There are many great places to visit and things to do on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Check out this article for an awesome start to your Florida vacation!
What is Florida’s Gulf Coast?
You can find Florida’s Gulf Coast in the southwest area of Florida. It’s next to the Gulf of Mexico and is well-known because it has some gorgeous beaches and a very relaxing vibe. In this area, you can also find interesting museums and some interesting State Parks.
The best things to do on the west coast of Florida
What are the best things to do on the Gulf Coast of Florida? 8 tips.
All the way to the south, you can find a small town called Everglades City. It’s located near the entrance of Everglades National Park, has barely 700 inhabitants, and gives you a bit of a jungle vibe. For me, visiting the Everglades is one of the highlights of your Florida road trip itinerary.
Located in Everglades City is one of the visitor centers of Everglades National Park, and you can go on several airboat tours. But it’s even more fun to explore the park during this Mangrove tunnel kayak eco-tour. You have a big chance of seeing some huge alligators!
- Where to stay – Everglades Adventures Hotel Suites by Ivey House – 3 ⭐ nicely decorated rooms in a great location.
- What to do – Explore the mangroves with an airboat tour.
Naples is the place where apparently a lot of people go when they retire and go golfing. There are so many golf courses! It’s also a great place to go when you’re young because it has a gorgeous beach. There are many great things to do in Naples. Make sure to visit the pier, it’s an interesting sight with all the fishermen and you have a good chance of seeing a dolphin swimming around.
You can also opt to go on one of the boat tours that will show you the houses of the rich and famous. On the way back, the boat will be followed by several dolphins that jump out of the water, which is an awesome experience.
- Where to stay – Trianon Old Naples – A beautiful hotel in the historic city center of Naples.
- What to do – Go on a boat trip!
Sanibel & Activa Island
Sanibel and Activa Island are located a little north of Naples, and a perfect place if you need some peace and quiet. The beaches are gorgeous, and if you like to find some large shells, this is the place to go!
- Where to stay – Island Inn – An amazing beachfront hotel.
- What to do – Find the most beautiful sea shells.
Tampa is one of the largest cities in the state of Florida and is located on the Tampa Bay. The city is home to several great attractions like The Florida Aquarium and Busch Gardens Tampa. It’s also fun to rent a bike and go cycling along the Tampa Riverwalk. Tampa is a city you can easily spend a couple of days in. There’s so much to do!
- Where to stay – Le Méridien Tampa, The Courthouse – A great 4* hotel in downtown Tampa.
- Pro tip – Get the Tampa Bay CityPass for a great discount on tours and activities in Tampa.
The Ringling, Sarasota
Unfortunately, this is one of the places I had to skip during my trips to Florida, but I will definitely visit this museum when I go back to Florida. From what I’ve heard, visiting The Ringling Museum is one of the best things to do in Florida.
The Ringling is an estate of the brothers Ringling, who were famous circus artists in the nineteenth century. At the estate, you can visit some beautiful buildings, including a circus museum, an art museum, and the manor. The gardens are a beautiful sight as well. It must be a great sight to visit!
You can find more information on the Ringling on the official website.
- Where to stay – Kompose Boutique Hotel Sarasota – A very modern hotel in a convenient location, next to the airport and close to the Ringling Estate.
- What to do – Would you like to learn more about Sarasota and the Ringling Museum? Make sure to go on this 90-minute tour by trolley.
Fort de Soto
The beach at Fort de Soto is famous and declared the most beautiful beach in the world multiple times. It sure is beautiful! A great place for a picnic, jumping into the ocean, or just reading a book.
- Where to stay – Residence Inn St. Petersburg Tierra Verde – Amazing studios and suites on the road to Fort de Soto.
Salvador Dalí Museum
The Salvador Dalí Museum in Saint Petersburg originated from a private collection of the art collectors Reynold en Eleanor Morse and might even be my personal top pick of things to do on the west coast of Florida. It is housed in a fantastic futuristic building with a matching garden, completely in the style of Salvador Dalí. If you love this artist as much as I do, you have to make sure to visit this museum.
- Where to stay – Hampton Inn & Suites St. Petersburg/Downtown – A good place to stay and from here, you can walk to the museum in a couple of minutes.
It’s a pity I also had to skip this place during my time in Florida, but Crystal River is definitely on my list for the next time when I visit Florida’s Gulf Coast. The water here has such a warm and constant temperature, that manatees love this place. You have a good chance of seeing these large and gentle animals if you visit Crystal River in the months between November and March.
- Where to stay – Retreat at Crystal Manatee. A great little place in Crystal River, close to several parks.
- What to do – Go snorkeling with manatees.
These were my favorite things to do on Florida’s Gulf Coast! What places would you love to visit?
Book a trip to Florida
Would you like to check out Florida’s west coast yourself? These are some useful websites to book your trip:
- ✈️ Plane tickets – There are several airports on Florida’s Gulf Coast, like the ones in Fort Myers and Tampa. Check WayAway to find the cheapest plane tickets. This is a flight aggregator that provides travelers with the best rates on airline tickets.
- 🚘 Rental Car – The best way to get around is by renting a car. Check Discover Cars and Rental Cars for prices.
- 💊 Travel insurance – As for me, travel insurance is a necessary component of any trip, if you want to be calm in every unexpected event during your journey. So, I suggest you choose Insubuy. It is currently the largest provider of visitor insurance. You will definitely find the most appropriate insurance plan for you!
Best guidebooks for a trip to Florida
I’ve traveled to Florida a couple of times, and I love to get prepared by checking out the best guidebooks. These are my favorite Florida travel guides:
Would you like to read more about traveling in the USA?
Check out one of these articles:
- Bucket list: the most beautiful places in the USA
- Road trip itinerary: Florida in 2 weeks
- 5 amazing USA road trip itineraries
This article was published in December 2019. Latest update with more awesome tips: June 2022.
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