If you’re looking for an amazing beach getaway, check out Florida’s Gulf Coast. Stretches of soft sand along the Florida shoreline make for a relaxing and scenic getaway. Plus, many of the cities and towns along this coast offer an abundance of family-friendly activities and attractions. Head to one of these top Florida Gulf Coast destinations on your next family vacation.
If a relaxing beach vacation is your ultimate goal, don’t miss the chance to take in Siesta Key, one of the eight barrier islands of Sarasota. Known as one of the finest beaches in the U.S., Siesta Key features glittering turquoise waters and pristine sugary white sand consisting of 99 percent pure quartz, giving it a super-soft and cool feel underfoot. You can simply relax on the sand and splash in the surf, or you can take part in one of many beachfront activities, like beach volleyball, snorkeling, and kayaking.
While staying in a beachfront hotel provides you with some truly stunning views, it’s not a requirement for enjoying this destination’s picturesque sandy shores. Plan a budget-friendly family vacation by staying elsewhere on the island and taking advantage of the free parking at the beach. There are several nearby attractions when you need a break from sunbathing, too. Consider checking out the Ringling Museum and the Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Located along Florida’s famed Emerald Coast, Destin is one of the most popular destinations in the world for trolling, jetty fishing, and deep sea fishing. While experienced anglers can head out on their own or fish from one of the nearby piers, many visitors to this Gulf Coast city sign up for a fishing charter to improve their chances of success. You can even find kid-friendly charters that help little ones learn all about the basics of fishing so they can reel in their very first catch.
The popular Destin Harbor Boardwalk is another family-friendly activity that is worth checking out. There’s always something happening on the boardwalk, which stretches nearly a quarter of a mile along the harbor. It features stunning views of the sandy beaches and sparkling shoreline, as well as a number of fun shops and restaurants. The boardwalk is also a great place to sign up for boating activities and water sports.
Though it’s known as one of the top spring break destinations for the college crowd, Panama City Beach offers plenty of family-friendly fun year-round. With 27 miles of sugar white beaches and nearly 100 public access points, this sandy length of shoreline is always busy but rarely feels crowded. There’s room to spread out as you relax on the soft sand, swim in the beautiful blue-green waters lapping at the shore, or play some beach volleyball. You can soak up the sun by day then head out to local seafood restaurants and bars with live music in the evening.
If you’re looking for a break from the bustling beaches, consider heading to nearby St. Andrews Park for the day. This area features unspoiled natural beauty and a perfect place to bike, snorkel, or kayak with fewer crowds nearby. There are also several family-friendly attractions in town, the most popular of which is Gulf World. This theme park offers fascinating educational shows featuring marine life, as well as the opportunity to swim with dolphins.
Surround yourself in nature’s abundant beauty with a trip to Sanibel Island. This Gulf Coast destination is perfect for families looking for a rustic getaway. The small town has a quaint atmosphere that’s almost completely free of restaurants, streetlights, and traffic lights. When you’re ready to begin exploring the island’s lush surroundings, start at J.N. (“Ding”) Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which features fascinating animals, hiking and biking trails, and bird-watching opportunities. The beaches here tend to have windier waters, making it a great option for sailing or surfing.
One unique attraction on Sanibel Island is the beautiful seashells scattered along the beach. Known as the “Shelling Capital of the World,” the island provides plenty of opportunities to hunt for stunning shells that have washed ashore. The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum features even more information about these little treasures and includes some particularly impressive seashells found on the island.
Experience a luxurious getaway on Florida’s Gulf Coast during your visit to Naples. This destination has all the trappings of an upscale getaway, including high-end shopping, world-class cultural attractions, miles of stunning beaches with soft, white sand, and some of Florida’s best golf courses. You can spend your days browsing through chic clothing boutiques, sunbathing on the beach, or taking a boat excursion in the calm, clear waters of the Gulf. In the evenings, there are sophisticated fine dining restaurants and fun beachside bars to explore.
There’s plenty for kids to explore in this lovely Florida city, too. Children of all ages enjoy the Naples Zoo and Caribbean Gardens, while little ones will have a blast at the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples. Fun beach and water activities like shelling, kayaking, and fishing are also great for a family-friendly getaway.
Like many other Gulf Coast destinations, Fort Myers Beach features gorgeous beaches with soft sugary sand. However, that’s only the beginning of the attractions in this family-friendly city. You can sign up for a dolphin eco-tour or fishing charter. Take a tour of nearby islands like Cabbage Key and Cayo Costa. You can even catch an MLB spring training game since both the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins head here for pre-season practice.
Fort Myers Beach also boasts small-town charm. Some visitors like to stay in one of the island’s adorable cottages during their visit. Be sure to tour the grand Fort Myers estates where Henry Ford and Thomas Edison used to spend their winters. The Mound House on Fort Myers Beach offers another peek into history with connections to the Calusa Indians who once lived there. For another educational opportunity, check out the IMAG History & Science Center where you can check out pythons, salamanders, and other creatures in the Living Lab.
Combine beautiful beaches with fun attractions on your next family vacation. Plan a visit to one of these Florida Gulf Coast destinations.