5 Reasons Florida’s West Coast Should Be Your Go-To Destination
When it comes to Florida destinations, we know it can be hard to play favorites. Tourists flock to theme park paradise Orlando and party central Miami, leaving some of our favorite destinations — such as Sanibel and the Gulf islands — as some of the best unspoiled beaches and natural habitats in the state. If you haven’t yet discovered the sugary-sand coastline of Florida’s West Coast, now is the time.
Check out our top five reasons to visit Florida’s West Coast below, and then head to Florida’s West Coast Beaches Destination Page to make this dream a (discounted) reality.
Situated just south of Tampa and St. Petersburg, the Gulf islands (Bradenton, Anna Maria and Longboat Key) are best explored with your toes in the sand and camera in hand. With miles and miles of coastline, the islands boast of some of Florida’s most authentic and unspoiled beaches and seaside villages. Visitors are welcome to capture the islands’ breathtaking sunsets, historic downtowns and lush vegetation and should be sure to take part in some of Florida’s best agri-tourism along the way.
With 90 golf courses in the greater Naples area, Florida’s Paradise Coast is officially home to the most golf holes per capita. The golfing haven has also been recognized by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators as the Golf Destination of the Year in North America (2014) and was awarded fifth place in USA Today’s list of 10 Best Golf Destinations in the World. Not much of a golfer? There’s plenty of other incredible attractions to explore in the area, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Everglades National Park.
There is a uniquely wonderful blend of arts, culture and natural wonders on Sarasota’s Gulf Coast. County visitors are welcome to explore state art museums, operas, orchestras and botanical gardens, but there’s also plenty of opportunities for fun in the sun. Sarasota has the Best Waterfront to Visit in North America (USA Today) and is home to Siesta Key Beach, the No. 1 Beach on TripAdvisor.
Perfectly placed on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, St. Pete and Clearwater offer visitors access to unbeatable sugar-fine sand in over 35 miles of beaches. Both St. Pete Beach and Clearwater Beach were recognized in the Top 10 Best U.S. Beaches in TripAdvisor’s 2015 Traveler’s Choice Awards, and for good reason. Whether you’re looking to take a dip in the warm, salty water, fly with the seagulls on a parasail or just simply sit back and soak up the sun, the area is perfect for families and couples looking for a sunny and sandy escape.
Thanks to the unique geography of the area, the warm Gulf currents bring in hundreds of thousands of shells onto the sandy shores each day, most of which are fully intact and ready to be scooped up by collectors and souvenir seekers alike. Lucky visitors who adopt the “Sanibel Stoop,” (a local nickname for bent-over shell collectors), often leave with some of the most sought-after shells like horse conchs, calico scallops, banded tulips, sand dollars and starfish.
Photo from Flickr by Ann Fisher