Exploring the Gulf Coast of Florida - Beyond the Theme Parks !!

Exploring the Gulf Coast of Florida - Beyond the Theme Parks !!

Entrance to Watersong Resort

We have holidayed in Florida many times and have tended to take a two week trip to Orlando where we have rented villas with pools on Highlands Reserve, Windsor Hills and Emerald Island. This year we rented a vacation villa at a new development called Watersong which is a gated resort with all the resort amenities you would expect such as resort pool, gym, games room, clubhouse etc

The villa we rented at Watersong was stunning with 4 bedrooms and four bathrooms so plenty of room for our whole family. We especially loved the outdoor barbeque area. Our family love the theme parks in Orlando but we decided this year that we would extend our stay to three weeks and spend a week exploring what lay beyond the theme parks in Florida – we had heard it rumoured that there was quite a lot to see !!!

After a group discussion, we decided that we would spend our weekday tripping and exploring  Florida’s west coast and its many beaches. Here are some of the highlights of our week of exploration........

Siesta Key Beach
    • Siesta Key, Sarasota was beautiful…..boasting “World’s finest white sand” and “the Nation’s Best Beach” - Siesta Beach is half a mile of pristine, white quartz sand, nestling against the shining blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico There are refreshment outlets, picnic areas, toilets, fitness trails, playgrounds and tennis courts. It can get busy though so get there early to ensure you can park. 
    • A little further down US41...about 15 miles from Sarasota …we discovered Venice… a wonderful little town, sitting right on the Gulf of Mexico. There are plenty of restaurants and café’s to suit everyone’s taste. The shops are quaint and there are more beautiful beaches. You can fish from the 700ft pier (Open from 6am - 9pm. No license required). Rods and reels can be rented for $15 per day with a $25 refundable deposit. Sharkey’s restaurant & bar is located on the pier and serves great food for all tastes. I can recommend the Fresh Gulf Grouper – try it, you will not be disappointed.
Siesta Key Quartz Sand
    • I also recommend that you visit the South Jetties in town – plan to be there about 45 min before sunset as it can get busy. We took a pizza and sat on one of the many benches/tables that are available Pelicans and sea birds wander around, hoping for a handout, or a small fish donated from a kind fisherman! Most every night the Dolphins come to the opening of the jetties and play within a short distance from where you can stand and watch them. 
    • Venice Beach is adjacent to the jetties, where you can pick up sharks teeth from the sand. Collecting prehistoric shark’s teeth has been a favourite pastime of visitors and residents of the Venice area for years. They can be black, brown, or grey, depending on the minerals in the soil in which they have been buried. We were lucky enough to find some wonderful examples
Venice Jetty at Sunset
  • Englewood is just 5 miles south of Venice and home of a well-kept secret - “Café 776“, I have to say, I have eaten more than my fair share of fish and chips but…..this was the best fish and chips I have ever tasted! The meal was huge and I mean huge! It consisted of 3 massive pieces of crispy, beer battered fish, a pile of golden chips and a dish of coleslaw….all for $11.95. Other seafood is also served, scallops, shrimp, etc. plus mega-sized hamburgers and salads and sandwiches. A place to definitely come away with a “doggy bag” and a full tum!!
  • Myakka State Park - just about 30 min from Sarasota is a wonderful place to visit. It is open from 8am until sunset and is 57 square miles of wetlands and woodlands. You can see many turtles and alligators sunning themselves on the banks, or cruising in the many waterways. Birds of all varieties, native to Florida are everywhere. If you take a short stroll into the “hammocks” you will see many wild orchids and wonderful plants, making their homes in the Cabbage Palms (or Sabal Palm) - Florida’s state tree.
    Myakka River State Park
  • If you feel like some exercise - rent a canoe and paddle down the waterways. If you are less energetic, take the relaxing boat and experience the gentle ride, while bird spotting and alligators - while the boat captain tells you all about the local wildlife. Boat rides are $12 adults and children 6 and over $6. Bike rental is also available and there are seven miles of flat, paved roads which wind through shaded hammocks, along grassy marshes Entrance fees are $6.00 to the park are per vehicle for 2 to 8 persons. Myakka River Park.

There is truly nowhere better to witness a sunset from than a Florida beach - the colours are unbelievable with reds, yellows, oranges and much more - it is artwork in the sky for all to see and easily my favourite of all the Florida Attractions !! Sadly our week of exploration came to an end before we got to visit Boca Grande, Fort Myers, Sanibel or Anna Maria Island. We will most definitely explore the Gulf Coast further on our next trip, now that we know of all the wonderful things there are to experience and enjoy, just a two-hour drive from Orlando……..Florida Gulf Coast Sunset"

Florida Gulf Coast Sunset