RV Camping in Florida: The Gulf Coast vs Atlantic Coast
Florida is a beach destination for RVers all year round, with beach exposure on almost every side. However, your experience may vary depending on the location (and the season). Both the Gulf and the Atlantic Coast have distinct advantages and disadvantages.
If you’re planning a road trip in this sunny state, you’ll need to weigh a few factors. Both coasts can offer an unforgettable experience, but you may prefer one over the other depending on your hobbies and travel preferences. For instance, the Gulf Coast will give you a longer, more meandering path that’s great for exploring. On the other hand, the Atlantic Coast is shorter and more straightforward. Their beaches also have some key differences.
Below, we’ll explore the pros and cons of roadtripping across Florida’s different sides. In the end, it mainly comes down to how you want to spend your time and what type of beaches you prefer. Let’s get started so you can get your feet in the sand!
Florida’s Gulf Coast is one of the most scenic destinations in the country. It spans over 700 miles and has several nooks and bends for hidden beaches. Thanks to its geology, the Gulf is naturally sheltered from harsh storms and waves. This makes it ideal for a long and peaceful road trip.
There are several factors that set it apart from the Atlantic Coast. Although it’s tempting to split the list into pros and cons, it all depends on your group and activity preferences. What might be a drawback for some would be a benefit for others! With that in mind, let’s explore some of the unique aspects of the Gulf Coast.
Warmer ocean temperature
For starters, the water in the Gulf is noticeably warmer than the Atlantic Coast. Of course, there is variation based on the location and season, but there’s typically a difference of five degrees or more.
The Gulf of Mexico’s waters are typically warmer, which can make for a more comfortable swimming experience. According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the Gulf of Mexico water temperature can vary from the 60s (°F) in winter to the high 80s (°F) in summer. It’s important to check current conditions before visiting.
Soft, white sand
When you picture the ideal beach, it probably includes soft white sand, palm trees, and gorgeous blue water. The Gulf Coast is the place to find this combination. Most of the sand in this area is made from crushed white quartz. It’s very fine and soft, so beachgoers love it.
Ideal for calm-water activities
There isn’t as much wave action in the Gulf, so it’s a great place to enjoy calm-water activities. Swimming is always an option, but you can also go boating, kayaking, or paddleboarding. In most cases, you won’t have to fight against choppy waters and strong currents. If you want a more laid-back beach experience, the Gulf Coast is the place for you.
Larger area with more privacy
In addition, the beaches along the Gulf are more spread out. As we mentioned above, the Gulf covers more than 700 miles. You’re guaranteed to find a private spot somewhere along this stretch! This is the place to go if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet.
Better fishing conditions
Fishermen also may prefer the Gulf Coast over the Atlantic. The calmer waters make it easier to hook fish and reel them in. You can find a wide variety of species here as well. The seafood scene is also hard to beat!
Focus on local culture and artistry
There’s more to this area than just beaches! If you explore the towns along the Gulf, you’ll find all kinds of fascinating craft fairs, art shows, and cultural celebrations. It’s easy to find local craftsmen and artisans. Pick up a few pieces of unique art to decorate your RV!
Next up, we have the Atlantic Coast of Florida. This stretch is shorter and more direct. It still covers about 400 miles though, so you have plenty of room to explore.
Although the beaches in this area might not always align with the “ideal” image of a beach, they have their own benefits.
For starters, the water here is a bit cooler than the Gulf. If you want to find a warmer beach, you just need to head south for a bit!
More wave action
Next up, the waves are much better on this side of the state. Surfers will love all the wave action, and it’s also great for boogie boarding and body surfing. There are also more powerful storms along this coast, so the waves may be bigger on certain days. Stay safe if you plan to tackle these conditions!
Coarse, packed sand
The sand is also quite different in this region. In contrast to the white sands of the Gulf, the Atlantic Coast features coarse, colorful sand. It’s darker and more tightly packed. This is great for running and long walks along the beach, but it might be a bit rough to sit in. It all depends on how you want to spend your day.
Larger cities and better tourism
Next up, let’s talk about traveling in this area. The Atlantic Coast features some of Florida’s largest cities, like Miami and Jacksonville. These places are built on tourism, and they offer lots of opportunities for travelers. You’ll always have options for dining, shopping, entertainment, day trips, and more. These locations are also great for sports events and nightlife!
Historical sites and landmarks
In addition to the modern cities, the East Coast is packed with historical sites. You can find museums, monuments, and preserved landmarks up and down the coast. If you’re a history buff, you might prefer a road trip along this side of the state.
In conjunction with the large cities and tourism, the Atlantic Coast is pretty busy. It’s a popular area for cruise ships to dock, and the roads and beaches are usually bustling. This can be fun if you love active vacations! However, this isn’t ideal for everyone. You may prefer the Gulf Coast if you want a quieter and calmer trip.
In the end, you can have a great experience on either side of the state. Just be sure to research specific beaches and towns before you arrive so you know what to expect. Enjoy your next Florida road trip!
Find Florida campgrounds and more
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