Florida Vacation Guide

Destinations in the Sunshine State

The Sunshine state is one of the most popular tourism spots in the world. With such diverse cultures, numerous theme parks, beautiful beaches, and tantalizing temperatures, it is no surprise that people flock to Florida year round. From the southern heritage of North Florida and the Panhandle to the Latin-influenced south, Florida has much more to offer than thousands of miles of beachfront vacation destinations.

The Tampa Bay Area

The Tampa Bay Area is a great way to experience different faces of Florida without having to unpack more than once. A multitude of different cultures from the Latin roots of Ybor City to the Greek history of Tarpon Springs, exciting nightlife, beautiful sugar-white beaches, and exciting attractions make this area of Florida a great vacation destination. Plan your visit for February and join the party as rowdy swashbucklers invade Tampa for the 100th Annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival. Come in October for the Guavaween Halloween Festival. The area is full of fun events and festivals to let visitors explore the culture of this Gulf Coast city. This vibrant waterfront area on the west coast offers a unique blend of urban excitement in a natural setting. Its central location provides visitors with easy access to the nearby Gulf Coast beaches and exciting cities like Clearwater, Sarasota, and Orlando. Bright sunny days and gentle bay breezes make the weather in the Bay Area perfect with an average temperature a balmy 72 degrees. Many communities and beaches make up the Tampa Bay Area and draw vacationers to the area throughout the year. Visit to see for yourself why Tampa and its surrounding areas are becoming the most popular place in Florida to live and visit.

The Panhandle

The panhandle of Florida infuses the relaxed atmosphere of the Gulf of Mexico with the hospitality of the Deep South. Housing seashore destinations such as Perdido Key, Seaside, Destin, and Panama City Beach, the area has become a haven for those craving the white sand and emerald water. These beaches also provide hours of inland entertainment with plenty of first class marinas, theme parks, and Spanish colonial settlements. Don’t miss out on visiting Pensacola to see the Navy’s Blue Angels perform their stunt show.

Northeast Florida

Traveling east on 1-10 to the northeastern part of the state will take you through the plantation area of Florida to cities such as Monticello, Tallahasse, and Perry. Stop in any of these historical towns to shop for antiques and fine Thomasville furniture. The coast of North Florida bordering the Greater Jacksonville area is home to some of the finest golf and tennis resorts in the nation. With the ATP tournaments in Amelia Island and the Tournament Players Championship at Sawgrass played in Ponte Vedra Beach, this area has been called the “ritziest” resort destination in Florida. Another must-visit area is the oldest city in the United States, Saint Augustine. The abandoned fort, Castillo de San Marcos, lies just outside this quaint European town.

The Central Region

Although Central Florida is known for it’s bi-coastal resort destinations and the most popular theme park in the world, the drive from the north takes you to the horse country and through towns such as Ocala, Gainesville, Starke, and Silver Springs. Though mostly visited for its thoroughbred horse breeding expertise, the area is home to many natural springs that delight tourists in the warm summer months. The west coast of Central Florida is home to Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Treasure Island. A haven for those who love sunshine and excellent seafood dining, this region of Florida is a string of year-round resort destinations. With the most recorded days of sunshine on record, many visitors from the North stay all winter long. Traveling across to the east coast takes you to some of the best-known beaches in Florida. Names like Daytona Beach, Cape Canaveral, Ormond Beach, and Cocoa Beach draw the crowds for Spring Break and summer vacations. This area is home to not only the Daytona 500 Speedway but also to the Kennedy Space center. A shoreline destination that offers much more than sand, this area has been a favorite since the days of the Rockefellers.

The Orlando Area

Sitting in the middle of Florida lays the Orlando/Lake Buena Vista/Kissimmee area, the “Theme Park Capital of the World.” Home to Walt Disney World, MGM Studios, Epcot Center, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and Sea World, it is one of the most visited areas of the country. Outside of the theme parks, these cities are home to excellent shopping and nightlife destinations. For a tamer shopping experience, visit Mount Dora, the “antiques capital of Florida.”

South Florida

South Florida has been a Mecca for the “rich and famous” for the past century. Sweeping from Fort Meyers in the west to Palm Beach in the east, white sand and tropical weather draw people from around the world. On the western coast, Naples has been called Florida’s “most sophisticated city” due to its numerous shopping boutiques and demand for perfection. However, take a short drive south to Marcos Island and the Ten Thousand Islands, and you will be in Florida’s natural paradise. Protected by the government, the Florida Everglades house a record number of endangered plants and animals. Although not to be traveled without a knowledgeable guide, this area is perfect for any nature enthusiast. The next stop is Miami, Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale, and the eclectic Coconut Grove. This mixing pot of cultures is something to be enjoyed at any age. From strolling the streets of Little Havana to taking a chance at the ritzy nightclubs of South Beach, this southernmost tip of mainland Florida leaves little to be desired. Take a drive down through the Keys of Islamorada and Marathon to Key West, only 90 miles from the shores of Cuba. This laid back island is the perfect getaway spot and was the home of Hemingway and other famous writers. Interesting to say the least, this mixing pot of the many cultures of Florida is a perfect way to end the perfect vacation.

Unique Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island is the northernmost of a cluster of barrier islands that continue in a southerly direction along the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Anna Maria Island is a perfect way to experience the West Coast of Florida with her white sand beaches, Mediterranean style beachfront villas, superb seafood, and fun atmosphere. This island is the barrier between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay and is located just 8 miles west of the city of Bradenton, connected by the Cortez and Manatee bridges. Comprised of three unique cities, Anna Maria City, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach, the island offers wonderful restaurants, shopping, and both gulf and bay front beaches. Anna Maria City is mainly residential, Holmes Beach is mostly residential and business oriented, and Bradenton Beach is known for being more tourism oriented.

Visitors interested in the arts will be excited to know that Anna Maria Island and its surrounding areas support a very active art community. There are island galleries, the Village of the Arts in Bradenton, and great galleries in Sarasota, as well as, great music and museums to enjoy. Anna Maria Island is a great place to shop whether you are looking for boutiques, antiques, galleries, gift shops, or flea markets. Visit Bay View Plaza in Anna Maria or Historic Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach for a unique mix of Florida chic. There are restaurants in the area to fit every dining need. Visitors will find seafood and sunset at the Sandbar, Floribbean cuisine and the Sun House Restaurant & Bar, French Gourmet at Ohlala, and ultra elegance at Beach Bistro. For great day trips, visitors should head to the Tampa Bay Area for Busch Gardens, Orlando for Disney World or Universal Studios, or even the east coast to tour the Kennedy Space Center. With such a great location, beautiful sandy beaches, and quaint towns to spend the day, Anna Maria Island makes an excellent Florida vacation.