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Never been to Florida - Gulf or ocean side?

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Hello Florida experts! Bluejeans here with some questions. We are trying to plan a vacation for late July somewhere in Florida. Problem is we don't know exactly where to go. Background: Family of 4 including two boys in early 20's. Looking for nice beach location without hordes of people. We don't know the difference between the Gulf side and the ocean side. Is one better than the other? We love to snorkel, swim, hike and lay around. We might spend a day or two near Orlando, but a Disney type vacation is not really what we're looking for. Leaning toward Clearwater/St. Petersburg. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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