A Florida vacation may seem like the perfect time to break out that new itsy-bitsy bikini. But before you go, make sure you check local ordinances. The state banned the exposure of entire buttocks and female breasts from state parks in 1990, as reported in the Sun Sentinel.
Elsewhere in the state, how much skin you can show while sunbathing or splashing in the surf is up to the city or county where the beach is located. These local ordinances run the gamut from the strict, detailed ordinance in Walton County to the less-restrictive approach of Miami, which even has one nude beach.
State Park Rules
In 1990, the Florida Cabinet officially prohibited thongs and G-strings, as well as bikini tops that don't adequately cover female nipples, from state parks. The intent was to protect families with young children from such bodily exposure. In Florida, state-owned beaches make up about 30 miles of the state's 780 miles of beaches, including Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne and John D. MacArthur. Beach State Park in Palm Beach. You can pull up a listing of state parks on Florida's Florida State Parks home page.
Keep It Covered in Walton County
If you want an idea of what a stricter ordinance might look like, look no further than the 14-page ordinance that governs beaches in Walton County, on Florida's Gulf Coast. The ordinance prohibits any display of the buttocks of male or female beachgoers, meaning thongs and G-strings are out.
The ordinance also gets specific about bikini tops for females in public. Women may not expose their nipples or areola, and may only expose as much as 1/4 of the surface area of their breasts. However, "each female Person may determine which 1/4 of her Breast surface area (see definition of Breast) contiguous to and containing the nipple and the areola is to be covered," according to the language of the ordinance. So women have at least a little leeway, as long as three-quarters of their breasts are covered.
Clothing Optional Beaches
Walton County may be at one end of the spectrum, but there are a number of clothing-optional beaches in Florida that could represent the other end. Haulover Beach, between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, is the only nude beach officially recognized as such by the state government. According to the tourism website Visit Florida, it regularly makes top 10 lists for best nudist beaches in the world.
Blind Creek Beach, on the Treasure Coast in Fort Pierce, is also a clothing-optional beach. Bold beachgoers can also head to Canaveral National Seashore, which is home to two clothing-optional beaches, Playalinda Beach and Apollo Beach. If you're going to Playalinda, though, a caution: the beach straddles the county line between Volusia and Brevard counties. Brevard County has relatively strict ordinances prohibiting nudity and thong or G-string swimwear, so if you plan to bare it all at Playalinda, don't walk south.
The clothing-optional beaches exist despite Florida's indecent exposure laws, which prohibit the exposure of sexual organs in public places. However, to violate the indecent exposure law, a person must expose themselves in a vulgar, indecent, lewd or lascivious manner. The person also must have a lewd or lascivious intent. These elements are typically missing in the usual clothing-optional beachgoer, who typically just wants to experience the freedom of nudity – and maybe have fewer tan lines.
In 1990, Florida banned thongs, G-strings and bikini tops that don't cover female nipples in approximately 30 miles of state beach parks. On other beaches, the local city or county government may regulate how revealing your swimsuit can be. There are also nude beaches where clothing is entirely optional.
Jennifer Mueller has a J.D. from the University of Indiana, Maurer School of Law. She has been sharing her legal knowledge on the internet since 2009. Mueller has been published in the Indiana Law Journal, and her writing appears on legal websites such as LegalZoom.