I went to University of Florida for graduate school and hit a lot of the major beaches Cocoa and north. I cannot speak for South Florida.
Growing up near the coast in California, I did not like the beaches in Florida. They are flat, the waves are small, and there is no marine/cooling effect when you get near the water. It is hot and sticky and the sand adheres well.
Having said that, the St. Petersburg/Clearwater had the nice mile wide, gleaming white sand beaches you see in movies. We stayed at hotel on St. Pete and it was gorgeous. I also liked that the gulf side water was warmer than the Atlantic side. That is one reason I would definitely pick it over Daytona.