Florida, the Sunshine State, is well known for its theme parks in Orlando and popular vacation hot spot Miami. But there`s another part of Florida worth discovering and that`s the west coast of Florida. Renting a car is a great way to discover Florida’s Gulf Coast at your own pace, allowing you a different Florida experience.
Follow along my road trip and the stops en route at Florida’s Gulf Coast:
Pensacola offers the best of both worlds, powder-white beaches alongside a town rich of history as Pensacola was founded in 1559. Visit the National Naval Aviation Museum, one of the World’s largest Air & Space museums, for free. Or climb up 177 steps for a view from above at the top of Pensacola Lighthouse.
Panama City Beach
PCB is a famous Spring Break destination, but it also has a lot to offer for the beach lover as it has 27 miles of white sandy beaches. Take a boat out to Shell Island, a natural and undeveloped island or fly over it by helicopter. Had enough of the beaches, go shopping at Pier Park with 124 shops and a movie theatre you won`t be bored soon.
A cozy and quaint city with a relaxed atmosphere that has it all: cute boutiques, restaurants and beautiful houses. This was definitely a favorite of mine along my trip. Make sure to take a drive to Little St George Island where you can go to the beaches, explore St George Island State Park or visit Cape St George Light, a historic lighthouse.
Cedar Key has an abundance of seafood and beautiful nature. This is the place to come if you`re interested in bird life and fishing. Cedar Key also made history as it was part of the first Cross-Florida Railroad. It`s a nice place to rent a house, invite your family and have a relaxing vacation.
St Petersburg and Clearwater
It doesn`t come as a surprise that Clearwater was named ‘Best Beach Town in Florida’ by USA Today. Clearwater Beach, a white sandy beach, is the perfect spot to sit back and relax or if you prefer play a game of beach volleyball. As for St Petersburg, make sure to stop by the Salvador Dali Museum as this museum houses the largest collection outside Europe of the works of the artist Salvador Dali.
Just outside of Bradenton you`ll find Anna Maria Island, a personal favorite of mine. Here you`ll find hidden beaches, cute beach shops and a laid back atmosphere. This is for the beach lover who wants to enjoy a relaxing vacation and get away from it all.
Don`t miss the Ringling Museum of Art and make sure you allow yourself enough time to visit the whole property as there`s a Circus Museum, the Museum of Art, a rose garden and Ca’ d’Zan. The Ca’ d’Zan meaning House of John is one of the largest historical mansions on the west coast of Florida. Had enough culture, then head to Siesta Beach named #1 Best Beaches by Dr Beach.
Fort Myers and Sanibel
Strolling through the streets Fort Myers Downtown makes for a nice afternoon, as the city has a cozy feel to it with palm trees decorating the streets and shops along the way. Fort Myers is known as the ‘City of Palms’ because of the streets lined with palms. A must see in Fort Myers are the Winter Estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. These estates are one of the nation`s top ten most visited sites. Want to hit the beach, go shelling at neighboring Captiva Island.