Gulf Coast Florida Keys Road Trip!

Old Mar 20th, 2017, 04:45 AM
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Gulf Coast Florida Keys Road Trip!

Easter Vacation Trip Advice for a family of five from the UK with three children aged 18 to 10.

After a stay of three nights in NYC our family are flying down to Orlando for three days where our plans are pretty much fixed; to do the things (theme parks) we missed off from our last visit. Thereafter, our plan is for a bit of a lazy road trip down the gulf coast, across the everglades and down the keys. The emphasis for this part of the trip is hopefully to explore, sit on beaches and relax. It is this latter part of the trip that I am looking for a bit of input and advice.

Starting off from a night in Tampa (Busch Gardens the day before) we have three nights in Fort Myers (Best Western Airport Inn). I have identified Bradendon Beach / Anna Maria Island, Siesta Key and Sanibel Island as possible visit’s, hopefully these have some public access beach areas? Some ideas of budget places to eat other than the usual fast food places would be good. We enjoyed Denny’s and Ponderosa especially during our last visit to Orlando so anything similar would be good.

After we check out, we have a long 247 mile drive to the Holiday Inn Express in Marathon through the Everglades on highway 41. Miccosakee Indian Reserve looks like a nice stopping off point for a bit of culture.

We have four nights in Marathon to explore the Keys, locally Sombrero Beach looks good. I am hoping for half a day SCUBA diving while the family sit on a beach somewhere. Possible visits listed include John Pennekamp Coral Reef, Islamorada, Bahia Honda state park and of course Key West (Mallory Square etc). Again, looking for nice public access beaches, and inexpensive dining locations.

For completeness Miami South Beach on the way back to Miami Airport for the flight home to the UK.

I appreciate this is quite a list and very non-specific, I will be grateful for advice and any tips to make this a truly memorable trip.

Thanks.
Nigel_UK is offline  
Old Mar 20th, 2017, 05:17 AM
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All of the beaches in Florida are Public Access... the problem is Parking... in Fort Myers, there is a beach trolley from near the airport to the beach... it is quite a ride, but inexpensive and stops on the main beach...

Sanibel is a great beach for Shells and nature, but there is a toll and Easter brings the parking shortage...

For food, consider Old Country Buffett, or any place where you see lots of Seniors... also the Hotel has free breakfast...

There are not a lot of beaches in the keys, and many hotels are booked, so make sure you have a reservation...
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Old Mar 20th, 2017, 08:11 AM
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Hi Gary, I am not surprised that Easter is a busy time, thanks for the heads up about parking though - will be just like the UK in summer!

Old Country Buffet sounds ideal, but I could only find 2 in florida state, both on the panhandle.

We have a reservation for our hotel in Marathon, however, maybe we need to consider reservations for meals?

Thanks for your response.
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Old Mar 20th, 2017, 11:27 AM
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Nigel, We love Anna Maria Island. There is a really nice public beach there and then walk to Skinny's for great burgers.

http://www.skinnysplace.com/

AMI is old Florida, there are no huge resorts (No buildings over 3 stories) and the beaches are arguably some of the best in Florida. Here is a really nice family run hotel that is very clean and well kept.

http://www.bluewaterbeachclub.com/

There is a free trolley that will take you all over AMI and Bradenton beach.

Have a great trip.

FYI, not a lot of beaches in the Keys. It's not what people go there for.
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Old Mar 20th, 2017, 01:03 PM
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Only the higher price restaurants take reservations... all others have a first come first serve policy... only after they fill all tables do they start a list of those waiting... you might try take out food and eat at the hotel to save on budget...
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Old Mar 20th, 2017, 01:21 PM
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While you may need to make a reservation from time to time for dinner, the areas you are visiting aren't the kinds of places where you'll need to do that more than the day before (and most humble, budget spots don't accept them). Even though places look humble, though, seafood is not cheap, and chain restaurants are fast food are not plentiful in most of the areas you plan to visit. But it will be plentiful in Fort Myers. But there are always local places.

I'd strongly advise you pick up a good guidebook or two to get the lay of the land.
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Old Mar 20th, 2017, 02:30 PM
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BOTH Sanibel and Captiva are more than a little worth it both for the very quiet beaches as well as the shelling. That toll on the bridge is only one way. Parking can be found so don't skip either one on fear of that "issue."
And you won't find many very tall buildings there, either.
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Old Mar 21st, 2017, 05:40 AM
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Thanks for all the responses, all very helpful for firming up our plans.

Anna Maria Island is a "must do" certainly now and i have locked it into our schedule, thanks for the Skinnys tip Gmoney, they even do veggie for Mrs Nigel! Thats interesting, your point about the keys not having many beaches, I guess people go there for the water sports mainly? Maybe we should have spent more time in Ft Myers!

Doug you have confirmed my suspicions about restaurants being a bit sparse in the Keys. I have made a list of fast food outlets, so hopefully we can survive. Mrs Nigel also suggested pizza "to go" Gary, so another option. We can look out as we drive about I guess, my research so far has been via Google Earth! Yes the seafood places do look nice but equally expensive!

Hey Dukey, I like the sound of Sanibel and Captiva. I dont know much about Captiva so will look this up up some more. Anyone rate Siesta Key / Venice or should we head straight to Sanibel in preference? That 2 out of 3 days sorted!
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Old Mar 27th, 2017, 08:41 AM
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Hello fellow brit here - we've done a similar trip in reverse.

I agree with the comments on the keys beaches. We spent a week on Key West. One of DHs favourite places in the world is Key West but it is not memorable for the beaches!

On the keys Bahia Honda is lovely - best beaches on the keys. Striking views of the old bridge too.

Near Fort Myers we have stayed on Captiva Island - love it there but parking is not easy! Our kids love collecting the shells.

We'll be in Florida at the same time doing Orlando and then a week on Captiva.

Enjoy!
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Old Mar 27th, 2017, 12:57 PM
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IMO a lot of this is about so-called "atmosphere." Captiva is simply an even quieter "extension" of Sanibel. It seems somehow even mpre remote; some of the houses you'll pass by seem even more grand in some instances, and in many ways with the usually calm waters of the Gulf the place seems almost lost in time; quiet, quiet, quiet and somehow calming.

We live on the Atlantic over in Fort Lauderdale and S-C are a nice retreat when you do not want much outside stimulation crowding in.

Go and drive it even if it turns out not to be your "thing." You need to experience it at least once IMO.
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Old Apr 1st, 2017, 12:20 PM
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Thought this thread was dead!

Thank you "fellow Brit" Optimystic, Bahia Honda looks worth a visit. Hope you have a great trip too.

Thanks again Dukey, like you said Captiva will be worth a drive-by if nothing else.

Have been doing some research, kayak hire from Robbie at Islamorada to visit Indian key sounds good.

Is siesta key near Sarasota worth a detour?

Not many days left now!
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