Florida Gulf Coast Beaches: So many choices … so little time
A couple went outside to gaze at the stars on a particularly dark night. She remarked, “Look up at the stars; are there really that many of them?” Her gentleman responded, “Yup, there are lots of them too,” to which she smiled. When you count the beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast, you get the feeling of the guy who didn’t get the joke but still knew there were a lot of them, even though he didn’t get the meaning of the word “numerous.”
We have a short agenda for this road trip
This road trip gets underway in Perry, Florida, which is where the previous post about the Florida Panhandle Beaches left off. In Chiefland, Florida, State Road 27 takes a turn to the east. Since neither route follows the coastline in its entirety, this is the best option available. Along this stretch, there are a dozen different villages and hamlets. I am unable to discuss each and every one of them. You are going to take pleasure in traveling through these woods. They have a subtropical climate and an allure that can only be found in Florida. You will find it easier to navigate this general area with the assistance of this website, which is dedicated to that area.
After you pass through Crystal River, Florida, the beaches will be closer to the highway, and there will be a greater number of people. US Highway 98 takes a left turn approximately six miles south of Homosassa Springs, Florida. Continue on Highway 19 south, which will bring you closer to the coast.
Do you believe in Mermaids?
It would be a mistake to skip out on the activities and attractions that Weeki Wachee Springs has to offer. For the past decades, visitors to this Florida State Park have been able to enjoy a popular attraction. A breathtaking underwater show with real-life mermaids as the main attraction is constructed all around a massive natural spring. (If you watch this show, you will start to have faith that mermaids exist.) They perform in an enclosure resembling an aquarium that is filled with spring water. It is a spectacularly choreographed underwater show that features a total of swimmers, female and male.
The price of the ticket grants accesses to all of the water park’s attractions. To get the most out of your visit, plan to spend several hours there, and try to time it so that you can watch both of the daily underwater ballets. Even though this is not a beach in Florida, it is still an impressive body of water and deserves to be highlighted. On the rides in the amusement park, guests must wear bathing suits. This is the deepest freshwater spring in the United States, reaching a depth of 6700 feet.
There’s more to Florida’s Gulf Coast than beaches
Although the beaches along the Florida Gulf Coast are the primary draw, there are a few towns along this stretch that are distinctive enough to merit at the very least a drive-through. Highway 19 will bring you to New Port Richey, Florida, where you will need to make a left turn onto Main Street. The Pithlachascotee River cuts right through the middle of this Gulf Coast town that is only 4.1 square miles in total area. Because there is not enough room on the map for the full name of the river, the name of the town has been shortened to “Cotee.” More than 300 different species of birds have been spotted in this area by bird watchers. Primitive nature enthusiasts will find the James E. Gray Preserve to be a paradise. There are bike trails, hiking trails, and camping in the wilderness. You are welcome to take a stroll along the paved banks of the “Cotee River,” which offers a serene and picturesque view as it winds its way through the downtown area.
New Port Richey, Florida is an ideal place to spend the night if you’re looking for a sleepy town to call home for the evening.
Tarpon Springs is one of our most enjoyable discoveries
Several years ago, my husband and I were leaving Tampa and heading north. We went through Tarpon Springs on our way. I looked to my left and noticed the harbor area of Tarpon Springs, Florida, after which I noticed the spire of a Greek Orthodox Church. At first glance, both the international influence and the intrigue are readily apparent. Sponge diving boats, shops, and restaurants, as well as a film that recounts the history of how Greek immigrants came to Florida and started a sponge diving industry that has changed over the years but has persisted for several decades, are all part of the attraction. Because of its one-of-a-kind character, visitors from all over the world flock to this town. Along the coast of Florida is where you’ll find the fascinating town of Tarpon Springs. Following our advice, several of our friends made the trip here, and they all had a positive experience while they were there.
Clearwater, Tampa and St Petersburg-The Sun-drenched Tampa-Bay Triangle
More than 2.7 million people live in the metropolitan area that includes Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg, and this is where the hustle and bustle of the beach towns reach their peak. Activities can continue throughout the year because there are so many people living there. This is a significant market for professional and collegiate sports. The National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Major League Baseball’s Tampa Rays, and the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning all call the Tampa Bay area home for their respective sports. The Tampa Bay metropolitan area is home to both the Arena Football League’s Tampa Bay Storm and the North American Soccer League’s Tampa Rowdies. Both of these professional sports teams can be found in the area.
These three cities are located on the edge of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, two of the most beautiful bodies of water in Florida. The bay is crossed by a number of bridges, which makes traveling around the area simple and interesting.
The beaches in this area are sure to please even the pickiest of beachgoers due to their wide range of amenities. Public and private beaches, fishing piers and charter boats, golf courses, and world-class shopping are among the most popular activities for vacationers. Other popular tourist destinations include national parks, historic forts, museums, amusement parks (in particular Busch Gardens), and The Florida Aquarium. A simple list of the attractions with their individual names would take up multiple pages.
Clearwater, Florida is home to some stunning beaches.
One of the most well-known beaches along the Gulf Coast of Florida is located in Clearwater. The city of Clearwater, Florida serves as the administrative center of Pinellas County. The third and smallest of the three spectacular cities that make up Tampa Bay, it has a population of more than 107 thousand people. This town, in comparison to the other two cities, offers access to a greater number of beaches. The beach fronts are lined with condos located in high-rise buildings. Land-based attractions in Clearwater provide a source of entertainment for the city’s guests. Because the Bay Area has such a well-developed road network, traveling from one city to another is not difficult at all.
Spend some time at the beach should be your top priority when planning a trip to Clearwater. There are miles and miles of beaches with white sand and beautiful water. Each one provides a plethora of free beach activities for guests to enjoy. Because of this, it is an excellent location for families. Explore the local parks, forts, and historical sites while you’re here.
Pier 60, located in the center of Clearwater Beach, is a popular destination throughout the day. Craftspeople, street performers, musicians, and other types of artists take over the main activity area of Clearwater Beach two hours before sunset and again two hours after sunset. The only place in the state, other than Key West, that was voted to have a better sunset.
The metropolitan area consists of three cities, with Tampa, Florida being the largest of the three. When we took our young children there for the first time, Busch Gardens was the primary attraction. This is a multi-attraction theme park that features dining establishments in addition to rides, shows, and animal exhibits. One of the most popular destinations is Busch Gardens.
The Serengeti Safari is a ride that takes you through an area that has been designed to look like the Serengeti in Africa. It is teeming with animals, which allows you to get up close and personal with the wild variety. Within the park, you can choose from one of four distinct animal-themed rides.
Ybor City, also known as Tampa’s famous Latin Quarter, is located in the central business district of Tampa. It was named after Vincent Ybor Martinez, the neighborhood’s founder. Ybor City was established by Cuban cigar makers who relocated from Key West, Florida, to Tampa, Florida, over a century ago. They are credited with founding the neighborhood. Martinez constructed what was, at the time, the largest industrial building in the state—a cigar factory—and named it after himself. The neighborhood exudes an exotic aroma that is reminiscent of Cuba. The buildings are made of red brick, and there are wrought iron balconies and narrow brick streets throughout the area. A change of scenery from the beach will provide you with a welcome break. The retail establishments are just as one of a kind as the restaurants and hotels. When you take a stroll down La Setima, the primary thoroughfare of the Historic District, you will get the impression that you have been transported to another location. During our first trip there, the region had just started the restoration process that would allow it to regain its authentic flavor. In the wee hours of the morning, you might catch a glimpse of a cigar being rolled by hand or catch the aroma of coffee being roasted. Your imagination will be sparked to take you on a journey to a faraway island thanks to the sights, sounds, and smells. The restoration is very close to being finished at this point.
Overlooking Tampa Bay is the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Locals refer to St. Petersburg, Florida, as simply St. Pete. It is the second most populous city in this general region. As it travels across the northern portion of Tampa Bay, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Interstate 275 provides a connection between Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Pete. The city of St. Petersburg is located on the southwesternmost point of the peninsula, which is the land area that surrounds Tampa Bay. This bridge on this particular interstate highway is my favorite bridge of any of them. Because the span takes you to such a high elevation, you will have a breathtaking view of the bay area. The bridge is exquisitely constructed, but the sights that can be seen from it are truly breathtaking. It is especially beautiful at sunrise or sunset, but any time of day it is awesome.
While in St Petersburg you should visit The Dali. This museum is the largest collection of Salvador Dali art anywhere in the world. The museum is listed as “One of the top buildings you have to see before you die.”
Throughout this area seafood restaurants dominate by number, but there are many choices for dining whether your taste is local or continental. The favorite fish in the area is Grouper, since it is plentiful in nearby waters. The meat of the Grouper is light-colored and the flavor adapts well to a variety of cooking methods. Grouper is cooked with recipes that range from oriental, to continental to back-yard grilling, to Cajun.
I love Cuban food and this is one of the best areas in Florida to find good Cuban food. The Cuban cuisine here is equal to that in Miami or the Florida Keys.
Driving south, you exit the Tampa Bay area on Interstate-275 where you intersect with I-75. The next stop will be Sarasota, FL as we move into the southern end of Florida’s Gulf Coast Beaches.
Each town has a distinct personality and though there are similarities, each is different from the other.