Most Dangerous Beaches In Florida You'll Want To Avoid On Your Next Trip

There's nothing like a beach vacation when visiting the Sunshine State. With the Atlantic Ocean thrumming on the peninsula's eastern shores and the usually petite waves of the Gulf of Mexico licking the sands on the west, Florida has some of the most diverse seaside scenery in the United States. There's nowhere else to drive the scenic Overseas Highway through the Keys on a planned adventure of snorkeling with sea turtles, spotting crocodiles and alligators, fishing for sharks and grouper, or catching the surf on a particularly heavy day before shopping at one of the many city centers along the coast. The possibilities abound.

The state's coastal diversity lends itself to taking one exciting trip after another without repeating the same itinerary as the last, but that same diversity is what can make the varied land and seascapes of Florida dangerous. Creatures can hide in the sands and waters, the surf can turn treacherous in an instant, and the human element is notoriously unpredictable. While any beach destination isn't without a basic level of danger, the Florida beaches on this list are the most dangerous for various reasons, and you might want to think twice before visiting them on your next trip.

Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach looks like any other prime vacation destination. This beach spans 27 miles of the Gulf Coast and contains several artificial reefs and two state parks, making it a great location to spend time away from the stress of a nine-to-five or escape from the everyday mundane. That said, the waters off the beach aren't nearly as safe as your neighborhood swimming pool.

According to ABC 6 WATE, Panama City Beach has moved into the number one spot on the list of most deadly beaches in the United States this year after a series of drownings in June 2023. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there were seven surf zone fatalities within nine days. The beach was put under a no-swim advisory as dangerous rip currents made their way through the Gulf of Mexico. According to USA Today, there's been an upward trend in rip current occurrences like these over the past few years. If that trend continues, tourists may want to look toward calmer waters for their next getaway since the idea of being sucked out to sea in a deadly wash isn't most people's idea of an exemplary vacation. And if one's heart were set on dipping their toes into the Gulf waters of Panama City Beach, it would be wise to check for swim condition warnings first.

Jacksonville Beach

Jacksonville Beach might be your preferred spot to sample the Atlantic in all its glory. Being only a skip away from Georgia to the north, Jacksonville is known to enjoy slightly lower temperatures than South Florida and might make a better vacation sport for those not acclimated to tropical climates. But like the other beaches on this list, Jacksonville Beach has its share of dangers.

According to Travel Lens, Jacksonville Beach is one of the deadliest beaches in the country due to a mix of surf deaths, shark attacks, and other factors (full disclosure, this also includes hurricanes). Since 2010, Jacksonville Beach has had four water-related deaths, which doesn't sound like much until you look at the rescue numbers, such as the 50 swimmers saved from the waters on Memorial Day weekend 2023. Had they not been within sight of the lifeguards, the numbers may have been higher.

Sharks pose another risk at Jacksonville Beach, and the locals, as The Florida Times-Union points out, believe attacks are becoming more common due to the number of visitors in the waters. In correlation, News 4 Jax says there has been an increase in sightings in the area. Now, shark bites are exceedingly rare in general, and death by shark even more so. However, as the number of humans increases in the Jacksonville waters and encroaches on sharks' natural habitat, the potential for attacks is also likely to increase. Just something to think about before you dive in.

Volusia County Beach

Going to the beach should be a relaxing experience. The beach is a place to lounge around in the sun or wade in warm water with a beverage in hand. The beach is not a place where you should be on edge, head on a swivel, looking for the next danger to rear its ugly head. Unfortunately, the hazards of Volusia County Beach seem to be in every direction. The water can sweep you away in a rip tide, which The Daytona Beach News-Journal says more than 700 rescued swimmers found out in the first half of 2023. Sharks in the Volusia County waters also bit seven people last year, and that's one of the lowest years on record, the same outlet explains. But one danger in Volusia seems to pose more of a risk than others purely by the numbers: the stinging tentacles of jellyfish.

According to USA Today, over 600 individuals were stung by jellyfish during a single weekend in 2018, with hundreds of other stings reported in the surrounding days. This wasn't an isolated incident, either. WESH 2 shows around 360 jellyfish stings over two days in 2022. Now, these stings don't usually cause lasting damage, but allergic reactions aren't uncommon. Either way, jellyfish stings are painful, hazardous, and not an activity one usually signs up for.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach is another one of those famous names you've likely heard before, and for good reason. The beach has been a tourist hotspot for decades. It's a place where the rich live and where the rest of us dream about living while we tread the sands on a five-day getaway, but it would seem those sands are becoming a place less safe to walk, and doing so could be risking an injury or more.

This would-be-alluring beach has been marred by, as the organizer of the beach clean-up nonprofit Friends of Palm Beach Diane Buhler says (via Palm Beach Daily News), "a never-ending flow of ocean trash." Currents have been washing all sorts of garbage onto Palm Beach for over a decade, and it's becoming a potential health hazard. Things like blood-filled vials and used syringes are just some of the dangerous debris appearing on Palm Beach, explains The Palm Beach Post. Locals have found these items all the more concerning because, as some told WPTV, there are active intravenous drug sites nearby. And since the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office says South Florida is the top entry point for heroin into the US, it wouldn't be surprising if some of the drugs coming in made it to users near the beach.

Daytona Beach

The Daytona Beach area, part of the Volusia County family of beaches, is known for hosting NASCAR's Daytona 500 and the racing culture that comes with it, but high-speed collisions on the track aren't the dangers tourists should be concerned with when visiting the sandy oceanfront of the Daytona Beach.

Offshore, potentially deadly riptides could be hiding among the surf, waiting to drag unsuspecting swimmers away from dry land to the wavy blue beyond. According to Click Orlando, the rip currents that popped up in the few days surrounding July 4, 2023, put around 180 people in imminent danger that required lifesaving rescue. These phenomena are frequent enough that warnings are usually issued when rip currents are likely.

Along with the natural dangers, the Daytona Beach area has seen a rise in gun violence over recent years, which WESH 2 says amounted to 15 killings in 2022 alone and over 10 between January and August of 2023. The climbing violent crime rate has prompted community leaders, public servants, and elected officials in Daytona Beach to hold gatherings focused on alleviating these issues. Only time will tell how successful their efforts are. So, in the meantime, it would be best to keep your eyes open if visiting Daytona Beach.

New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna Beach resides in the Volusia County family of beaches we've already discussed, but it deserves special attention because of the dangers this beach presents. In fact, before Panama City Beach became the most deadly beach in the United States, that title belonged to New Smyrna. Like many of the other dangerous beaches in Florida, New Smyrna has had a fair amount of surf deaths, but the sheer number of shark attacks in this beach's water makes it terrifying.

Most beaches have few or no shark attacks, whereas New Smyrna dwarfed most beaches with over 30 shark bite incidents from 2010 to 2023. "They have more bites in New Smyrna Beach than in any other place that we are familiar with and it's fairly regular every year and so they like to call themselves the shark bite capital of the world," Gavin Naylor, the director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told The Daytona Beach News-Journal in a July 2023 interview.

In 2023, as WTSP explains, New Smyrna Beach received a sharp bump in its shark attack numbers when three people were bitten in the month of July while doing seemingly normal beach activities such as surfing and hanging out in the water.

Ormond Beach

Just north of Daytona Beach, the sandy coastline of the smaller Ormond Beach is a blessing for those who prefer sparser crowds while enjoying breathtaking Atlantic waves and southern sunshine. At least partially due to Ormond's size, beach-goers shouldn't have to worry too much about the crime issues of its larger neighboring beaches. Travel Safe says the city of Ormond Beach has less criminal activity than most other cities of comparable size. Unfortunately, Ormond Beach isn't perfect, and just because it's relatively safe from crime doesn't mean the water is without its dangers.

According to statistics found via WESH 2 News, the beach has a mix of possible perils. The waters have witnessed four shark attacks since 2010 and double that number in rip current and other water-related deaths. Despite the numerical data, locals who spoke to The Daytona Beach News-Journal disagree with Ormand's ranking as a "deadly" beach. Instead, they argue that surf deaths can be the product of "carelessness" and that any beach has a certain amount of danger. So, while Ormond Beach might not be the most dangerous Florida beach on the list or the most deadly, there are undoubtedly oceanside destinations with fewer recorded incidents.

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach looks like a great vacation spot for people with multiple interests. For surf enthusiasts, the area has numerous surf shops and plenty of beach to launch from. Visitors infatuated with technology or aerospace can occasionally view rockets launched from the nearby Kennedy Space Center. For the rest, tanning in the sun, picnics on the sand, cooling off in the salty sea, or casting a line into the surf are just some of the activities tourists can look forward to at Cocoa Beach, but unless they're brave, those tourists might want to stick to the sands.

Giant open bodies of water like the Atlantic Ocean are obviously dangerous if one isn't careful, and like all of the Atlantic beaches on this list, Cocoa Beach has had surf fatalities, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The beach has also seen its share of shark attacks — with around 30 incidents since the turn of the millennium. As Time Magazine points out, shark encounters have increased drastically since the 1950s and may continue to do so. So, Cocoa Beach and other beaches that have recorded shark attacks might not be the safest place to take a dip.

Melbourne Beach

Not far from Cocoa Beach, the oceanfront of Melbourne Beach offers fishing, snorkeling, romantic sunset walks on the Melbourne Beach pier, and all sorts of fun activities to fill a beach vacation, but if visitors are looking for a safe place to tread some water, maybe Melbourne isn't the place to go for a swim.

The surf at Melbourne can be dangerous, and swimming there would be best done as near to shore and the lifeguards as possible. An 18-year-old girl drowned there in early 2023, and Brevard County, where Melbourne is located, has had over 50 drownings since the late 1980s, according to data from the National Weather Service. The number of near drownings is likewise staggering, with what Click Orlando says is usually 400-450 rescues per year, though sometimes those numbers are higher. In the two weeks following Thanksgiving of 2022, around 150 people were rescued in the waters of Melbourne Beach and the surrounding beaches of Brevard County. So, if you plan to spend some time in the Melbourne water, pack your good floaties.

Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale has been one of the most popular spring break destinations for decades past — think the '60s through the '80s — but in recent years, the wild party atmosphere of the area seems to have calmed down significantly. Nowadays, the city and its beachfront make for a luxury vacation that likely doesn't come cheap but is just as likely to be worth the money. But this new Fort Lauderdale beach experience comes with new hazards.

The dangers at Fort Lauderdale aren't what you'd typically think of when accounting for seaside risks. One reviewer wrote about health hazards from recurring breaks in sewer lines on a Trip Advisor review of the beach. Another shows pictures of used needles they found near the water, while another visitor was bothered by the prospect of the injuries caused by the uptick in motorized scooter usage. And while those things pose risks, the dead bodies found on the Fort Lauderdale sands are certainly more troubling.

According to NBC 6, two bodies, possibly associated with a police chase, were found on the beach in June 2020. News 7 Miami describes a guest at one of the beach hotels who was shot and killed in August 2023, and this came after a body was found under bushes on the beach in March of the same year (via CBS Miami).

South Beach

South Beach in Key West, not to be confused with the South Beach at the southernmost portion of Miami Beach, has endless activities to knock off your vacation bucket list. One can rent a sailboat or hop on a charter to tour the islands, catch a cruise, try out a wildlife tour, visit the Hemmingway Museum, or check out the butterfly conservatory on the island. Pretty much anything that keeps visitors out of the water since, unfortunately, it might be teaming with potentially dangerous microbes.

If you plan to join any aquatic activities in South Beach, it'll be worthwhile to check the Florida Department of Health's webpage to ensure the water quality in the area is safe. According to the Miami Herald, the majority of Florida beaches have been found positive for fecal bacteria, likely from farm runoff or sewage issues, in at least one periodic test. In 2022, South Beach, Key West, had 17 "potentially unsafe days," per Environment America — and 68% of testing days had "potentially unsafe" water. This type of bacteria can cause everything from ear infections to respiratory disorders and is best to be avoided entirely.

Miami Beach

Regarding spring break destinations, Miami Beach is one of the most popular, reaching number two on US News' Best Spring Break Destinations and placing on most other similar lists. It's a hot spot for partying on the beach and relieving the stress built from a dense semester of exams, and that popularity seems to be the exact thing making this beach dangerous.

The city of Miami Beach received an "F" rating from Crime Grade with a "D-" in violent crime, which they admit might be skewed toward the negative due to the amount of tourist traffic in relation to the actual number of residents, meaning at least part of the crime is likely caused by people who don't live there. Locals, business owners, and officials explained to ABC News how they believe a rise in crime, including the shooting deaths of two people in 2023, is due to the influx of spring breakers every year. Things have gone so far that the Miami Beach mayor shut down the beach, enacted a curfew, and declared a state of emergency in both 2023 and 2022 for shootings, according to The Miami Times. So, while Miami Beach carries a dangerous rating due to crime throughout the year, those going to beaches over spring break should take extra caution.