In addition to some of the world's most beautiful shores, there is plenty to explore along the Gulf of Mexico in Florida.
Cast yourself away to the West Coast of Florida and experience the unrivalled sights, attractions and adventures that make these cities, beach towns and historic villages so compelling. From shelling along the coast to swimming with manatees, a night out at the opera or peel-and-eat shrimp out on the dock, this coast offers lots to enjoy.
Under the Radar: Bradenton, Anna Maria and Longboat Key
Instead of amusement parks and crowded streets, discover quiet island beaches, historic villages and some of the best shopping and dining around in the Bradenton area. The islands of Anna Maria and Longboat Key are quaint, uncrowded and uncluttered, leaving plenty of space for soaking up the sun. Here, you can shop one of the largest discount malls in the state, sample fresh Florida seafood prepared with local flair or unwind in local parks and preserves where the wildlife-viewing is unmatched.
Browsing charming boutiques on Anna Maria Island
Secret’s Out: Sarasota
Named the No. 1 beach in the USA in 2011 by Dr. Beach, Siesta Key’s white-quartz sand and azure blue waters are reason enough to visit Sarasota. But this ultimate beach escape is also one of Florida’s great cultural hubs, offering museums, galleries, performing arts and exceptional shopping and dining. It’s venues like the Sarasota Opera, Florida Studio Theatre, Asolo Rep Theatre and the Sarasota Ballet among others that earn this gorgeous community the top spot on Florida’s Cultural Coast.
A colorful lifeguard stand on the white sands of Siesta Key Beach
Nature’s Wonderland: Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands
Nestled in the heart of southwest Florida with its kilometers of unspoiled coastline, Port Charlotte was named the “#1 U.S. Best Value Destination” by Trivago, while Sport Fishing magazine called Boca Grande Pass and Charlotte Harbor the best in the world for tarpon fishing (no wonder it’s considered the “Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World”). Paddle 320 kilometers of waterways, catch a Tampa Bay Rays’ spring training baseball game at Charlotte Sports Park, or play on 21 scenic golf courses.
Kayaking through a mangrove forest on one of Charlotte County’s many waterways
Seriously Serene: The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel
Imagine blue skies and warm Gulf waters. Think sunshine, white-sand beaches and uninhabited islands. Spend your days spotting dolphins, searching for shells or looking for more than 400 species of birds in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem. Devote your evenings to enjoying delicious seafood and sunsets before waking up and doing it all over again, whether you plan to paddle beside manatees or seek out some of the world’s best shelling on Captiva and Sanibel Islands.
Spying a yellow-crowed night heron at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Paradise and Preserves: Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades
From one-of-a-kind attractions to unforgettable adventures, Florida’s Paradise Coast – including Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades – makes family time the best time ever. Go on a dolphin-sighting (and learning) expedition, joining up with a survey crew for an eco-tour like no other. Venture into Everglades National Park, the only subtropical preserve in North America and part of the country’s largest wetlands ecosystem. Join a boat tour at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City and explore the saltwater mangrove estuary portion of the park, where you'll spot bottlenose dolphins and numerous bird species.
Soaking up the sun on a sandbar in the Ten Thousand Islands