I remember a time when there were five Floridian world championship surfers on tour at the same time, two of which went on to become world champions. While Florida is not generally on the top of the list for global surf travelers, it has managed to produce some top talent in the waves it affords.
What’s the secret to Florida’s coastline as it concerns surfing? As it turns out, not much, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying some fun waves in most areas of the state for a good portion of the year.
Here’s a breakdown of the best places to surf in Florida broken down by region.
Note: I’ll omit some of the lesser-known spots and concentrate on ones that most people know about so as to not piss too many locals off. So if your spot is mentioned on Surfline, it’s probably not as local as you think.
Best Central Florida Surf Spots
Let’s start this list with Central Florida surf spots as they contain some of the most well-known Florida surfing destinations on this list. The Central Florida surfing geographical region spans from Ft. Pierce Inlet in the south to Playalinda to the north. Listed from south to north:
Ft. Pierce Inlet
Ft. Pierce Inlet is part of the Florida State Park system which means it mixes a bit of wildlife along with a boatload of beach dwellers. If you frequent this spot, or other nearby state parks (like Sebastian Inlet), it’s worth it to get the annual park pass and save some entrance fees.
Ft. Pierce offers some of the best rolling waves in the state, making it an ideal playground for old school longboarders who have been surfing there longer than you’ve been alive. Some of these locals are absolute rippers while others may get the kook card, along with the hoard of new pandemic surfers who have emerged and love two-foot days.
Because Ft. Pierce is outside the Bahamas shadow, it can benefit from north and south swells, and is one of the only spots in Central Florida that works on high tide. For these reasons, it is very popular with South Florida surfers visiting from Palm Beach or even Miami/Dade Counties, and crowds have been known to get out of control on certain days and swells.
It generally has multiple peaks from the jetty northward, so picking a spot away from the crowds is a possibility, especially if you are not opposed to walking north.
Ft. Pierce Inlet Surf Report & Forecast
Sebastian Inlet, located on the north side of the inlet, is one of if not the most well-known spots in Florida. It’s just shy of an hour north of Ft. Pierce Inlet, although there aren’t too many spots in between to write home about.
The best-known wave at Sebastian is called First Peak, although it is a fraction of what it used to be before the jetty was altered. Moving north up the beach there are also peaks called Second Peak, Third Peak, and OKs. It’s a pretty wide playing field and you can usually find an uncrowded peak if you go on the right day.
This is the wave that honed surfing greats like Kelly Slater and the Hobgood and Lopez brothers, and continues to be a favorite spot for people from all over the state. The fishing here is also top-notch, so the park as a whole can get crowded, just make sure to get there before 10am on the weekends else you’ll be waiting in line for upwards of 30 minutes.
On smaller days, it’s a really rippable, peaky sort of wave. When it gets a little more size, the swell direction really comes into play as do the tides and wind. On its day it’s still a really fun wave and worth a visit. Outside is a wave called Monster Hole which is a big swell magnet and one for advanced surfers or those who enjoy surfing with sharks.
Sebastian Inlet Overview Surf Report & Forecast
A mile or so north of Sebastian Inlet is Spanish House, aptly named because next to the entrance there’s a house with a Spanish tile roof. This is Sebastian Inlet’s little brother and usually is frequented by locals or others who want a free place to park.
Spanish House has shifting sandbars that can provide perfect A-frame barreling conditions or jumbled backwash, sometimes both inside an hour. There are multiple peaks at this beach and if you really want to score waves by yourself all you have to do is walk a little ways to the south towards the inlet.
Spanish House Surf Report & Forecast
RC’s / Hightower Beach
The RC’s and neighboring Hightower Beach spots are known for their ability to hold bigger swells and occasionally barrelling waves. The waves are created by coquina rock shelves that help provide a nice pitching wave, which sometimes gets peaky or walled-out depending on the conditions.
For RC’s, you’ll have to park across the street at the nearby Publix and for Hightower get there early for one of the limited public parking spots. These waves are largely dominated by the locals, so if you are a beginner surfer you probably want to seek waves elsewhere.
RC’s is the better of the two waves, although both are fun on NE and N swells, with offshore winds, and with anything over knee high. Look for good waves around mid tide and watch out for the rock shelfs right off the beach that have been known to ruin a few feet. The rocks extend out to the lineup, so while there is a fair amount of sand on the bottom, tread with caution as there is a lot of rock here.
Hightower Beach Surf Report & Forecast
Cocoa Beach Pier
The Cocoa Beach area is home to Ron Jon Surf Shop, a Kelly Slater statue, and one hell of a tourist hub. If beginner-friendly waves and attractions are your cup of tea, this is a good place to visit.
The Cocoa Beach Pier is the hot spot for this spot, with lots of smaller, rolling waves, and often some wind protection that you don’t get at too many other places in Central Florida. The surf is user-friendly for most, with lots of beginners on rented boards and tourists taking their first steps into the surf.
It holds surf contests regularly throughout the year, and the sand bottom is what you’d want if you are new to the sport.
Cocoa Beach Pier Surf Report & Forecast
Playalinda is located inside Canaveral National Seashore so expect an entrance fee as well as some pristine landscapes. Given its somewhat remote nature, crowds are at a minimum and you are sure to find a peak to yourself.
Playalinda is a hurricane swell favorite when it comes to north swells and SW winds. The sand contours can change week-to-week, but it generally likes a low to mid tide for the best conditions. Overall, the waves at the many beach entrances are comparable to the rest of Central Florida, but where this wave really shines is when it gets a bit more size and when more advanced surfing is ready to take place.
Playalinda Surf Report & Forecast
Best North Florida Surf Spots
Other than New Smyrna Beach, North Florida probably doesn’t get the amount of recognition it should for the quality of waves it has. This stretch of beach spans from just north of the cape at Bethune Beach and spans all the way to the Georgia coast, at Ft. Clinch State Park. Listed from south to north:
New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna comprises two well-known beaches, NSB North and NSB South. This area is arguably the most consistent wave on the entire east coast of Florida and the crowds reflect as much. When the rest of the coast is flat, you can always find something of a wave at NSB. That said, a rideable wave is not what most people are after, and when a decent swell rolls through NSB can hold some great opportunities. Note that the prevalence of sharks is not a myth, so if men in gray suits are not your thing, stay away.
NSB is a high-performance, peaky wave that is ideal for the more advanced surfer. When it gets good, there are a-frame wedges popping up everywhere. It accepts swells from NNE to ESE and everything in between and like most of Florida, favors an offshore wind. Hit NSB on an incoming medium tide, but don’t be afraid to show up anytime of day when the waves are pumping.
New Smyrna Beach North Surf Report & Forecast
Ponce Inlet is located on the north side of the NSB inlet and is known for its ability to hold larger period swells than most spots on the coast.
Ponce tends to be slightly less crowded than NSB, which isn’t saying very much, but the spot is better suited to experienced surfers. The locals hold down the best peaks, so show respect and you (might) get some back. It gets good on pretty much all east based swell direction and offshore winds, but tends to like a lower to medium incoming tide.
Ponce Inlet Surf Report & Forecast
Jacksonville Beach Pier
Like many pier spots on the coast, Jax Pier is one of the more consistent waves in the area and pretty much every surfer in Jacksonville knows it. It can be a couple feet bigger at the pier than 100 yards down the beach in either direction due to the bathymetry of the coastline. In addition to having a really fun wave, the local area provides a great place to grab a post-surf beer and burger with friends.
The pier has waves on both the north and south sides and the quality of each varies depending on the sand banks. The waves serve up fun waves for longboarders, shortboarders, and new age mid-length surfers, and as such also serves up a mighty crowd. The local vibe is pretty mixed with mellow cruisey types and uber-aggressive groms who will snake you any chance they get.
Jacksonville Beach Pier Surf Report & Forecast
The Poles is one of Jacksonville’s signature surfing spots. It’s scenic, consistent, and it gets really good waves on its day. Getting there is half the fun so do a little research if it is your first foray as coming from the north requires a ferry. Keep in mind that The Poles is inside Hanna Park and requires an entrance fee, so if a free ride is your bag, this is not the spot for you.
Mayport Poles are located right next to the Mayport Naval Base, giving it an off-limits northern border – the poles – that you won’t want to cross. Aptly named because of the wooden poles that run perpendicular to the beach, this is a heavily populated surf zone that is a real winner when the surf gets some size. If you catch the right NE swell and a low incoming tide, you may be enjoying the makings of a very makeable barrel fest. The good news about the bigger days is that it usually filters out the novice buoy-like surfers leaving more rippable waves for those who can make the paddle out.
Mayport Poles Surf Report & Forecast
Best South Florida Surf Spots
South Florida surf spots range from the party-town that is South Beach all the way to Stuart. This area has a signature for clear water, good to occasionally epic surf spots, and a large degree swell blockage due to The Bahamas straight to the east. It is a large geographic region that can easily be broken down into sub-regions, so understand that traveling from one part of South Florida to another may involve hours of driving. From south to north.
Best-known for its opulent lifestyle, clear water, and topless beaches, South Beach is more of a novelty wave than a regular surf spot. That said, it can produce some of the most picturesque, throaty, and gnarly waves in the state on the right swell. So pack your best pair of Gucci loafers, a wallet full of cash, and a surfboard you don’t mind snapping.
The south end of South Beach is bordered by a massive jetty, giving it a little bit of wind protection on heavy SE windchop days. While that is all well and good, the real reason South Beach is on this list is because it can get all-time on those sweeping north swells Floridian’s love so much. These are the days that take over the digital surf mags and Instagram because of the beautiful, warm water a-frames peeling up and down the coast.
Because it is Miami, and because everyone usually knows when South Beach is expected to fire, the crowd can be insane. While the big winter swells are best for advanced surfers, watch out for the occasional barney bailing their board on duck dives and ruining your day.
South Beach Surf Report & Forecast
Like most South Florida spots on this list, Delray Beach is known for its ability to get really good on big north swells. When the rest of Palm Beach County is maxxed out, Delray is often the spot offering up long, point-break-like lefts steps away from the hustle and bustle of Atlantic Avenue.
A fun sand bottom beach break, Delray usually works best during winter’s northern originating storms. There is an outside sandbar that offers up some beautiful lines, approachable by experienced longboarders as well as hot doggers and everything in between. As it is located in a busy city center, the spot can get quite crowded. Enjoy some warm water waves and a cold beer at one of the nearby restaurants to celebrate the epitome of South Florida surfing.
Delray Beach Surf Report & Forecast
Lake Worth Pier
Lake Worth Pier, “L-Dub,” or just simply, “the pier,” this South Florida surf spot is worth a mention on every surf list but might not be your first choice if you want to avoid getting heckled. The pier is bordered by a casino (not the gambling type), so you’ll have to pay to park and deal with the massive crowds. If you are still interested in learning more, read on.
Lake Worth Pier, like most piers, offers waves on both sides. The sandbars created by the north to south sand movement create fun waves in nearly any condition. From the common wind chop, to the occasional south swell, to macking north swells, the pier can, and often does, provide good waves during all sorts of conditions. On most days you’ll enjoy some playful windchop on either side of the pier and on big swells you can literally catch a wave from outside the pier that will put your throat in your chest.
Only a few brave souls will venture out on these days, so on most days you’ll have to deal with the crowds and locals. It’s unique to surf a good peak at the pier without hearing someone tell the non-locals to beat it, so if you want to surf here understand that punches do occasionally get thrown around, albeit much less than they used to.
Lake Worth Pier Northside Surf Report & Forecast
Sitting on the south side of the Palm Beach Inlet (aka Lake Worth Inlet) lies Reef Road, a spot that is geographically located on the easternmost tip of Florida. The spot actually faces a bit southeast, making it a great wind blocker during common northern wind events that are typical in winter. If you haven’t heard of Reef Road, it is one of the most well-known, and respected, waves on the entire east coast. Here’s why.
Reef Road, named after the road and not because there’s any reef here (it’s sand-bottomed), is notorious for its ability to handle fun to heavy surf, mostly in the way of reeling lefts that will work for a 100 yards, sometimes more. When these northern swell events hit and the winds look good, everybody and their mother knows that Reef Road is the spot. This includes the local Palm Beach Police, who will have a field day ticketing everyone (and their mother) hefty illegal parking fines in excess of $60 each.
This wave can handle a variety of different conditions in addition to the macking north swells, and also works great on wind chop and in the waist to chest range. There’s also a wave closer to the inlet called The Cove, which is often the more consistent spot of the two. On big days, both The Cove and Reef will break on the outside, often reforming on the inside into glamorous close-out barrels that make your day. Bring your shortboard, carpool with friends to split the inevitable ticket, and enjoy one of the finest waves on the coast and perhaps the best wave in Florida when it’s working.
Reef Road Surf Report & Forecast
Juno Pier is a picturesque spot with free parking that attracts the local high school students, leather-tanned retirees, and of course, a wide range of surfers from all skill levels.
Juno Pier, similar to Lake Worth Pier, enjoys the splendors of the occasionally epic sandbar, consistency on wind chop or groundswell, and can work from two foot to double overhead. On hurricane or winter swells, you can catch waves from the end of the pier if you are strong enough to fight the currents and moving water.
If navigating pier crowds is not your thing, venture a little north to Marcinski Beach for a less-crowded beach break or one of the northern numbered spots, each with their own look and feel, depending on the sandbars. Juno has free parking everywhere, making it a much more pleasurable experience in the event you get skunked.
Juno Pier Surf Report & Forecast
Hobe Sound is a bit of a lesser-known spot but can handle swell on its outside reef and sandbars and is usually thin on crowds. The town of Hobe Sound is still mostly agricultural, so the population density is at a low which often helps the solo surfer.
When Palm Beach is being blocked by the Bahamas shadow, or the Stuart area is not quite working, Hobe Sound offers an alternative that is provided by a combination of reef and sandbars. The bigger days provide ample chunky surf that allows some big turns before hitting the inside and potentially reforming.
Hobe Sound is a better fit for more experienced surfers as the paddle time is long, and the rocks below create a lot of moving water. Look out for sharks and the reef when it gets shallow.
Hobe Sound Public Beach Surf Report & Forecast
Like most public beaches with free parking, a food shack and public restrooms, Stuart Public attracts surfers from all walks of life. The wave usually has two sections – an inside and outside – that can suit surfers of different skill levels.
Like Hobe Sound to the south, Stuart enjoys a mixture of reef and sand bottoms. This allows the waves to hit the reef and pitch on good offshore days, offering the occasional barrel and ride from the outside all the way in. It does prefer light or offshore winds, so if you have an onshore or sideshore wind you may want to look elsewhere.
The crowds are mellow as there are much better waves around, but inexperienced surfers should tread lightly when the waves get some size as they are usually bigger than they look.