Florida’s Sweeping Beaches

Tampa Bay Beach Palm Trees (crop)

I know this site is more closely focused on Tampa but we don’t live in isolation here.  There’s a whole state to explore!  So why would anyone come to Florida if not for the beaches and oceans, right? Luckily, The Sunshine State has beach and ocean variety a-plenty. Depending on where you go, the beach sands will look dark, white or even orange! Here’s your guide to Florida beach sands.

I love the feeling of sand on my feet so one of my true pleasures is to walk on the beach barefoot.  The soft sand feels great and there’s nothing like kicking off ye olde clodhoppers to sink my toes into soft, white, clean(-ish) beach sand. It’s really a rejuvenating experience.

I grew up playing on Tampa Bay beaches where the sand was always brilliant white and soft. When I started exploring other beaches, I was surprised to find that there are many different types of beach sand in Florida, and not all of them are white.

There have been many “contests” over the years to determine which beach has the whitest sand.  Why they focus on white exclusively is a mystery to me.  Yes, white sand is wonderful to look at, but I’d take “soft” over “white” any day….I don’t care if it’s purple!  But I digress…  Really, I appreciate beach sand of all kinds. I’m going to take you to some of my favorite beaches to have a look at the different types of beach sand that you may enjoy getting between your toes.


Where Did Florida Beach Sand Come From?

View Down Tampa Bay Beach
Much of the sand on Florida beaches–any beaches in fact–is made up of quartz crystals produced by the weathering of continental land masses.  In our case, that could be something like the Appalachian mountains. The quartz is washed down America’s great rivers into the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico where it is carried onto the beaches by water currents and waves.

Combined with this could be shell fragments and coral, limestone, fossils and organic matter.  These other ingredients lend different colors to the sand. Beach sand along the southeast Florida coast and the Keys is often composed more of coral and mollusk shell fragments than of quartz crystals.


White Beach Sand

Northwest Florida has some of the purest, whitest sand anywhere in the world–or even anywhere in the state! Its dazzling crystals are nearly pure quartz, resulting in soft, fluffy sand that is a pleasure to walk on.  Some of our dazzling white northwest Florida beaches include:

Further south, the sandy beaches on the Coast of the Gulf of Mexico begin just above Tampa Bay and extend south to Marco Island. Fine, soft, white quartz sand is found on the beaches around the Tampa Bay area, including the following well-known beaches:

Central and southwest Gulf coast beach sand is nearly as white as the whitest sands of northwest Florida, but is finer grained, somewhere between sugar and powder. In fact, in some spots on the beach, usually near the dunes, the sand is so clean it “squeaks” or “chirps” when you step on it in just the right way. This only happens with dry sand. It’s quite entertaining for kids, especially big kids like me, to go scuffling through the dry powdery sand to make it squeak and chirp loudly. And white sand never seems to get hot, even during the hottest days of summer.

Fort Myers Beach sand is considered excellent for sand sculpting. If you’re interested, you could attend the Annual American Sandsculpting Championship and Beach Festival. I’ve been to that event a few times and I’ve learned from professional sand sculptor David Walker that the quartz sand grains on Fort Myers Beach are very angular, a characteristic of “younger” sand that helps the sand hold together well—a property much appreciated by the sand sculptors.


Black and Gray Sand Beaches

Florida Black Sand BeachIf you’ve never seen a black-sand beach you should definitely stop in to one of these.  It is an unexplainable mind-trip.  There are some special beaches in Venice that have black sand; not pure black, but nearly so in some spots.

Black and dark brown fossil fragments are mixed in with the white quartz sand, creating a dark gray to almost black beach. The different shades of white and gray sand on Venice Beach are fascinating.  The connoisseur would enjoy taking a long walk on Caspersen Beach Opens in a New Window, just south of the Venice fishing pier.


Other Beaches

Florida has beaches of all colors.  On many beaches, tiny fragments of shell are mixed in with the quartz crystals, making a colorful mix that may appear light brown or light gray.  Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach have sand that, here and there, in patches, looks quite orange. It isn’t the sand that is orange, but the coquina shell fragments that have absorbed the rusty color of iron oxide.  And, of course, there are your typical yellow sand beaches all over the place.


The Cure for Sandy Feet

When you’re done with a long day on the beach you’re going to have to get the accumulated sand off your body–it’s a fact of enjoying a day at the ocean.  One trick to get that sand off your feet before you get into your car for the drive home is to sprinkle baby powder generously on sandy feet and legs. The sand will then brush off easily.

Of course, water works too. For beaches that don’t have public “hose-off stations” another trick is to bring a gallon of fresh water to the beach. You can keep it in the trunk and, when you get back into the car for the ride home, you can gently wash the sand off your feet with the warm water as you sit on the edge of the car seat and dangled your feet out the door.

Next time you’re at the beach in Florida, take a closer look at the sand under your feet to see what it’s made of. Which type of sand makes the best beach? Well…that’s a question for the ages…  😉


Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.