Florida isn’t an island, but it does have water on almost every side, and all of its coasts have a unique nickname. The names can help you navigate the different parts of the Sunshine State, but they can also be confusing.
Do you know the Gold Coast from the one that’s famous for its lost-and-found treasure? Or maybe you want to know exactly where to find the Redneck Riviera.
It took us a while to get a handle on all the Florida coast nicknames, but we finally did. We’ll sort them out for you so you can have smoother sailing when traveling there.
Let’s hit the beaches!
About Florida and Its Many Coasts
Speaking of sailing, it would take about a week to cover the length of Florida’s coastlines if you were moving constantly. If you traveled only during daylight hours, you’re looking at another two weeks on the water. That’s because Florida’s coastlines stretch for about 1,350 miles, making them the longest in the continental United States.
Water is just part of the picture in Florida, but it’s certainly a significant one. Our 22nd-largest state is uniquely situated on the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, there are so many incredible inland waterways that you couldn’t possibly visit them all.
With mild weather most of the year, Florida offers almost unlimited opportunities for outdoor recreation. But where to visit first? Let’s count the possibilities as we share the stories behind the captivating Florida coast nicknames. Some are straightforward, while others are more inventive.
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#1 The Gulf Coast
A few of Florida’s coast nicknames, like this one, simply describe their geographic location. The Gulf Coast region covers Florida’s western shores that touch the Gulf of Mexico. Working our way up, we’re talking north of the Everglades to the Alabama state line.
Specific destinations include fantastic beach communities like Naples, Fort Myers, St. Petersburg, Destin, Panama City, and Pensacola. Because they face west, that means fantastic sunsets over the water.
#2 The Atlantic Coast
On the other hand, you have to get up early on the Atlantic Coast to enjoy the blazing colors in the sky. You’ll also experience the deeper open waters’ heavier surf and colder temperatures.
Nearly 600 miles of Florida’s long coastline is along its eastern side. It starts at the Georgia state line above Jacksonville and extends downward past bustling Miami Beach to the Florida Keys. Points between include major hotspots like Daytona Beach, Melbourne, and Fort Lauderdale and sleepier hamlets like Amelia Island.
#3 The Florida Panhandle
Named for its shape, this rectangular section of northwestern Florida is also part of the Gulf Coast region. It’s about 200 miles wide and 50 to 100 miles from top to bottom. We’re generally talking about the area from Pensacola to the west over to Cedar Key. That’s between two rivers, the Perdido and Apalachicola.
Other beachfront cities and towns include Panama City, Destin, Fort Walton, Seaside, Grayton Beach, and Apalachicola. The state’s capital, Tallahassee, is also in the Panhandle but not on the water.
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#4 The Forgotten Coast
This coast nickname may not be the most memorable, but it’s intriguing. There are lots of people here, so it seems unlikely they’d forget it. The reason for the name is that these beach communities are more off the beaten path than their more-famous neighbors. In other words, modern development hasn’t completely ruined them.
Seek this more relaxed experience in quaint “old Florida” places like Apalachicola, Port St. Joe, Carrabelle, and St. George Island.
#5 Florida’s Space Coast
If you’ve ever watched a video of a NASA space launch, you’ve seen this area. It’s about the midpoint of Florida’s Atlantic Coast, located 45 minutes east of Orlando.
You can visit the Kennedy Space Center outside Cape Canaveral, plus the nearby Canaveral National Seashore, a stunning nature preserve. Many other points of interest exist in and around Titusville, Cocoa Beach, and Palm Bay.
#6 The Emerald Coast
This is a much more inviting name for the southern portion of the Panhandle along the gulf waters. There aren’t any official boundaries, but people generally use the term Emerald Coast for an area about 100 miles wide. That’s basically from Pensacola to Panama City.
A junior high school student coined the phrase in 1983 as part of a contest. His inspiration was the distinctive hue of the offshore waters, and his prize was $50.
#7 The Gold Coast
Not all gold is found in hills. This portion of southeastern Florida includes ritzy, glitzy enclaves like Fort Lauderdale, Jupiter, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and Miami.
The name comes from the value of the real estate that attracted the rich and fashionable. The boom began a century ago and continues today. Beyond the glamor, though, you can still find sparkling waters and glittering beaches. But much of the beachfront property is private, not public.
#8 The Florida Suncoast
This is the lower section of Florida’s Gulf Coast, sometimes called the west-central part of the main peninsula. The Suncoast extends roughly from Tampa and St. Petersburg to the north down to the Naples area. This distance is around 150 miles and includes places like Bradenton, Venice, and Sarasota.
It’s a marketing effort, sure, but it’s pretty accurate. Many of these areas get 250 days of sunshine a year.
#9 Florida’s Treasure Coast
There’s gold on the Treasure Coast as well, but it’s primarily coins and jewelry. This moniker came from a very costly tragedy three centuries ago. A fleet of Spanish ships headed back home was loaded down with New World riches. Unfortunately, a powerful storm stopped them just offshore from what is today southeast Florida.
Lucky finders and keepers have claimed millions in wealth over the years as treasure hunting became a lucrative cottage industry. You can learn more about the area’s rich history at museums along the coast.
#10 The Nature Coast
This is one of our favorite areas of Florida. As the name suggests, there’s less commercial development, and nature is truly on display. It’s in the middle of the western coastline, between the Emerald Coast and the Suncoast.
And that’s an excellent place to be. U.S. Highway 19/98 takes you through scenic sites like Crystal River and Homosassa Springs. You can view spring-fed rivers and old-growth trees as you drive along the road. Not quite warming up to the newer nickname old-timers call the area Big Bend.
#11 The Fun Coast
We think this name is appropriate for all of Florida’s coasts, but only one of them claims it officially. So the title goes to the Daytona Beach area, in the north-central part of Florida’s east coast. Locals like to point out that even their area code, 386, spells out fun on a telephone keypad.
This is the world-famous destination for many spring breakers, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Other exciting getaways include Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, and Flagler Beach.
#12 Florida’s Redneck Riviera
People from the Gold Coast may look down on it, but others proudly embrace this working-class connotation. No one knows who first came up with Redneck Riviera, but its meaning is clear. It’s a lower-cost, unpretentious version of the real one in France.
Is it a state of mind or an actual place? Maybe a little bit of both. You’re most likely to find it in the western Panhandle. If it feels super fancy, that’s not it.
Beware of these Most Dangerous Creatures in Florida during your adventure.
Miles of Coast to Enjoy in Florida
The colorful nicknames of Florida’s different coasts reflect each area’s distinct personality and give an idea about their history. Together, they’re part of why Florida has long been one of America’s top tourist destinations.
Attaching a cool, catchy name to a natural feature is an age-old marketing trick to entice people to visit. Once you’ve experienced all of Florida’s coastlines first-hand, you’ll probably agree that they don’t need any extra hype. Still, once you get the hang of these different names, they’re a fun way to remember which beaches are where.
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