Dive Into the Gulf Coast
Hugging the Gulf of Mexico are the beachside communities of the Gulf Coast, each with its own unique offerings and, of course, fantastic beaches. From the fast-paced lifestyle of Clearwater Beach to the quiet relaxation of Venice, you will find yourself diving headlong into the experiences offered in these amazing locations. Soak in the sun, cool off in the water, or explore the shops and restaurants of each of these Gulf Coast destinations - we’ll tell you just where to play and stay.
Where to play: Long stretches of crystalline white sand squeak beneath your feet as you stroll towards the refreshing waters of the Gulf during a visit to one of Clearwater’s public beaches. With an average of 361 days of sunshine per year and a temperate, mild climate, it’s obvious why Clearwater Beach has received numerous awards. From best beach to family’s choice, Clearwater Beach has been honored in just about every category. Their public beaches are especially great for family outings, thanks to calm, shallow waters and full-time lifeguards.
Even if it’s just for the day, you could pack an entire vacation’s worth of beach activities into one day! Zoom around the waves with Clearwater Beach Jet Ski Rentals, who offer premium crafts and unique, family-friendly Jet Ski tours. Catch your own dinner with a fishing charter from Daisy Mae, who can take you on a four hour trip…or a four day trip! Totally Tubular Watersports has just about everything you’ll need for a day on the water, from boat rentals and dolphin tours to sunset cruises, tubing, wakeboarding, and water skiing.
Where to stay: The luxurious accommodations at the Sandpearl Resort, which sits directly on the white sands of Clearwater Beach, can make any vacation feel first-class, from romantic getaways to family trips. This award-winning resort is centered around the beach experience, with a private section of beach reserved for resort guests complete with beach chairs and umbrellas, as well as watersport rentals. You can lounge at the beachfront pool, which features zero-entry and relaxing cabanas, or spend the evening at the beachfront fire pit that is lit each evening so you can enjoy the sunset in coziness. Perhaps the beast feature of this resort is their top-notch service, which is what truly makes them luxurious.
A great choice for families is the fabulous, affordable East Store Resort that sports a casual, beach vibe with apartment-style guest rooms featuring kitchenettes, dining and sitting areas, and private bedrooms. Enjoy a relaxing evening on your private patio, or take a dip in the pool. Guests with boats can take advantage of the resort’s dock on Clearwater Bay, which you can also fish from! You’ll also be within a short stroll of restaurants and attractions.
Anna Maria Island
Where to play: Known for its natural beauty and small-town vibe, this island is ideal for those looking for a tranquil beach getaway. Tall trees line many of the beaches, offering shade to enjoy while taking a break from the tropical sunshine. Bike paths and quiet roads make it ideal for exploration, and locally-owned shops, boutiques, and outfitters give you a true sense of the caring community. In fact, bikes and golf carts are the popular way to get around the island, so your first stop should be to Beach Bums Recreational Rentals - they have all kinds of wheels, from road bikes and beach bikes to multi-passenger golf carts and even kids’ bikes.
Cortez Watersports, located just across the Palma Sola Bay in the island-adjacent fishing community of Cortez, is a winner for watersports rentals thanks to its warm-hearted staff, who will get you set up for a day on the water with Jet Skis, boat rentals, and more, and work with any budget. Those looking for a time of zen should check out Salty Buddha Paddle & Yoga Company, based on the island, which combines the relaxation of yoga with the enjoyment of paddleboarding. Not sure you have the balance required for this sport? Don’t worry, they offer fantastic classes for all levels of yogis and paddlers.
Where to stay: For a completely unique and utterly Amelia Island experience, stay at the Bungalow Beach Resort. Harkening back to the 1930s when much of the island became developed, this resort puts a charming spin on the bungalow experience with beach-chic decor, bright and airy sitting, dining, and kitchenette areas, and cozy bedrooms. Enjoy their heated pool, or spend your time on the quiet beach in a comfy resort beach lounger. You’re just a walk (or a bike ride) away from all of the island’s attractions.
The Beach Club at Anna Maria sounds like a fancy place; and it is! Chic, contemporary apartment-style suites offer upscale relaxation with private patios and balconies that sport fantastic views. Feel at home with the convenience of full-size kitchens and washer/dyers. The extravagance continues with a resort-style pool and hot tub, private access to the beach, and a roof-top sun deck for social occasions and sunset watching.
Where to play: Combining the beauty of the beaches with the thrill of live performances and the spirit of an artistic community, Sarasota has just about everything you could want in a vacation. This is one of the few places where you could spend the first half of your day in an art museum and the remainder on an island beach! Take it easy on the water with a relaxing cruise. LeBarge Tropical Cruises departs from the fabulous island park in downtown Sarasota to take you on a tour of Sarasota Bay on your choice of cruises from dolphin watching and nature viewing to sunset cruises. Enjoy a full-service menu and live music on this floating tropical island!
There are several beaches for you to enjoy in Sarasota, but our top recommendation is Siesta Key Beach. Consistently voted as the #1 beach in America, you will certainly understand its appeal when you see its expanse of crystalline white sands that lead to shallow waters perfect for wading. While you could probably spend your trip sitting on the soft sand and soaking in the sunshine, you shouldn’t miss out on the chance to get out on the water and have fun. Siesta Key Watersports, located south of the main public beach, has just about every kind of adrenaline-pumping watersport rentals you could think of, from roaring Jet Skis to high-flying parasailing! They also offer tours and cruises. Take things nice and easy with a paddleboard rental from Gulfside Paddleboards. You can rent a board from a couple hours to a whole week! They also offer delivery, and newer paddlers can take advantage of lessons.
Where to stay: On the beautiful Lido Key, just across the bridge from downtown Sarasota, you’ll find the Lido Beach Resort. This resort is the epitome of beachfront elegance, with modern ocean-themed decor in refreshing colors, and a variety of room and suite sizes that can include kitchenettes, sitting areas, and private balconies that face the bay or beach. Dine at the resort’s restaurant or sip on cool cocktails from their poolside Tiki Hut. The resort is a stroll away from the shops and restaurants of Lido Key’s St. Armands Circle.
Just a short walk or bike ride away from the public beach are the Siesta Key Beach Villas, a series of cozy, casual villas that exude a tropical theme for your own island-style getaway. These spacious villas range in size from studios to larger spaces with kitchens, dining and sitting areas, private bedrooms and more. Relax in a shaded hammock, take a walk out to the beach, or ride around Siesta Key Village on one of the Villas’ bike rentals.
Where to play: This quiet coastal community has everything you’d want in a charming beach village, from tranquil beaches to a beautiful downtown with unique shops and fresh seafood restaurants, as well as events on Main Street like the Venice Farmer’s Market featuring local produce vendors and artisans every Saturday. They even celebrate the beach with a huge Venice Beach Party each year in September! (This year the party is September 28th.)
When visiting the beaches of Venice, you’ll understand why many people choose to make this their forever home. Soft sand rolls down in sloping shores to the gentle Gulf waves, and the quiet, relaxed environment makes for perfect beach days. This is also the “Shark Tooth Capitol of the World,” thanks to currents carrying countless shark teeth onto the shores along with colorful shells for you to discover and take home. The calm waters also make for excellent boating conditions. Venice Boat Rentals are conveniently based at the Fisherman's Wharf Marina, and allow you to easily set out on the Intercoastal Waterway or out into the Gulf on your choice of boat, from big pontoons with loungers to smaller speedboats. Authentic Fusion is a unique paddleboard rental service that combines stand-up paddleboarding with yoga and wellness. Enjoy private paddle and yoga classes, as well as guided eco tours and even outing during the full moon.
Where to stay: Featuring an absolutely perfect location directly on the beach, the Beachcomber in Venice is a charming costal getaway offering fully-furnished vacation rental units, each with expansive views of the Gulf. Enjoy walking right from your unit onto the sand and take advantage of the Beachcomber’s free beach accessories, relax in the beachfront pool, or venture to nearby Main Street to go shopping!
Another accommodation with a perfect location is the Inn at the Beach, which offers spacious, airy, tropical-style rooms from standard rooms to efficiencies and suites. The palm-lined courtyard offers a resort pool and hot tub, and the inn itself is just across the street from the beach. What truly elevates your experience at this inn is the personalized service and friendly staff, who can assist you in arranging anything you might need to make your vacation perfect from rentals to restaurant reservations.
More to Discover on the Gulf Coast
The Emerald Coast’s best-kept secret is the Best Western Navarre Waterfront! Featuring spectacular views of the Santa Rose Sound and just a mile from Navarre Beach and the Gulf of Mexico, paradise is within reach. Recharge in your tropical-themed guestroom, take a dip in the dazzling pool overlooking the Sound, and enjoy staying in secluded luxury while also having access to local restaurants and attractions. Their backyard beach is perfect for waterfront weddings!
At the forefront of St. Petersburg’s vibrant revitalization is the Morean Arts Center, which offers people of all ages and cultures to experience and participate in the arts through exhibitions, collections, classes, events, and more. Morean has several locations in the city, which include a contemporary gallery that is free to the public and affordable classes at the Morean Arts Center, the Chihuly Collection, Morean Center for Clay, and the Hot Shop and Glass Studio.