Beaches with the Most Bang for Your Buck

By: Lauren Tjaden

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Florida's beaches, from Clearwater Beach to the Florida Keys, are as affordable as they are fun.

Dreaming about a beach getaway, but afraid it might break the bank? Here are five affordable – and fabulous – seaside destinations that won’t leave your wallet singing the blues.

Clearwater Beach is renowned for its white-sand beaches, tranquil waters, abundance of watersports, shopping and restaurants – and its affordability. Scope out Clearwater Beach deals at Visit St. Pete/Clearwater's website for discounts on accommodations and everything from weddings to fishing to wildlife packages.

Inexpensive or free area activities include sunset celebrations (complete with performers and artisans), shelling, swimming and cheering on Major League Baseball teams like the Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays in nearby Dunedin during spring training season. And don’t miss exploring the pristine paradise of Caladesi Island.

Jensen Beach is the bomb for watersports and bargains, with accommodations to fit everyone’s budget, including camping. Discover package deals and discounts on Martin County Convention & Visitors Bureau website. 

Inexpensive or free area activities include surf-fishing, playing beach volleyball, hiking, building sand castles, shelling and playing on the waves or relaxing on Hutchinson Island’s pristine beaches.Enjoy live music at the weekly Jammin’ Jensen Festival or rent a metal detector and scan the shores of this Treasure Coast town. In nearby Stuart, visit the House of Refuge and stroke stingrays at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center.

New Smyrna Beach is low-key and affordable. It boasts 13 miles of award-winning, wide, white-sand Atlantic beaches, oodles of quirky shops and restaurants, fabulous fishing and golf. Its plentiful accommodations include condos, bed and breakfast inns, hotels, houses and even camping (but not on the beach). 

Inexpensive or free area activities include playing or surfing on its wonderful waves, hiking, biking or kayaking, admiring art at its numerous galleries or just unwinding on the beach.  

Panama City Beach boasts 27 miles of beaches, and it just got easier and cheaper to get to them with the May 2010 arrival of Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. Tap the “Vacation Deals” link on the convention and visitors bureau website to find discounts on its plentiful accommodations.   

Inexpensive or free area fun includes hiking or off-road biking on scenic trails, swimming, sunbathing, playing beach volleyball. Escape to nature-rich St. Andrews State Park to snorkel, kayak, canoe, fish or camp. Delight to dolphins on undeveloped Shell Island. Join in the local tradition of watching the fishermen’s fleet unload their catches outside Captain Anderson’s Marina at dusk.  

The Marathon area of the Florida Keys is a delight for divers, watersports lovers, fishermen and bargain hunters. Surf the tourist development council's website for “Keys Kash” discounts on everything from eco-tours to accommodations. 

Inexpensive or free area fun includes walking or biking along the Old Seven Mile Bridge to historic Pigeon Key, watching assorted sea creatures being fed at Captain Hook’s Aquatic Learning Center and snorkeling and swimming at Sombrero Beach. The beach is the perfect picnic site for one of the Keys’ largest Independence Day (July 4) celebrations, with food, drinks, kid’s crafts, music and entertainment that lead into the night's fireworks display. Remember to visit nearby Bahia Honda State Park and its stunning beaches!

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