Stretching around 210 miles from Tarpon Springs, north west of Tampa, to the southern tip of Marco Island, on the fringe of the Everglades are the seemingly endless white sand beaches, charming coastal towns and wildlife refuges of Florida's Gulf of Mexico. Whether you seek the family-friendly style of St Petersburg and Clearwater, the more tranquil Longboat Key or chic and stylish Naples, there's plenty of reasons to visit.
The Gulf Coast's largest city is Tampa, which has a thriving downtown, an historic old quarter, a perfect day out if you've missed out on the Orlando theme parks, or are just in need of further thrills and spills.
Situated on a sun-drenched peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from Tampa Bay, St Petersburg and Clearwater offer 35 miles of award-wining, impeccable white sand beaches that lead to invitingly clear, shallow water. Those venturing beyond the beach will find a stunning collection of recreational and cultural surprises that include the Dali Museum, the tranquil Sunken Gardens, Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Great Explorations Children's Museum. For something more unusual, try ziplining above a natural preserve at Empower Adventures Tampa Bay, join the party on a pirate cruise and don't miss the sunset and quirky street performers at Pier 60 in Clearwater. When in need of some retail therapy options include either Tyrone Square Mall or Sundial St Pete in St Petersburg or Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater. You'll also find wonderful dining experiences with influences from all over the world and once your meal is over, there's an array of cocktail bars, music venues and hot dance clubs to suit all night owls.
Travel further south and you'll reach Longboat Key, an offshore barrier island running roughly north to south and enclosing the western boundary of Sarasota Bay. On the west is are 12 miles of white sand beach while the eastern shoreline has dense mangroves or marinas. Along with the breathtaking beaches there's a championship golf course, tennis club and at nearby Lido Key there's St Armand's Circle with its delightful shops and dining choices.
Sophisticated Naples sweeps languidly along the inviting Gulf of Mexico with seven miles of gorgeous talcum-soft beaches. Well known for its million-dollar waterfront homes, great golfing, art galleries, luxurious hotels and fine dining, there are also activities to suit families and couples alike. Taking a stroll along the Naples pier is a must, where you may see dolphins as they swim close by and watch the greedy pelicans aim to beat the fishermen to their catch! In downtown Naples, are elegant Third Street and Fifth Avenue which are lined with shops, boutiques and inviting restaurants. Naples is also less than 20 miles from the tropical wilderness of the Florida Everglades, where you can stop at visitor centres with boardwalks, enjoy an exhilarating airboat ride over the swampland and perhaps spy a sunbathing alligator one of the more reclusive Florida manatees.
When it comes to wildlife Crystal River is a must. Here, the warm waters provide a sanctuary for hundreds of manatees during the winter, with many hanging around the bay in summer too.
The tranquil, jewel-hued waters along the Gulf of Mexico are an aquatic playground, whichever region to choose. So, whether you want to try stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, windsurfing and kiteboarding, parasailing and jet skiing, boating or snorkelling, there are plenty of opportunities to dive in and have a go. Away from the water you'll find highly rated golf courses as well as hiking and biking trails.
Inland, the Winter Haven area between Tampa and Orlando is home to beautiful lakes and the largest LegoLand in the world! However, if you're after some untouched wilderness, saddle up and head for River Ranch, where you can stay on an authentic ranch.
Premier Holidays offer a fantastic selection of hotels across the Gulf Coast, see our brochure for further details.
GMT -5 hours
The flying time from the UK to Tampa is around 9 hours 30 minutes. St Petersburg and Clearwater are around 30 minutes drive from Tampa airport, Crystal River is just over an hour's drive, Longboat Key is approximately 1 hour 30 minutes drive and Naples is around 2 hours 30 minutes.
As with much of the Sunshine State, the Gulf Coast beaches are a year round destination. High season is from mid-December to mid-April when the temperatures are warm and the humidity low. In the summer months the temperatures can soar along with the humidity, with daily thunderstorms a possibility. Spring and autumn vary from mild to cool.
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On this half day interpretive tour, join a naturalist guide to view and learn about the Everglades rich history, eco-systems and its wildlife. Depending on the season you may encounter manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, bald eagles and more. Available from Naples.
Your ticket to see the best of Tampa Bay gives you admission to five from a choice of seven of the best area attractions with an amazing 50% saving on combined regular admission prices. Each CityPASS ticket is valid for nine days. Featured attractions include Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, the Florida Aquarium, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and Clearwater Marine Aquarium, plus your choice of either Chihuly Collection or the Museum of Science and Industry.
With this same day admission ticket, explore the brilliant world of Peppa Pig and Legoland Florida. With rides, games and live shows, little ones will have all sorts of fun with Peppa and her family, while at Legoland there are more than 50 rides, shows and attractions all sure to keep curious minds occupied. Situated in Winter Haven, around 62 miles from Tampa. Two day combo tickets as well as one and two day Legoland only tickets also available.