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Florida West Coast

Old Jan 8th, 2019, 05:54 PM
  #1  
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Florida West Coast

Planning a trip to FL for about a week in mid-April. Wed like to stay on/near a nice beach, and short drive to restaurants and shops. We will probably fly in and out of TPA, but would like to visit several areas between Tampa and Sarasota, and possibly as far as Naples. Is the water ok in that area?
Would it make more sense to stay a few days in 2-3 places, or stay at one place and make day trips?
We hope to relax at the beach, but also like exploring local attractions, etc. Were in our early 60s and fairly active.
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Old Jan 9th, 2019, 09:08 AM
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If you want to go all the way to Naples I would recommend splitting it up into two stays. One in the Tampa area and one in the Naples area.
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Old Jan 9th, 2019, 02:34 PM
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I think gmoney, has it right. Naples is great, but a three and a half to four hour drive from Tampa. Start in Tampa or end in Tampa (or Clearwater Beach, St. Pete Beach, or Treasure Island) for either the first day or two or the last day or two. Naples will be a little warmer than anywhere north of there, and certainly more "upscale" if that means anything to you.
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Old Jan 9th, 2019, 06:48 PM
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I agree with the general advice to consider both areas. By mid-April, the weather differential, which can be important in January/February, should be a non-issue. You might consider Marco Island as a beach destination other than Naples. Having said that, I would pay attention to red tide warnings. Although a naturally occurring phenomenon, it has had increasing longevity along the west coast in the last year, and a return has already been noticed in the Sarasota area. Last year, it stuck around the entire west coast for periods much longer than ever. Besides fish kill, it can cause breathing difficulties, especially for those with chronic respiratory issues. Not pleasant in any case. Worth monitoring.
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Old Jan 9th, 2019, 10:05 PM
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Thank you everyone! I think we will stay in 2 places...somewhere south first, and then near Tampa.
Whats the best way to check on red tide? Is it worse the father south you go?
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 04:15 AM
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You can check red tide status here: https://myfwc.com/research/red-tide/statewide/
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 04:22 AM
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Some monitoring has been suspended as part of the government shutdown. Google red tide southwest Florida on a regular basis. Local newspapers and TV stations follow it. I haven't used it, but I saw that someone created an app you might check out: https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/l...track-red-tide

Last summer and early fall, it impacted the entire region Tampa Bay to Naples. It started in the south and moved north, but wind currents and other things can affect its location. Some tourism officials last year recommended that tourists go to the east coast, but check with hotels for cancellation policies.
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 07:59 AM
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Look at flying into RSW (Fort Myers) and out of Tampa and see if you can get a rental car with no drop fee.
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Old Jan 10th, 2019, 11:09 AM
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Thank you for the links. Yikes...its already in Sarasota county! I was hoping that April would be early enough to avoid any problems, but maybe not.
May have to rethink this trip. 🙁
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Old Feb 16th, 2019, 01:45 PM
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The trip is back on!
Our itinerary: Fly into RSW and spend the night in Ft. Myers. Drive to Siesta Key and spend 4 nights. Drive to St. Petersburg and spend 2 nights. Fly home from TPA.
Now I need suggestions for activities and dining. Weather permitting, well probably spend half of each day (except the first two) at the beach.
We like scenic walks/hikes and drives, cool museums, some kitschy stuff, local shopping.
My DH loves seafood, and we both like local hangouts, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, etc. Local sandwich shops, delis, and bakeries, too.
☀️🌴☀️🌴☀️🌴☀️
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Old Feb 16th, 2019, 02:05 PM
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Are you staying in St. Pete or St. Pete Beach on the Gulf? You mentioned museums. St. Pete on Tampa Bay has arguably the best Salvador Dali Museum in the world. There is a great "glass" museum, Chihuly Collection, a new western art museum (an oddity certainly for this area but world class place because the owner of Raymond James Financial, based in SP, needed a place to show his personal collection). A new 5-story mega million dollar arts and crafts museum is under construction to house another billionaire's collection. There are many neighborhood ethnic restaurants on Central Avenue, the old downtown that runs from the waterfront west toward SPB. Beach Drive that parallels the waterfront has many more fashionable sidewalk-style restaurants, wine bars, etc. It should be baseball season when you come, and if there is any interest, St. Pete is where the Tampa Rays play, and tickets are relatively cheap and plentiful. And, scenic walks? St. Pete's waterfront includes 6 or 7 parks (rather than condo towers that are mostly set back) that make it unlike any other city in Florida. There are even a couple of small beaches but nothing like SPB or Pass-a-Grille and beach just south of SPB. Unfortunately, St. Pete's iconic Pier was knocked down a couple years ago, and its replacement won't re-open for another 8-12 months or so.
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Old Feb 16th, 2019, 02:13 PM
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Oh, three seafood options in SP: Alto Mare Fish Bar just opened on Beach Drive with out door seating. Trophy Fish on Central Avenue for the feel of a beach shack in a bit more upscale fashion. And, for a great real (there are a lot of fakes out there) fresh blackened grouper sandwich, the Tavern at Bayboro, nothing more than a college tavern located on the edge of the USF St. Pete campus across from the town’s small private airport. Sorry, I am not as up-to-date on SPB options.
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Old Feb 16th, 2019, 05:43 PM
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Thanks Whitehall. Technically, were staying in St. Pete (per the address), but its the Boca Ciega area..across from Madeira Beach. Well have a car, so going to downtown SP wont be a problem. The Dali museum was the only thing on my list so far. I love Chihuly and the western art sounds interesting.
Thanks for all of the suggestions!

Another question...is it worth going to Clearwater Beach, if weve spent several days at Siesta Key?
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Old Feb 16th, 2019, 06:48 PM
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We like Siesta Key more. Clearwater Beach used to consist of a lot of small Mom and Pop motels and a few bigger places right on the beach. It has changed dramatically in recent years. The sand is white and wonderful, but the motels are mostly gone and lots of big hotels replaced them. Traffic to and from the beach can be awful especially from Clearwater where it's always bumper to bumper. Parking also can be difficult. Another spot for a great grouper sandwich there is Frenchy's if you do head that way; they have a few locations but the one directly on the beach is the preferable spot. As beaches go, we always preferred Sand Key just below Clearwater Beach, as a less crowded spot. And, if you go to Clearwater Beach, the access to and from Sand Key would involve less traffic.
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Old Feb 17th, 2019, 06:10 AM
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If you are in Tampa prior to your flight home, I suggest the Ulele restaurant. Best with reservations. Beautiful historical setting and very good food. Home - Ulele - Tampa Restaurant Now Open On Tampa's Riverwalk
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Old Feb 17th, 2019, 06:11 AM
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Sorry, meant to post http://www.ulele.com
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Old Feb 17th, 2019, 01:02 PM
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Columbia Restaurant is a must — Cuban food. The black bean soup and 1905 salad are great. The original location is in Tampa’s Ybor City area, but there are branches in Sarasota and elsewhere.

Bern’s Steak House is expensive, but very good. Big wine selection, too, and good dessert options. It’s in Tampa.

In St. Pete is the Fourth Street Shrimp Store.

There’s also Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish in South Pasadena. Cheap and excellent.
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Old Feb 18th, 2019, 08:29 PM
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Thanks for the recommendations everyone!
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Old Mar 24th, 2019, 04:04 PM
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If you are staying in "Mad Beach", you get all the lovely sugar white sand without the traffic in Clearwater. However, do take a trip all the way up Gulf Blvd across the Clearwater bridge just for that view, then turn around and have lunch at the Columbia Restaurant in Sand Key (in the little plaza right next to the Marriott), 1241 Gulf Blvd. The half cuban sandwich and salad is a perfect, filling lunch of their iconic food.
For your local hangout, definitely stop at Dockside Dave's right near where you are staying for the best ever calamari, and Grouper cheeks. (14701 Gulf Blvd). Everyone's vote for the best Mexican is the VIP Lounge, 10526 Gulf Blvd, Treasure Island, though we haven't made it there yet (too many tourists, LOL!!) Go on down to Blind Pass toward St Pete Beach to the friendliest of family run places for awesome crab cakes and seafood chowder: Sea Hags 9555 Blind Pass Rd (in the Marina, a real quick left over the bridge going south).
Johns Pass is full of little shops and restaurants, but for a different view (although I would warn you off the food) is Gator's on the other side of the Pass. Check out their upstairs hand carved bar.
[My cousins in Siesta Key swear by Walt's Seafood for the best ever in that area. On the Key, the two restaurants at the end of Midnight Pass Rd (Turtle Beach?) are both good. Or take a trip to Osprey to the Casey Key Fish House, and cross the Blackburn Bridge, one of only a handful of swing bridges in operation.]
Kitschy places means you must take in the Gulfport Tuesday Market, then have lunch at O'Maddy's. Go to the local paper online to see about events and such The Gabber ? Pinellas County's oldest independent weekly newspaper
Pinellas County is full of great parks! For a good stretch of the legs and a view of the Intracoastal waterway to boot is at Boca Ciega Millennium Park (12410 74th Ave N, Seminole) - take the Park Blvd/694 causeway to 125th St and turn right.
I hope you have a fabulous time! We were once tourists here ourselves, well, with family to visit, but now call this HOME and enjoy it so very much and hope you do too!
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Old Mar 24th, 2019, 09:48 PM
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The Columbia Restaurant is a great recommendation. The cubano is a fine sandwich there, though its tough for me to resist getting their black bean soup and 1905 salad if Im going for lunch. The original (and lovely) location is in Tampas Ybor City, but the foods good at every location Ive tried.
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