The Other Side of Florida

Where The Sun Always Shines

When people think about Florida, it is usually the theme parks and walks down Ocean Drive in Miami Beach.

But there is another side to the sunshine state and it is Florida’s Gulf Coast with the most stunning beaches and nature parks.

Sanibel Island plane view

Florida is definitely an ideal holiday destination as you can always count on good weather here. However, pick your seasons well as it can get very hot and humid (May/June) and you don’t want to experience the wrath of the hurricane season either (August/September). Also, getting there is not a problem. American Airlines have regular regional connections from the main hubs to Southwest Florida Airport or you can fly with British Airways on their Airbus A380 to Miami and then jump into a rental car for a short road trip across the Everglades.

Gulf Coast Beaches

The Gulf Coast is all about the beaches and it is hard not to feel like you are in the Caribbean. The white powder-like sand stretches for miles and blue and exceptionally warm ocean water is hard to resist.

Siesta Key Beach

During our trip we visited the official number one beach in the US, the Siesta Key Beach near Sarasota. It was simply beautiful. The sand felt like flour under our feet and the whiteness of it was blinding in the sun. The colour of the water was light blue and it was so warm that getting in was a pleasure. The colourful lifeguard huts reminded me of Miami Beach and they definitely added to the character of the beach. It was hard to leave this paradise, especially when the parking was free…you can’t beat that!

Siesta Key Beach Hut

The beach was very clean and it was plastic free with recycling bins present at the exits. It was good to see the attempts to keep it tidy as, in my experience, America still has a long way to go to become plastic free.

Exploring the Coast

Starting from the bottom, Marco Island is a good place to visit. We spent a week there in October of 2017 and you can read my Marco Island post here. This time we ventured further up to Cape Coral, a city between Naples and Sarasota. Cape Coral is located on the Caloosahatchee River and it is known for its many canals. It actually has more canals than Venice which obviously makes it  almost impossible to get to places without crossing a bridge or making some sort of a detour. It also means that having a boat at the bottom of your back garden is a standard there.

Tarpon Marina

Cape Coral like most of the places in Florida is a mecca for the retired population of the US. The place definitely feels a bit safer and driving is much more relaxed than in other states.

Things to Do in Cape Coral

As Cape Coral is located on the intercoastal waters it is fair to say the main activities here will be water based. I would recommend the sunset dolphin cruise departing from the Tarpon Point Marina. It was very relaxed, informative and the sunset was stunning. Unfortunately, we were out of luck on that day as we didn’t see any dolphins.

Fort Myers Beach

We stayed at the Westin Hotel which offered free bike rentals (well, included in the  resort fee) and it was a good way of exploring the area and seeing all the beautiful houses.

One thing to definitely do is to drive over to Sanibel and Captiva Islands which are connected to the main land by a toll bridge. Both islands have that Caribbean feeling, with colourful houses, palm trees and white sand beaches. The drive through both islands should take just over 30 min.

However there are quite a few places worth a stop along the way, like the Lighthouse Beach Park or Bowman’s Beach in Sanibel. Captiva is all about expensive houses on the front and it is a place where Christmas is celebrated every day. Yes, that’s right. Please visit Bubble Room Restaurant for this most surreal experience.

Perfect Destination

South west Florida is a fantastic holiday destination if you want to shun the madness of the theme parks and enjoy the quieter side of the state. It is where you experience immaculate white sand beaches, fresh sea food and friendly people. Explore many Caribbean-like barrier islands and watch the most stunning sunsets. Bliss!

Caloosahatchee River Sunset

So, for a pace of life that’s closer to England, year-round sun and stunning beaches you’ll find the Gulf Coast of Florida is a must!