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Floriga - Gulf Coast itinerary?

Old Oct 29th, 2003, 12:05 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 43
Floriga - Gulf Coast itinerary?

Hi all,

My family (two 30-somethings and a 12yo boy) will be spending 11 days in Florida the first half of next month. Thanks to your suggestions, we have a list of activites, and have narrowed it down. Please let me know what you think.

We'll be in the Madiera Beach area for the first week, then need plans for the next 4 days. We'll have a car, and nowhere we need to be.

This is as much detail as we have... any advice on specifics would be much appreciated:

- spend 1 day at Busch Gardens riding roller coasters
- hunt for fossils at Venice Beach
- shelling
- canoeing or kayaking through a park (Canoe Escapes was recommended)
- wander around St Pete's
- Tarpon Springs (although this sounds a borderline touristy?)
- Honeymoon Island was recommended several times
- wander through the Don Caesar

If citrus is ripe, it would be cool to go to a citrus grove and pick our own, but I don't know whether that is realistic.

I'd also love to know about any cool or funky neighborhoods, especially if there is one-of-a-kind shopping (not chain stores.)

My husband would love to know about any killer Cuban restaurants.

We could spend a day or two going to Cape Canaveral, but I don't know much about what that would entail, and our free time coincides with the Veterans Day holiday weekend.

Anything else you can add would be fantastic.

Many thanks!
gokatgo is offline  
Old Oct 29th, 2003, 02:18 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 20
I just returned from Venice. The beaches are beautiful! I didn't find any fossils but still worth the trip!

The only warning I will give you is that there is very little to do in Venice other than going to the beach. I would NOT recommend spending the night there. There are only a couple of hotels and nothing above 3 stars (Best Western and Holiday Inn). There are also very few places to eat (Waffle House, ect). I think you would be better off heading up the highway to Sarasota for the night. There are more options there.

If you do have to spend the night in Venice, I stayed at the Best Western Ambassador Suites. It was very nice. All the rooms are suites and quite large. I think it was newly remodelled so everything was clean and new. The pool is small and nothing to write home about but you are only about 10-15 mins from the beach.

Have a great trip!
stephyjo_us is offline  
Old Oct 29th, 2003, 04:20 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 188
I live just south of Venice and have an avid fossil collecting son. He's 14 now, but started at age 4. The previous poster is correct, for whatever reason, Venice Beach is not that great for fossil hunting any longer. You would be better trying Manasota Beach. The beach is on the north end of Manasota Key. You might find shark's teeth, but many overlook the other fossil (they think they are black rocks or stones) material such as turtle shell, whale bone, manatee bone, etc. Try to get a book.

Kingfish Cafe on the island of Venice, near the hospital has great food. Cafe Venice on Venice Ave. is very good.

Bring a snorkel and mask to Manasota Beach. If you go early and the water is clear you can see fish and even snook, large fish. There are a couple of motels on Manasota Key that you might want to check out. You would be right on the water.

Have fun!!
jaye is offline  
Old Oct 29th, 2003, 06:27 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 47
If you're looking for a funky area to eat and walk around, I'd suggest Ybor City. Plus, there is a great Spanish restaurant in Ybor City called Colombia that your husband may enjoy. The 1905 salad there is wonderful!
srj9920 is offline  
Old Oct 30th, 2003, 04:41 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 120
A bit south of Madiera Beach (about 30 minutes or so depending on traffic) is Fort Desoto Park that is worth a trip. It is my second favorite shelling place (after Sanibel) and has really nice trails for biking (rentals available). Canoe and Kayak rentals also available. I don't think the beach is swimmable but it is a great place for a picnic and a day of exploring. We also have fun standing out on the pier watching those who fish-I think equipment is available for rent also.
2sweets is offline  
Old Oct 30th, 2003, 06:54 AM
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Why don't you think the beach is swimmable 2sweets?? It has no lifeguards, but that is true of many of the area beaches. Not only is it a beautiful beach, but perfect for swimming as well, plus it's quite the bargain with only a $.35 entrance fee and no charge for parking.
Old Oct 30th, 2003, 08:55 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 43
Thanks for all the ideas -- this is great.

I have a silly question -- we're seeing that daytime temps there are in the low 80s. That's hotter than it gets here in the summer. Do locals wear typical summer clothes this time of year, or are we going be screaming TOURIST wearing sandals, shorts and sleeveless shirts?

Many thanks-
gokatgo is offline  
Old Oct 30th, 2003, 09:57 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 352
Srj9920, The Columbia resturant at the St. Pete Pier is closer to where gokatgo is going to be than the one in Ybor City. matter what you wear, we'll recognize you as tourists so forget about it and just enjoy yourselves!
irishdame is offline  
Old Oct 30th, 2003, 11:31 AM
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I'm wearing summer clothes still, sandals, shorts, etc. When I leave here I scream "TOURIST from FL". lol

Just tried on a long sleeved, heavier fabric outfit for a function we have tonight, decided it was way too hot still and am back to summer clothes. By the beginning of next month it should have cooled into the 70's and by Thanksgiving we can get a serious cold spell,(serious here is 50's) but that is rare. Water temps have just now fallen off into the upper 70's.

Our grapefruit and tangerine trees have ripe fruit now, but just barely. Not sure where to go to pick, or if it'd even be worth doing.

I like Honeymoon Island, but it's an excursion to get there from Madiera Beach, as is Tarpon Springs. On the way to Honeymoon, you can catch a little ferry to Caladesi Island, even prettier than Honeymoon. You can also get there by walking 2 something miles north from the north end of Clearwater Beach. It is no longer an island, the cut having been filled in on the south end by a storm several years ago. It's a pretty walk, but you won't find it that much different than Ft Desoto, which is much closer.

Tarpon Springs appeals to a lot of tourists, but it didn't to me when we first moved here and visited. Yes it's touristy and a little tacky in a sort of Big Fat Greek Wedding kind of way. It is a hard drive north on 19 though and unless you are really searching for things to do, you might omit that.

There is a difference in the Ybor City Columbia Restaurant and the one at the pier. Ybor City's is the original, has the decor to match, plus they have flamenco dancers in one of the rooms if that appeals. Still, I wouldn't make the drive all the way there from the beaches if you'd be satisfied with the other closer restaurant. The original is located on the east side of Tampa and probably a 40 minute drive once you hit the interstate. I doubt you'd have the energy or clothes to go after a day at Busch Gardens, which would be more convenient.

The fossilized shark teeth are only on a specific beach in Venice and I'm not sure which one it is--you'll need to find out before you go. Perhaps someone else here knows? We used to find them all the time at Tybee Island (Savannah), but have never seen one around the Clearwater Beach area.

Another idea for an excursion closer to Madeira Beach would be taking one of the day cruises out to Shell Island. One leaves from the back side of Pass-a-Grille area of St Pete and I'm sure there are others. It is just a stones throw (literally) from the coast but only accessible by boat, so a nice easy trip.

Hope the weather holds for you and you have a terrific time!
Old Oct 30th, 2003, 03:17 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 120
Sorry if my reply wasn't completely accurate re: Fort Desoto. I seem to remember signs by the pier that prohibit swimming but my husband reminds me that up further swimming would be fine. We are usually there in Dec and Feb and it is often chilly-I've never seen anyone actually in swimming. Sounds like OliveOyl knows first hand that the beach is good for swimming so I'd go with that advice. Hope you can make it down to the park for a day-it's a great place.
2sweets is offline  
Old Oct 30th, 2003, 05:57 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 40
I live in Clearwater.. here are a couple thoughts. When you go to Busch Gardens (my favorite place), consider visiting Museum of Science and Industry (3-4 miles from Busch Gardens) -It's free .great for adults and kids.. The food inside the Busch park is excellent and affordable but 1/2 mile east of Busch is Tampa's best hot dog restaurant -Mel's Hot Dogs - if you happen to be hungry after leaving the Park.
Tarpon Springs is a great one time place to visit for out of towners but I would bundle in having a dinner at sunset on the River at Santorini's Restaurant. Sit outside - alongside the River,eat steamed shrimp and greek salad -watch the sunset and you're transported to Athens.
Go to any of Frenchy's Restaurant on Clearwater Beach and order grouper sandwiches. The Don is a neat place but unless you're staying there I would not invest the time to tour. Fort DeSoto Park is really a great place anytime.The Hurricane Restaurant , not far from the Don Cesar, is noted for it's great view and food. Honeymoon Island is really nice and Caladesi usually makes the "best" of beaches list each year. Nothing to do there but sun bath and enjoy nature. Early morning best time to go to avoid commuter traffic. The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City is realy good but they have a location on Sand Key.. two miles from Clearwater Beach..which is also very nice and a lot closer to you. The Tampa/Clearwater/St. Pete area is always alive each weekend with outdoor events especially during October and November (mostly free ) . If you park on the beach or in downtown Tampa,Clearwater or St. Pete..feed the meters..they don't mess around. they will ticket you in a heartbeat. I got ticketed last week while parking near the The Don Cesar..I was there "showing" the Don to some out of town relatives.. oh well, It was worth $20.00 to get the kids out of the house. I guess.
diversityjobber is offline  
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