Florida has long been one of America’s favorite vacation spots, and if you’ve ever spent any time there, it’s not difficult to see why.
This gloriously sunny state has enjoyed a record-breaking year for tourism in 2023, with visitor numbers almost 10% up on those of the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
But there is one region in particular in Florida that looks set to remain hugely popular throughout the winter – the Gulf Coast.
This vast stretch of coastline in Florida’s west is home to some of the state’s best destinations including Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, and Tampa Bay – a region which recently reported one of its best ever years for tourism with nearly 27 million visitors.
So, just why is Florida’s Gulf Coast having such a moment? It turns out there might be a few good reasons…
It’s The Perfect Winter Escape
A trip to any part of Florida in the winter is never a bad idea, and the same can be said for the Gulf Coast.
Naturally, the farther south you venture, the warmer it will be, but pretty much any destination along this long stretch of coast will be warmer than where you came from.
Because Florida is so popular in winter, many events, tours, and attractions stay open in the wintertime.
It’s also well known that the sea on the Gulf Coast of Florida is usually a few degrees warmer than at beach locations on the Atlantic coast – for some, that might be enough to sway it.
Some of America’s Best Beaches
This entire stretch of coastline is blessed with beautiful beaches.
From the sandy, urban shores of cities like Naples to the pristine white beaches of places like Gasparilla Island, there’s something to suit sun-worshippers of all persuasions.
The Gulf Coast is one of those places where you can go from shopping in boutique independent stores to a truly beautiful beach in a matter of minutes.
A couple of my favorites are Sanibel Island and Siesta Key.
Sanibel Island offers pure, clear waters and beautiful white sands that are littered with a dazzling array of shells – locals describe people bending down to admire the shells as the ‘Sanibel Stoop’.
In my opinion, it’s one of the most stunning beaches I’ve visited in the United States.
Meanwhile, Siesta Key lies just off the coast from Sarasota and its beach is the top rated beach in Florida.
Spend a tranquil afternoon here and explore the colorful town on the free trolly service, and you won’t be disappointed.
Speaking of the colorful and cute towns of the Gulf Coast, they are almost all worth some of your time.
Towns on this coastline are often hubs for local artists and craft makers, as well as being great places to enjoy events.
There’s everything from motorcycle festivals to street carnivals – each will offer an explosion of color and culture into your trip.
Restaurants And Bars With A Vibe
Seafood is naturally a big thing in this part of the country, and there’s something to suit all budgets.
If you want an affordable yet quaint experience, try Pinchers at the Tin City Waterfront area of Naples (I’ve seen dolphins playing in the marina while eating fresh crab here).
If you want a fancier experience, then try Caretta on the Gulf in Clearwater.
The Gulf Coast is also home to a wide array of very good independent craft beer breweries.
Enjoy a gastropub meal alongside your pint at 3 Keys Brewing in Bradenton or sample the unique drinking experience at Fat Point Brewing’s taproom in Sarasota where you can sit among the brewing equipment.
You’ll Never Be Bored
If you’re someone who gets bored after a few days of sunbathing and lazy lunches (I know I sure am), then the Gulf Coast has a huge array of other activities to keep you entertained.
It’s a world-renowned fishing destination, the marine wildlife spotting is some of the best in the country, and there are plenty of watersport options to try such as kayaking or sailing.
Cycling is also a popular pastime here, with many cities having good infrastructure for two-wheeled travelers and it generally being a very flat area.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.