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Clean Gulf Coast Beach Deals in Winter

Once they’re popularly accepted, misconceptions can last a long, long time.

In actuality, bats aren’t blind. Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb. Sugar doesn’t cause hyperactivity in children. Napoleon wasn’t especially short, at least not for his era. And alcohol doesn’t kill brain cells (woo-hoo!).

A common misconception in travel today is that the BP oil spill soiled the beaches all along Florida’s Gulf Coast. While parts of the Panhandle were impacted, many folks may not realize how far that is from places such as St. Pete Beach, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples.

My family recently spent a week at Fort Myers Beach, where the sand is as sugary white as it has ever been; it almost looks like fine, powdery snow. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; Fort Myers is roughly a 500-mile drive from the nearest place where tar balls came ashore. That’s 50 miles further than Boston to Washington, D.C., and about the same distance as San Diego to San Francisco. Heck, Fort Myers is closer to Havana than it is to any beach that saw tar balls.

Here are some current deals on the Gulf Coast:
  • Near swimming, fishing and boating areas, the Resort at MarinaVillage in Cape Coral is offering studio rooms at 40% off. For a $109 a night through Feb. 5, stay in a room that sleep as many as four people.
  • On stays through February, including weekends, the Lido Beach Resort in Sarasota has cut room rates to $129 per night. This offer, which is 55% current rates, comes with free parking, breakfast, shuttle service and Wi-Fi.
  • Check out views of the Gulf in a one-bedroom suite for $90 at the DiamondHead Beach Resort in Fort Myers Beach. Rooms start at $199 per night on select dates through March. Rooms here have a screened balcony, a king bed and a queen-size sofa sleeper as well as a kitchen with a dining area.
Any of these specials would be great for a relaxing, family-friendly getaway like ours. We knew that we would have fun riding bikes along the edge of the surf and watching spectacular sunsets, but we were pleased to discover that Fort Myers Beach is a phenomenal place to hunt for shells. I hadn’t seen a live sand dollar since I was a kid, but there were dozens -- if not hundreds -- on the beach in front of our condo. (Tip: If a sand dollar is furry, it’s still alive and you can’t take it; ditto for any shell that has a live critter inside.)

We’re looking forward to our next trip to Florida’s Gulf Coast -- and if you’re still wondering about the condition of the beaches there, you’re just sticking your head in the sand (which, incidentally, is a misconception about ostriches).

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Tips by
Matthew

Deal Expert, Miami
Friday, January 14, 2011
See more Tips from
Matthew Rehm