Florida’s gorgeous Gulf Coast, with its mile upon mile of velvet white sands, dazzling turquoise water and charming islands, is nothing short of a dream destination. This is a place of swaying palm trees and amazing marine life, where you can choose your resort to chime with your mood – from family friendly, to laid back, romantic or buzzy. Not forgetting that most days of the year this coast basks under a blanket of glorious sunshine, with daytime winter temperatures up to 24⁰C, rising to the low 30s in summer.
The water that laps the shore is some of the warmest and clearest you’ll find anywhere, making a perfect home for the dolphins that play in the waves and the multi-coloured fish that swarm the reefs. And the softness of the sand has to be felt to be believed – it slips through your fingers like satin. Beautifully studded with seashells on some of the islands, it makes for the perfect place to soak up some rays and then watch a trademark Technicolour Gulf Coast sunset.
Places like Anna Maria, Captiva and Sanibel islands are a haven for holidaymakers craving some R&R. Longboat Key has an upmarket vibe, and Sarasota is perfect for culture vultures – while St Pete’s and Clearwater draw not only families but fans of fishing, wildlife and watersports. The Tampa Bay area has animal parks, aquariums, museums and some jumping night-life on offer; and travel inland a while and you’ll hit the theme parks and buzz of Orlando.
Because the thing about Gulf Coast holidays is that they have something for everyone: idyllic islands for peace lovers; activities aplenty for action fans; stunning wildlife for nature buffs; and all bundled up with beautiful beaches and non-stop sunshine. It’s paradise on Earth.
There’s a beach for everyone along the gorgeous Gulf Coast. From action-packed to family-friendly or deserted coves, you don’t have to go far to find the one that’s right for you. There’s State-protected stretches with rustling pines and mesmeric birdlife; there’s beaches with lifeguards where families gather; there’s shell-studded shores for collectors; and there’s surfing and watersports beaches for adrenaline addicts.
The courses that dot the coast like emeralds are top-class and perfect for working on your swing while the sea glitters in the distance. There’s a wealth of public and semi-private golf courses to get to grips with along the Gulf Coast, and 30 in the Sarasota area alone – four of which have been voted among Florida’s top ten.
There’s fascinating wildlife and stunning State Parks all around this area. Dolphins, manatees, osprey and pelicans are par for the course, while kayaking through the wetlands of Myakka State Park and exploring the mangrove forests of the J. N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuges are unforgettable experiences not to be missed.
All sorts of watersports are in abundance along the coast, including surfing, paddle boarding, jet skis, windsurfing, paragliding, kayaking – even flying over the water with the help of a jet pack. And when the water’s this warm and inviting, it seems a shame not to take advantage. There’s also boating, island hopping, diving, snorkelling, and fabulous fishing for redfish and tarpon.
It doesn’t have to be all about the beach, since there’s a clutch of cultural gems to discover. There’s the Dali museum in St Petersburg; the Edison and Ford winter estates in Fort Myers; a Historical Museum on Sanibel; plus the many delights of Florida’s ‘Capital of Culture’ Sarasota, including world-class performing arts and the fascinating Ringling estate with its circus museum.