This post is by guest blogger Nicola, a Florida-based, British-born mom of two boys!
When you think of visiting Florida, you are typically drawn to the East coast. Hot Miami nights. Sipping cocktails in Palm Beach or finding the fun in Orlando. However, don’t be afraid to venture to the west side. Especially with children, the west coast has just as much to offer travelers seeking the sun and fun without the heavy foot traffic. Flights into Tampa are also usually very affordable even over the winter during peak season!
Naples & Marco Island
From the Ft Lauderdale area, it’s a 2 hour drive across Alligator Alley and you’re in Naples…known for high-end shopping and spectacular golf courses. It’s also a great place to spot dolphins, play mini golf, visit the Children’s Museum and relax on the beautiful beaches. There are many family friendly hotels. My favorite is the Naples Grand Beach Resort. The hotel has a great family pool with a water slide , a separate “adult only” pool so parents can relax….and a short boardwalk path to the beach. You can also hop on the hotel golf cart shuttle to get around if you wish!
Sanibel Island & Captiva
This beautiful island was a pleasure to visit. Just over an hour north from Naples, Sanibel gives you all the “feels” you expect from an island vacation. For my family it was all about the shells. We stayed at the West Wind Inn because it was right on the beach and at sunset we shelled for a couple of hours. Sanibel is considered one of the best shelling spot in North America and it did not disappoint! The hotel provides shell washing stations and shell bags to use …also free bikes to use to get around the island! And if that’s not enough, there’s a wonderful Shell Museum on the island. If you’ve had enough of shells, there is a historic museum and village you might want to pop into for an hour….very kid friendly.
Tampa & Clearwater
If you’re done with the beach and want to head to a bigger city with more action, try Tampa for a night. We chose to visit the Lowry Zoo and we spent many hours there…even in the rain! A wonderful display with a vast amount of animals and entertainment for the little (and big) ones! We also rode the trolley around the city to various stops…a cheap after dinner activity to see the city! Most chain hotels are available and reasonably priced but we stayed near the river at the Embassy Suites Convention Center. Its right next to the bay so was a nice walk with our after dinner ice-cream! There is also a Children’s Museum, Aquarium and Busch Gardens is nearby for the thrill seekers.