Travelling to Florida in January and looking for places to visit. Will be in Miami initially and then will head off for about 10 days. Probably go down to KW for a couple of days and then up the Gulf Coast, even round the panhandle, if there are good places. Been to the Keys briefly before, so I know a little what to expect. Looking for places on the Gulf Coast. Maybe fly back from Tampa, but nothing booked yet. Not into theme parks or organised touristy things. Looking for laid back places to stay. Enjoy beaches, walking and the atmosphere of a place - exploring. Any suggestions gratefully received!
I live in FL. Sannibel, Captiva,Boca Grande on Gulf are gorgeous area,s with clear waters, great fishing and boating, seashell collecting. Top season though for your trip so no deals oon lodging. Long drive up to panhandle 1o hrs or so but some fabulous beaches at state parks and lots of clear springs inland. lots of open country up ther not as urban as South Good Luck
Two things you might find enjoyable which you might not have done in the past on the Florida west coast: Take the high speed catamaran ferry from Key West to the Dry Tortuga islands. The main island is an incredibly beautiful place with what I would have to say is the largest fortified structure I have seen anywhere in the world. It was built during the Civil War (mostly by captured southern prisoners), has 8 foot thick walls, great architecture and is pristinely maintained by the Park Service. The only thing you can do once you get there is snorkel around the island and eat a decent buffet lunch provided by the boat company. There are no homes on this island, no stores but really quite worth the trip.
From Key West if you aren't burdened by a car I would also suggest taking another high speed ferry from Key West which will take you all the way to For Myers on the west coast. That is where I would rent a car again and head north; maybe stopping in Boca Grande as the last poster suggested or the pristine white quartz beaches of Sarasota. There really isn't anything in Pensacola (except tee shirt shops) but there is an incredible little shrimping town called Apalachicola which my wife and I always stay in when we drive up that way on our way to New Orleans. It's one of those places you drive into and immediately say to the wife, "Oh, we should move here." And immediately start looking at old brick buildings and such planning what type of business you might open. Anyway, right in the middle of this two block berg sits this really lovely old inn www.gibsoninn.com. I suspect it was built in the mid 1800s perhaps the turn of the century but it has wrap around first and second story verandas, lots of rocking chairs, home cooking atmosphere and was really quite nice. You will also find a fair amount of undeveloped areas along this coast in the panhandle area with surprising water views.