Florida boasts over 1,300 miles of coastline, but did you know that 60% of its shoreline is privately owned? Understanding the distinction between public and private beach property is crucial for beachgoers and property owners alike.

Mean High Water Line and Beach Ownership

The Mean High Water Line (MHWL) serves as a key marker for determining beachfront property lines. It represents the average height of high tide over a 19-year period. While the public generally has access to wet sand areas affected by normal tidal action, ownership rights vary for dry sand areas.

Public vs. Private Ownership

Public access to dry sand areas hinges on whether the property lines extend to the MHWL. Properties with lines extending to this mark typically allow public access, while those without may be considered private. However, this determination can vary and should be verified through property deeds.

Entities with Beachfront Property Rights

Beyond individual property owners, entities like hotels, businesses, and homeowner associations (HOAs) may enforce beachfront property rights. Local authorities, such as counties and cities, also play a role in establishing and enforcing regulations.

Customary Use

Florida’s Supreme Court recognizes public customary use of privately-owned beachfront if it meets specific criteria, including historical usage and lack of dispute. However, customary use only applies to properties extending to the MHWL.

Practical Considerations for Beachgoers

  • Look for signs indicating beach ownership before accessing the shore.
  • Respect private property boundaries and signage.
  • Avoid setting up belongings on clearly marked private beaches.
  • Recognize that some private property owners may allow public use, while others may restrict access.

Conclusion: Enjoying Florida’s Beaches

With its diverse coastline, Florida offers a wealth of beach experiences. Whether you’re strolling along the Atlantic or Gulf shores, understanding beach ownership ensures a pleasant experience for all. Take the time to appreciate and respect the beauty of Florida’s beaches while adhering to local regulations.