kitchenettes, plus free welcome bottled water, beach towels and personal coolers for the beach. During the weekends, a free continental breakfast is served in the hotel's courtyard, which also has a gas grill and grab-and-go beach umbrellas and folding chairs. The historic property is located across the street from Pass-A-Grille Beach, a quiet and more laid-back beach community in the southern outskirts of bustling St. Pete Beach.
Across from Siesta Beach, The Sea Spray Resort is a small condo-style property with grounds full of flowers, trees, shrubs and lion head fountains. The 14 one- and two-bedroom options have private patios and full kitchens (though some lack ovens), and the property's outdoor pool area has a fire pit and stainless-steel barbecue. Laundry facilities, loaner bikes and Wi-Fi are all free here, and guests can borrow rolling beach carts with chairs and parasols, free of charge.
Not to be confused with Inn on the Beach, Inn at the Beach is a mid-range hotel located directly across the road from Venice Beach, about an hour south of St. Pete Beach. Many of the 49 rooms and suites here have views of the water, and all have mini-fridges, microwaves and coffeemakers (suites have full kitchenettes with eat-in areas). When guests need a break from the sand and wind of the beach, there is a brick pool patio with lounge chairs and a hot tub. Wi-Fi, parking and breakfast are all free.
This cheery beachfront hotel is located in a residential area between Holmes and Bradenton beaches, a one-minute walk away from the free trolley that goes across Anna Maria Island. Cedar Cove's grounds consist of tropical gardens, stone walkways, umbrella-shaded patio areas, and, best of all, a private beach area, which has a bamboo tiki hut, barbecue grills and rows of turquoise lounge chairs. All 19 of Cedar Cove's large apartment-style units have full-size kitchens, and some have ocean views.
Tiki On The Beach is as sweet and simple as it sounds. The no-frills budget inn consists of two low buildings connected by a breezy brick courtyard, with a small fountain, a Weber barbecue and swaying palm trees. The 11 apartment-like units are comfortable and well-maintained; all have free Wi-Fi, kitchen facilities and separate living areas, though some bedrooms are a bit cramped. The inn backs onto a beautiful sweep of white-sand beach, where free loungers are set up (the hotel also provides beach towels for free).
Lying between a quiet canal for boats and the Gulf of Mexico, this casual condo resort inhabits six tropical-garden acres on famously serene Sanibel Island. The resort takes its coveted real estate seriously, employing a full-time horticulturist who carefully identifies and leads guided tours around the grounds. The property's botanical garden is such a draw that even non-guests come here to explore. The garden grounds face stiff competition from the white-sand beach, which is one of the best shelling beaches in the world.
The scenic rolling dunes of St. Augustine's Vilano Beach serve as the front lawn for this charming, cottage-like hotel. Its 16 rooms are cute and quaint with pale blue walls, white linens and curtains, and private ocean-view balconies furnished with wooden chairs -- those on the top floors naturally have best views. Rooms go for more than most budget properties, but their kitchenettes can help defray the cost, plus they come with free hot breakfast, Wi-Fi, and parking.
The old-fashioned bicycles with baskets parked along the perimeter of Coconut Inn are perfect signals of the charm found throughout this beach-cottage property in St. Pete Beach. More evidence: Coconut's inviting brick courtyard features not just a fountain and palm trees, but also a gazebo, porch swing, and -- the kicker -- a modern outdoor kitchen for laid-back barbecues. Speaking of cooking, there are kitchens in all 11 rooms (studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments), which also have views of the beach, gardens or heated pool.
Don't overthink the word "resort" here: Windjammer Resort, located on a sandy public beach in Fort Lauderdale, is more like simple apartments on the beach than a full-service hotel. Its 33 units come with kitchens, dining tables and flat-screen TVs; most rooms have furnished balconies and some have ocean views. One of the two outdoor heated pools has direct ocean views. The beach location (just one block from Anglin's Square and its picturesque fishing pier) and low rates draw families, seniors, friend groups and partiers, and the vibe is fun, but not out-of-control, spring break style.
For eight more amazing budget beachfront hotels in Florida, visit Oyster.com.