Explore Florida's Gulf Coastline

Florida's beaches are among the best in the world. But when it comes to award-winning stretches of sand, St. Pete/Clearwater knows how to make a splash. Not only was Clearwater Beach voted America's Best Beach by TripAdvisor for 2019, but St. Pete Beach wasn't far behind, coming in fourth place.  Both beaches make up the long stretch of barriers island that hug this part of the Florida Gulf coastline, where white sands stretch for 35 miles and an exciting foodie and craft beer scene has emerged, you can take your pick between amazing art and awe-inspiring nature.  The area has a variety of different resorts available across St.Pete/Clearwater with Orlando is only 90 minutes away. 

Head to downtown St.Pete and you will find the Salvador Dali Museum, with the largest collection of works by the artist outside of Spain, as well as The Museum of Fine Arts and even a vibrant street art scene with huge colourful murals decorating buildings.

For sporting activities, the 40-mile Pinellas Trail follows an old railroad route and is perfect for cycling, you can kayak the mangrove-lined waterways of Weedon Island Preserve, and Honeymoon Island state Park is home to unspoilt beaches, perfect for a paddle boarding adventure. 

There are plenty of thrills to rival the theme parks. At Clearwater Beach, Pier 60 is the perfect place for sundowners as the sky is painted hues of gold and red, while Treasure Island Beach is perfect for a jetski adventure and you can even fly out of the water with a Jetski pack at St. Pete Beach.

Children will love visiting Winter the Dolphin, the star of the Dolphin Tale movies at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, while grown-ups can follow the craft beer trail.

With so much to explore at St. Pete/Clearwater, it's not just the award-winning beaches that will keep you busy.

Florida's stylish hideaway

Sarasota is a sun-soaked artistic retreat with upmarket boutiques and a great culinary scene.

Sophisticated Sarasota is one of those hidden delights in Florida. A beach town with more than 35 miles of coastlines, upmarket boutiques, fine dining and an exciting arts scene, it has long been a place where the great and the good spend sunny winters in Florida.

Circus magnate John Ringling built himself a winter residence here in the 1920s and gave Sarasota its artistic streak, which continues today with galleries and wonderful performance art venues, while his historic Ringling estate has also become home to wonderful art and circus museums.

When it comes to places to stay, take your pick between serene lakeside villas or resorts set on the white sands of the exclusive keys strung along Sarasota's Gulf Coastline.

Siesta Key is home to a beach of the same name, often voted one of the best in America thanks to its sugar-fine sands and aquamarine waters. On this island you will also find great al fresco eateries, shops and plenty of water sports on offer.

On Lido Key nature takes centre stage, with pristine beaches and mangrove tunnels that are perfect for exploring by kayak as well as waves that are ideal for surfing. Or head for that are ideal for surfing. Or head for laid-back Longboat Key where golf and great dining combine with amazing beaches.

If you can tear yourself away from the sun-drenched sands, Sarasota's historic district is packed with independent boutiques, while tiny St Armands Key, tucked alongside Lido Key, has a vibrant shopping and dining district. There are also plenty of outdoor yoga classes, luxury spas and golf courses to be enjoyed.

Just a two-hour drive from Orlando, Sarasota is ideal for winding down after a theme park adventure. 

The Gulf Coast isles of plenty

From shell collecting to wildlife watching, the laid-back vibe of Fort Myers and Sanibel makes for a truly relaxing retreat.

Life takes on a slower pace in Fort Myers and Sanibel, on Florida's Gulf Coast. It's all about leisurely rides along coastal bike trails, watching in awed silence as baby turtles hatch and head to the water and spotting everything from herons and kestrels to manatees and dolphins.

Inventor Thomas Edison spent his winters in mainland Fort Myers and you can visit his estate and laboratory, as well the collection of original cars at the neighbouring estate of his friend Henry Ford, founder of Ford cars. Fort Myers beach is actually set on Estero Island, where you can find top pick of places to stay including Outrigger Beach Resort.

Enjoy the pristine white sands or head out to spot dolphins and manatees. This is just the first in a chain of beautiful barrier islands stretching north and you can hire a car to explore further.

Sleepy Sanibel is one of the world's best places for shelling, while JN "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge covers a huge expanse of the north of the island, creating a sanctuary where you can peddle or hike along trails to spot wonderful birdlife and even alligators, dolphins and manatees.

Nature takes centre stage here. Low-rise buildings help protect wildlife, there are more bike paths than roads and minimal street lighting helps prevent turtle hatchlings on the beach becoming disoriented. Visit between May and October and you may be lucky enough to see the tiny hatchlings making their mad dash into the water.

Drive across the bridge to Captiva Island, where you can find the beautiful old Florida-style South Seas Island Resort. The quirky island is known for its bohemian vibe and artistic community, great sailing, deep sea fishing and wonderful sunsets, best enjoyed while sipping a cocktail from the Mucky Duck Pub.

Don't miss the Wicked Dolphin distillery, where you can take a tour and try the artisan rum - the only rum produced in the state of Florida.

From Captiva you can also hop between some of the smaller islands on the Pine Island Sound. Kayak or take a boat to Cabbage Key, home to sweeping 360-degree views and reputedly the world's best cheeseburger, which inspired Jimmy Buffett's song Cheeseburger in Paradise.

It's all action at Daytona Beach

Whether it's the thrill of NASCAR or the family-friendly atmosphere of the historic pier and boardwalk this Atlantic beach town is a firm favourite to combine with Orlando.

Every year, NASCAR rolls into town, promising action and high drama at the Daytona International Speedway, known as the World Center of Racing. Whether you visit for the cars or simply a sun-drenched beach break, this 23-mile stretch of sandy playground is where you can try everything from surfing and sand cycling to parasailing and paddle boarding.

The Daytona Beach area has a whole host of grand beachfront resorts available. Enjoy an indulgent escape at the shores Resort & Spa, with its oceanfront pool, Jacuzzi and romantic fire cauldrons, or keep it cool with live music, free use of Fender guitars and rhythmic massages at the Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach. Add in even more fun to your holiday by visiting the Kennedy Space Center or St Augustine, known as the oldest city in the US, which are just an hour's drive away.

Back in Daytona Beach, take a tour of the speedway, tee-off for a game of golf or set out to drive the Ormond Scenic Loop, showcasing some of the most diverse scenery in northeast Florida, from rivers, creeks and marshes to sand dunes. It will also give you access to a whole host of different parks, such as Tomoka state park, where you can explore waterways by kayak, go fishing and spot alligators.

There is no shortage of wildlife in Daytona Beach, from the sea turtles laying their eggs on beaches at night to more than 200 bird species, or you can take a boat tour to spot dolphins and manatees in the surf. Don't miss One Daytona - the new entertainment, shopping and dining destination - just across from the speedway. Or why not coincide your trip with a festival? Known as the Festival Capital of Florida, Daytona Beach hosts more than 60 unique events each year, from the Halifax Art Festival to Daytona Bike Week and the Riverfest Seafood Festival.

It really is paradise

From elegant Naples to Marco Island beaches and the wilds of the Everglades, known as Florida's Paradise Coast, is an experience you will never forget.

Crowned by the sophisticated beach town of Naples, this gulf coastline includes the so-called Ten Thousand Islands and Everglades National Park, with its 1.5 million square miles of mangroves, marshes and waterways, where you can find crocodiles lurking, majestic manatees and even the elusive Florida panther.

It begins in Naples, all pastel-coloured mansions, sweeping dunes and soft sands of brilliant white. Stylish boutiques, art galleries and fine dining restaurants rub shoulders in town, whilst the beautiful surrounds are interwoven with more than 90 manicured golf courses.

This is one of Florida's most exclusive enclaves. There are wine and food festivals, botanical gardens and art exhibitions, even the Naples. There are also plenty of luxury places to stay. Would you prefer the refined atmosphere of boutique The Inn on Fifth in Naples? Perhaps you'd rather the all-suite Marco Beach Ocean Resort, or even a grand villa. 

To the south, Marco Island is the largest of the Ten Thousand Islands, fringed by beautiful beaches and dotted with parks. You can head out in a catamaran to spot dolphins and seabirds, kayak your way around the coast, go fishing or simply hop from island to island. You can also find out more about the Calusa Indians, who used to live here, at the Marco Island Historical Museum.

No trip to the paradise Coast is complete without exploring the great expanse of The Everglades National Park, where you can get an exclusive excursion to discover the best of the wetlands with an airboat ride, alligator spotting and a guided swamp trek.

There are so many ways to explore the natural beauty of the Paradise Coast, whether it is a glamorous sunset cruise from Naples, kayaking through the mangroves of The Everglades of family fishing trips from Marco Island.

Then there is the food, fresh catch of thee day and delectable stone crab, particularly from mid-October to May, food trucks and chic waterfront restaurants - you have it all in Naples and Marco Island. Simply finish it off with 30 miles of dazzling beaches and glorious west-coast sunsets.

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