: United States
The Sarasota area offers a variety of attractions, including 35 miles of powdery white sands and great fishing. There are art galleries, boutiques, and several performing arts groups, including the Sarasota Opera and Ballet Company. The Ringling Museum Complex includes a magnificent residence reminiscent of Doge's Palace in Venice, an art museum, and a circus museum.
Sarasota is served by the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and the Tampa International Airport, approximately a one-hour drive away.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Who should go?
Spend time at the beach or watch Spring Training baseball.
Play tennis or golf, go antique shopping, or enjoy a delicious seafood dinner.
Take an island cruise or just relax.
Explore art galleries, see a play, or listen to a concert.
What's the climate like?
The months of December through May are warm, dry, and full of sunshine and offer the most travel-friendly weather. It tends to rain more during the summer months.
How do I get around town?
The Florida Coasts are best navigated by rental car. With so many theme parks and attractions located from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean and south to the Florida Keys, Florida is a great fly/drive destination. You can receive unlimited mileage with Alamo or National Car Rental, but be sure to fill the gas tank before returning it.
The distances between Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota are not very far. It's only 22 miles between Tampa and Clearwater, 20 miles between Tampa and St. Petersburg, and 20 miles between Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Sarasota is 37 miles south of St. Petersburg.
Naples and Marco Island are approximately 40 miles south of Ft. Myers. A rental car can be a great way to get around between the areas; however, if you are just staying on Captiva, Sanibel, or Marco Islands a rental car is not necessary.
What kinds of dining and nightlife are available?
Cuisine on the Florida Coast has a rich blend of old and new. Fantastic, ultra-chic restaurants and traditional Caribbean and Spanish-style dinners can be found in and among the many areas. Seafood is also a great choice when in Florida; its close proximity to the ocean gives it some of the freshest seafood in the world. Here are just a few restaurants you may want to try when traveling around the Gulf Coast:
- Beach Bistro
Voted number 1 for food on the Gulf Coast with exceptional Florida/French cuisine accompanied by 300-plus wines. Eat around the back on the beach for a romantic evening. Tampa.
- Bistro 821
Located on trendy, cosmopolitan Fifth Avenue South in the heart of historic Olde Naples and brings a taste of Miami’s South Beach to the Gulf Coast. Has earned eight consecutive Golden Spoon Awards in Florida Trend Magazine’s Top 200 Restaurants. Naples.
- The Cabbage Key Restaurant
The place where Jimmy Buffet wrote the song “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and you’ll know why, the cheeseburgers are awesome. Captiva Island.
A festive and authentic group of Spanish/Cuban restaurants offering paella, sangria, and flamenco. The Ybor City site in Tampa is the original and most historic. Other branches are in Sarasota, Clearwater, St. Petersburg Pier, and St. Petersburg.
- Grille 29
Raising the bar at Channelside, this chic grill brings enchanting waterside dining to downtown. The menu’s “something for everyone” steakhouse approach features rib eye and filet mignon with all the fixings. Tampa.
- Marie-Michelle‘s Restaurant on the Bay
Overlooking Venetian Bay you will discover the cuisine, the ambiance and the “joie de vivre” of the South of France. The restaurant offers a rare combination of stunning views and superb French cuisine. Naples.
- Ophelia’s on the Bay
Breathtaking water views, and a sophisticated and creative Continental menu. Siesta Key, Sarasota.
- Pane Rustica
World-class, handmade breads, spectacular sandwiches, and delicious homemade soups make this a great and popular place for lunch. Tampa.
The hip and happening sip sangria while ogling the next table and angling for their share of ceviche at this Channelside hot spot. Flavors are bright and assertive, prices are low, and sharing makes it an adventure. Tampa.
Nightlife around the Florida Gulf Coast is varied. Many destinations are known for their peace and tranquility like Sanibel and Captiva Islands, but other places, like Tampa and Ft. Myers can keep you partying till the break of dawn.
Where should I go shopping?
Tampa's Cuban enclave, Ybor City, provides a myriad of lively neighborhood shops and boutiques. Cubans brought their cigar-making industry to Ybor and the smell of cigars still drifts through the heart of this east Tampa area.
Be prepared to shell out your money for shells in the Ft. Myers area. You’ll definitely want to check out the boutiques showcasing shells and delicate jewelry.
Old Naples features tree-lined walkways and more than 100 shops and restaurants.
When are the local events?
Events around the Florida coast often have something to do with the sun or the sea. Latin festivals also contribute to the wide variety of special events. Here are some you may want to check out:
Ft. Myers Beach Shrimp Festival and Parade
March. Two days of festivities celebrating Ft. Myers Beach’s shrimp harvest. Activities include a Treasure Run, Blessing of the Fleet, and shrimp exhibits. Ft. Myers.
Tampa Bay Blues Festival
April. Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg. Three-day music festival featuring a tropical atmosphere, blues music, and many food vendors.
Tampa Bay Caribbean Carnival
June. Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg. Colorful costumes, arts and crafts, dancing, and tropical music are the centerpiece of this festival.
Top o’ the Bay Oktoberfest
October. R.E. Olds Park. German music, food, beer, and traditions are celebrated. Oldsmar.
What are my golf and recreation options?
The coastal areas of the sunshine state offers countless golfing opportunities for every skill level.
Miles and miles of beaches and coastline provide Florida with a myriad of sport fishing opportunities. Hundreds of charter boats are available for your chance to land any number of fish including marlin, sailfish, tarpon, barracuda, and many more.
The Florida coasts are world famous for fun in the sun. Spend the day sailing, boating, or skimming the waves on a jet-ski. Many beach activities are also a way of life such as volleyball, frisbee, and other activities.
Fun For the Whole Family
Tampa and the rest of southern Florida boast fabulous family-friendly activities such as Busch Gardens and other theme parks, but don’t overlook the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. The zoo was named the #1 Family-Friendly Zoo in America by Child Magazine.
It's possible to get a tee time at the last minute, thanks to some enterprising websites. Next Day Golf (www.nextdaygolfer.com) works with numerous courses in the Naples and Ft. Myers area, as well as with courses on the Atlantic coast. A similar service, www.Stand-byGolf.com works with courses in Sarasota.
Biking in Tampa
The 35-mile long Pinellas Trail, a paved route that follows the path of a former railroad, makes it possible to bike all the way from Tarpon Springs, at the north end of Pinellas County, to a spot not far north of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, at the south end of the county.
Naples shops are often pricey, but for bargains, look to the art galleries and the secondhand shops, where, for a fraction of the original price, you can pick up high-end designer clothing discarded — barely worn — by wintering millionaires from all over the United States.
The waterfront area, once home to Greek sponge divers, is now a delightful tourist district with Greek restaurants, Greek pastry shops, and Greek art galleries.
Good to Know:
|Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW)
Tampa International Airport (TPA)
|March – May and September – November
|January, May, and September
|Florida and its coasts are in the Eastern Time Zone, one hour ahead of Central Time.
| None needed for U.S. citizens
|Leave 15% or 20% if the service was excellent
|Florida is very casual. Shorts are allowed at most restaurants, except fine dining establishments. Bring a sweater, since some of the air-conditioned places can be quite cool sometimes.