Florida Gulf Coast questions

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Sep 13th, 2004, 08:22 PM
  #1
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Florida Gulf Coast questions

We are planning a one week vacation to the gulf coast of Florida for March, April or May of 2005. We'll be traveling with our 2 year old son. Ideally, we'd like to find someplace with the following:

- great soft beach (i.e. not so many shells that you have to wear beach shoes)
- gentle or no surf
- water warm enough to swim in spring
- 2-bedroom condo or house rental directly on the water
- things to do other than sit on the beach (i.e. any combination of hiking, biking, shopping, cultural activities, etc. - we aren't picky)
- relatively family friendly

We were pretty much set on Sanibel, but I've read so many posts that mention the shells on the beaches and the fact that you have to wear beach shoes that we are a little scared away. Are the beaches in Sanibel really that painful with bare feet? If so, can you recommend someplace else that fits the bill?

Thanks so much for your help.
teddy1910 is offline  
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Sep 13th, 2004, 08:42 PM
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We live near Anna Maria and love the beaches there. It's very family friendly and the beaches are beautiful. There has been lots written here about AM and a search will give you lots of good information.

A word of advice--March through mid-April, all the the west coast beaches will be packed with spring breakers. I'd recommend putting off your trip until late April or early May. The rates will drop dramatically after the spring break rush.
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Sep 14th, 2004, 06:57 AM
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And...the water will be warmer.

I've never had a problem with shells hurting my bare feet. Sometimes the shells on the beaches gather in one spot but just don't walk there.

If your son has not been to a beach, then I recommend you find a place with a pool. Many young children are afraid of the beach and prefer the pool.

Treasure Island is a family friendly beach with lots of activities for children. In addition, there is a childrens museum in downtown St. Pete (ten minute drive). And Busch Gardens is in Tampa (30 minutes), it has a little tykes area.
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Sep 14th, 2004, 07:46 AM
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I think partly it also depends on which of those months you choose. There's a considerable difference in temperatures in March between the south Gulf coast (Naples) and the Tampa Bay area. In May, I think Treasure Island or Clearwater Beach is great -- that's where we as a family always went when I was little.

I've never gotten that thing about the shells hurting one's feet on Sanibel. I've walked the beaches for miles barefoot there and never thought anything of it. Maybe I just have tough feet? But admittedly it's not like the very fine soft sand of Treasure Island.

I think Anna Marie is nice, but always seemed so remote to me. Unless you just want to sit on the beach you have to do a lot of driving through heavy traffic (in season) to get to anywhere.
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Sep 14th, 2004, 10:08 AM
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Thank you for the helpful responses, Jayne, Tandoori Girl and Patrick. I will look into the other places you've mentioned. The pool suggestion is a good one, too - our son is used to the beaches here in Chicago and Lake Michigan, but who knows what he'll think of the ocean.

We really were set on Sanibel except for the shells on the beach issue. We have tough feet too, I think, and we certainly aren't accustomed to fine soft sand, so maybe it would be okay after all. I've never heard of Treasure Island, though, and it sounds like it might have some added perks, so I'll look into that, too.

Thanks again.
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Sep 14th, 2004, 12:47 PM
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We took our daughter to Sanibel the first time when she was one and we never even gave the shell issue any thought - walked with her all day on the beach. It's a lovely place. Also on the Gulf coast, we vacationed several times on Siesta Key, which is near Sarasota. Sarasota has tons to do and there is wonderful shopping on St. Armands, one key up from Siesta. The sand there is soft and white and there are lots of beautiful condos. Good luck!
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Sep 14th, 2004, 02:05 PM
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We go to Sanibel every year, but this year thought we would try, after much research, Anna Maria Island. What a treat! Beautiful blue-green water, gorgeous sand, and just enough shells. I ran on the beach each morning and never had to wear shoes, but I do wear them in the water no matter where I am, just my thing...(Never know what may be lurking in there). As for being remote, we found a LOT of places to go and things to do. Sarasota is so nearby, and a lot of great nearby restaurants. We were there in July and loved the solitude, but don't know about spring crowds. Just know that we will definitely go back. It was one of our best vacations.
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Sep 14th, 2004, 02:42 PM
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If you go in May I would consider Pensacola Beach. It definitely has all the qualities you listed.
 
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Sep 14th, 2004, 03:10 PM
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I hate to admit this, but the sand on Treasure Island is just not soft or fine. It's mostly dredged sand full of broken shells. That said, I LOVE IT! The treasures you can find (pun intended) ! Go to a discount store when you get here, and buy your toddler a pair of those water shoes, he'll be much happier toddling around, no matter which beach you choose.

Here's a two bedroom waterfront duplex a poster here (cd) rented. She was very happy with it. It's right on Sunset Beach, perfect for families.
http://www.vrbo.com/33267

P.S. I have no connection whatsoever with this home.
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Sep 14th, 2004, 03:47 PM
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The best beach sand in the world is at Siesta Key! Because it's made from quartz, the sand never gets hot - no matter how bright the sun. I think this area would meet just about all your requirements. I've been to beaches all over, and this is one of my absolute favorites! Go in May and avoid the spring break crowds.
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Sep 14th, 2004, 06:48 PM
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dln
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teddy, if your son is accustomed to Lake Michigan, he'll have no trouble with the Gulf! It's very gentle. And I've never needed beach shoes because of the shells on any Gulf beaches, and I've been to nearly all of them.

We brought our children to the beach for the very first time at Seaside, Florida (they were both younger than your son), on the Panhandle between Pensacola and Panama City. It meets all your requirements. The website is www.seasidefl.com. It's a bit expensive, but has fabulous value for money. It's a wonderful vacation to spend the week there, and it's very family friendly. As is Sanibel Island, where we have spent many a spring break. For Sanibel, however, I'd wait until May, as everyone mentions, so you don't run into the spring break crowds. Trust me, if you go to Sanibel then, you'll be crowded out with Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois license plates! I should know, as ours as been one of them for years now.

You have enough time to get on the internet and pick up some good tourist brochures from the state of Florida.
 
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Sep 15th, 2004, 07:10 AM
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I spent a week on Sanibel last year and don't remember thinking the sand was rough at all. And I always go around barefoot!

I do think there are places with beaches more beautiful, and with more beautiful sand, than Sanibel. The south end of Anna Maria Island has a stunning beach, Coquina Beach. Longboat Key also has great beaches (just south of Anna Maria). I personally haven't been on Siesta Key's beaches in a long time, but I've heard people rave about them. I found St. Pete Beach to be coarser sand, not as pretty, but not rough on the feet. Clearwater Beach is truly stunning, but it is really crowded.

That said, I still think Sanibel is the best spot given all of your criteria. There are so many wonderful things to do on Sanibel and even though it's not the best beach in Florida, it is still really nice. Anna Maria Island would be my second choice, I don't think you have to traverse much traffic because you can shoot down Longboat Key to St. Armands Circle, downtown Sarasota, etc. But Sanibel is special because of all of the wildlife and Ding Darling.
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