No matter how you choose to spend your holiday in Florida, the chances are you will find yourself on the Gulf Coast at some point. That is because this part of the state has so much to offer and something to suit every taste.
This beach town sandwiched between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay is the perfect place to head to if you are of an active persuasion. There is plenty to do on the sun-kissed beach, from watersports to sunbathing and the nearby Moccasin Lake Nature Park is a haven for native plant and animal species.
If you long to find out about the underwater life in the area, then check out the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. This popular tourist attraction is wholly interactive, with the opportunity to watch and even touch the sea creatures.
Sophisticates will want to spend their time on the Gulf Coast in Sarasota, as the town is unrivalled when it comes to elegance and style. As well as appreciating the stunning architecture, visitors can take the opportunity to see cultural performances of everything from ballet and opera to classical plays.
Longboat Key and Lido Key, which can be found close to each other, are upmarket shopping and dining areas, so make your way to either of these if you wish to see and be seen. Alternatively indulge your inner hippy at Siesta Village – a favourite hangout of writers and artisans.
One of the main reasons to visit Tampa is to take a trip to Busch Gardens, the theme park with rides and attractions all based around the theme of Africa. This means that chance to see some 2,700 animals and hop on board roller coasters with names such as Cheetah Hunt and Rhino Rally.
If culture is more your style, then head to the Ybor city area, which has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Here you will be able to marvel at the stunning architecture of old cigar factories, brick-lined walkways and intricate wrought iron balconies.
The true beauty of nature and a laid back way of life can be found in Englewood, where unspoiled beaches and numerous parks await. These provide the perfect backdrop for all sorts of leisurely pursuits, including messing about on boats and fishing.
Take your pick from Stump Pass, Blind Pass, Manasota Beach or Englewood Beach – all of which are free of the usual Florida tourist crowds. If none of these take your fancy then there are plenty of other tropical beaches to choose from.
If you would like to combine your beach holiday with some time spent on the river, then Port Charlotte will be just what you are looking for. It has more than 20 marinas and miles of river, so sailing kayaking, fishing and diving can all be organised here.
For a bit of culture, head to the Charlotte County Historical Center or attend a performance by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Alternatively keep with the outdoor theme and visit the federal wildlife refuge, where you will see many examples of local flora and fauna.