Much of Florida’s West Coast is still relatively undiscovered. While the uninitiated think of Florida and equate it with theme parks and frantic nightlife, those who have found “the other coast” know it offers so very much more.
Along the West Coast, the Gulf of Mexico provides sun worshippers and water enthusiasts with wide expanses of white sand beaches and temperate waters in which to frolic; naturalists with protected areas filled with wildlife and ecotourism opportunities; shoppers with endless possibilities from outlet malls to chi chi designer boutiques; and diners with experiences that are, as they say, to die for!
Florida’s West Coast comprises, from south to north, the Naples/Marco Island Area, the Fort Myers Area, the Port Charlotte Area, the Sarasota/Bradenton Area, the Clearwater Area, the Tampa/St. Petersburg Area and the Nature Coast. Information on each area and its towns follows.
NAPLES/MARCO ISLAND AREA
The Naples/Marco Island area will satisfy the nurture versus nature debate! Here you can have it all from sophisticated cultural activities to visiting natural habitats with an abundance of bird and wild life – including the awe-inspiring American Alligator.
Naples is considered to be the crown jewel of Southwest Florida -- nestled on the sun drenched beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Naples’ climate is subtropical and enjoyable any time of year. Read more.
Marco Island is just four miles wide by six miles long and is the largest of Florida's Ten Thousand Islands located on the Gulf of Mexico in Southwest Florida, just south of Naples. The attraction is tropical sun-washed white beaches, great access to Gulf of Mexico waters, and a casual, easy paced life style. Yet there is plenty to do and see to make your vacation memorable. Read more.
Bonita Springs is in a beautiful, natural area just north of Naples in Southwest Florida. Old Florida homes, cypress trees and dangling Spanish moss give Bonita Springs a refreshing blend of old Southern charm and modernity. Read more.
Bonita Beach is Bonita Springs’ gulf front sister community located on a barrier island to the west, between the Gulf of Mexico and Estero Bay. Along with shorefront on both the gulf and bay, the Imperial River flows through the downtown district of the city located on Little Hickory Island. Read more.
Estero, the small, unincorporated region of Southwest Florida between Bonita Springs and Fort Myers, has a vast history involving Native Americans, a religious commune and even pirates. But Estero only recently started to become a true destination for tourism. And it only took a matter of years for it to be discovered. Read more.
FORT MYERS AREA
Fort Myers, located on the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico, is the metropolitan hub of the Southwest Gulf Coast. Here is the international airport where visitors from all over the world arrive to discover this “has it all” area. In fact, tourism is the #1 industry in Southwest Florida and everywhere you go you’ll find a warm welcome. Read more.
Fort Myers Beach is where you’ll go to satisfy your sun and sand senses. It also offers family fun and lots of touristy opportunities to shop for souvenirs. Fun dining spots dot the beach. Spring breakers flock to Fort Myers beach each spring. Read more.
Sanibel and Captiva Islands lie just off the coast of Fort Myers but are a world apart.
Sanibel Island is particularly acclaimed for it’s shelling and the associated posture referred to as the "Sanibel Stoop." The arts are well represented at colorful playhouses and wonderful little galleries tucked away behind exotic, lush foliage. Read more.
Captiva Island is primarily devoted to hidden, lush residents of the rich. There are several restaurants and shops on this small, narrow bit of land as well as Turner’s Beach, a public beach access. Read more.
North Captiva Island is accessible only by boat and automobiles are prohibited. Tool around on your golf cart and enjoy some Cuban chili along with freshly caught fish at quaint eateries. Read more.
Across the bay is sleepy little Pine Island. Its shoreline being mainly mangrove forests, there are few beach opportunities but that shouldn’t stop you from including it in your vacation plans. Read more.
Cape Coral's natural beauty provides the perfect setting for fishing and boating enthusiasts. With an extensive system of waterways for boating and sightseeing, more than 400 miles of saltwater and freshwater canals complement the many lakes, basins and stunning Intracoastal waterfront areas. Read more.
PORT CHARLOTTE AREA
The Port Charlotte Area is also known as “the Suncoast” and this pristine area was named "Best Place in the South" by Money magazine. Whether you enjoy gliding down the Peace River in a kayak, going one-on-one with a 100-pound tarpon in the Gulf of Mexico, munching on a hot dog while enjoying a baseball game or enjoying a romantic evening overlooking Charlotte Harbor, Port Charlotte and its neighboring communities deserves a visit.
If it’s beaches you crave, the beaches of Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands line miles of the Gulf coast. Not only do they attract sunbathers, swimmers and shellers, there are also abundant birds, dolphins, sea turtles and other wildlife.
Port Charlotte offers the visitor a tranquil getaway with lots to do and see! Although a favorite with snowbirds for its quiet tempo, those seeking a variety of activities to fill their vacation time won’t be disappointed. Read more.
Punta Gorda has sparkling waters, nearby pristine beaches, fishing at its greatest, wildlife in abundance and a casual, friendly atmosphere, all of which draw those who seek the natural pleasures of life. Read more.
Englewood has been called the "Gem of the Suncoast," "the Heart of the Suncoast," "a bit of Heaven on Earth," "a place unspoiled by high rises and high prices," and "where the livin' is easy," yet it still remains one of Florida's best kept vacation secrets - a secret about which more and more Floridians and northern vacationers are learning. Read more.
Rotonda is a good choice for your vacation if you are seeking a friendly, casual neighborhood within an easy drive of some of the more bustling towns in Southwest Florida. This unusual community offers a freshwater canal system and four golf courses. Read more.
Sarasota/Bradenton and their islands rank among Florida’s most sought after vacation destinations. Magnificent white sand beaches line the crystal-blue Gulf ofRead more. Mexico shoreline of Sarasota’s barrier beaches. But beaching and water sports compete with many other attractions to make the Sarasota/Bradenton area a fun-filled vacation destination. Sophisticated or casual, upscale or economical, you’ll find it here!
Sarasota still manages to maintain a friendly, small town feel but its active downtown is home to a world class arts and theater district, and a wide variety of attractions to fill your vacation with fun. Read more.
Bradenton is located just north of Sarasota on Florida’s Gulf Coast, at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Bradenton is a good place to vacation and explore historical attractions, fishing adventures, golfing excursions and shopping diversions. Read more.
Anna Maria Island is a barrier island located on central Florida's Gulf Coast, just south of Tampa Bay. Anna Maria Island has become known as "My Island In The Sun" for not only visitors. but year-round residents. The residents of this island’s three towns have worked diligently to preserve its old Florida feeling. Read more.
Longboat Key is an ideal beach and bayfront settings for the ultimate Florida vacation. Stretching between the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico and serene Sarasota Bay, Longboat Key attracts those who come to enjoy the average year-round temperature of 73 degrees, perfect for the outdoor activities for which this island is so well known. Read more.
Siesta Key is located on a barrier island off Sarasota on Florida’s West Gulf Coast. Siesta Key has a feel of old Florida, and its beach regularly makes the list of top beaches in Florida. Fun in the sun is what Siesta Key is all about! Read more.
Venice is one of the few cities on Florida's west coast that is not separated from the Gulf by a barrier island. For the visitor wishing to spend leisure hours enjoying the sun and sand, Venice provides a good variety of public beaches. (Includes information on Nokomis, Osprey and Parrish.) Read more.
The Clearwater area has it all: 35 miles of white sand beaches on eight major barrier islands, a harbor full of sightseeing, boating, fishing and parasailing opportunities plus the largest recreational fishing fleet on the west coast of Florida, world-class museums and art galleries, outstanding theaters, shopping and dining. It’s also known for having the most sunny days – 361 - in one year.
Clearwater is a Florida city with a rich history that offers diverse attractions including arts and museums, the natural environment, historical buildings, and hosts many yearly special events. Golfing, boating, fishing, bird watching, or attending the spring training games of two major league teams all vie for the vacationers time along with the nearby beaches. Read more.
Clearwater Beach has an upbeat and tropical feeling, offering award winning white sand beaches, restaurants, gift shops, not to mention the largest charter fishing fleet on the West coast of Florida. Also known as “Florida’s Beach,” it holds the record for most days of sunshine - 361 days! Read more.
Madeira Beach’s friendly, laid-back atmosphere is the reason why so many make it their choice for a vacation at the beach – that and five white sand beaches. You’ll find lots of activities to keep the whole family satisfied. Read more.
Indian Rocks Beach is located on a barrier island that provides almost 3 miles of wide sandy beaches for vacation enjoyment. You’ll also find a series of canals leading to the Intracoastal Waterway, making this a favorite for boaters and anglers. Read more.
TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG AREA
The Tampa/St. Petersburg region is a study in contrasts. Your day can begin at a family-friendly theme park and end on the dance floor of a hot nightspot.
For a big city feel, head for Tampa with its many museums, performing arts centers and International Plaza, where over 200 stores compete for the tourists’ dollars. Tampa Bay’s beach communities – St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island and Apollo Beach -- offer miles and miles of white sand beaches, beachfront restaurants, watersports and other fun activities stretch along the shore. The sun fails to shine only 4 days a year on average in the Tampa St. Petersburg area!
St. Petersburg Beach has long been a resort destination (F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald came to stay at the fantasy pink, historic Don Cesar Resort) and if it’s fun in the sun you are after, St. Pete Beach and nearby Treasure Island will make for a memorable family vacation.
Tampa provides a big city feel with its many museums, performing arts centers and shopping venues. It is also home to top family attractions and beautiful beaches are just minutes away. You probably won’t have enough time on your vacation to do everything, but it will be fun to try!
THE NATURE COAST AREA
The northern portion of Florida’s West Coast is a haven for naturalists. Much of this region is quite rural with national, state and county parks and preserve comprising much of its area. Fishing, kayaking and even white water adventures are all offered in the small towns that line lyrical sounding rivers: Homosassa, Weeki Wachee and the aptly named Crystal River. But don’t forget you’re very close the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Some may experience culture shock at the lack of shopping malls, nightclubs and fast-food chains. But if it’s relaxation and communing with Mother Nature you’re seeking, this is your perfect destination. One visit will explain why this area considers itself Florida’s “Nature Coast.”
Cedar Key is a quiet island community nestled among many tiny keys on the Gulf Coast of Florida, about 3 hours north of Tampa. Long admired for its natural beauty and abundant supply of seafood, it is a tranquil village, rich with the almost forgotten history of old Florida. Read more.
The town of Crystal River is located about 90 miles north of Tampa near the Gulf of Mexico. This is a tranquil community as you might guess from its nick name, “Where Man and Manatee Play.” Manatees spend their winter, from November through March, in the year round 72 degree spring waters in the Crystal River. Read more.
Located four miles from the Gulf of Mexico, Spring Hill is in Florida’s Nature Coast but is just 35 miles from the bustling Tampa Bay area. It enjoys unspoiled coastline, rolling farmlands, natural springs and crystal clear rivers and streams. Read more.